There’s nothing quite like vacationing on a Caribbean island. With gorgeous turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and a laid-back atmosphere, it’s the perfect escape from the obligations of everyday life.
The Caribbean Islands are a group of over 7000 islands, islets, and cays in the Caribbean Sea. Known for their natural beauty, warm weather, and laid-back vibe, the islands attract millions of vacationers from around the world each year. The region boasts a diverse cultural heritage, with a rich blend of African, European, and indigenous influences reflected in the music, cuisine, and traditions of each island.
Whether you’re in search of a romantic escape, a family-friendly destination, or a thrilling solo adventure, the Caribbean islands have got you covered. From popular destinations like Jamaica and the Dominican Republic to lesser-known gems like Antigua and Martinique, each island has its own unique charm and beauty waiting to be explored.
Recommended by Melinda of Mel on the Go
If you like beaches, the perfect Caribbean island is Antigua which has 365. In the lower Antilles, Antigua offers a large sailing community, beautiful hikes, and fun nightlife. So get ready to be dazzled on the water and off in this beautiful Caribbean paradise.
Many visit Antigua for its renowned beaches, one for each day of the year. White sand, floating bars, big resorts, or private bungalows: the variety is staggering. If you like to dive, snorkel, or swim with rays, get in the water in Antigua.
Off the beach, the weekly parties at Shirley Heights are a must-visit. Dance to the steel band music, savor Caribbean barbecue, and linger over the stunning sunsets over English Harbor, a World Heritage Site and another Antigua must. The area is also home to many well-marked hiking trails with stunning scenic overlooks and herds of cute goats.
Speaking of goats, animal lovers should visit The Donkey Sanctuary, home to donkeys and other rescue animals like dogs, cats, and goats. A small donation means a lot to this charitable organization, and you can brush the donkeys and pet the other animals to your heart’s content!
Sailors will love Falmouth and English Harbors, especially during racing season, from February to May. Antigua hosts some of the Caribbean’s biggest regattas, meaning lots of cool boats in the water and raging after-parties on land.
Antigua is an oasis in the Caribbean, so relax and enjoy the beach, sea, and land activities.
Recommended by Alexandrea of Wander with Alex
Aruba is one of three Dutch Caribbean Islands often referred to as “One happy island.” Because it lies south of the hurricane belt, it is rare for this desert island to see this type of storm system. The island has long been a destination for weddings, honeymoons, and romantic getaways. It also sees more sunny days than any other island in the Caribbean.
Aruba is only 21 miles long, and it is not uncommon for vacationers to rent a car to explore the island. The Aruban people are incredibly laid back and are eager to help you enjoy your visit. Gorgeous resorts like the Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino are located directly in Palm Beach, offering everything you need for the perfect beach vacation.
Things to do in Aruba include relaxing on its beautiful beaches and watersports, exploring Arikok National Parks, and visiting the San Nicolas murals. If you’re looking for some of the best kayaking on the island, head to Mangel Halto Beach. Taking a 4×4 off-road safari through Arikok National Park, followed by snorkeling its natural pools, is another popular option. San Nicolas, known as “Sunrise City,” is full of cultural experiences and some of the best street art in the Caribbean.
Aruba is a great place for all types of visitors, but couples looking to get away will love the blend of romance and adventure Aruba offers.
Recommended by Shar of Sightseeing Shar
Barbados is an island with gorgeous beaches and sparkling waters. Known as the smallest island in the Caribbean and Rihanna’s birthplace, this beautiful paradise has many things to do for every kind of traveler. From hiking to relaxing on a catamaran to cave pools, Barbados has it all.
One of the top things that visitors should not miss is going to Miami Beach! This beach on the island’s south side has some of the calmest crystal clear waters, making it ideal for swimming. It also offers the best sunset views of anywhere on the island. After spending the day at the beach, head to the nearby Oistins fish market in the evening, where locals and tourists can enjoy the freshest fish on the island cooked in front of them! There are also local vendors and live music for everyone to enjoy.
Another popular activity is visiting the wildlife reserve north of the island. Visitors can see local wildlife, including deer, tortoises, peacocks, and the famous green monkeys. The monkeys gather in one place in the afternoon during feeding time, which is the best time to visit!
For a special experience, visit Barbados at the beginning of August during the annual Crop Over festival. Crop Over is a traditional festival that signals the end of the harvest. Locals and tourists dress up in elaborate, bedazzled costumes and take to the streets to celebrate with parades, music, and dancing. The atmosphere is lively and celebratory, with many people flocking from around the world to experience it.
Bocas del Toro
Recommended by Melissa of My Beautiful Passport
When thinking about the Caribbean Islands to visit next, don’t overlook Bocas del Toro. This group of tropical islands along Panama’s northeastern coast is a great spot for your next vacation. It’s different from any other Caribbean vacation you’ve experienced.
