Hot hotels for diving
Don mask and snorkel at these places showcasing the Caribbean’s finest subaquatic experiences, says Joe Shooman
1 Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, St Lucia
BEST FOR… Varied activities
WHERE: Val des Pitons, La Baie de Silence, Soufrière
ROOM RATES: FROM US$455
INFO: +1 758 456 8000; www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/sugarbeach
The sheer number of activities on offer at Sugar Beach is dizzying. Watersports from the jetty include windsurfing, sailing and paddleboarding, and for non-scuba-divers there’s lovely snorkelling, too. Coral Garden Reef at the foot of picture-postcard-pretty Gros Piton is the highlight of a two-hour kayak-and-dive/snorkel adventure; you might spot rare sargassum triggerfish. The resort has its own PADI dive facility, and there are countless options around the island, from the glorious coral reef at Trou Diable to the aptly named Turtle Reef where you’re likely to see both hawksbill and green species. There are activities for kids and teens, plus babysitting services, and rooms range from beachfront bungalows to luxury villas. The resort’s laudable environmental and sustainability policy aims to ensure that the gorgeous environment is protected for future generations.
2 Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, British Virgin Islands
BEST FOR… Private luxury
WHERE: Scrub Island
ROOM RATES: FROM US$423
INFO: +1 284 394 3440; www.scrubisland.com
A private island vacation – it’s the dream for us all. For divers, Scrub Island also delivers incredible experiences including historic wreck dives, canyons, crevices, caves, turtles and all kinds of magnificent subaquatic life. In the Marina Village you’ll find Dive BVI’s full-service shop, which offers courses from try-dive through to advanced diver. Group snorkelling, private charters and one- or two-tank trips are also available. The resort also has a sailing school, Ixora Spa, candlelit beach dining and deep-sea fishing. Choose from a range of two- to six-bedroom villas, and rooms feature marble bathrooms, traditional Caribbean styling, free WiFi and up-to-the-minute TVs and gadgetry. Parties are held at North Beach, complete with reggae soundtrack and fire pit, should you want to swap stories about the critters and other subaquatic wonders you’ve seen on your diving adventures.
3 Radisson Grenada Beach Resort, Grenada
BEST FOR… Local knowledge
WHERE: Grand Anse Beach, Grand Anse, St George’s
ROOM RATES: FROM US$280
INFO: +1 473 444 4371; www.radisson.com/st-georges-hotel-gd/grdgrgr
Radisson Grenada’s on-site dive shop, Native Spirit Scuba, is one of the only Grenadian-owned diving and watersports centres on the island. It’s headed by PADI instructor Adrian ‘Sarge’ Blackman, with over 30 years of experience and knowledge few can match. You can learn to scuba here, or head out on various reef, wall and wreck dives – including to the Bianca C, reputedly the largest diveable shipwreck in the Caribbean. This is a substantial resort, with 229 rooms and suites to choose from, plus a 91m freeform swimming pool, fitness centre, four restaurants and a host of activities. With wonderful coral gardens nearby, the snorkelling’s great (don’t miss the underwater sculpture park), and there’s windsurfing, sailing, kayaking and tennis, too – not forgetting some 365m of beachfront.
4 St James’s Club, Antigua
BEST FOR… All-inclusive treats
WHERE: Mamora Bay, St Paul’s
ROOM RATES: FROM US$292 (Minimum stay usually applies)
INFO: +1 954 949 2133; www.stjamesclubantigua.com
The on-site watersports centre means you can simply pick up your snorkel and fins and get straight into the beautiful waters of Mamora Bay. The Club, Premium and Beachfront rooms at The Club area of the resort all have private terraces, the latter looking straight onto the beach, while spacious St James’s Club Suites have terrific views, and there are even more-spacious private villas on the hillside above. St James’s Club is at the south-eastern corner of Antigua, giving access to both Mamora Bay and Coco Beach on the Atlantic coast. Windsurfing, sailing and kayaking lessons and equipment are complimentary at this all-inclusive resort, and there are tennis courts, a golf course and a well-equipped fitness centre. Most of Antigua’s better dive sites are on the southern and western coasts, with a number of enticing wrecks. Though there aren’t the extensive coral gardens found elsewhere, you might swim with turtles, eels or needlefish.
5 Mariners Hotel, St Vincent
BEST FOR… Boutique brilliance
WHERE: Villa Bay Beach
ROOM RATES: FROM US$85
INFO: +1 784 457 4000; www.marinershotel.com
This 20-bedroom boutique hotel is nestled at the southernmost tip of St Vincent, at a spot where you can walk into the ultramarine wonder of the Caribbean Sea practically from your bedroom. There are plenty of watersports on offer from the resort’s jetty, including sport fishing and chilling out on a catamaran. Divers of all levels are well catered for here, with a host of special packages arranged via Dive St Vincent, including multi-tank dives, complimentary gear and various discounts. Scuba novices can learn with a resort course, while the more experienced can enjoy a variety of wreck and reef dives; expect deep drop-offs and walls, black coral, swaying eels and, farther afield at dive sites in the Grenadines, turtles, reef sharks and seahorses. Rooms have the mod-cons you’d expect – free WiFi, 32-inch plasma TV, refrigerator, en-suite bathroom and air-con. The French Verandah Restaurant overlooking Villa Beach serves a mixture of classic French-style and local flavours, and there’s a seaside pool for kicking back post-plunge.