I am a weekender
Get away from it all this spring with a short break to one of LIAT’s hot destinations. Lizzie Williams helps you plan the perfect escape to Antigua, Trinidad, St Kitts, Barbados, St Lucia or Grenada
Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, easy family fun or a party, Antigua ticks all the boxes for a great weekend break
From VC Bird International Airport on the northeast coast of Antigua, it’s just a 20-minute drive by minivan taxi or rental car to the Caribbean Sea lapping the northern shore at Dickenson Bay – and that’s the place to go for a fully loaded beach experience. After cooling off in the clear water, active types can try jet-skiing, wakeboarding, parasailing or splashing around on inflatable banana boats from Tony’s Water Sports Beach Bar & Grill (www.tonyswatersports.com).
Enjoy sunset with a cocktail and a stroll before dinner – try Coconut Grove Restaurant & Bar (www.coconutgroveantigua.com). Kick off your shoes under candlelit tables right on the beach, and enjoy tasty dishes such as seared red snapper or beer-battered shrimp. End the evening sipping chilled wine or rum punch among both tourists and a loyal local crowd.
Spend the morning back on the water with Kitesurf Antigua (www.kitesurfantigua.com) on Jabberwock Beach. A four-hour beginner package covers all the basics, from rigging and launching to kite control.
For something less active, shop for souvenirs, local crafts and street food in the restored quayside buildings at Historic Redcliffe Quay (www.historicredcliffequay.com), near the cruise-ship pier in capital St John’s. Take a break from shopping on the balcony at Hemingways (www.hemingwayantigua.com), a pretty white-and-lime-green Creole house in the heart of St John’s – try the pumpkin soup and saltfish fritters with a daiquiri made from rum and Antiguan black pineapples.
Head southeast, on roads lined with banana trees and through small towns bustling with activity, to Falmouth Harbour – it’s an hour’s drive or ride on bus No 17 from St John’s. Gawp at the luxury catamarans and superyachts bobbing in the picturesque bay and marinas, especially during events such as Antigua Sailing Week (27 April-3 May 2019; www.sailingweek.com), when Falmouth becomes party central.
Spend the rest of the afternoon on the gorgeous arc of sand at Pigeon Point Beach, perfect for a sundowner on the wooden veranda at Bumpkins Beach Bar, famous for its creamy banana piña coladas, strong rum punch and jerk chicken. Then explore the casual nightspots along Falmouth Harbour’s Dockyard Drive: Life on the Corner for burgers, kebabs and nachos; Trappas for spicy calamari and Cajun grouper; Abracadabra (www.abracadabra-antigua.com) for Italian eats and dancing.
This morning, explore Antiguan history at English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard (www.nationalparksantigua.com) east of Falmouth Harbour. This sheltered, deep-water bay served as the Antiguan headquarters of the British naval fleet during the turbulent late 18th century. Roam the restored buildings in the historic dockyard, some of them now restaurants, cafés, hotels and shops. Enjoy lunch at the Mainbrace Restaurant in the Copper & Lumber Store Historic Inn (www.copperandlumberstore.com), then work it off with a short hike up to ruined Fort Berkeley.
As the sun dips, head up to the restored artillery at Shirley Heights Lookout (www.shirleyheightslookout.com) for the spectacular view over the harbours, and for the legendary Sunday evening barbecue – jerk chicken, juicy ribs and grilled fish, free-flowing rum punch, and infectious steelpan and reggae music that brings revellers from across the island.
WHERE TO STAY
• Siboney Beach Club (Dickenson Bay; www.siboneybeachclub.com) A small independent place just back from the beach, with comfortable self-catering rooms, lovely gardens and a pool.
• Antigua Village Beach Resort (Dickenson Bay; www.antiguavillage.net) Mid-budget resort right on the beach with self-catering units, from good-value studios to three-
bedroom villas, set in gardens with a large pool.
• Copper & Lumber Store Historic Inn (English Harbour; www.copperandlumberhotel.com) A former storehouse built in 1789, now restored as a delightful hotel with decorative touches.
Trinidad is lively and cosmopolitan, lush and wild – great for a weekend of two halves
Piarco International Airport is east and inland of the capital, Port of Spain. After transferring to a hotel, take a sunset walk around the Queen’s Park Savannah. Dubbed the largest roundabout in the world, this park fills with walkers, joggers and cyclists in the evenings; during Carnival season it really comes alive – it’s the focal point for many of the events.
