Which dreamy Caribbean isle should you escape to with Virgin Atlantic?

Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie

It's that time of year when the dull, wet weather has many people dreaming of warmer climes. Handily, the Caribbean really comes into its own in autumn and winter with this oasis boasting temptingly warm air and sea temperatures.

English Harbour, Antigua, from the Shirley Heights Lookout © travnikovstudio - Fotolia.com
English Harbour, Antigua, from the Shirley Heights Lookout © travnikovstudio - Fotolia.com

Deciding where to go on holiday? Whether you're after a lively city break or luxurious beach escape, try our dedicated Virgin Atlantic destination finder to browse destinations based on your preferred weather.

Swirl in swaying palms, striking white sands, and cool cocktails and it becomes even more tempting. But which island to choose? We've pulled together a rundown of the dreamiest isles for you along with the array of treasures they offer to help you choose. What are you waiting for?

1. Antigua

  • Depart from: London Gatwick (LGW)
  • Flight time: 9 hours
  • When to go: January to May; June
  • Great for: beach lovers (couples and families)

With literally a beach for every day of the year, Antigua is a beach lover's paradise.

Stir in the relaxed charms of the capital, St John's, and Antigua conjures up one seriously compelling cocktail, just like those you'll find in St John's buzzing casinos. History buffs won't want to miss the old heart of British naval power here, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Nelson's Dockyard.

It's those 365 (apparently that figure is handily bang on) beaches that really catch the eye though, with white puffy sands de rigueur.

You can just laze on the beach - be it at a full-fledged resort with all the trimmings or somewhere more secluded - but if you fancy exploring further myriad boat trips await, as well as world-class scuba diving. A day trip to Antigua's smaller sibling of Barbuda is a must too.

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Read more: 7 reasons to visit Antigua for winter sun

Beautiful beach on the east coast of Barbados © PHB.cz - Fotolia.com
Beautiful beach on the east coast of Barbados © PHB.cz - Fotolia.com

2. Barbados

  • Depart from: London Gatwick (LGW), London Heathrow (LHR), Manchester (MAN)
  • Flight time: 9 hours
  • When to go: January & February
  • Great for: sports players and spectators

With cricket's iconic Kensington Oval, superb watersports and famously stunning scuba diving - think everything from turtles to sharks - Barbados is ideal for those looking to get active.

Horse racing is popular on the historic grass racecourse at Garrison Savannah too. Afterwards you can spend your winnings in Bridgetown's famous duty free shops.

This being the Caribbean the beaches are, of course, stunning too. Foul Bay, Bottom Bay and Gibbes Beach are the Caribbean beach idyll writ large.

And there's plenty of ways to get active on the coast as well, with surfers taking on the waves at Bathsheba, Conset Bay and usually beginner friendly Surfer's Point. Afternoon tea and cricket await for more sedentary souls. The island's nightlife scene is legendary too.

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Read more: 8 reasons to break away from the beach in Barbados

Statue of José Martí, father of the Cuban revolutionary movement © Vincent St.Thomas - Alamy Stock Photo
Statue of José Martí, father of the Cuban revolutionary movement © Vincent St.Thomas - Alamy Stock Photo

3. Cuba

  • Depart from: London Gatwick (LGW)
  • Flight time: 10 hours
  • When to go: April, May & October
  • Great for: those in search of culture and history

The fact it's Cuba is reason enough to visit. This compelling geopolitical anomaly is a socialist state that has somehow managed to survive just off the coast of North America.

For multiple reasons, development has been slower here than elsewhere in the region so it is still something of a time warp. The country is, though, really opening up to visitors so now is a great time to go.

The capital of Havana is a glorious collage of sights and sounds by day (with plenty of museums on hand for those looking to get under its rich skin) and is thrillingly energetic by night.

Around the isle there are nine UNESCO World Heritage sites to explore and, yes, a tempting necklace of sandy beaches after all that sightseeing and cultural exploration. It is still very much the Caribbean, just deliciously different.

