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A catamaran is perfect for snorkelling off the Turks and Caicos Islands. (Marshall DeCouto/The Meridian Club)
A catamaran is perfect for snorkelling off the Turks and Caicos Islands. (Marshall DeCouto/The Meridian Club)

Caribbean vacations for every type Add to ...

WRISTBANDS ARE US

Holidays should involve good, old-fashioned rest. No checking off the sights, no cooking, no cleaning. But must you share that all-inclusive resort with spring-breakers drawn to free drinks? We think not.

St. Martin/Saba

Most good all-inclusives are on the Dutch side of St. Martin. Read: crowds. But if you want a more remote, and slightly more interactive, wristband getaway, hop over to the Ecolodge Rendez-Vous ( www.ecolodge-saba.com) on Saba. This resort has jungle cottages with solar-powered showers from $70 a night.

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Turks and Caicos

There's a good selection of full-service hotels along 19-kilometre Grace Bay. Then again, if you want a splurge, the choice is easy: According to Travel + Leisure, the Grace Bay Club ( www.gracebayclub.com) is one of the world's best hotels, with rates starting at $1,070.

Mustique

It may be only two by three kilometres, but there are still options on this super-elite island: the full-service Cotton House with 20 rooms starting at $750 a night ( www.cottonhouse.net), or the five-room Firefly ( www.fireflymustique.com), a self-described "partyhouse" that starts at $800.

Guadeloupe

Okay, you may have to break out a spatula along with the suntan oil here. Most packages from Canada feature self-catering hotels in Saint Anne or Gosier, rather than all-inclusive options.

Virgin Islands

St. Thomas has plenty of resorts, but a better (quieter) choice in the U.S. Virgin Islands is St. John - where the Westin has a resort( www.westinresortstjohn.com) chockablock with activities and ocean-view rooms from $630 in high season.

EXPAT WANNABES

Who has time for the beach when another restaurant beckons? And forget historic sites. Hanging with the locals offers cultural lessons right now. For travellers who insist the line between tourist and expatriate is just one forgotten return ticket away.

St. Martin/Saba

St. Martin abounds in charming apartment-hotels where you can eat croissants from oceanview balconies. One case in point: The digs at Le Petit Hotel ( www.lepetithotel.com), which start at $550 in high season. As for nearby Saba, if you want to join the 1,500 residents, you'll have to shell out $700,000 for your own B&B.

Turks and Caicos

If you want to "go native," you can sail the 40 islands here over and over again - or take up a job in tourism. In other words, beautiful though it is, T & C doesn't cater to permanent immigration reveries.

Mustique

Actually living here isn't likely: The 120 homes on the island are governed by the Mustique Company, the name homeowners have chosen for themselves, and property prices are released on request only. Still, if you want to "meet the neighbours," Basil's Bar ( www.basilsmustique.com) hosts a blues festival in January.

Guadeloupe

Do like the (well-off) French pensioners who retire here and live in a villa. Or rent one, anyways, and go out for Creole with those who have bought permanent lodgings. One resource is www.vamoose.com.

Virgin Islands

British Tortola has lots of inexpensive places to rest your head. Better yet, it makes an excellent base to rent a boat or yacht for independent or group sailings around these islands for weeks - or even months - on end.

(For details on chartered boats, visit www.bvitourism.com.)

ROYAL TREATMENT

You're not going to St. Barts again because people who don't have money go there to feel like they do have money. You, on the other hand, don't have to pose. You're the real thing. (At least on this vacation.)

St. Martin/Saba

St. Martin excels in high-end accommodation. The top-rated La Samanna resort ( www.lasamanna.com), for instance, is launching 430-square-metre villas with wraparound infinity pools and beach butlers this December. Or if you can't afford $9,100 a night, the discounted Euro brands in French Marigot can at least make you look like a million bucks.

Turks and Caicos

There are many villas in the town of Providenciales, but only 12 rooms at the discreet Meridian Club on Pine Cay ( www.meridianclub.com) - where guests get a beach to themselves for $1,200 and up a night.