Next, head to Ariapita Avenue – aka ‘De Avenue’. This long street in Woodbrook, lined with bars and restaurants, is the best liming spot in Trinidad on a Friday night. Bars spill out onto the pavement and street vendors are everywhere (try a Trini gyros – flatbread stuffed with spiced grilled meat, salad and garlic sauce). For more upmarket Creole food, try Trotter’s (www.trotters.net) or Veni Mangé (www.facebook.com/VeniMangeTT) .
Just north of Port of Spain, garden-nestled Santa Cruz Green Market (www.greenmarketsantacruz.com), operating each weekend, is a great place to buy local organic produce as well as handicrafts. Then head to Maracas Beach, an easy 40-minute drive north of Port of Spain, which has chairs and umbrellas to hire and a string of food stalls serving up delicious bake and shark.
Farther along the north coast is quieter Las Cuevas Beach, which also has facilities. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, continue along the north coast to any number of secluded bays. For snorkelling, head to Macqueripe, a small calm bay in the Chaguaramas National Park. On land you could try ziplining and mountain biking with Zip-itt Adventure Tours (www.zipitt.net).
Trinis love their cricket, and match days are always exciting – check if the Windies are playing on a Saturday at the Queen’s Park Oval (www.qpcc.com). Finally, a Port of Spain must-do is to grab a roti – the de-facto national dish of curried meat, curried vegetables, curried mango and curried chickpeas, all wrapped in flatbread. The Hott Shoppe on Mucurapo Road is famous for its roti, but everyone has their own favourite spot.
Between March and September it’s possible to watch giant leatherback turtles nesting on some of Trinidad’s beaches. The best place to see them is Grande Rivière on the northwest coast; it’s quite a trek to get there, so stay overnight and join the 9pm guided tour with the Grande Rivière Nature Tour Guide Association (firstname.lastname@example.org), which heads to the beach to see the leatherbacks come ashore to lay their eggs. If you get up just before dawn the next day and head back to the beach, you’re likely to see the last few in daylight before they disappear into the ocean.
Alternatively birdwatchers will love the Asa Wright Nature Centre (www.asawright.org) in the Arima and Aripo Valleys of the Northern Range Mountains. Here you can watch hundreds of hummingbirds right off the lodge’s balcony.
WHERE TO STAY
• Kapok Hotel (Port of Spain; www.kapokhotel.com) Boutique hotel with a colourful facade and comfortable rooms, two restaurants, a small pool and shopping arcade.
• Asa Wright Nature Centre (Arima; www.asawright.org) Two main-house rooms plus 24 standard rooms and bungalows in the gardens are designed for privacy and seclusion – and all have verandas for birdwatching.
• Le Grand Almandier (Grande Rivière; www.legrandealmandier.com) This delightful, inn-style place set among leafy almond trees is directly on the turtle-watching beach. Its good restaurant specialises in Creole-style dishes.
Small but perfectly formed, St Kitts is ideal for a relaxing, historic weekend escape
Robert L Bradshaw International Airport is just over 3km north of Basseterre, but most visitors usually go straight to the hotels in Frigate Bay where the peninsula narrows: North Frigate Bay is on the Atlantic, South Frigate Bay on the Caribbean, only 1km apart.
Friday is a popular night for liming and dancing on the south side, at the string of beach bars known as The Strip. A stream of minibuses drives from Basseterre, or an easy walk from North Frigate Bay. Dinner options nearby include Marshall’s (www.marshallsdining.com), which offers ocean views, great sunsets and a menu of Caribbean staples, and Bombay Blues (www.facebook.com/BombayBluesRestaurant ) for tasty, aromatic Indian food.
St Kitts is not very big, so it’s easy to tackle a circumnavigation of 1,156m-high Mount Liamuiga, the dormant volcano that dominates the island, on the circular coast road by rental car or island tour. Take the clockwise loop from Basseterre or Frigate Bay for views of the Caribbean Sea on the west side in good light.
First, stop in Basseterre to admire the classic Georgian-style buildings, and for some shopping at the duty free stores, boutiques and craft market around the cruise ship terminal. Find unique local works at the Gallery Cafe & Art Gallery in Independence Square, which is also a good place for a quick breakfast of home-baked bagels or muffins.