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Read more: A classic car tour of Cuba's capital

4. Grenada

  • Depart from: London Gatwick (LGW)
  • Flight time: 11 hours (including stop in St Lucia)
  • When to go: January, February & March
  • Great for: adventurous couples looking for something different

The self-styled 'Spice Isle of the Caribbean' is lush, green and verdant - Grenada feels like a real life Garden of Eden.

The island offers the chance to really get away from it all hiking amidst the volcanoes of the Grand Etang National Park. Here the rainforest trails feel like something out of Jurassic Park, as you lose yourself high in the mountains with only hawks and hummingbirds for company.

The beaches don't disappoint either with two stars, Grand Anse and Levera Bay. In the water, scuba diving, and even snorkelling, open up Grenada's famous wrecks with over 20 stricken vessels to explore.

On land you watch turtles laying their eggs in March. Afterwards toast this glorious experience with rum from the Caribbean's oldest rum distillery.

Grenada weather

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Read more: 9 reasons Grenada is the Caribbean island for you

Doctor's Cave Beach, Montego Bay, Jamaica © Chee-Onn Leong - Fotolia.com
Doctor's Cave Beach, Montego Bay, Jamaica © Chee-Onn Leong - Fotolia.com

5. Jamaica

  • Depart from: London Gatwick (LGW)
  • Flight time: 10 hours
  • When to go: February, March & April
  • Great for: music lovers and party goers

Lively doesn't even begin to describe Jamaica's Montego Bay. This thrilling, no-holds-barred oasis - 'Mo' Bay' to the locals - is a city with a proudly beating resort heart. It may be one of the largest cities in the Caribbean, but its resorts and beaches are brilliant fun and are very well geared to those looking to party.

The epicentre of the musical action is on the Hip Strip. It's all here from full on reggae, through to calypso, onto ragamuffin and into big dance hall numbers.

By day it's all about chilling on the starched white sands with myriad watersports available for those who've not indulged too much the night before. In the hinterland everything from island safaris and adrenaline pumping quad biking adventures await.

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Read more: Things to do when you visit Montego Bay

Paradise Beach, St Lucia looking towards the Pitons © Simon Dannhauer - Fotolia.com
Paradise Beach, St Lucia looking towards the Pitons © Simon Dannhauer - Fotolia.com

6. St Lucia

St Lucia is quite simply the quintessential Caribbean honeymoon isle. If you're looking for that once in a lifetime sense of romance then you have just found it. With bells on.

You can (and people do) just lose yourself for a week or two honeymooning, wrapped in each others' arms without leaving your world-class resort.

If you can bear to break away from your temple of luxury and gastronomic indulgence, then another St Lucia awaits also awash with romance. How about heading out to hold hands while watching mighty whales breach?

Or maybe hiring your own yacht and skipper and easing around to your own spot in Marigot Bay, which writer James A. Michener is once said to have once hailed as the "Most beautiful bay in the Caribbean"?

For something different you can literally feel the earth move with your beloved at Sulphur Springs Park, where geysers spurt from the active volcanic landscape.

St Lucia weather

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Read more: How to indulge your inner chocoholic in St Lucia

7. Tobago

  • Depart from: London Gatwick (LGW)
  • Flight time: 11 hours (including stop in St Lucia)
  • When to go: January to March; July & August
  • Great for: those looking for a low-key escape

Trinidad's bijou little sister packs plenty into its easily navigable whole. The capital of Scarborough sets the tone as it feels like a wee village.

The sturdy Fort King George sets the historic tone as it is home to the Tobago Museum, which opens up the island's rich history and whose hulking cannons add visual weight to that history. Hiking trails and numerous treks appeal too.

Tobago is no slouch on the beachfront either, with broad sandy beaches. Columbus was apparently a fan, reportedly cooing Tobago is 'perfectly formed'. It is, but it has not been too developed either, making it especially popular with repeat visitors to the Caribbean looking for somewhere quieter.

There are still plenty of laid back beach bars where you can enjoy that cocktail you've been dreaming of ever since you booked.

Tobago weather

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Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie
Posted on Thursday 18th October 2018 in: Beach Caribbean Winter sun

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