Five Best Caribbean Hideaways

Rhiannon Batten finds that in a world of plantations and private beaches, small really is beautiful

Jake's Jamaica

Jake's, with its famously laidback vibe, is part of Chris Blackwell's Island Outpost group. It opened in 1993 with just two rooms. Today, each of the 24 pastel-coloured villas has been furnished with local materials - some feature al fresco bathrooms and exotic day beds - and each is endearingly named: Sea Puss, Starfish and Sweet Lip are among those with ocean views. The design has a Moroccan feel, but the atmosphere is distinctly Caribbean. There are no TVs; instead CDs are supplied, there's a saltwater pool and the restaurant offers cookery lessons.

Jake's, Calabash Bay, Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, Jamaica (00 800 688 76781; Doubles from $148 (£106), room only.

Le Sereno, St-Barthélemy

This exclusive retreat has just re-opened following an extensive overhaul by the French interior designer Christian Liaigre. Its sleek suites and villas are practically on the beach and, unlike some of the more garish Caribbean hotels, this one has stylishly minimal taupe and cream furnishings. As well as plasma screen TVs and iPods, rooms come with private gardens and access to a cool freshwater pool. The USP? It's set on a shimmering turquoise cove listed by the Discovery Channel as one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world (even if it is rather unromantically called "Grand-Cul-de-Sac").

Le Sereno, Grand Cul-de-Sac, Saint-Barthélemy (00 590 590 298 300; Suites start at €450 (£305), room only.

The Cotton House, Mustique

This showbiz stalwart on the small Grenadine island of Mustique is the Carol Vorderman of the Caribbean hotel world. A few years ago it seemed jaded and, well, a little frumpy, but after a thorough redesign it has made a dramatic comeback. Created from an 18th-century coral warehouse and sugar mill, the hotel underwent a total renovation last year under the direction of owner Grace Leo-Andrieu and now provides accommodation that is as classy as its location with simple but characterful furnishings, a glamourous boutique, several restaurants and a spa.

The Cotton House, Mustique, St Vincent and the Grenadines (00 1 784 456 4777; Doubles start at $643 (£357), including breakfast.

Montpelier Plantation Inn, Nevis

This award-winning, family-owned hotel on Nevis has 17 rooms, all of them newly renovated in simple but luxurious style, with tropical wood furniture, crisp linen and fresh flowers. Few guests come for the decor, though. With its private beach and spectacular island setting to explore (if you're feeling energetic, local ecologists will guide you on hikes) it's unlikely you'll spend much time sleeping. A popular honeymoon destination, the hotel's romantic credentials are long-established - Lord Nelson and Fanny Nisbet were married here.

Montpelier Plantation Inn, Nevis (00 1 869 469 3462; Doubles start at $336 (£187), including breakfast and afternoon tea.

The Landing Bahamas

It may be on the other side of Harbour Island from the famous Pink Sands beach, and lack a swimming pool, but this period-style hotel has plenty of harbour-side charm to tempt punters away from the competition. The seven bedrooms - designed by Lord Mountbatten's grand-daughter, India Hicks - are large and airy with antique furniture, clean white walls, wooden floors and, unusually for the Caribbean, an appealingly shabby chic feel. With its cosy red bar and restaurant and breezy upstairs library, The Landing has the air of a bohemian private home rather than a hotel.

The Landing, Harbour Island, Bahamas (00 1 242 333 2707; Double rooms start at $249 (£138), including breakfast.