Driving north from Basseterre you will pass the sites of several forts and charming rural villages, with views of the Caribbean. Stop at Romney Manor to roam beautiful gardens dating from the early 17th century (look out for the enormous 400-year-old saman tree), and buy unique textiles at Caribelle Batik (www.caribellebatikstkitts.com). Close by, Sky Safari St Kitts (www.skysafaristkitts.com) operates a zipline through the rainforest.
Next is Brimstone Hill Fortress (www.brimstonehillfortress.org), dating to 1690, which sits almost 250m above the sea. Climb to the top of the ramparts for fine views – on a clear day you can see Anguilla, Montserrat, Saba, St Eustatius, St Barts and St Martin. Once around the northern tip of the island, the Atlantic side is wilder, with good views of the coast and the eerie sight of abandoned sugar mills.
The southeast spit of land is home to the island’s powdery white-sand beaches; it’s also the closest point to Nevis, across the Narrows. Drive the Dr Kennedy A Simmonds Highway from Frigate Bay to Major’s Bay along the backbone of the peninsula for views into coves on both the Caribbean and Atlantic sides, and Nevis at the end.
The best beach for a lazy day and taking in the vibes is Cockleshell Bay, which is a magnet for Kittitians liming on weekends. There are several beach bars and restaurants here, including Spice Mill (www.spicemillrestaurant.com), which offers local specialities, international dishes and live music on a Sunday afternoon, and Reggae Beach Bar & Grill (www.reggaebeachbar.com), famous for its Jamaican-style food, rum punch and frozen cocktails. St Kitts Water Sports (www.stkittswatersports.com) organises activities ranging from jet-skiing and stand-up paddleboarding to kayaking and paragliding.
WHERE TO STAY
• Ocean Terrace Inn (Basseterre; www.oceanterraceinn.com) Seaside hotel offering 50 smart hillside rooms with patios/balconies, two good restaurants and views of Basseterre and the bay.
• Sugar Bay Club (North Frigate Bay; www.sugarbayclub.com) A well-priced place with 89 hotel rooms and self-catering apartments, two pools and two restaurants; a short walk to The Strip.
• Timothy Beach Resort (South Frigate Bay; www.timothybeach.com) The only hotel in this area on the Caribbean; 60 good-value rooms and studios; right next to The Strip.
A Bajan break has it all: chill by the pool, try watersports, explore historic sites, eat world-class food, lime with a rum or two
Grantley Adams International Airport is 16km east of Bridgetown. Between the airport and the island’s capital, the south coast is a string of beautiful white-sand beaches backed by hotels, bars and restaurants, well served by public transport.
On Friday night, head to Oistins Fish Fry, a Bajan institution offering a wonderful way to get your first taste of Barbados. Excellent flying fish, tuna, swordfish, kingfish, mahi-mahi and lobster, with sides like coleslaw, baked macaroni pie, rice and peas and hot sauce, are served from wooden stalls in an informal setting. The rum flows freely and is accompanied by live steelpan, calypso and reggae music and dancing long into the night.
Most of Barbados’s hotels sit on the south and (pricier) west coasts, where the obvious activity is lazing on the beach. Among the best is Enterprise Beach (or Miami Beach), which offers shade under casuarina trees and calm waters ideal for children. A Bajan institution for more than 35 years, Mr Delicious Snack Bar (www.mrdeliciousbar.com) is a food truck on the beach, famous for its excellent fish cutters, rum punch and homemade lemonade.
Dover Beach is in a lovely horseshoe-shaped bay with pristine white sand and turquoise water where you can hire kayaks, Hobie Cats, boogie boards, windsurfers and jet-skis. Or go up the west coast on a catamaran trip with Bajan food, drinks and music – try Cool Runnings (www.coolrunningsbarbados.com).
End the day at The Gap, running westward from Dover Beach along a stretch of coast road to Worthing. It’s the main nightlife strip in Barbados, with restaurants, bars and clubs. The atmosphere is always lively, and everybody is in a holiday mood. Recommended spots to eat include Café Sol (www.cafesolbarbados.com) for Mexican and margaritas, and The Old Jamm Inn (www.facebook.com/theoldjamminn) for burgers, jerk chicken and live music.