The best things to do in Bocas del Toro include seeing wildlife in their natural habitat, ziplining through the forest canopy, and visiting a beautiful survivor-style island for the day. And if that isn’t enough activity for you, try visiting a bat cave, snorkeling above coral reefs, and kayaking.
After all the fun, you’ll be hungry and want to eat at one of the many restaurants in Bocas del Toro. Enjoy relaxing seafood on the dock at Bibi’s Restaurant. Go for Asian-style fusion at Raw Fusion. Or get far from town and enjoy a quiet waterfront dinner at The Blue Coconut Restaurant.
After dark, Bocas del Toro has a vibrant nightlife. Rush Bocas is a disco club and a great spot for dancing. Barco Hundido is a popular nightclub enjoyed by locals and tourists. For a different experience, head to the Bookstore Bar, where you can enjoy listening to live music while reading a book.
Visit in September to attend the Feria del Mar “Sea Fair” to celebrate the area’s fishing traditions. Panamanian dishes are cooked freshly in the streets. There are displays of local arts and crafts, and people from around the world travel here to enjoy music, dancing, and boat races.
To get to Bocas del Toro, fly into Panama City and take a regional flight to Bocas Town.
Recommended by Sabrina of Shades of Summr
Bonaire is a tropical paradise in the Southern Caribbean and part of the Dutch ABC-island chain. The island is somewhat of a hidden gem – far less touristy than its neighboring islands, Aruba and Curacao.
Bonaire is mainly famous for its amazing reefs that invite snorkelers and divers from all over the world. Bonaire is doing a great job protecting its reefs, so they are in amazing shape and totally worth a visit. But there are so many more things to do in Bonaire besides watersports.
The Washington Slagbaai National Park is definitely worth a visit when coming to Bonaire. Black sandy volcano beaches and abandoned little cays invite visitors to marvel at nature and wildlife. The park is best explored with a car or an ATV.
The colorful capital city of Kralendijk is also a great place to check out when in Bonaire. Kaya Grandi is the place to be for some shopping and photo ops with pastel-colored houses.
If you are interested in history and culture, visit the pink salt lakes, called Gotomeer, and the white houses that were former slave huts. Of course, the flamingos of Bonaire should also be on your itinerary.
Lastly, the Donkey Sanctuary is the place to be on the island. The donkeys were left on the island after the slave trade was abandoned, and now they roam all over the place. The sanctuary collects injured donkeys and keeps them safe.
Recommended by Sally of Sally Sees
With one foot in the Caribbean and one foot in Central America, Belize’s Caye Caulker is a unique Caribbean island to visit. The island’s motto is ‘go slow,’ and with no cars, a laidback vibe, and plenty of hammocks, it’s not hard to comply! Caye Caulker has all the elements of a tropical paradise, with dazzling blue waters, incredible sunsets, swaying palm trees, and a rainbow of colorful houses.
The best things to do in Caye Caulker revolve around the ocean. You can’t miss snorkeling in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to a dizzying number of marine life, like turtles, manatees, sharks, rays, and all kinds of colorful fish. Taking a scenic flight over the iconic Great Blue Hole is a bucket list experience, and hanging out at ‘The Split,’ the best swimming spot on the island, is a must-do.
When it comes to food options, seafood is an obvious choice! If you visit during lobster season (June – February), you will be treated to insanely fresh and affordable lobster. Ice and Beans Café is a Caye Caulker institution serving great coffee, bagels, and smoothies from their fantastic beachfront location. For a Belizean breakfast experience, try fry jacks from Errolyn’s House of Fry Jacks, and for more local options, don’t miss Steve’s Grill, Reina’s, and Wish Willy Bar and Grill.
Sunsets are spectacular on Caye Caulker, and you should plan your day to be on the west side of the island an hour before it goes down. If you want to do this with a drink, head to Pelican’s Sunset Bar, Iguana Reef Inn, or the Lazy Lizard.
Recommended by Adam and Hannah of GettingStamped
Cozumel is a popular Caribbean Island off of Playa del Carmen in Riviera Maya, easily accessed by boat or air. Most tourists arrive by boat other on a cruise ship or by ferry from Playa del Carmen. The ferry is a quick 45 minutes from Playa del Carmen and is relatively smooth and cheap. There is an international airport in Cozumel as well.
Cozumel is most famous for its diving and snorkeling. Cozumel is close to the second-largest barrier reef system in the world, the Mesoamerican Reef. So pack your swimsuit and join a snorkel trip or, even better yet, go diving if certified.
