It has something for everyone, combining adventure with leisure, hundreds of years of colonial history with fascinating Arawak culture, West Indian spices with European gourmet flair, honeymooners with hill walkers, inexpensive backpacker haunts with some of the world’s most exquisite hotels.
It has everything from Cuban cigarillos to volcanoes spewing lava, not to mention innumerable airbrushed beaches of immaculate sand and a sparkling turquoise water. We’ll meet up at the rum bars!
Take a look at our recommendations for the top Caribbean islands to visit:
- Saint Lucia
St. Lucia is like a rebellious child who refuses to follow the rules.
Rather than sinking down to be covered by mangrove and palms, it grew and rose, culminating with the enormous Pitons or rising to a staggering 950 meters with the jungle-dressed Mount Gimie at its center.
Then there are the boiling volcanic springs and mud pools that are constantly cutting and altering the island’s interior surrounding Soufriere. Travelers will find the beautiful cove of Anse Chastanet, nestled amid cliffs and promontories and clusters of coastal waterfalls, near the little town of Soufriere on the south coast.
The golden powder of Reduit Beach and the sturdy bulwarks of Pidgeon Island National Park – home to strongholds erected by the British during the Seven Years’ War – continue to entice visitors to the north of the island.
2. Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda, separated by a narrow strip of sky-blue Caribbean Sea in the middle of the Leeward Islands, are one of the region’s most well-rounded tourist destinations.
There are cricket pitches and bobbing cruise ships on the horizon in St. John’s parish, the archipelago’s modest and close-knit capital, yet the slap and click of casino chips is never far away.
Most visitors will climb to Shirley Heights Lookout for the best view of the rest of Antigua (the larger of the two islands), where the pearly-white beaches, the deep green palm forests, and the occasional bloom of bougainvillea spread out to reveal Falmouth and English Harbour, two of the earliest colonial towns here. Old sugar plantations await inland, while stone churches above cliffs belie the English influence.
Then there’s Barbuda, a haven for sailors and swimmers seeking true solitude.
3. US Virgin Islands
The US Virgin Islands aren’t your typical Caribbean getaway. That’s not to say they don’t have the same glistening dunes and turquoise oceans as everyone else.
Yes, they do. That is to say, they have other plans in the works! The trio of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas, as well as many tiny specks of rocky land such as Water Island, Thatch Cay, and Hassel Island, are a yachter’s paradise, with a variety of little coves and cliff-backed inlets to explore by boat. Then there’s Salt River Bay, a lush swath of mangroves that overflows into the brilliant blue of Buck Island Reef’s underwater corals.
Also ten to the penny are rum distilleries, while beautiful vestiges of Danish rule still rise above the palm trees and ferns. This is, without a doubt, a fantastic pick!
4. Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is unquestionably on the map, defended by the age-stained bulwarks of colonial forts and crenulated, cannon-holding palisades, washed over by some of the wildest surf spots in the Caribbean (think the legendary likes of Tres Palmas, Rincon, and the Middels), trodden by the likes of Christopher Columbus and the marauding pirates of the great seas, and shaped by both
San Juan’s UNESCO-listed city, immersed in Baroque churches, the towering El Castillo fort, and the sparkling beaches of Condado, is a genuine delight.
It also boasts a nightlife, with Senor Frogs and spring breaker bars erupting from the cobblestone streets after dark. Go east to view the gorgeous Luquillo beaches and El Yunque’s frog-spotted woods, or south to visit off-the-beaten-path Ponce, complete with strange multi-colored cathedrals and some of the island’s most deserted dunes.
The palm trees sway in the Atlantic trade winds of Barbados’ rugged east coast, the wild surf swells spattering the boulders of Bathsheba and Cattlewash with salt and whitecap water, like rhythmic samba beats against the soft, soft sands of Alleynes Bay or Brandons Beach; the palm trees sway in the Atlantic trade winds of Barbados’ rugged east coast, the wild surf swells spattering the boulders of Baths
Yachts bob in the harbours of UNESCO-listed Bridgetown, and strong rum is drunk between the Mount Gay distillation tanks.
In Barbados, flying fish is transformed into fried fish with a scotch bonnet top in earthy hole-in-the-wall restaurants, while opulent all-inclusive resorts rise on the clifftops, their infinity pools just edging over the coast.
Millionaires and backpackers coexist in Barbados, with some sipping pina coladas on sun-drenched terraces, others trekking jungle trails, SCUBA diving the reefs, and enjoying the local rum shacks on the streets. Barbados is absolutely fantastic!
6. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
The kingpin of the namesake archipelago, Saint Vincent is shook like a pepper jar to unleash the empty and isolated regions of the lesser Grenadines to the south.
It has biodiversity to rival anyplace in the Americas, with hummingbirds flitting amongst magenta orchid blossoms, waterfalls crashing through tropical glades, and turtles and dolphin pods weaving through the deep blue seas.
There are many fewer tourists here than, example, St. Lucia, close to the north.
However, other visitors come to explore the Grenadines’ lagoons and dazzling cays, or to honeymoon with views of Bequia Beach or on the remote Tobago Cays.
7. Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago, unlike most of its Caribbean neighbors, have a unique economic advantage: oil.
Tourism has taken a backseat in this town, due to the refineries and burgeoning fossil fuel sector. That isn’t to suggest it isn’t a good location to visit. On the contrary, it’s ideal if you’re looking for something a little more akin to the untamed Carib wilderness than the Disneyland tropics.
The largest isle, Trinidad, has slopes covered in coconut trees that cascade down to magnificent beaches including Maracas, Chagville, and Las Cuevas. Tobago, on the other hand, is much less developed. It has Pigeon Point and Englishman’s Bay, both of which are picture-perfect pictures of exotic beaches from a vacation brochure.
Visitors can also visit the whitewashed remains and canons of Fort George, go turtle hunting on Matura Beach, or take part in the raucous celebrations of the archipelago’s Pre-Lenten Festival – a medley of Brazilian color and carnivalesque dances that is one of the Caribbean’s most important cultural events!