Explore the island’s east coast, where the scenery is wilder and more rugged. Hire a car, go on a tour or utilise the island’s excellent bus service. Gorgeous Bathsheba Beach has a double bay with wave-eroded rocks and boulders, and the Atlantic waters provide a thrilling setting for some serious surfing. The Atlantis Hotel (www.atlantishotelbarbados.com) is a good spot for lunch; on Sundays it offers Bajan buffets that include conch (lambi) fritters, jerk pork, curried yam or goat, pepperpot stew and flying fish cutters.
Up in the hills here is Andromeda Botanic Gardens (www.andromedabarbados.com), where you can wander trails shrouded with orchids, heliconias, hibiscus and flowering trees, and admire fabulous ocean views.
Get to the west coast for sunset, and head to a spot such as Ju Ju’s Beach Bar, where locals love to enjoy a Sunday chill by the water. Or for a typical rum shop experience try John Moore Bar, a ramshackle building right on the beach with a friendly vibe. Then choose one of dozens of restaurants (thought expect high prices on the glitzy ‘Platinum’ west coast).
WHERE TO STAY
• Little Arches Boutique Hotel (Enterprise Beach; www.littlearches.com) This super-friendly hacienda-style hotel has quirky colourful touches. The excellent rooftop Café Luna has sea views.
• Yellow Bird Hotel (St Lawrence Gap; www.yellowbirdbarbados.com) At the western end of The Gap, with 20 two-bed apartments – great value for families and groups.
• Beach View Barbados (Paynes Bay; www.beach viewbarbados.com) A short walk from Paynes Bay, with 36 family apartments and a huge pool, close to restaurants.
Whether you’re after adventure, relaxation or a bit of both, St Lucia ticks all the boxes
LIAT flies to George FL Charles Airport at Vigie, on the west coast just north of the capital Castries, which is handy for seeing St Lucia’s highlights over a weekend. To spend time relaxing on the beach with a sun lounger and rum punch, head to Rodney Bay Village in the north. You’ll find good-value accommodation and plenty to keep you occupied – beach bars, shopping malls, casual restaurants and lively nightlife. Just north of Rodney Bay is the sleepy fishing village of Gros Islet, which comes alive on Friday nights for the Gros Islet Jump Up: a street party, fish-fry, music and dancing – ideal for getting a first taste of island life.
Back at Rodney Bay Village, relax on Reduit Beach, which has fine white sand that shelves gently and is excellent for safe swimming. The stand-out beach bar here is Spinnakers (www.spinnakersbeachbar.com), with a broad deck under thatch and lots of variety on the menu. The colourful Splash Island Water Park (www.saintluciawaterpark.com) is the Caribbean’s first floating inflatable water park featuring over a dozen ‘rides’ to keep kids entertained.
A few hours at Pigeon Island National Landmark, across the water from Rodney Bay (take a water taxi), is worthwhile to stretch your legs and enjoy the views. Named after an infamous pirate that once hid out on the island, Jambe de Bois offers rotis, grilled fish, calamari and lamb curry, and there’s often live jazz on weekend nights.
If you’re lucky you might catch the Windies playing cricket at the Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium (www.windiescricket.com), just inland from Gros Islet.
Take at least a day trip to Soufrière and the Pitons – either by boat from Rodney Bay or by land tour. Most boat operators organise excursions that allow for alighting at Soufrière’s jetty to visit sights such as the Sulphur Springs (www.sulphurspringstlucia.com), with its hot springs and mud baths; Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens & Mineral Baths (www.diamondstlucia.com), with its lovely gardens and impressive waterfall; and the resort at Anse Chastanet (www.ansechastanet.com), where there’s a fabulous beach, swimming and snorkelling and several restaurants.
You could also opt for a hiking trail, including the four-hour Gros Piton Nature Trail offering extraordinary views across southern St Lucia and the Caribbean to St Vincent.
Alternatively go to Soufrière by road. Tour operators pick up at hotels in Rodney Bay Village. If possible, stay overnight in the area, which has some of the most special places to stay and eat with drop-dead-gorgeous views.
WHERE TO STAY
• Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa (Rodney Bay; www.baygardensresorts.com) One of the most appealing places to stay in Rodney Bay, next to popular beach bar Spinnakers. The 76
rooms are set around well-kept grounds and a vast swimming pool.