Another great way to explore the island is renting a car in Cozumel. If you take the ferry to Cozumel and only have the day, renting a car is the best way to see as much of the island in a day. The island is small, you can cover it in a day, and driving is relatively easy. You cannot cover the island on foot.
Make sure to visit El Mirador, a great viewpoint on the Eastern Coast of Cozumel. See some Mayan ruins, the San Gervasio Ruins or El Caracol Ruins.
Before leaving the island, stop by Mister Taco or El Pique for tasty tacos! They both serve up some of the best tacos in Cozumel. If you have time before your ferry, stop by Wet Wendy’s and try their Chocolate Peanut Butter Margarita. Yes, you heard me right!
Recommended by Sarah of Cuba’s Best
The island of Cuba, once visited by Christoper Colombus, the spiritual home of rum and Cuban Cigars and classic cars, is truly unique. This revolutionary island is home to fabulous experiences, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and the best of times.
You can’t miss the capital city of Havana, where old Havana will wow you with her photogenic self. Be driven down the Malecon in a restored American Classic car that will be older than you, visit tobacco plantations and see Cuban cigars rolled, or chill out on the endless white sand beaches of Varadero. Drink cocktails where Hemingway did – explore the beginnings of the mojito and find out more about Cuba Libre. They’re just some unique and iconic things to do in Cuba.
There’s great nightlife here, with the Cabaret Tropicana in Havana, and the Buena Vista Social Club Tribute, or head down the island to Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second city and the true home of music on the island, a night in the Casa de la Trova will never be forgotten!
For the best local experiences in Cuba, you’ll want to stay in a Casa Particular – a homestay –and some are truly spectacular, but one of the best things about them is the food – you’ll find the best culinary options are these hidden gems.
Carnival in Santiago de Cuba is the biggest festival on the island, but a truly unique experience is to come to Cuba at the beginning of May and experience International Workers Day, aka Labor Day. Get up at 4 am, join the parades of often more than a million people, and head to Plaza de La Revolucion! It’s a truly, truly Cuban experience.
Recommended by Carley of Explorers Away
The vibrant Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao is an off-the-beaten-path gem quickly becoming one of the new trending islands in the Caribbean for travelers. This southern Caribbean gem is located outside the hurricane belt, boasts nearly perfect weather year-round, and has an array of fun and adventurous activities to keep you busy. Or, if you’re looking for a perfectly relaxing getaway, luxurious resorts, and boutique hotels await, mainly brand new or newly refurbished, to meet growing demand.
One of the best things to do in Curaçao is to spend time exploring the incredible reefs just offshore. Home to some of the healthiest reefs in the Caribbean, Curaçao has many great spots for snorkeling and diving, as well as options to get PADI scuba-certified right on the island. Beginners can head to the famous Tugboat Wreck.
Located in just 15 feet of water and easily accessible from the beach, Tugboat Wreck is an incredible opportunity for snorkeling to enjoy a shipwreck firsthand while spotting colorful corals and tropical fish darting through portholes. Divers should head for the Superior Producer Wreck near the island’s main harbor; it’s considered among the best wreck dives in the Caribbean.
Make sure to take some time exploring the capital city of Willemstad. The brightly-colored Dutch architecture of Handelskade is impressive, though you’ll want to cross Queen Emma floating pontoon bridge across the harbor for the best photos of the iconic harborside architecture. Once you’ve explored Willemstad, pick up a catamaran in the harbor to take you to Klein Curaçao. This tiny white sand island off the coast boasts some of Curaçao’s nicest beaches and is the perfect spot to enjoy a day feeling like you have a private island all to yourself.
Recommended by Haley of Fernweh Foreigner
Although the Dominican Republic has somewhat of a bad reputation for crime, it’s one of the cheapest islands to visit in the Caribbean, and it can be a safe and great destination to visit when taking certain safety precautions. It’s such a beautiful island with loads of history that’s well worth the visit.
When traveling to the Dominican Republic, the safest places to stay are at resort hotels that employ private security to help keep you safe. Punta Cana and La Romana are two of the best beach cities to find these safe resorts, and there is so much to do inside the resorts that you wouldn’t ever have to leave if you didn’t want to. Plus, they have their own restaurants, and many villas have their own kitchens where you can cook.
There’s also a Punta Cana airport that you can fly into instead of the Santo Domingo one, but we suggest skipping an Uber ride and going with a hotel shuttle or private transportation to avoid fights with taxi drivers or walking far outside of the airport to find your driver.
Resorts typically have plenty of their own tours and activities to keep you busy during your stay, like horseback riding, snorkeling, fishing, playing golf or tennis, learning Spanish, going to the spa, laying out at the beach, watching movies, shopping, nightclubs, and even tours outside of the resort to islands, caves, cigar factories, or the historic city of Santo Domingo.
