What Is The Most Beautiful Island In The Caribbean

The Bahamas is synonymous with icing-sugar beaches, glassy aquamarine waters and rainbow coral reefs: a vision of paradise from the postcards. It’s also, at least to outsiders, synonymous with wealth. A tax haven — citizens don’t pay tax on income, inheritance or capital gains — this island nation, a sun-drenched archipelago south of Florida, attracts moneyed jet-setters seeking financial perks. The trade-off is that because almost everything is imported, the Bahamas is one of the most expensive places to live in the world. A glass of fizz in Nassau? That’ll be £30, thank you.

Pastel houses in the Bahamian capital, Nassau
Pastel houses in the Bahamian capital, NassauGETTY IMAGES

Of course, sky-high prices are nothing when you’re a billionaire — as many visitors are. Some even splurge on the ultimate brag, a private island or cay; one of the Bahamas’ thousands is easy enough to snap up if you’ve a few million to spare. Beyoncé, Johnny Depp and Nicolas Cage are among the better-known names to have bagged their own castaway isles.

And while you might not be able to do exactly that, you can still have a Bahamas experience worthy of Ms Knowles. Virgin has recently launched a twice-weekly direct route, and British Airways is upping its service to six flights a week, making the Bahamas even more accessible. Choose the right hotel for your stay, and your experience can be as decadent as that of the privileged 1 per cent.

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Rosewood Baha Mar, in the capital, Nassau — where flights from the UK touch down — is one such hotel. Opened in 2018, it’s the pinnacle of the vast new Baha Mar complex, a $4 billion redoubt that rises theatrically from its island surroundings.

At breakfast, while tucking into my immaculate eggs benedict, I overhear some New Yorkers fussing over their children and chatting about a friend’s business. “He’s hired someone to take care of it,” one of them interjects, “and the guy only costs $130k a year.” After placing a rambling grocery order with the concierge for their suite kitchen, his wife announces she is off to the spa for a massage.

Rosewood Baha MarRosewood Baha MarROSEWOOD HOTELS

Besides that spa, Rosewood Baha Mar has all the plush facilities you’d expect from a top-tier resort, and more: the largest casino in the Caribbean and a vast art gallery; celeb-chef restaurants, including one by Daniel Boulud; cabanas staffed with butlers. Rooms, meanwhile, are seaside style gone glam — sandy walls, rattan stools, floaty white linen curtains. This all draws a distinctly well-off clientele, a mix of young families and groups who come to let their hair down between board meetings. Everyone’s here to socialise in style.

And, perhaps because most are American, Rosewood guests are friendly even when you don’t know them. As I order sticky wings at Streetbird on the Beach — a Baha Mar food truck by the New York chef Marcus Samuelsson — a chatty 30-year-old leans in. I shake my head when he asks if I’ve tried the “crispy bird sandwich”, drenched in hot pepper mayo. “I’ve been here four times this year,” he reveals in a molasses drawl, “but it’s my first time eating at this truck.” No wonder, given that there are 45 restaurants in Baha Mar alone. As he takes off with his gourmet sarnie to meet friends draining rosé on the beach, I ponder the financial blow of four visits to a hotel where entry-level rooms can cost more than £750 a night.

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After three days immersed in the buzz of Rosewood Baha Mar — including an eventful evening at the casino, where winners pop in to Cartier to buy watches as though they’re pints of milk — it’s time for a change of scene. Blingy Nassau might be the gateway to the Bahamas, but the rich rarely stay put here. So I’m following their lead to the Out Islands: sleepier, more raw and, arguably, even more exclusive. My destination, Kamalame Cay, a smear of sand off the wild island of Andros, is a ten-minute flight away by private charter.

A secluded table at Rosewood Baha Mar
A secluded table at Rosewood Baha MarROSEWOOD HOTELS

Well, it should be a ten-minute flight. But my Coco seaplane is held up for more than an hour on another island by a large group enjoying a boozy day-trip. It’s a hazard of charter travel that I hadn’t anticipated, but my initial irritation is soothed by the opportunity for prime people-watching in the private flight terminal. A trio of scarily young government advisers discuss strategy. A husky-voiced Swiss — a double for Claudia Schiffer — whirls through, shouting about the forthcoming ski season. Finally, as the waiting room empties and my apologetic pilot arrives, it is my turn to hop into a tiny seaplane and soar high above the wild blue Atlantic (£1,650 one-way for up to eight passengers, flycocobahama.com).

I don’t have to wait until I’m on the ground to see how different Andros is from Nassau. The Bahamas’ largest island is a vast carpet of pines flecked with mangrove trees, split by a pin-straight road. Floating just off its east coast, a sandy strip with palms and a perfect row of villas awaits: Kamalame Cay.

Island hop in a Coco seaplaneIsland hop in a Coco seaplane

The wind has picked up, and the landing is a little dramatic: we skip over thrashing waves like a stone. But once I’m ashore, the warmth of the welcome has my shoulders dropping again. Kamalame Cay has been family-owned for decades — married duo Michael and David live on the island — and somehow it feels as though you’ve known the staff for years. Leah, the private villas’ manager, welcomes me with a hug and offers to get me a snack, before I hop into my electric golf buggy to zip along the sand to Hummingbird, my home for the next three days.