Mustique

Yes, like St. Martin, low-end two-bedroom villas run about $10,000 a week. But they come with staff, ocean views, pools, privacy and beautifully restrained decoration. A bonus: no liberal guilt, since none of your neighbours are living in slums either. In fact, rentals are co-ordinated by island homeowners ( www.mustique-island.com).

Guadeloupe

It's favoured by the French bourgeoisie, so you won't find the likes of Madame Sarkozy-Bruni here. In fact, are you sure you don't want a holiday on another French-sounding island? See Mustique.

Virgin Islands

Sir Richard Branson owns Necker Island ( www.neckerisland.com). That means you can add to his net worth and reduce yours by renting the entire thing for about $50,000 a day, or stick to a $27,000-a-week suite. If that all strikes you as terribly nouveau, you can rent the nature sanctuary that is Guana Island ( www.guana.com) for $34,000 a night.

PARENTS ARE PEOPLE TOO

You've said goodbye to far-flung adventures, cobblestone streets, drinking on holiday. Even sleeping on holiday. But sometimes you wonder if there's a family vacation (please, please) that offers charming courtyards as well as toddler pools.

St. Martin/Saba

The April Carnival on the Dutch side of St. Martin is a colourful affair that both kids and parents can enjoy. How much tots will enjoy high-end dining and shopping probably depends on how you live at home, or how patient they are. In Saba, watch for stroller challenges on rugged terrain.

Turks and Caicos

How about an Italian village - or at least an Italian-themed village - with certified nannies and a new water park sure to strike children giddy? Try the Italian area at Beaches resort opening this January ( www.beaches.com). A two-bedroom all-inclusive "Venetian" suite starts around $9,000 for

seven nights.

Mustique

The Mustique Company specifically presents itself as kid-friendly. It does, however, remind parents that decks overlooking the ocean have no railings (why interfere with the view) and can pose a danger to small children. Still, celebrities quietly drinking themselves into a stupor could be a source of family entertainment. You decide.

Guadeloupe

The kids club at Club Med La Caravelle ( www.clubmed.ca) gets consistently high marks. Or do like French families and rent a condo and a car so you can see the waterfalls around the island's forested interior and shop at the French-cheese-and-wine-stocked hypermarkets at your own pace.

Virgin Islands

Two-thirds of St. John is devoted to the Virgin Islands National Park ( www.nps.gov/viis), crisscrossed by walking trails, with many hikes only a few easy kilometres through tropical forest. Despite some rise in crime in the past few years, the island also has a reputation for safety.

WILD AT HEART

You've never actually bought Outside magazine. But you've seen Into The Wild, and parts of it, like the amateur whitewater rafting by the Hoover Dam, seem cool. You could try that. Maybe after a tequila.

St. Martin/Saba

Engineers once believed it was impossible to build a paved road on the steep inclines of Saba. Alas, there is one now. But old footpaths and hiking trails still exist on this extinct volcano. There's also spectacular diving (www.sabatourism.com/diving.html).

Turks and Caicos

In spite of damage caused by cruise ship stops, the coral reefs off Grand Turk remain among the world's best. Great visibility also means that you can see sponges and manta rays without going too deep. Operators include Blue Water Divers ( www.grandturkscuba.com) and Oasis Divers ( www.oasisdivers.com).

Mustique

There are no ferries to Mustique, so at the very least you can sail a yacht around the island. Roughing it this ain't.

Guadeloupe

How about a three-hour hike through rain forest to the 1,467-metre peak of La Soufrière - the highest mountain in the lesser Antilles and still an active volcano? We should say a three-hour, hard-core hike. For details (currently French only), visit www.guadeloupe-parcnational.com.

Virgin Islands

The RMS Rhone, a ship carrying mail between England and South America, sank in 1867 and divers have been checking out its remains ever since ( The Deep featured the ship in its footage). Operators include Blue Water Diver ( www.bluewaterdiversbvi.com).

Follow on Twitter: @srchiose

 

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