And if they don’t have something you are looking for, you can always take other tours to different parts of the island, which is the easiest and safest way to visit these places.
Recommended by Michelle of PassportExplorers
Grand Cayman is a Caribbean island full of activities to suit everyone, from beautiful beaches, delicious food, interesting history, culture, and numerous water activities. We turned to Michelle Schomp, a full-time world-traveling mother of 3 kids from Passport Explorers, to give you an overview of Grand Cayman.
The activities in Grand Cayman are endless. While you can easily use the public minibusses (vans) to get around the tourist areas, consider renting a car to explore all the island freely has to offer.
Check out Pedro St James for a cultural activity, Stingray City Boat Tour for an active water adventure the whole family can enjoy, Bioluminescent Boat Tour for a nighttime glowing swim, Wreck of the 10 Sails for a history lesson, Seven Mile Beach for a relaxing beach day, Star Fish Point to snorkel among the starfish, or visit the Blowholes for some good fun!
There are a plethora of yummy restaurant options to choose from as well. Make sure to check out Cracked Conch, Calypso Grill (a recommendation by the locals), Tukka Restaurant (where you can feed the Frigate Birds), and Camana Bay (a complex with many dining options, farmers market, grocery store, and shops).
You can find all types of accommodations in Grand Cayman. If you want an upscale stay, check out Kimpton Seafire or the Ritz in the tourist mecca of Seven Mile Beach.
For a more affordable stay, try renting one of the Island Houses at Rum Point. Located away from all the crowds, you walk out into your backyard of sand and calm waters to easily snorkel, kayak, or paddleboard.
Grand Cayman is a perfect Caribbean Island to enjoy an active or relaxing vacation.
Recommended by Dan of Honeymoon Always
Grenada, known as Spice Island, is an amazing Caribbean island with much to offer.
The Island has a rich history, ruled by the French and the British before being granted independence in 1974. If you are interested in history, a day tour can take you to multiple forts used to defend the island. You’ll also learn about the US-led invasion following a coup from a communist group.
Some other places to visit during a trip to Grenada include the Grand Etang National Park, where Mona Monkeys are regularly spotted and fed by visitors. At Annandale Falls, you can swim or watch local cliff jumpers dive in, and you can learn why Grenada is referred to as Spice Island by visiting Laura’s Spice Garden. Visiting a run distillery can’t be missed when in the Caribbean, and at Clarke’s Court Rum Distillery, you can taste 20 different rums and variations.
When it is time for some fun in the sun, visit the white-sand beach and turquoise water of the Grand Anse beach. Grenada is also known for The Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park, which can be seen by snorkeling or scuba diving.
For accommodations, Sandals Grenada is a luxury all-inclusive resort perfect for a luxury getaway. Calabash Luxury Boutique Hotel is another luxury resort with rave reviews, but it is not all-inclusive. If you are looking for something less expensive, Coyaba Beach Resort has an amazing beachfront location you can’t beat.
Recommended by Andy of Explore with Finesse
Jamaica is famous for its beautiful beaches, vibrant culture, and live music scene. There are several cities worth visiting, but Negril tops the list of must-visit places. Negril is a resort town on the western coast of the island. It is famous for its Seven Mile Beach, which boasts white sand, crystal clear waters, and breathtaking sunsets.
If you’re planning a trip to Negril, there are plenty of things to do and see. The obvious choice is to spend all day lounging on the beach or swimming in the ocean. If you are feeling adventurous, there are options such as scuba diving, snorkeling, or parasailing.
Jamaica is famous for its diverse food options. No matter what type of food you like, there are options for everyone. In Negril, you will find seafood, traditional food, and vegan food options. Some popular spots in Negril include Rick’s Café, known for its stunning sunset views and live music performances, and Murphy’s West End Restaurant, which serves traditional Jamaican dishes, such as jerk chicken and ackee, and saltfish.
The nightlife in Negril is another reason to visit. There are several bars in town, but The Jungle is the most famous nightclub in the area. Reggae and dancehall are typically played at these venues, so make sure you’re ready to dance until the early morning!
If you visit Jamaica in July, you shouldn’t miss the annual Reggae Sumfest. This is the largest festival in Jamaica. It takes place in Montego Bay, just a couple of hours east of Negril, and is well worth the trip.
Little Corn Island
Recommended by Kristin of Tiny Footsteps Travel
Little Corn Island in Nicaragua is a car-free, remote island with beautiful beaches, unspoiled ocean views, and friendly locals. On Little Corn, you can enjoy a calm, slow-paced lifestyle while appreciating the natural beauty and authentic Caribbean food. One of the best things about Little Corn is that you can walk or hike anywhere on the island.
