Galley Bay Cottages, Antigua
Tucked away on a hillside in a quiet area of north-west Antigua – and a stone’s throw from Giorgio Armani’s cliffside estate – Galley Bay Cottages are a rare find on an island where pricey all-inclusives and super-high-end resorts seem to dominate. These four one- and two-bedroom cottages have great sea views from their wooden verandas; interiors have unfussy antiques, nautical prints and romantically mosquito-netted beds. Marco, the cheerful Italian manager who lives on site, will collect guests from the airport and direct them to a company that delivers hire cars to the cottages. A car is a must for exploring this somewhat sprawling island, and handy for picking up groceries to cook in the cottage kitchens – taking taxis will put a good dent in your budget.
Antigua is famous for its 365 beaches – one, the brochures say, for every day of the year – but the closest to the cottages, a quiet, sweeping arc of sand known as Galley Bay, is just a three-minute walk down the hill. The surf can get a little high here, so watch the kids.
• +1 268 764 9920, antiguanice.com, one and two-bedroom cottages from around £100 a night
Catamaran Hotel, Antigua
This small, friendly hotel is smack on the beach, on the island’s buzzing southern coast. The 14 self-catering rooms are almost like studio apartments, with kitchens in the corners, and are simply and brightly furnished, with aircon, television and daily cleaning – even of your dirty dishes. The upstairs rooms have especially nice views of the marina and boats in Falmouth Harbour. The on-site restaurant is only open for special events and doesn’t serve breakfast, but a short walk down the jetty is Cambusa, an Italian restaurant on the seafront serving freshly caught fish. The village of English Harbour, a magnet for the sailing set, is a few minutes’ taxi ride away, and has a smattering of lively restaurants and bars, often full of festive crews from the mega-yachts nearby. The beach at the Catamaran is small, but a perfect spot to sit with a book and a cocktail.
• +1 268 460 1036, catamaran-antigua.com, doubles from about £95
Barbuda Cottages, Barbuda
The long, uninterrupted stretches of pink-tinged sand lining this island are among the most stunning on the planet, and much of the time there’s not a soul on them. This cottage (the owner is planning to build more, hence the plural name) is a few steps from the beach, with a fantastic, sweeping view of the Caribbean from its elevated deck. Three bedrooms and two bathrooms make it comfortable for families or couples. The grocery stores in Codrington, Barbuda’s quiet main village, are fairly limited, so guests often stock up on basics beforehand in Antigua, about 30 miles away (daily flights; ferry five days a week). There are only a few options for dining on this sleepy island, but one, Uncle Roddy’s, is about 50m from the cottage – almost like having an in-house chef. Roddy’s Barbuda Smash, with rum and coconut juice, manages to enhance the sunsets, and the restaurant’s locally caught lobster or snapper are delicious options if you tire of the cottage’s kitchen. Barbuda currently has three beachfront resorts – Coco Point Lodge, Lighthouse Bay Resort and North Beach – but they cost at least £320 a night, making the cottage a relative bargain. Bring repellent because the sand flies can be aggressive, especially after a rain shower, although the cottage owners spray the area regularly.
• +1 268 722 3050, barbudacottages.com, sleeps six from about £1,600 a week
Guavaberry Spring Bay, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
The rocks that give so much character to the beaches of the Baths and Spring Bay on Virgin Gorda, the third-largest of the British Virgin Islands, run through the Guavaberry resort too. Great boulders, covered in bougainvillea and night-blooming sirius cactus, surge from the rising ground on both sides of the quiet road near the south of the island. In among them stand 20 cottages, each with kitchen, living room, barbecue and lovely outside space, and one, two or three bedrooms. A small central area has shop, internet, laundry, books, snorkelling gear and regulars who gather to shoot the breeze. But life centres on the delightful beach and its superb sand and sea, framed by the famous boulders, jumbled on one another to create nooks, sun traps and explorable caves. There are bars and restaurants within walking distance.
• +1 284 495 5227, guavaberryspringbay.com, from $150 (£100) a night. Virgin Gorda is reached from Antigua (served by British Airways, Virgin) via Beef Island off Tortola (on local airline LIAT), and a ferry
Mongoose Apartments, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Beach bars stand shoulder to shoulder for 300m on Cane Garden Bay, the liveliest beach on Tortola, so there is plenty of choice of loungers, watersports, live music and happy hours. You may want to avoid the beach on cruise ship day, when it heaves, but in the evening it can be your own – for truly spectacular views of the sun setting between Jost van Dyke and distant St Thomas. Mongoose Apartments are hidden in greenery just three minutes from the sand, with six one-bedroom apartments in a block surrounded by palms, each with kitchen and balcony. They’re simple, comfortable, and the welcome’s friendly.
