When it comes to deciding where to go in the Caribbean, it’s easy to fall into the trap of regarding the region as a single, homogeneous entity.
One word of advice: don’t!
The 28 countries, overseas departments, dependencies and territories that are spread over the Caribbean Sea may have the common bonds of tropical sunshine and fabulous beaches, but in other respects, they differ enormously.
Take two of the most popular islands, St Lucia and Barbados. Much of St Lucia is wild, mountainous and draped with thick rainforest, while Barbados has a gently-rolling interior covered in sugar cane and a dense network of back lanes.
The beaches are contrasting too. Those on Barbados are classic golden beauties, whereas some of the most striking on St Lucia are of black volcanic sand.
Culturally, the countries are also very different. Barbados, continuously a British colony from over 300 years, is the most anglicised of the Caribbean islands.
Think cricket greens, polo fields, gardens that win prizes at the Chelsea Flower Show, and hotels such as Cobblers Cove serving traditional afternoon tea.
St Lucia changed hands between the French and English numerous times so has a more mixed colonial heritage, with a French creole dialect – kweyol – widely spoken.
In terms of accommodation, many of the best hotels on St Lucia are secluded, escapist, utterly romantic affairs – at Jade Mountain, loved-up couples have been known to hide away in their extraordinary suites for days on end.
By contrast, on Barbados, you stay in glitzy hotels such as Sandy Lane because you want to see and be seen (or papped!). Much the same can be said for dining in the glamorous restaurants dotted along the so-called Platinum Coast.
And what about the other islands?