Better known for cold weather lures than hot weather tours, a summer holiday in the Caribbean is the new cool for savvy lovebirds who covet an authentic slice of tropical life without breaking the bank. Room rates can be half those in peak season, flights don’t have to be booked way ahead of time to get a seat, there’s no shortage of beach chairs and a colourful collage of lively carnivals and spirited music festivals are aplenty.
Swap the taxi rides for a motor scooter and ditch the pricey mud wrap for an impromptu salsa lesson on the beach and you’ll discover summer in the Caribbean is the real deal. From Anguilla to Barbados and Martinique to Grenada, you won’t have to take out a second mortgage to afford a tryst under the Caribbean sun.
Barbados beckons with beaches, bargains and Crop Over, the islands biggest festival. Dating to the 1700’s when the island produced sugar, the blowout bonanza is chockablock with soca parties, street performers, stilt walkers and plenty of good mood food. With this year’s theme “The Sweetest Summer Festival”, fan favorites include the Grand Kadooment on August 1 when fifteen thousand dancers and twenty-five bands morph Spring Garden Highway into party-central. Footsteps from Carlisle Bay, the Island Inn was built in 1804 as a rum storage facility for the British military and today tempts with rooms for $300.00 for two including meals at the Boardwalk restaurant. www.islandinnbarbados.com.
A seashell away, Grenada is all about sugary beaches and SpiceMas. Continuing through August 9, carnival mainstays include J’ouvert on August 8 when the party-hearty mingle with Jab-Jabs, or costumed devils. An island gem, Morne Fendue Plantation House honors the Victorian age with treasures like the brass bed slept in by Princess Margaret in 1953. Retired doctor Jean Thompson owns the quaint Inn and lords over it as if royalty were arriving for a weekend stay. Rooms per night, not per person, go for $50.00 shooting up to $65.00 in high season. www.mornefendueplantation.com. In clear shallow water, the Underwater Sculpture Park in Moilinere Bay is a must-see for divers and for cheap eats, Gouayve Fish Fry dishes up a smorgasbord of snapper on streets groovin’ with reggae and calypso.
Martinique is tres magnifique in the summer with the Yawl Boat Race from July 31 to August 7. A mélange of colour as boats, or yawls, glide through the water propelled by a rainbow of rectangular sails, the weeklong regatta is a big draw for tourists and locals alike. Through October, Hotel Carayo in the resort area of Pointe-du-Bout is a sweet deal at $125.00 per night, for two including breakfast and dinner. www.hotel-carayou.com.
A perennial winter favourite, Jamaica is also red hot during the summer. Too good to be true but it is, a room at the seaside swank Ritz-Carlton in Montego Bay is $329.00 in February but dips to $199.00 in July and August. Tempting with a spa and golf course, the rate is per room, not per person and includes a 4th night free when three are booked. www.ritzcarlton.com.