By Paul Oswell
The Caribbean's not just about fabulous beaches - there's plenty to keep culture creatures happy too. Join us on visits to places that encapsulate Caribbean life - where to go to discover the roots of reggae, Caribbean history, the most infectious rhythms, a temple to cricket and one of the most famous rum distilleries.
Kingston, Jamaica for reggae
Get some roots: No-one represents the musical and social history
of Jamaica more
than the iconic figure of Bob Marley. Singer, poet, philosopher… he is nothing
less than a folk hero for millions of people across the Caribbean. For an insight
into his extraordinary life, head to the capital, Kingston, where you can explore
the museum devoted to the late reggae superstar. It is housed in his former
studio - called Tuff Gong - and has everything from his guitars to clothes to
golden discs. You can also buy rare CDs, watch footage in the small theatre
and generally celebrate 'One Love'.
Stay: Overlook Kingston at the 50-acre hilltop retreat of Strawberry
Hill. The rooms are built into the hillside for complete seclusion, and
it has a fine dining restaurant, pool and Aveda Spa.
Bridgetown, Barbados for cricket
Get some roots: What football is to the British, cricket is
to Barbadians - a religion. The new home of West Indian cricket is the awesome
Oval, which recently underwent massive renovations for the 2007 Cricket World
Cup. It is a living cricket museum, and has hosted many historic matches, even
hosting the first English touring team, in 1895. Overlooked by a statue of the
god-like Sir Garfield Sobers, the atmosphere on match days - whether a test
match or a local fixture - is absolutely electric, with crowds that party all
day long. Calypso, cold drinks and the sound of leather on willow in the tropical
sunshine - what could possibly be better?
Bay is only a short hop away in Holetown, and is a fabulous, secluded all-inclusive
English Harbour, Antigua for history
Get some roots: 300 years of naval history comes to life in
the 15 square miles of Nelson's Dockyard National Park in English Harbour. Built
in 1725, it housed the Royal Navy warships that protected valuable trade routes
and the rest of the West Indies. Nowadays, the Dockyard Museum tells the story
of those times, of Admiral Horatio Nelson and of the people who worked in the
shipyards. There is also a small "Nelson's Room" with a life-sized portrait
of the man himself. Wander around Clarence House, the colonial residence built
for William IV, or take in the panoramic views afforded form the observation
post at Shirley Heights. On Sundays the scenery is enhanced by live music and
James' Club. This hotel sits on its own 100-acre peninsula at the southeast
point of the island, just a 5-min drive from Nelson's Dockyard with its historical
buildings, museum and bars. There are 2 beaches, one of them for water sports
and the other enjoying refreshing ocean breezes, making it perfect for sunbathing.
Havana, Cuba for dance
Get some roots: The Caribbean moves to its own rhythm, nowhere
more famously than in Cuba,
where the sexy strains of Salsa pervade the very streets. From backstreet bars
to the sophisticated hotel lounges, the locals sip rum and show off their finely-honed
moves. Take a Taste of Salsa tour of the city and you'll have ample chance to
swing those hips and show off your fancy footwork. As well as the city's most
famous sights, you'll strut your stuff at the fantastic Salon Rojo Cabaret and
take lessons with some local experts to hone your dance-floor skills. Food,
fun and fiery moves await!
Melia Cohiba is located in Havana's central Vedado district on the seafront,
its most talked about feature being the freeform swimming pool.
Montego Bay, Jamaica for rum
Get some roots: Appleton Rum is a Caribbean institution. Distilling on the island of Jamaica since 1749, the Appleton Estate has become the spirit-ual home for fans of this smooth blend in every possible sense. You can tour the estate, delve into its fascinating history, see the distilling process up close and of course, taste the goods for yourself. If you need any further enticements, they'll even pick you up from most major hotels and throw in a free bottle to take away - which really makes it hard to think of reasons not to visit.
Inn is a beautiful, intimate spot, set right on the 'hip strip' of Montego
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Paul Oswell is a freelance travel journalist who regularly writes for The Daily Mail, Travelmail.co.uk and Luxury Travel Magazine