With its stunning coral reef and marine wildlife, Little Corn is a prime spot for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. For the best snorkeling experience, head to the shack in front of Tranquilo Cafe to rent snorkel gear. The beach in front of the shack is a great place to spot colorful fish and stingrays in the water. For scuba diving, check out Dolphin Dive, one of the most reputable diving schools on the island. Whether you’re an experienced diver or a complete beginner, Dolphin Dive has options for you to explore the underwater world at Little Corn.
To enjoy fresh, local cuisine, head to Fry Fish Bar, The Shack Café, or La Cantina. All of these places have a gorgeous beachfront views and a relaxed atmosphere.
After a day of sun, let your energy out at night by heading to Tranquilo Café on the main beach strip. Here you can enjoy live music, DJ parties, cultural dances, game nights, and a bonfire on the beach.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Little Corn in the month of August, you can experience its annual Crab Soup Festival. Every year since 1841, Little Corn has been commemorating the end of slavery on the Corn Islands by celebrating a variety of homemade crab soup recipes to try. There are also parades, beauty pageants, and sporting events. If you love calm, untouched beaches like Little Corn, consider Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, which you can visit by going on a Disney Cruise.
Recommended by Sarah of A Social Nomad
The French Antilles island of Martinique is a glorious Caribbean island to visit. This French-speaking island is famous for beaches, a mix of French and Caribbean influences, and rum. And visiting at least one rum distillery is one of the best things to do in Martinique.
Martinique L’Habitation Clément is the birthplace of Rhum Agricole and is both a museum of rum and a working sugar cane plantation. You’ll want, also to visit the old capital here, Saint Pierre, as well as the museum of the Pagerie – the childhood home of Josephine, empress of France!
The food here is a glorious mix of French and Caribbean, and one of the best places for a great lunch head to Les Salines Beach, where set meals are de rigueur, especially when washed down with a Martinique “Ti Punch.”
The best spot on the island for nightlife is around Grande Anse Arlet, the beach bars here are great fun but with a very laidback feel. There are plenty of cocktail bars in the capital, Fort de France, but Complex le Crazy beats them for, holding up to 1,000 revelers for party nights.
And if you’re on the island in February, you’re in for a treat. Carnival in Martinique is called “Vaval” and is a great mix of music, food, dance, and, of course, carnival!
Recommended by Dhara of It’s Not About the Miles
Puerto Rico is a must-visit in the Caribbean, with over 500 years of history and spectacular natural beauty. While the capital city of San Juan is a popular destination, road-tripping the rest of the island or visiting places on day trips from San Juan is also a great idea if you have more time.
Old San Juan, the capital’s historic district, is home to forts and walls that are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cathedral here is one of the oldest in the New World. And the streets are lined with colorful Colonial facades, perfect for wandering and snapping photos.
San Juan is also famous for its many pristine beaches, so be sure to add some beach time to your itinerary for the island! Waterfront resorts also boast ocean-view pools and lounging terraces.
You can visit El Yunque, a tropical rainforest, on a day trip from San Juan. It features lush vegetation and lots of waterfalls, and many guided tours are available if you do not want to drive.
Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second city, Rincon on the west coast, and the smaller islands of Culebra and Vieques are other popular destinations in Puerto Rico, all boasting beautiful beaches and many outdoor activities.
While in Puerto Rico, you have to visit a rum factory to taste the many infused rum flavors they offer. Puerto Rico is also where the pina colada was invented, so be sure to sip on one while you are there!
Recommended by Annie of Your Friend the Nomad
St. Croix is a lush island with verdant rolling hills, deserted beaches, crystal-clear water, and rich culture. The island’s natural diversity is stunning, from the dry desert of the eastern island to the lush jungles of the western side. One thing that is the same all around St. Croix is the beautiful blue water that sparkles in the sunlight. As the least visited island in the USVI, St. Croix’s beaches are uncrowded and peaceful.
Other than swimming in the perfectly blue Caribbean ocean, there are many other memorable things to do on St. Croix, such as snorkeling with sea turtles, swimming in natural tide pools, eating mouthwatering Rastafarian ital food, and swimming in bioluminescent bays. Other highlights of a trip to St. Croix include wandering the Christanstead boardwalk and taking a two-minute ferry to Protestant Cay, a small island where you can snorkel with squid, manta rays, sea turtles, and tropical fish.
While visiting St. Croix, you can also learn about the island’s complex history. St. Croix is the site of the first recorded conflict between Europeans and indigenous people from the “New World” and is home to the easternmost part of the United States. St. Croix was first colonized by the Danish and became part of the Danish West Indies before becoming a U.S. territory. Learn about the history while exploring colorful colonial forts in Frederiksted and Christanstead, including a fort where Alexander Hamilton’s mother was imprisoned before he was born.
