The hidden Caribbean

Playa Grande Beach Club, Dominic Republic
Playa Grande Beach Club: extravagant luxury in the Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic lies on the eastern side of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. On the “still-untrammelled north coast”, the newly opened Playa Grande resort is taking shape, says Maria Shollenbarger in the FT. Complete with golf course and open-air restaurant, the nine whitewashed, “extravagantly filigreed” bungalows are “scattered amid copses of mangrove and palms”.

In the centre, a two-storey clubhouse includes a dining room, library and a cigar and rum bar. The bungalows will be joined in the spring by six treehouse-like“jungalows”.

• From $1,024 – see PlayaGrandeBeachClub.com.

Île-à-Vache, Haiti

Haiti is still picking up the pieces following the devastating earthquake six years ago, says Ian Belcher in The Times. Tourism has been earmarked as the country’s saviour, which is why Haiti has big plans for Île-à-Vache, the unspoilt “Cow Island” that lies off the southern coast of the French speaking-half of Hispaniola. The Port Morgan hotel is a case in point.

The 28-room hotel, “a tasteful blend of bleached wood, white walls and pastel shutters”, will eventually grow to 120 rooms among verdant coastal gardens. The island itself is “truly lovely”. “We mustn’t lose the magic,” says the hotel’s owner, Didier Boulard. “This is one of the Caribbean’s last virgin islands.”

• From £3,345 for an 11-day Haitian group tour, with two nights in Île-à-Vache for an extra £350 per person – WildFrontiersTravel.com.

Dominica

“This isn’t the Dominican Republic,” says Claire Murphy in the Sunday Mirror. You won’t find all-inclusive resorts and white sandy beaches here. But if you want rainforest, mountains, rivers, flowers and birds, not to mention horse-riding and whale-watching, then the little Caribbean island of Dominica has it all. Indeed, the island is a World Heritage Site, so you’d be mad not to go hiking through waterfalls,swimming in natural pools, or snorkelling on the Champagne Reef, “so-called because the water bubbles up as you swim among tropical fish”.

The Hibiscus Valley Inn can arrange trips around the island and point you in the direction of the best trails. Their “lovely bungalows are dotted amid beautiful bromeliads and ginger lilies”. This tiny isle certainly “crams a lot in”.

• From £525 for a seven nights – HibiscusValley.com.