• +1 284 495 4421, mongooseapartments.com, from $145. Reach the BVI from Antigua, as above
The Horny Toad Guesthouse, St Maarten
Here’s a conundrum. How it is that one of the best beaches on an island which has bought determinedly into tourism has no big hotels? Presumably it’s because the airport is too close. The result is that Simpson Bay, superb mile-long curve of blinding-white sand and surreal blue water, has just a few small places to stay, of which the most sympathetic is the unlikely named Horny Toad. It was once the island governor’s home and inside you can still feel a sense of that – but it has been adapted and added to, to create eight one- and two-bedroom beach apartments with rattan furniture and bright floral fabrics. There’s plenty of sand to walk, a couple of beach bars to retire to and, of course, superb, swimmable sea.
• +1 721 545 4323, thtgh.com, from $118 a night. Reach St Maarten from Antigua (as before) or direct from Amsterdam (KLM) and Paris (Air France)
Auberge de Terre Neuve, St Barts
Finding somewhere inexpensive to stay in St Barts is an issue – the Auberge de Terre Neuve offers some of the best value out there. And it’s just a short (but steep) walk from Flamands beach, which has magnificent waves that roll in off the reefs, clapping and hissing, and then racing up the sand in protruding fingers of surf. There is so much sand, and it’s so soft, that walking along the beach becomes aerobic exercise. Terre Neuve is a mainly residential area and the nine pink and white painted apartments of the auberge stand in a line within a small compound. They are modern and quite simple, but have a kitchenette, air-con and a large balcony with views over the coast and the beach.
• +590 590 27 75 32, auberge-de-terre-neuve.com, from €95 (£82) a night. Reach St Barts via Antigua (as before) and then on local airline Tradewinds, or via St Maarten
Hurricane Cove Bungalows, Nevis
The view from Nevis across the Narrows to St Kitts is one of the loveliest in the Caribbean, and Hurricane Cove has the best of it. The greens of the other island’s mountainous spine stand out beautifully against the blues of tropical sea and sky. Hurricane Cove is a hillside collection of 12 self-contained bungalows with one, two (mainly) and three bedrooms. The wooden cottages have an almost alpine feel – with a bit of Caribbean gingerbread trim – and facilities include a laundry and a pool. But they’re also a three-minute walk from the delightful, protected Oualie beach, with calm water, a beach bar and sports including scuba diving, windsurfing and mountain biking.
• +1 869 469 9462, hurricanecove.com, from $125. Reach Nevis via St Kitts (twice weekly on British Airways), or via Antigua (as before), from where it is a 20-minute hop with LIAT
Lloyd’s Guest House, Anguilla
A West Indian home from home, this family business has been going for years, since before Anguilla’s "revolution" in 1967, and eventual secession from St Kitts. Lloyds sits at the top of the hill above The Valley (Anguilla’s diminutive capital), five minutes’ walk from Crocus Bay. It’s very much a guesthouse, with just a handful of brightly painted bedrooms around a sitting room and a dining room where everyone eats their Anguillian home-cooked breakfast together at one table. The family has another business – da’Vida, a bar and restaurant down on the beach. Crocus Bay has shallow water and is protected by steep walls of rock, so it is calm and a sun trap. And if you don’t want to order dinner at Lloyd’s, you can linger beyond sunset and shell out for dinner at the main restaurant, which has a modern twist on Caribbean fare.
• +1 264 497 2351, lloyds.ai, doubles $85. Reach Anguilla (on LIAT) via Antigua (as before)
Timothy Beach Resort, St Kitts
Don’t confuse the two sides of Frigate Bay, St Kitts’ best known beach. Frigate Bay North has most of the hotels, but it is also the Atlantic side, where the tradewinds and rollers come in off the ocean. The side to be on is Frigate Bay South, where the waves merely lap in the soporific heat and the dark sand can be so hot you can barely walk barefoot. Timothy Beach has pride of place just above all this – on the hillside at the corner of the bay, its restaurant right above the sand. Set in modern, sky-blue blocks, the 60 or so rooms are quite large and are decorated with Caribbean pastels on white. But of course you will gravitate to the beach, where the bars and watersports concessionaires stand shoulder to shoulder beneath the palms, humming by day and then heaving by night – particularly on Friday and Saturday.
• +1869 465 8597, timothybeach.com, from US$125. St Kitts has two direct flights a week (BA) from the UK
• Georgina Gustin and James Henderson, editor of the Definitive Caribbean Guides, from £6.99. Their Antigua e-guide is published on Tuesday. James Henderson is also co-founder of Travelspinner.com, a website connecting travellers to specialist tour operators and travel companies