• Coco Palm (Rodney Bay; www.coco-resorts.com) Great value and in the centre of the village among restaurants and nightlife, a few minutes’ walk to Reduit Beach. The 101 rooms are good for families or couples, and there’s a pool and open-air bar/restaurant.
• Fond Doux Plantation & Resort (Soufrière; www.fonddouxestate.com) On a historic plantation dating to 1745 are 15 characterful cottages, two good restaurant/bars and a tucked-away pool. It also offers cocoa tours.
Plan a lovely, low-key weekend of sunshine, soft sand, rainforest roaming and strolls around arguably the Caribbean’s prettiest port
Maurice Bishop International Airport is at the southern tip of the island, just a 10-minute drive to Grand Anse Beach and the island’s best choice of hotels, restaurants and bars – a perfect base for the weekend. The 5km-long beach is fringed by sea grape and palm trees, and lapped by gentle surf, with views of the surrounding hills and St George’s in the distance. Running alongside are a string of low-rise resorts and Grand Anse Main Road with shops, malls and restaurants. Stop by the Grand Anse Craft and Spice Market, a complex almost on the sand with booths selling crafts, spices, jewellery, clothing, street food and drinks, and where you can hire beach loungers and umbrellas.
The tiny but characterful Esther’s Bar is a fine place to watch the sunset with a Carib beer, spiced rum or one of her famous (and strong) lime mojitos. Right next door, the Fish Pot restaurant is an option for an inexpensive dinner – perhaps octopus, lobster and ‘fried jacks’, all laden with Grenadian spices, or try oil down, Grenada’s national dish: a stew of breadfruit, meat or chicken and coconut milk.
This morning head to St George’s – just 10 minutes from Grand Anse by minivan – with its multi-coloured houses lining steep hills overlooking the bay. Jaunty fishing boats bob in the Carenage, an almost perfect horseshoe-shaped inner harbour. Dotted along its outer road and in the connecting streets are bars, restaurants and shops.
Seek out the House of Chocolate (www.houseofchocolategnd.com) on Young Street, which has a small museum, café and shop dedicated to the island’s cocoa history and industry; try the delicious handmade chocolates, ice cream, brownies and hot chocolate. St George’s Market Square comes alive on Saturdays with farmers and vendors selling all types of produce: look for cocoa balls, pepper sauce, nutmeg syrup and, of course, spices. Climb the steep hill up to Fort George, which dominates the centre of St George’s, for views over the heart of town and along the coast to Grand Anse Beach.
In the afternoon, spend more time on the beach. Lovely Morne Rouge Beach is popular with families on weekends: the bay is shallow, with few waves. La Plywood Beach Bar Café is an informal spot with cold beer, rum punch and fish tacos. Or splurge on delicious tapas on a stunning terrace at Sangria Restaurant Bar & Lounge.
Back at Grand Anse, the string of stalls on Wall Street opens from 9pm until the small hours on Fridays and Saturdays, offering jerk chicken, pork ribs, kebabs, callaloo soup, curried goat, rotis, Carib beer and coconut water, accompanied by soca music and a party atmosphere.
Head north into the interior for a wide choice of sights. At Belmont Estate (www.belmontestate.net), tours showcase the island’s nutmeg and cocoa heritage; at Grand Etang National Park there are trails and crater lakes to explore in the rich, dense rainforest; and at the River Antoine Rum Distillery, dating from 1785, you can learn all about rum production.
In the evening, treat yourself to a Grenadian feast at Patrick’s Local Homestyle Cooking, between Grand Anse and St George’s. This one-of-a-kind restaurant has a fixed-price dinner menu that includes 20 dishes – perhaps breadfruit and green papaya salads, curried goat, stir-fried rabbit, crayfish broth, tannia cakes with shrimps, and oil down with coconut cream.
WHERE TO STAY
• Coyaba Beach Resort (Grand Anse; www.coyaba.com) In a central position on Grand Anse Beach, this well-priced option has 70 rooms, two restaurants, three bars and a large pool.
• Siesta Hotel (Grand Anse; www.siestahotel.com) On a quiet hillside a five-minute walk to the beach, this has 37 bright studios and apartments, and a restaurant.
• Gem Holiday Beach Resort (Morne Rouge; www.gembeachresort.com) Excellent value for groups/families, with 20 large self-catering apartments.