FIVE questions
you should
ask ...
Speak to one of our travel
within 5 rings

Which of these is important to you?

  • Concierge style service. Your own dedicated travel manager who'll look after you until you travel.
  • Better value. Exclusive fares you won't find online to save you money.
  • 24 hour helpline. A worldwide team just a phone call away if you need help while you're overseas.
  • Top on Trustpilot. More highly rated than all our competitors with 98% saying they'd book again.
  • Risk free. Fully licensed with Client Trust Account to protect your money. ABTA, ATOL protected.

Your calls always answered within 5 rings.

Caribbean Reviews 4339
Caribbean Offers 24

Past perfect in the Caribbean

On the tiny idyllic island of Bequia, and the more mainstream Barbados,Tristan Davies finds himself in a luxurious time capsule


Some might remember a TV show of seven years ago called The Young Ones (not to be confused with the comedy series of the Eighties), in which six celebrities in their 70s and 80s attempt to overcome some of the problems of ageing by harking back to the 1970s.

They spent their time in a country house decked out as a 1970s time capsule. The idea was to transport them back to their heyday - they walked on shag pile carpet and watched Crossroads, sipping Dandelion & Burdock, to see if it improved their ailing health and failing memories.

The six were cricket umpire Dickie Bird, dancer Lionel Blair, newsreader Kenneth Kendall, radio presenter Derek Jameson and actresses Sylvia Syms and Liz Smith - and it seems that taking them back to a world where everything was strictly 1975 had a miraculous effect. The experiment, particularly the part involving shag pile carpets, was very successful and they did feel younger.

I mention this because I met a very clever man called Bengt in Bequia, a tiny island just a speedboat dash from Mustique, who is conducting a similar experiment. Bengt is the proud owner of the Bequia Beach Hotel, which is full of couples of a certain age congratulating other couples for being so much younger than all the other couples of almost certainly the same age.

Bequia Beach Hotel staff always remember their returning guests

Trapped in time
For Bengt, you see, has created a perfect time capsule. By the time you've checked into one of the 1930s colonial-style rooms with 1950s-style posters, and followed 1960s-style wooden signs to the bar and ordered your first Dark 'n' Stormy, you're already feeling 20 years younger.

It's not just the decor, agreeable though it is. Everything here exudes old-style charisma, a Pathé newsreel picture of how the Caribbean used to be before the big bucks and giant cruise liners steamed in.

A place for quiet contemplation at Bequia Beach Hotel

There's nothing fusty about the Bequia Beach Club, but everything is as it should be. Charming open-air restaurant on the beach: check. Delicious fresh seafood: check. Friendly but unpushy staff: check. Secluded stretch of sand fringing a gently swelling ocean: check. Cool pool with mysterious rejuvenating powers: check. Friendly faces at the bar swapping rum-punchy gossip about how Carole Middleton put people's noses out of joint in Mustique: check.

The island, which hasn't changed much since Harold Macmillan stayed here (someone told me they'd read he came up with 'You've never had it so good' on the island) is proud of its Royal connections.

The idyllic Bequia beach and the Bagatelle restaurant

Princess Margaret once dropped anchor off Bequia. As a result there's a rather fetching beach named after her. A 30-minute stroll away is the capital, Port Elizabeth, a scruffily teeming one-street town packed with shops, markets and harbourside bars.

Forty minutes away by twin-prop plane is the five-star Coral Reef Club in Barbados, where we stayed for our second week. It, too, exudes old-school cool, although this time for very A-list guests.

Had they wished, the owners of this hotel could have adopted the Bequia naming policy and christened its beach after visiting royalty. Or you could now be staying in a Harold Pinter, Agatha Christie or Prince Harry suite. All have enjoyed the hospitality of the O'Hara family, who have owned the hotel since the 1950s.

But this is the kind of hotel where the rich, famous and we lesser mortals can drift in and out incognito.

No wonder Agatha Christie was inspired to write A Caribbean Mystery here.

There's still an air of exotic mystery about the place, as if a man in tennis whites might appear at any moment among the palms and confess to Miss Marple that yes, it was he who committed the heinous murder in the bougainvillea and he doesn't care who knows it.

