The Caribbean has something for everyone – sandy beaches, exotic wildlife and sunsets that are better enjoyed with a cocktail in hand.
With dozens of islands, each with its own unique offerings for travelers, deciding on a Caribbean destination can be overwhelming. Some islands were made for adventurers—with snorkeling, hiking, diving, and more—while others are perfectly suited for sun-seeking vacationers, featuring white sands and picturesque palm trees. For foodies to families and those looking to escape the tourist crowds, there’s an ideal Caribbean island for just about every type of traveler.
Be prepared to fall in love and immediately start planning your next warm-weather getaway. Read on to find out which Caribbean island is right for you.
Located in the south Caribbean, Aruba is the perfect year-round destination with beautiful white sandy beaches, great local cuisine and Dutch colonial charm that will make you want to extend your stay. Known as “One Happy Island,” this Caribbean hideaway is one of the most revisited island destinations, and for good reason. Aruba is home to some of the nicest people and receives more sunny days than any other Caribbean island. Aruba is a popular vacation destination and offers a large and varied choice of accommodations. From high-rise resorts located on Palm Beach to the low-rise resorts located on Eagle Beach, there are plenty of oceanfront resorts to make your vacation perfect.
Best For: Beach bums, families and couples who love to lounge around the beach, swim in crystal clear waters and enjoy their vacation with total relaxation.
St. Maarten is the smallest island in the world ever to be divided into two countries. Located on one landmass, the two sides of the country are split into the French and the Dutch side, each offering travelers something different. The French side emphasizes its European roots, with chic comfort and elegance. You’ll find luxury resorts and beaches that are more secluded. You’ll finally get to understand why the cuisine has earned this little island the title of “Gastronomic Capital of the Caribbean.” The Dutch side, on the other hand, bustles with commercial activity, from its busy cruise port and many casinos.
Best For: Those looking for a mix of laid-back luxury and bustling activity.
Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos is a British Overseas Territory, located 575 miles southeast of Miami, Florida, south of the Bahamas, and attract more than 1 million tourists annually. The network of 40 small islands and cays represent a little something for each type of tourist. Providenciales, or “Provo,” features luxurious hotels, Grand Turk is the historic and cultural hub where you can find cruise ships docking, and Salt Cay is home to the the best dives. From here, you can explore one of the largest reef systems in the world. You’ll find waters crystal clear with so many shades of blue ranging from turquoise to deep azure. It’s no surprise that water activities are a big deal here. Whether it’s sailing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, kayaking, paddle boarding or just swimming in the calming seas, Turks and Caicos is truly an awe-inspiring destination.
Best For: Travelers seeking an exclusive and secluded getaway with stunning landscapes.
There are few coastlines that have been photographed more than St Lucia’s spectacular south-west corner. The Piton Mountains, a pair of jagged volcanic peaks that planes must skirt around to touch down at the island’s international airport, are definitely picture worthy. Known primarily as an all-inclusive beach vacation spot and the perfect place for a honeymoon or destination wedding, the island of St. Lucia boasts rich culture and history. Travelers enjoy the unspoiled natural landscape, rugged volcanic mountains, tropical rainforest, and public sandy beaches. While the island is small, only 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, its volcanic topography is absolutely stunning and it’s one of the reasons Saint Lucia attracts so many visitors every year.
Best For: Couples seeking the ultimate romantic getaway.
Situated above South America, northeast of Venezuela, Barbados is a Caribbean island much loved by British sun-seekers. Barbados is the most easterly country in the island chain known as the Lesser Antilles. The unique location puts the island outside of the main hurricane belt, so it is often spared the wrath of hurricanes. The Barbadian locals represent a diverse melting pot of individuals and are renowned for being very friendly. You’ll find there really is something for everyone when it comes to vacation accommodations – from luxurious hotels to self-catering apartments, guesthouses, and beach cottages. The island is known for having some of the most diverse beaches in the Caribbean, where you can relax, snorkel with turtles, or take in some water sports action. Those looking for calm ocean conditions should stay on the west and south coasts. Beaches on the east coast are great for those looking to surf and ride some waves.
Best For: Travelers looking for a Caribbean island vacation on any budget.
Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, locals are American citizens and American travelers can enter the island without having to carry a passport. The island’s landscape offers green mountains, waterfalls, tropical rainforests and sandy beaches along most coastal areas. Things to do in Puerto Rico range from running with wild horses to eating freshly-caught seafood to exploring colonial towns. No Puerto Rican adventure is complete without a day spent visiting Old San Juan. Beautiful and historical, Old San Juan is packed with some of Puerto Rico’s coolest tourist attractions like Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Puerto Rico’s iconic fort. Puerto Rico is known for its stunning blue waters, but even more amazing treasures lie beneath the surface. To snorkel past shipwrecks that date all the way from the 1500s, head over to Vieques or Rincon. Rincon is where you’ll find the leatherback sea turtles, known for their leathery textured skin. If you’re traveling to Puerto Rico in the springtime, organize your trip around turtle nesting season (April–June)—then you can sign up to swim, snorkel, or scuba next to largest turtles on Earth.