One of the best times to visit St. Croix is in the winter when the Fredrikstad and Christiansted streets are lined with parades for the Crucian Christmas Festival. The festival occurs each year in December and January when the weather is mild but warm, and there is a low risk of tropical storms.
Recommended by Rachel of Caribbean Uncovered
St. John is not only the most beautiful of the three US Virgin Islands but is easily one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean. Two-thirds of St. John is protected under the Virgin Islands National Park. This leaves untouched beaches and oceans all around. It’s a small island with two major areas – Cruz Bay and Coral Bay.
Cruz Bay is home to small resorts and boutique hotels. This is where you can catch the ferry to St Thomas or the British Virgin Islands for a day. It’s also home to all the shops and restaurants. Visit the High Tide Beach Bar for breakfast or an afternoon drink with a view, or the Roti King food truck for some locally made roti creations.
When you’re ready to explore the beaches, the famous Trunk Bay Beach and Honeymoon Beach are located nearby Cruz Bay. Trunk Bay is frequently referred to as the most picturesque beach in the Caribbean.
Coral Bay, on the other hand, is known as the quiet side of the island; there’s not even a gas station over here! There are stunning villas with panoramic views but no hotels. You’ll find hiking trails to breathtaking beaches like Lameshur and Salt Pond Bay. And the best part of Coral Bay: very few people! Coral Bay is the place to catch a snorkeling tour or boat charter; make sure your boat ride includes a stop at LIME OUT, a floating taco bar offshore. End your day with a cold drink and new local friends at Skinny Legs, a must-hit beach bar for anyone traveling to St. John.
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Recommended by Stephanie of Book It Let’s Go!
St Kitts and Nevis is a twin island nation relatively new to tourism. Most tourists visit by cruise ship, but they miss out on some of the best things to do in St Kitts and Nevis because they only stay for the day.
Despite its tiny size St Kitts has its own national park and UNESCO World Heritage site at Brimstone Hill Fortress, one of the best examples of military architecture in the Caribbean from the 1800s.
Both islands have a vast amount of wonderful Caribbean beaches to explore, although locals generally agree that Nevis has better beaches than St Kitts. The islands are volcanic in origin, so they both have a mixture of black and white sand beaches for visitors to explore and some fantastic snorkeling or scuba diving for those wanting to get in the water.
St Kitts has some wonderful restaurants, including Rituals sushi restaurant, which is popular with locals, expats, and tourists. Indian Summer, which has restaurants on both islands, is also a fantastic choice for authentic Indian food at reasonable prices. For something fancier, try Marshalls restaurant on St Kitts and Luna restaurant on Nevis.
Nightlife on the islands is usually based in St Kitts, and The Strip in Frigate Bay is where all the partying takes place. That is unless it’s December when the annual Sugar Mas Carnival takes place in Basseterre, and the streets come alive with elaborate costumes in the carnival parade.
Recommended by Nina of Where in the World is Nina
Saint Lucia is a tropical paradise and a must-visit island in the Caribbean. People flock here for the stunning natural beauty, rich culture, and warm hospitality.
One of the main reasons to visit Saint Lucia is its breathtaking landscapes! The island is home to lush rainforests, stunning beaches, and towering mountains, making it a nature lover’s paradise. The most popular? The Pitons! You’ve surely seen this scene before when researching St. Lucia—They are two incredible volcanic peaks that rise up from the sea that you can admire from afar or hike up (if you’re up for a grueling calf burner).
Aside from the famous Pitons, there are plenty of other things to do in St. Lucia.
You can discover hidden waterfalls and natural pools, incredible beaches, luxurious resorts, and the raw beauty the island offers while you drive around exploring (the best way to get around!)
You’ll surely want to soak up the sun on the island’s pristine beaches—Sugar Beach and Anse Chastanet are two gorgeous beaches to visit.
If you’re into exploring the island’s natural beauty by hiking, head to Pigeon Island. There are more beautiful beaches here but also great trails for getting beautiful vistas over Rodney Bay. There’s also the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens for an easy stroll to a waterfall, and the Sulphur Springs Park is a great spot to get all muddy and then soak in the natural pools. To top off your visit to St. Lucia, you should consider a sunset sail tour for a proper send-off!
Saint Martin (Sint Maarten)
Recommended by Chelsea of Adventure of Chels
For a great island to visit in the Caribbean, head to beautiful St. Martin.
Between the French and Dutch sides of the island, St. Martin offers numerous activities and experiences to enjoy. Make sure to explore the port town of Philipsburg, which is located on the Dutch side of the island. Stroll through the town to enjoy shopping, beachfront bars, restaurants, and colorful architecture.
