You reach Belize's cays (pronounced "keys") by little six-seater Cessna aircraft that hop from one atoll to another among the 200 or so, mostly uninhabited, within the offshore barrier reef.

Just across the straits from Mexico, Ambergris, at 35 miles long and the largest island, has been tipped to be another Cancun, Mexico's glossy, computer-designed resort, without an ounce of atmosphere. Clearly the news hasn't reached San Pedro yet, the island's capital, where the prime beach-front locations are still occupied by the little wooden jail and clapboard Catholic church, and where its three sandy streets are lined by 20 bars and diving shops. Tourists stay in little hotels straggling along the beach, dive, fish, snorkel and dive again off the huge reef. Hemingway would still approve.

Cruise passengers stampede to immaculate shopping malls and duty-free shops in the glossy American Virgin Islands. But it's only the yachties heading for the bar on a Saturday night that form any sort of crowd in the British Virgins, so low key that it seems that the clocks have stopped somewhere in the 1950's.

Virgin Gorda is the favourite getaway, with eight square miles of rolling hills and any number of beaches that aficionados are afraid to claim among the best in the world. A few lazy but sybaritic hotels host visitors in luxurious solitude - Little Dix, with cottages at the water's edge clustered round a crescent beach is one, Bitter End is perfect for sailing and watersport enthusiasts another, as well as Biras Creek, accessible only by boat.

The diving and sailing around the Virgin Islands is some of the best in the Caribbean, rivalled only by the Grenadines where quietly unpretentious little Bequia, much more picturesque than its lofty neighbour Mustique, is, alas, just waiting to be discovered. Its village is a tiny Caribbean Roots-style community with boats, villas, bookshops and a plantation hotel, nothing too big or commercial, but there are ominous rumours of major hotel development.

The flower people discovered Lamu, Kenya's Indian Ocean island, and budget travellers have been drifting there ever since. But despite its seven- mile, white sandy beach and fascinating sleepy old stone town, it has so far escaped the westernisation and tourist development that's crowding the mainland's coastal strip.

An old Arab Portuguese colony, Lamu Town was a thriving port between the 15th and 18th centuries, known as Lamu's Golden Age, when fine streets and mansions were built and embellished by Omani rulers from the profits of a thriving slave trade. When the British ended the trade as recently as in 1907, many of the former slaves remained on the island creating a Swahili speaking Arab-African culture, undoubtedly endangered today by the overflow of tourists from Malindi and Mambasa. Peponi's Hotel, a 30-year-old institution on the beach at Shela Village, is where visitors get to catch up on the news, friends and gossip. Dhow sailing, fishing, snorkelling, eating in excellent seafood restaurants and generally being indolent, are Lamu's major holiday pastimes - it is still, however, as relaxed an island as any to be indolent in.

Once there were two Canary Islands, Tenerife and Gran Canaria, that seemed to fit in half of northern Europe's population between November and March. Lanzarote and Fuer-teventura soon joined the package collection, and the season now runs from January right through to December.

Now the last three are gradually making their debuts in the holiday brochures; spectacular and beautiful little La Palma, the green Canary Island with a huge volcanic crater, and even more remote Hierro, where 17th-century Arab scientists decided that all maps should begin or end at 0 degrees longitude.

Then, there's gentle Gomera, from where Columbus set sail for the New World in September 1542. Visitors to San Sebastian, its somnolent capital, can see the church where he prayed for fair winds, the well where he took on water for the voyage, and the house where he dallied with the widow of the Governor.

At 12 miles by eight, La Gomera wouldn't be an easy island to develop with its barren rocks, lush valleys and dormant volcano, as well as a lack of good sandy beaches - much the same kind of landscape as that of Tenerife next door, in fact, and look what they did to that!

As every year, new airports and charter flights bring package holidaymakers into yet another Greek island, it goes without saying that the most exclusive are the most inaccessible, only reached by tortuous ferry routes. To get to Lipsoi can take rather longer than travelling to Lombok; a combination of flights to Kos or Rhodes, ferry to Kalymnos, and an even smaller version to Leros - finally by the occasional ferry or caique or hitching a ride with day-trippers who arrive by beach boats fron Patmos or Leros.

At first acquaintance, most visitors wonder why they bothered. But by the time they've walked an hour, or trucked to the beaches - Plati Gialos, the official nudist beach of Monodendri, or Katsadia Beach, sat around in the tavernas in the friendly squares at Chora, they've usually started making plans to book a room in one of the budget tavernas or staked out a plot for themselves on the campsite.

Among other as yet underpackaged Greek islands are the following: Amorgos and Astipalaia, Khalki and Folegandros, Karpathos and Kasos, Kythera and Kastellorizon, Samothrace, Serifos and Sikinos.

Ambergris: Different tours and adventures start from approximately pounds 1,400 at Reef and Rainforest Tours (01803 866965). Return flights are available from pounds 449 - contact STA travel centre (0171 361 6262).

Virgin Gorda: Seven-night packages based at Little Dix from pounds 1,285 through Elegant Resorts (01244 897999).

Bequia: Seven-night packages based at The Plantation House from pounds 1,030. Contact Cari-bbean Connections (01244 341131).

Lamu: From pounds 345 return to Nairobi, then onwards by boat (STA).

Canaries: Charter flights to Tenerife from pounds 145 - pounds 199 Avro (0181 715 1900), then by ferry.

Lipsoi: Campus Travel (0171 730 3402) organises cheap charters to many Greek islands from approx pounds 130 return.

Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups


An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment


Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'


Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea