A Fresh Look at the Caribbean

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Fresh Look at the Caribbean

Blue seas, swaying palms trees and a totally tropical vibe: the sand-between-your-toes beauty of the Caribbean off ers up some idyllic second homes. Barbados is, of course, the region’s headliner, a glorious and well-established island where good flight access, a historical connection to the UK and a range of property prices help to keep visitor numbers high.

Yet how about widening your property search to include some less obvious holiday home choices? With more than 7,000 islands in total, the Caribbean off ers plenty of delightfully off -radar places to hang your hat with prices that can provide remarkable value.

Some might take a little longer to reach than others, but they share an appealing climate, warm, calm seas and are all pleasingly devoid of any concerns over a possible Brexit.

Here is a selection to kick-start a search for the perfect castaway Caribbean home.

Bahamas - Best for boating types

The Bahamas are a curious mixture of Caribbean beauty and American culture, with buzzy, built-up areas such as the capital Nassau matched by true Robinson Crusoe isolation in the Out Islands. Only 40 of the Bahamas’ 7,000 islands and cays are inhabited and the safe, shallow waters are easy for novice sailors to navigate.

Grand Bahama is the northernmost of the islands, only 56 miles adrift of Florida, with soft sand beaches warmed by the Gulf Stream. Life focuses on the gin-clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean, swimming with dolphins, diving on the reef or meandering along the coastline and waterways that have helped to earn Grand Bahama the title of Venice of the Caribbean.

“Beautiful Grand Bahama is truly relaxing and nicely old-fashioned with something for everyone, from nature tours, kayak tours of the mangroves, marinas and good dining options,” says Barbi Badham of Hideaway Bahamas Beach Club (hideawaybahamas.com).

“There is a large expat community who appreciate the hospitals and golf courses, and good access through the international airport in Freeport [the second largest city in the Bahamas]. Many residents move here from more remote locations knowing that Grand Bahama is so well-positioned. Miami is one hour away and you can leave here at noon and be in London the next morning.”

Hideaway Bahamas Beach Club is a five-acre beachfront resort in Bassett Cove on the southeast of the island, 25 minutes from Freeport, where Badham is selling homes. Completed two and three-bedroom apartments are priced from US$285,000 (£201,000), villas from US$750,000 and villa plots from US$150,000. There are plans for an oceanside members’ club with restaurant and pool, and the resort has 24-hour security and a resident manager.

“The legal system in the Bahamas is a mix of the British and American system with plenty of safeguards,” says Badham. “For example, as soon as you buy a home you can immediately qualify for residency.”

Antigua - Best for beaches

Antigua is only 14 by 11 miles, but is one of the better-known and more visited Caribbean islands with direct flights from the UK and several east coast US cities to its newly refurbished airport.

The island lacks the sophistication of Barbados but has its own highly attractive shabby chic charm and is one to consider if you love beaches — there are 365, famously one for each day of the year. Antigua has always welcomed the yachting crowd and every April it hosts one of the largest regattas in the Caribbean, turning the island into a social whirl for a few rum-filled party days.

Jolly Harbour on the west of the island is a 250-berth residential marina with a supermarket, restaurants and sports facilities. The oldest homes were built about thirty years ago, but there are also new properties being constructed, including 32 one- and three-bedroom Marina Residences, while there are plans for the existing infrastructure to be upgraded to include a Serena Williams tennis academy.

Properties through Luxury Locations (luxurylocations.com) start from US$250,000 for older two-bedroom terraced homes, some with boat berths at the end of the small garden.

Grenada - Best for families

The spice-producing island of Grenada is a favourite with families for its friendly people and gentle charm, and with sailors for its world-class marinas and craggy coastline.

This lush island, 21 miles long and 12 miles wide, has a coast studded with 45 soft sand beaches and perfect bays to drop anchor for the day. Inland, green mountains and rainforests feature among the fabulous raw nature.

This is a safe, low-key island with direct flights from London and is often the starting point for sailing trips around the spectacular Grenadines that are strung through the sea to the north.

“Grenada is one of the most attractive and friendly islands in the Caribbean,” says Maria La Touche of Terra Caribbean (terracaribbean.com/grenada). “The prime areas for home buyers are mainly in the east or southeast and include Lance Aux Epines, True Blue, Egmont, Fort Jeudy and Westerhall Point, all on peninsulas giving panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea.”

Grenada introduced a Citizenship-by-Investment programme in 2013. It has an easy application process and gives property owners at approved schemes the same rights as a Grenadian citizen with no tax on foreign income, wealth, capital gains or inheritance.

A furnished three-bedroom villa in the southeast with sea views would start from US$450,000, says La Touche. A two-bedroom house in a prime location on the eastern side of the island with mountain and sea views costs US$650,000, and a four-bedroom home in Lance Aux Epines is US$1,050,000.

“Grenada offers fantastic real estate opportunities,” concludes La Touche. “Prices are significantly below those in Barbados and Antigua, with no compromise on quality.”

Cayman Islands - Best for superb amenities

The three Cayman Islands combine the best of a modern infrastructure and a wide range of the finest restaurants in the region with spectacular, deserted beaches and exceptional diving. It is a British overseas territory with a strong American flavour. Miami is one hour away and there are direct flights from around the world, including London.

Grand Cayman is the largest and most developed of the three islands, but at only 22 by 8 miles with a population of 53,000 it is still compact. It is an established financial centre with an affluent international community who value the island’s excellent healthcare and education systems and the safe lifestyle.

There are no restrictions on property ownership, homes are built to very high standards and there is a buoyant local full-time rental market, says Tania Knapik of developers NCB Group (ncbgroup.ky).

“The two most popular areas to buy homes are along Seven Mile Beach and South Sound,” she adds. “Condos on Seven Miles Beach start from US$350,000, while South Sound has the same beautiful views but is less pricey. A two-bedroom condo directly on the beach there would be US $550,000, while a detached family home across from the beach starts from US$500,000.”

On South Sound, NCB Group are selling TIDES, beachfront two-to-fourbedroom apartments in an attractive, low-level building due to start construction this summer. Communal facilities include a pool, gym and rooftop gardens. Prices start from US$1,200,000.

ABC Islands - Best for something different

The wonderfully named ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao in the Dutch Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela each have their own atmosphere. Sleepy Bonaire is the place for diving among reefs packed with marine life, while diverse Curaçao has larger resorts, a national park and a beautiful colonial city. Aruba bags most of the attention, thanks to quality hotels, dreamy beaches and a good nightlife.

“All three islands are safe, with low crime rates, and lie outside of the hurricane belt. There is no off-season as they have a constant year-round temperature of 31°C and hardly any rain,” says real estate agent Susan Van Lier (susanvanlier@yahoo.com). “All three islands work with the Dutch legal system, and buying property is a safe and easy process.”

Typical prices are similar across the islands and start from US$190,000 for a newly built studio 200 metres from the sea, and from US$500,000 for a new beachfront apartment. Expect to pay from US$350,000 for a villa with a pool, and from US$1,000,000 for one with a beach view.

“On Aruba any location close to the hotel area and beaches is good, particularly the northernmost area,” adds Van Lier. “Anything one row back from the sea represents excellent value. Bonaire and Curaçao have spectacular beach villas, while the older parts of Willemstad on Curaçao have stylish older homes with huge gardens.”

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Cathy Hawker


Cathy Hawker

Originally published in the A Place in the Sun magazine - Issue 126