No trip to St. Martin is complete without some time spent at the beach. A few favorites and most popular include Mullet Bay Beach, Grand Case Beach, and Happy Bay Beach. Each of these offer crystal blue water and soft white sand.
Quite possibly, the highlight of a trip to St. Martin is a visit to Maho Beach, best known for the planes that fly low overhead on their way to land at SXM airport. Many people consider it a bucket list experience. One thing for certain is it’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed!
Bonus tip: St. Martin is a great place to visit as a stop on a Caribbean cruise. De-board the ship in the morning and hire a taxi for the day to take you around the island. You’ll be able to see a good chunk of it with time to re-board the ship and sail off to your next destination. *Make sure to make Maho Beach your final stop of the day as it’s the afternoon time that the largest airplanes come in to land.*
Enjoy your time in beautiful St. Martin!
Recommended by Rachelle of Adventure Is Never Far Away
St. Thomas is one of 3 islands that make up the US Virgin Islands, located just east of Puerto Rico. Although technically a US territory, St. Thomas is often overlooked by travelers, thus making it more of a “hidden gem” than its neighbors. And an even better place to visit without having to battle too many other people.
St. Thomas is one of the best places in the Caribbean to find those picture-perfect beaches any traveler dreams about. One of the best things to do on St. Thomas is to rent a car and go beach-hopping around the island.
Rub elbows with the locals at Hull Bay. Watch the airplanes take off as you float in the clear waters of Brewers Bay. Ride horses down the shore of Sapphire Beach at sunset. Or discover why Magens Bay is constantly ranked one of the top beaches in the Caribbean.
Looking for something a little more adventurous? Hike down to Mermaid’s Chair on the west side of the island, and dip your feet in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea at the same time. Try ziplining at one of the Caribbean’s most popular courses: Tree Limin’ Extreme Zipline.
Hop on a local tour catamaran and discover the beauty of life under the water near St. Thomas as you snorkel around, looking for rainbow fish and sunken treasure. End your days in St. Thomas by enjoying the nightlife in the Red Hook neighborhood on the east side of the island. Check out the numerous restaurants and bars with great music and even better atmospheres—the perfect way to end the day.
Recommended by Adam of Cartagena Explorer
San Andrés is located in the Western Caribbean near the coast of Nicaragua but is actually part of Colombia. The island has a unique culture that is a blend of West Indies islanders and Latino transplants from the mainland. It’s most well known for its beautiful beaches and is a duty-free zone. However, there is more to do here than many think for such a tiny island.
One must-do in San Andrés is to rent a golf cart or scooter bike for the day to explore the island. It’s easily traversed in a day, and there are several neat stops you can make along the way. In the interior of the island, you can get great views from the steeple of the First Baptist Church. You can also visit Morgan’s Cave, a cave reportedly used by Henry Morgan to stash treasure during the pirate heydays.
On the western coast of the island, you can swim in the natural swimming pool known as La Piscina, where little fish will come right up to you in crystal clear waters. This side of the island is also great for scuba diving, and there are a number of agencies that offer introductory dives for reasonable prices on the island. At the southern tip of the island, there is a blow hole known as the Hoyo Soplador, where you can stand and get sprayed. Buy a drink or give the locals a small tip for a fun photo.
Up the eastern coast of the island, you’ll find a series of nice beaches. At Rocky Cay, you can swim or take a boat out to the tiny rocky island, where the little bar serves the best piña coladas on the island. You can also snorkel around a wrecked ship here.
On the northern end of the island, you’ll find the best beach, known as Spratt Bight. This is also the downtown area and where you’ll find a variety of restaurants as well as the best San Andrés hotels. Other must-dos on San Andrés include a visit to the nearby island known as Johnny Cay, which is absolutely gorgeous. It can be done as a full-day trip or a half-day trip combined with a visit to the San Andrés Aquarium, a natural aquarium where you can see lots of colorful fish swimming over a shallow reef.
Recommended by Michelle of Moyer Memoirs
Trinidad and Tobago are sister islands in the southern Caribbean. Tobago is a smaller island that is known for its beautiful sandy beaches. Trinidad is the larger of the islands and a bit more undiscovered by travelers. However, there are a lot of things to do in Trinidad that would be a must-see on a Caribbean island itinerary.
For nature lovers, Trinidad has many waterfalls, like Maracas Waterfall and Angel Falls. They are perfect hiking destinations that are found throughout the island.
The Asa Wright Nature Center and Caroni Bird Sanctuary are two great sites for the popular activity of bird watching in Trinidad. The Trinidad forests provide a home to more than 500 different bird species. This large variety attracts bird-watching travelers from around the world.
