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Winter sun: catching rays in the Caribbean

With summer drawing to a close and the dreaded C-word beginning to pop up in shops and on restaurant windows, it's time to start thinking about escaping to warmer climes.

It’s time to consider the Caribbean. These idyllic tropical islands strung across the Atlantic from Florida to South America are just emerging from their wet season and from October until April the weather here is dry with temperatures around 24–27 degrees and nine hours of sunshine each day.

With such perfect weather more or less guaranteed, the Caribbean islands are a paradise for winter sun seekers and whichever island you choose for your holiday you’ll find white-powder sandy beaches flanked by warm azure waters and a range of luxurious hotels to cater to your every need.

So, which island is right for you? If you’re looking for vibrant streetlife and energetic nightlife, it has to be Jamaica, the Caribbean island with a real swagger in its step. Its pulse is live music, particularly reggae, and Montego Bay on the island’s beautiful north coast is the place to head for if you’re after nightlife that goes with a bang. Head for the legendary “Hip Strip” for some of the liveliest nightlife you’ll ever be party to and pay a visit to Nine Mile, Bob Marley’s birthplace, for a lesson in musical history. Most Jamaica hotels are mere flip-flopping distance from the coast so you won’t have far to go the morning after for some classic R&R and those warm waters are just made for soothing tired, dance-weary limbs.

For a slower pace, try the smaller, more laidback island of Antigua. Here there’s a beach for every day of the year so you needn’t sunbathe in the same place twice, and the waters are calm. There’s also a nearly unbroken wall of coral reef to explore so snorkelers and divers will find plenty to entertain them too.

Most Antigua hotels offer beachside locations and many even include free non-motorised watersports, so you can have a go at windsurfing, kayaking or sailing whenever you fancy a break from all-out relaxation.

If that’s still not slow enough for you, your perfect Caribbean island could be Tobago. Just 26 miles by 7 miles wide and almost totally unspoilt, this tropical idyll is home to the oldest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere, not to mention some of the Caribbean’s quietest beaches. Spend your days birdwatching in the rainforest, spotting whales off the coast or snorkelling around the near-shore coral reefs in search of turtles, before retiring to your hotel for casual dining and peaceful nights. Many Tobago hotels are palatial affairs, and guests are often treated to swim-up cocktail bars, opulent spa treatments and sweeping ocean views. If heaven were a place on earth, this might just be it.

Whatever you’re looking for from your winter sun holiday, escape to the Caribbean and you’re sure to find it. Sunscreen at the ready…

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