Every room is high-spec and the restaurant is high-end. But Coral Reef hasn't lost sight of the good old days. You can bet every dry martini here is shaken, not stirred.

Preparing a traditional Martini at the Coral Reef Club

If you hanker after a nightclub, well, that's just a short car ride away - this is hip and happening Barbados after all. But at the Coral Reef it's more cocktails and cool crooners.

Family values
The Coral Reef Club is built on good old-fashioned family values. And that's down to the O'Haras. They may look as if they've stepped out of a Ralph Lauren catalogue, with their brilliant white shirts and glossy good looks, but they are a very real sleeves-rolled-up presence in the hotel.

Matriarch Cynthia glides around the reception rooms and hosts an elegant cocktail party once a week, and sons Mark and Patrick patrol the restaurant.

This is not just their livelihood, it's their home, and you are made to feel like their guests, not just hotel guests.    

First published in the Mail Online - February 2017

More articles below...

For more inspiration, read what travel writers have to say...

Sailing the high seas

Cruising the Windward islands proved just the ticket for Helen Atkinson Wood

Cuba's new revolution

One of the most fascinating holiday destinations, as Richard Eden discovered

Spicy Grenada

Renowned chef Rosemary Shrager discovers paradise on a plate

For sun and stars

Follow Wendy Gomersall to the beautiful Bahamas

Bliss in the BVIs

Vincent Graff discovers he can do without room keys and TVs

Chilling in Grenada

Samantha Lewis discovers the perfect island to relax

St Kitts and Nevis

Wendy Driver puts her best foot forward on a hiking trip

Caribbean cocktail

Grenada packs a punch, as Tamara Hinson discovers

Sun, sea and salsa!

The perfect partners for Bruno Tonioli

Authentic Cuba

John Hutchinson visits before the island nation changes forever

Bountiful Bequia

Nick Redman reports from the little Caribbean island of Bequia

Islands of treasure

There's so much more to the Cayman Islands than offshore banking says Sian Boyle

Chill out says Harriet Sime

With new direct flights, it's never been easier to relax in the Turks and Caicos

Marvellous Mustique

Mustique may be pricey but Kate Silverton discovers its laid-back glamour

The barmy Bahamas

Swimming with sharks and eating pickled lamb's tongue are just two of Mark Porter's highlights

Stunned by St Lucia

Marina Fogle is dazzled by this corner of the Caribbean

Happy hour

Stephen Macdonald samples deadly cocktails in Jamaica

Art beneath the waves

Rob Crossan discovers sublime beauty in this stunning underwater sculpture gallery

Plantation houses

Discover the Caribbean's historic hotels

Serene St Lucia

Ben Bailey finds paradise on gorgeous St Lucia

Get fit in paradise

Toni Jones signed up for sun, sea, sand and floating yoga

Bountiful Barbados

Jack Davidson discovers the island’s greatest treasure

Paradise on a plate

The fabulous food of Anguilla has Harry Denning’s tastebuds tingling

In love with St Lucia

Josh Cuthbert, of boy band Union J, knew there was only one place he wanted to celebrate his engagement

Best of Barbados

Fred Mawer's top tips to enjoy this fabulous Caribbean island

Gourmet gala

Jason Arnold delights in the culinary treats of Antigua and St Lucia

Caribbean heaven

Mark Palmer revels in two luxury resorts in the Dominican Republic

Bowled over by Bequia

Jonathan Agnew unearths a secret Windies gem

Rock and Royalty

Nigel Tisdall tells you how you can join the St Barths' jet-set

Besotted with Barbados

Sam Tonkin loves everything about this Caribbean idyll

Barbados or Bequia

Hunter Davies has to decide which of two idyllic islands comes out on top


Piers Morgan's favourite Caribbean hotel is better than ever

St Lucian sounds

Nigel Tisdall is dancing to a different beat in St Lucia

Batting for Antigua

The Caribbean just bowls you over says Mark Palmer

Shifting Sands

James Henderson finds the Dominican Republic is quietly moving upmarket

The Dominican dream

Max Davidson discovers the most popular destination in the Caribbean

Not quite what you're looking for?
We can easily customise an offer to suit your exact requirements