Carnival is the largest festival in Trinidad. It is celebrated on islands all around the Caribbean but is especially meaningful in Trinidad since it is where the steelpan instrument originated from. The steel pan is the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, and many steelpan bands come out for contests during Carnival.
The French-influenced the Carnival festival. It is celebrated in Trinidad beginning the week before Ash Wednesday each year. It begins with J’Ouvert Day, where festival goers color themselves in colorful paint and mud to celebrate freedom. The Carnival parades are vibrant events where women parade in scantily clad but elaborate sequin and feather costumes while dancing through the streets to energetic music. Carnival is definitely an action-packed week of activities in Trinidad and should not be missed if you travel to Trinidad during that time of the year.
Turks and Caicos
Recommended by Nikki of She Saves She Travels
One of the best places to go in the Caribbean is Turks and Caicos. A stunning archipelago, this island chain is home to the award-winning Grace Bay Beach, amongst other incredible beaches. With swaying palm trees, crisp white sand, and turquoise water, this island is one of the most elite within the Caribbean Sea.
Families, couples, and honeymooners will find plenty of things to do in Turks and Caicos. Hunting for conch shells on the beach, renting kayaks or jet skis, or learning how to windsurf – the water activities are plentiful!
Perhaps one of the things that make Turks and Caicos unique is the fabulous marine life. A premier snorkeling and diving destination, the vibrant reefs are home to underwater creatures like stingrays, eels, and a variety of fish. Whether swimming, snorkeling, or diving, always protect marine life by wearing reef-safe mineral sunscreen instead of the harsh chemicals in traditional sunscreen.
Be sure to catch the famous Thursday Night Fish Fry at Bight Beach—live music, vendors, and of course, great food. Sit by the beach and watch the sunset before getting back to the party.
Hotels like the most picturesque beaches in Turks and Caicos. For a more budget-friendly option, look for vacation properties on the island and rent a car for island adventures.
Recommended by Carine of We Did It Our Way
Utila is one of the Bay Islands of Honduras, located in the Caribbean Sea. It’s a small island known mainly for its coral reefs and many dive sites. The party scene and lower prices than its neighboring Roatan are also what draw many backpackers here.
Being the cheapest place to learn to dive in Central America, Utila attracts many young backpackers who want to learn how to scuba dive. With plenty of cheap accommodations and tons of bars and restaurants, Utila is a great place to relax, party, and enjoy island life.
There aren’t a ton of things to do in Utila, but it’s a great Caribbean island where you can spend a few days. During your time here, you can scuba dive or snorkel on one of the many nearby reefs. You can also visit the cayes around the island – the most beautiful ones being Water Caye and Jewel Caye.
You can also rent an ATV and explore the lesser-known and developed north side of the island. There, you can hike Pumpkin Hill or chill on the beach. You can also kayak to the north side of the island through the mangroves.
Some great party places are Tranquila Bar, Skid Row, Mango Tango, and Treetanic Bar. These are popular bars where you can party in the early hours of the morning. Most of these are located on the main road in Utila.
Overall, Utila is a great party and scuba diving destination. It’s cheap, the people are friendly, and if you’re looking to spend an unforgettable week on one of the Caribbean islands, this is the perfect place to go!
Recommended by Ashley of Jetset Jansen
Photo Credit: [@Jetset Jansen]
Virgin Gorda is the 3rd largest island within the British Virgin Islands and a popular place to visit as it’s famously known for ‘The Baths’. The Baths is a beautiful beach with giant granite boulders sitting on the sand that forms pools of water within the rocks. And within the rocks is where you’ll find The Caves–tunnels and small rooms created by the boulders that you can navigate between the Baths and another popular beach, Devil’s Bay.
While most people visit on a day trip, there are many other things to do on Virgin Gorda. Apart from The Baths and Devil’s Bay, there are several other national parks, such as Gorda Peak National Park and Copper Mine National Park. There are also several less popular beaches with boulders, secluded sandy stretches, and gorgeous island overlooks.
When it comes to restaurants, there are several options for dinner with a view. Head to CocoMaya for beach views and outdoor seating by the sand. Visit Hog Heaven for an unobstructed view of the surrounding islands in the North Sound or Sugar Cane for a great island view. Another great option is to take a ferry to Saba Rock to enjoy dinner on a private island next to the water.
Virgin Gorda is a great place to explore and just the spot if you’re looking for beautiful beaches and relaxation.
This article 27 Gorgeous Caribbean Islands for a Perfect Beach Vacation originally appeared on Wander With Alex. Featured Image Credit: [@halamov/DepositPhotos]
Alexandrea Sumuel is a travel writer and the founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog, where she provides vacationers with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, explore, and escape! Alex’s mission is to help peopl find the perfect vacation destination.