Best For: Those looking for a vacation filled with sun, sand and rich Hispanic culture without leaving the U.S.
British Virgin Islands
If you’re into fishing, sailing or boating, this is the island for you. There is no shortage of activities here and visitors often choose to explore the British Virgin Islands by boat, making it great to discover all the little caves and bays nearby. We recommend staying on one or two of the four main islands of Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Anegada, or Virgin Gorda. From here you can take day trips via boat to the nearby smaller islands, beaches, and premiere dive spots that are part of the volcanic archipelago. People who enjoy snorkeling and diving will also find paradise among the islands here.
Best For: Sailing and fishing lovers. Those looking to island-hop and not stay in one place too long.
The Dutch island of Curacao is known for its colorful architecture and crystal blue waters. Many visit Curacao for the amazing dive sites and snorkeling excursions. If you’re looking to explore off-the-beaten path, Curacao is a great island for you as there are many hidden beaches throughout the island. The main city of Willemstad offers a beautiful and historic harbor with restaurants and bars to enjoy. Any night of the week and any time of year, you can find some sort of nightlife vibe in Curacao. With music festivals, DJs and beach bars there are loads of entertainment options during your stay.
Best For: Those seeking adventure during the day and a nightlife scene at night. Families of all ages, divers, adventure travelers, and couples can all find things to do in Curacao.
If it’s stunning beaches you’re after, then look no further: The Cayman Islands—Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman—have some of the best stretches of sand in the entire Caribbean. When people define their idea of paradise, they may well describe the Cayman islands, a Caribbean archipelago known for its extraordinary beaches, world-class diving and incredible food. The largest, Grand Cayman has a cosmopolitan vibe, gourmet restaurants, world-class diving and the famous Seven Mile Beach. Cayman Brac is a nature lover’s heaven of stunning diving and breathtaking walks along the rocky bluff. The smallest island, Little Cayman is home to just 150 people. Visitors enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and diving, especially Bloody Bay Wall, considered one of the world’s best wall dives. Experience Cayman Island’s most popular attractions, Stingray City where you can get up close and personal with friendly stingrays by swimming, feeding and taking photos with them.
Best For: Avid divers, adventure- and relaxation-seeking travelers.
Clean, safe, and just a short plane ride from the United States, the Bahamas offer a variety of choices for travelers with kids. The islands of the Bahamas are a tropical hot spot and rank among the best vacation destinations in the world. The beauty, amazing weather, and the fact that there are so many islands (700 in total) are part of what makes this tropical archipelago special. Atlantis, Paradise Island, is home to the largest open-air marine habitat in the world encompassing 14 lagoons and 8 million gallons of salt water. The Bahamas is also known for the famous swimming with pigs experience in the Caribbean, and it is definitely something you won’t want to miss out on. You’ll need to take a boat out to Big Major Cay, also known as Pig Island, and once you get close enough to the island, you’ll actually see some of the pigs swimming out to your boat to greet you. The Bahamas is a top choice for diving spots for both snorkelers and scuba divers, including the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.
Best For: Island-hopping explorers, foodies, divers and Americans needing a quick escape.
The island’s 365 beaches draw visitors from all over the world. Enjoy diving, world-class dining and an opportunity to visit a new beach, one for every day of the year. Antigua has a good range of accommodation, from luxury five-star hotels, all-inclusive resorts to breathtaking villas, all are perfect for relaxing and exploring the island. Head to Shirley Heights Lookout where you’ll have spectacular views from the lookout over English Harbour at any time of the day, especially during Sunday sunset time as it becomes quite the party spot with locals, rum punch and live music. Those seeking a day trip should take a boat to Barbuda, the sister island to Antigua, where you can experience an even more intimate Caribbean island vibe.
Best For: Ideal for those who can’t stay in one place too long. With plenty of beaches and coves to explore you’ll want to spend your days beach hopping.
Who says you have to choose between Caribbean beaches and European culture? Martinique is a small, rugged island and an overseas region of France located in the Caribbean. Being part of France, its official language is French although Antillean Creole and English is widely spoken too. The terrain here is mostly mountainous and volcanic in origin, with the coastline featuring many beautiful sandy beaches. Tourism represents a major part of the local economy as thousands of visitors come to the island each year to enjoy the volcanic landscape, rainforests and beautiful beaches, all which are lined with sugar, banana and pineapple plantations. Take your underwater skills to the next level in Martinique and explore more than 40 diving centers across the island. You’ll be able to discover magical coral reefs on the seabed of the famous Nahoon and Roraima wrecks.
Best For: Travelers who love variety. Martinique offers a little taste of everything making this French-flavored Caribbean island so special.
U.S. Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands include 3 main islands St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix as well as some other smaller, minor islands. With close proximity to the U.S., these islands are easy for couples to make a vacation at one of these islands their home away from home. You’ll even feel closer to home as the dollar is the official currency and English is the official language. Those looking to explore the natural landscape and parks should head to St. John and St. Croix as they are a bit less developed than St. Thomas. St. Croix offers some of the best beaches, including Davis Bay Beach and Buck Island. St. Thomas is great for people who enjoy the classic resort vibes. Known for luxury, you’ll find everything from mega-yachts to high-end stores.
