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Beat the blues with a slice of Caribbean sun

WINTER is finally over, and the sun has been reminding us all of its existence in the past week or so. If you are already thinking ahead to next year and wondering how you will get through another few months of darkness and “snow days”, there’s a solution: buy a home in the Caribbean.

Barbados has long been the Brit’s favourite island, and if you assume that it’s beyond your budget, you might be mistaken: Cluttons Resorts is currently selling one-bed flats on the island for as little as £100,000 – two-bed flats in the Weston, St James development on Barbados’s uber-desriable West Coast are currently being snapped up for just over £195,000.

And as long as you stay away from Sandy Lane, eating out need not break the bank either, says Kieran Kelly of the Barbados office of Cluttons. “The south coast in particular has lots of affordable restaurants, where a meal will cost no more than £12-£15 a head. Flights generally cost around £400 to £600 return.”

At the other end of the scale, golfer Tiger Woods has launched luxury development the Albany, in New Providence, the most populous island of the Bahamas. Prices for the beach- and golf-front homes, being sold through Aylesford International, go from £940,000 to £29m. There will also be a marina, spa and equestrian centre.

For buyers who prefer their Caribbean more unspoilt, and favour getting more for their money compared with developed Barbados, there is St Kitts, from where St Barths and Antigua are both just a short sailing journey away.

Knight Frank’s Julian Cunningham reports that prices went down by as much as 20 per cent in the first half of 2009 alone. “At the height of the market, buyers were considering acquisitions on many of smaller, lesser-known islands, where the real estate markets were in their infancy, but now the market has contracted,” he says. “Buyers are interested in areas that have a good infrastructure and direct flights, if possible.”

His recommendations? The British Virgin Islands and the west coast of Barbados. “Build costs are down, so if you have the money, 2010 could be the year to design and build your dream home.” Below are some other suggestions, too.

ST KITTS

For more golf courses and sophistication there is Nevis’s larger neighbour, St Kitts, home to bigger hotels and a port that ferries tourists to and from its shores. The Mandarin Oriental is in discussions to open a hotel here. Aylesford International is currently selling Christophe Harbour, the island’s latest development, which will cover almost a third of St Kitts and include a marina and golf course. Prices start at £346,000 and go up to £1.7m. It is a vast development, spanning 2,500 acres on the southeast peninsula, 15 minutes from St Kitts airport. There are regular direct flights from London. Another development, for sale through Savills, is Ocean’s Edge, found on the beachfront at North Frigate Bay. It is an established development with flats, cottages and villa plots starting at £239,700.

Savills Select Resorts 44 (0) 1202 765011; www.oceansedge.com

Aylesford International 020 7349 5100; www.aylesford.com

TURKS AND CAICOS

Turks and Caicos – a cluster of tropical islands found southeast of the Bahamas – is a region especially popular with US bankers and celebrities, who flock to its bone-white sandy beaches lapped by turquoise seas for their (extremely brief) holidays. It is here that Bruce Willis, Keith Richards and Donna Karan own villas. While it is possible to find the odd re-sale property for under £200,000, most property transactions are for considerably more – the private islands of Dellis Cay have villas that start in the millions.

High-end buying and selling agent Quintessentially Estates is selling a four-bed villa overlooking the ocean, for a whisker under £16m. And by bedrooms we mean bedroom pavilions that are open to the elements if desired – with two overlooking the ocean. There is a volcanic rock pool and reflecting pond found within the landscaped gardens, and a personal chef and butler within the compound to cater for your every whim.

Quintessentially Estates www.quintessentiallyestates.com; 44 (0) 845 224 3658

BARBADOS

If you don’t mind taking the risk of running into Michael Winner while you’re on the beach, there is Barbados – the island of choice for those wanting to be seen in the right places. “You can almost guarantee bumping into people from London at Daphne’s, Sandy Lane or The Cliff restaurant – which is a positive or negative, depending on which way you look at it,” says Aylesford’s Camilla Mabbott. “It’s glamorous, sociable and wonderfully sunny, but a bit like Marmite – either you love it or hate it.” A 15-minute drive from Sandy Lane hotel, Knight Frank is selling a three-bed villa with pool for just over £1.06m.

Despite the west coast fetching some of the highest prices for property in the world, there are still cheaper pockets where you can buy a slice of your Caribbean dream: Cluttons Resorts is selling two-bed homes in the very 1980s-sounding Bottoms Up development, found in St Philip, for just under £200,000. The homes are set within landscaped gardens, and the site is close to local restaurants and shops.

Cluttons Barbados 00 1 246 432 4663; www.cluttonsbarbados.com

NEVIS

Julian Cunningham may not approve – as Nevis is certainly one of the more emerging Caribbean islands – but for somewhere off the beaten track, and relatively cheap and beautiful, it is worth considering. The 36 square mile sister of St Kitts, Nevis is dotted with traditional timber houses and the views are, largely, still ones of lush, uninterrupted vegetation. Savills is selling one- to four-bed beachfront apartments and villas on the undeveloped west coast, which will come with spa, tennis court, pool, restaurant and bar. Prices start at £223,900 and go up to £1,023,700, and include furniture.

Savills 020 7016 3740; www.savills.com/abroad