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Every villa at Kamalame, from the minimalist, whitewashed one-bedroom beach bungalows — complete with outdoor tub — to the dark wood and seashell-bedecked Cocoanut, sleeping ten, has a distinct personality. That’s because many are privately owned: Kamalame lets them out when the wealthy proprietors are off-isle. Despite a few variations, all have the same trump card — which becomes obvious as soon as I scale Hummingbird’s steps. The back of the villa, lined with windows, looks out to the rolling ocean: perfect for sunrise. The front, also window-lined, has a view of the mangroves and, I discover as I open my door, the most spectacular sunsets.

Under the bougainvillea, I nurse a glass of bubbly as I watch the fiery sky burn beneath a layer of charcoal clouds. The island feels empty but for me — a fantasy shattered when I head for dinner at the Great House restaurant, which is buzzing with life. But that is exactly why Kamalame Cay is popular with people who are crowd-shy, such as Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel (who last year celebrated a birthday a few villas down from mine) or Serena Williams, who chose Kamalame for her honeymoon.

When I push the events manager, Casey, for details of these high-profile guests, she tells me most spend their first day hiding behind their sunglasses. “But by day three they’re in the kitchen with the chef or by the pool with the other guests,” she says. While I can’t exactly relate, I do see how this laid-back resort could make anyone relax. It couldn’t be more different from glitzy Nassau.

A room at Kamalame CayA room at Kamalame CayLYNDAH WELLS PHOTOGRAPHY

The buzzy Bahamian capital never feels further away than it does the next day. Kamalame Cay’s main activity is bonefishing. Enthusiasts pay upwards of £370 per outing for the chance to catch and release these skittish, silvery fish in the mangroves. But high winds and choppy waters mean that this — as well as snorkelling at the nearby barrier reef, the world’s third largest — is off. The overwater spa, the only one in the Bahamas, is also fully booked.

Instead, I hop into my golf cart and follow the sand road all the way to the island’s northern tip. As the lush foliage thins and the road tapers to an end, all that remains is a soft, gently shelving beach.

I crack open an icy Kalik beer, plucked from my minibar, and pad along the powder to the point where luminous mangroves melt into the Atlantic and the waters shimmer in a beautiful medley of blues.

As the wind whistles across the rim of my rapidly evaporating beer, I wonder which celebrities visiting Kamalame Cay have done exactly what I am doing now. Then the sun slips out to shower me in Bahamian rays and my mind empties. Flitting fish in the shallows. Creamy, sparkling sands. Little green islands beyond, beckoning. I may not have millions in the bank, but sitting there alone on that beach, I feel like all the riches of the Bahamas are mine.

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Alicia Miller was a guest of Rosewood Hotel Baha Mar, Kamalame Cay and the Bahamas tourist board. Abercrombie & Kent has seven nights’ room only — four at Rosewood Baha Mar and three at Kamalame Cay — from £4,999pp, including flights and transfers

The pool at the Landing, Harbour Island
The pool at the Landing, Harbour Island

Three more luxury Bahamas stays

1. The Landing, Harbour Island

With its photogenic pink beach, Harbour Island is a favourite with the stylish set — India Hicks, goddaughter to Prince Charles, owns a boutique on the island, and Serena Williams was on holiday here when we stayed. The Landing, in Dunmore Town, is set in the 19th-century veranda-wrapped home of the island’s first doctor, Thomas W Johnson. The 13 rooms, with crisp whites and dark woods, pay homage to the building’s vintage but still feel contemporary. The restaurant is one of the island’s finest, but do also try the excellent Rock House (rockhousebahamas.com), right next door, for local stone crab.

Details B&B doubles from £177 (harbourislandlanding.com)

Dunmore Beach on Harbour IslandDunmore Beach on Harbour Island

2. The Dunmore, Harbour Island

Overlooking Pink Sands Beach this is chichi Harbour Island’s coolest resort, marked out by its stripy umbrellas dotting the seafront. Like everything on Harbour Island this place is boutique; 19 rooms and five private residences in ten manicured acres, plus a clutch of private residences, the largest sleeping eight. The no-reservations beach bar is a lunchtime essential for a knee-wobbling Goombay Smash — a mixture of rums with pineapple and orange juice — plus fish tacos. Don’t be surprised if you see a glam wedding party at the next table. The Dunmore is sandwiched between some of the island’s most popular nuptial venues, where million-dollar bashes are weekly events.

Details Room-only doubles from £438 (dunmorebeach.com)

The pool at Four Seasons The Ocean Club, NassauThe pool at Four Seasons The Ocean Club, Nassau

3. Four Seasons The Ocean Club, Nassau

The Ocean Club was a Bahamas institution long before Daniel Craig played a visit to one of its villas as Bond in Casino Royale. The historic Paradise Island resort on Nassau’s north coast has gone through various iterations, and is now a Four Seasons — the old-world charm remains with lush gardens, long lawns and classically luxe rooms. The martini bar is a highlight, but you can’t miss the spa, the perfect place for a detoxifying massage before retiring to a room overlooking crashing surf. Try the local lobster with curry sauce at Asian-Bahaman restaurant Dune.

Details Room-only suites sleeping four people from £1,275 (fourseasons.com)

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