Best For: Couples, families and beach lovers looking for a long-weekend getaway or an island destination that is close to the U.S.
Bonaire is an intimate destination of only 112 square miles and is located just 50 miles north of Venezuela. With a population of 18,000 people that call the island home, you’ll find a variety of ethnic and racial influences. Indian, African, Asian and European inhabitants have all contributed to the population of Bonaire today. You’ll find that, here on Bonaire, there is a peaceful ambiance for daily life, without the hassle of traffic lights, hustle and bustle, or normal, day-to-day worries. Your only concern will be how to spend each new day on the island. One important aspect of modern Bonairean culture is food. For an island that produces no food products to speak of, it’s pretty impressive that Bonaire is home to +140 restaurants that have received high honors at international culinary competitions several years in a row. Many describe the island as a Best Kept Secret, Unspoiled, Diver’s Paradise, and the list goes on. The truth is that over 55% of arrivals on Bonaire are repeat visitors and continue to come back to the island for the warmth and friendliness of the people.
Best For: Travelers seeking for a laid back, slower paced and very tranquil vacation destination.
Anguilla may be a small Caribbean island but don’t let its size fool you. Anguilla is roughly 15 miles long and 3 miles wide but boasts 33 beautiful beaches. There are a ton of things to do in Anguilla and it’s the perfect place for a Caribbean vacation as the island is full of surprises. For example, you’ll find goats are everywhere on the island—on the side of the road, next to bars —and are very iconic for visitors. This British Overseas Territory, located north of the dual-nation island of St. Maarten, is the place to get away from it all. Formed by coral and limestone, Anguilla is flat and long—the perfect conditions for an island filled end to end with powder-white beaches. Anguilla’s relaxed pace and remote island vibe allows visitors to unwind and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Shoal Bay East is a broad and long sweep of radiant white sand that beach connoisseurs consider to be Anguilla’s premier beach and one of the best in the Caribbean. Ideal for swimming and snorkeling, the waters offer some of Anguilla’s most beautiful coral and hundreds of tiny iridescent fish.
Best For: Beach bums looking to unwind and escape everyday life.
Jamaica is a land with a very distinct personality, so much of its culture has filtered down to some of the smaller islands of the Caribbean; everything from the music to the fashion and lingo. Jamaica is best known for the birthplace of reggae, Bob Marley, world’s fastest sprinters, Red Stripe beer, Jamaican rum, beautiful beaches, luxurious all-inclusive resorts and majestic waterfalls. Whether you picture yourself relaxing on the beach or hiking up a mountain, exploring underwater worlds or playing a round of golf, you won’t be disappointed in Jamaica. If you’re staying in Ocho Rios, climb through Dunn’s River Falls and Park. If you’re in Montego Bay, you have to try out the best golf courses—particularly the Tryall Club or White Witch Golf Course. Negril is all about the Seven Mile beach, one of the most popular beaches in Jamaica, and arguably the best. Each year, tourists flock to this small island nation to enjoy tropical weather and warm sandy beaches. Known for its laid back atmosphere, tourists enjoy a variety of relaxing activities and fun filled evenings.
Best For: Active travelers, nature lovers and laid back luxury vacationers looking for a quick getaway from the U.S.
Surrounded by hundreds of miles of beaches, the Dominican Republic is the epitome of a perfect island getaway. Once ruled by Spain, the Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, a former French colony. The island is one of the most geographically diverse parts of the Caribbean, showcasing everything from tropical rainforests and high-mountain ranges to mangrove swamps. The Dominican Republic is inhabited mostly by people of mixed European and African origins. Western influence is seen in the colonial buildings of the capital, Santo Domingo, as well as in art and literature. Punta Cana caters to the needs of sun-seeking vacationers who enjoy all-inclusive resorts at affordable rates. While this destination is better known for relaxation than adventure, visitors can get their fill of thrills hiking to Hoyo Azul or taking on challenging golf courses like Punta Espada or La Cana. From the beaches of Puerto Plata to the ancient architecture of Santo Domingo, there are plenty of places to visit for every type of traveler.
Best For: Resort seekers and adventure enthusiasts, including mountain-bikers, windsurfers, hikers and climbers.
The Caribbean is dotted with dozens of island nations, each with its own unique offerings for travelers.
With hundreds of Caribbean islands out there, it can be daunting to decide on a destination. Whether you’re looking for cultural hot spots, centers of culinary excellence, or far-off tropical paradises, traveling to the Caribbean has never been a richer experience. From the iconic pitons of St. Lucia to the cobbled streets of Puerto Rico, there are some truly stunning island nations and territories in the Caribbean to visit. These islands are vastly different not just in appearance but in what they offer visitors. The good news: It’s hard to go wrong in a turquoise paradise.