What more could you want than to sail through the warm, idyllic waters of the Caribbean? With an array of diverse islands there’s so much to choose from. The Caribbean region is mainly a chain of islands within the Caribbean Sea and is home to about 9% of the world’s coral reefs, many of which can be seen through the transparent tropical waters.
With some of the most picturesque beaches in the world, the Caribbean really is that perfect place to relax, unwind and take a break. Whether having a snooze under the delightful crimson sky or a cocktail on a moonlit beach takes your fancy, the Caribbean has it all. Perfect temperatures and long lazy days are a dead cert and the leisurely pace of life makes it easy for anyone to relax and slow down. If you’re looking for a bit more excitement, nearly every island can offer leisure activities such as golfing and diving.
Made up of over 30 major islands you can be sure to find one that suits you. Every island is unique and has something to offer discerning travellers. We’ve listed some of the most popular islands in the Caribbean to help you get one step closer to paradise.
Of all the Caribbean islands, Barbados is furthest east and split by two very different cultures. One side is relaxed with inexpensive accommodation perched on cliff tops where the ocean views are magnificent. The other side is lively and bustling with great shopping and nightlife.
On the west coast you’ll find the picture-postcard coral shore beaches boasting soft white sands and warm turquoise waters. The water here is excellent for snorkelling and scuba diving, where as the east coast offers more dramatic views as the waves crash against soaring cliff faces. Mostly a flat coral island, Barbados also has rolling hills and deep ridges to explore.
English is the official language of Barbados and there’s still a strong British feel on the island – in fact some places even serve afternoon tea! The climate is moderate tropical, with a wet season (June-November) and a drier season (December-May).
One of the Windward Islands, St. Lucia lies in the eastern Caribbean Sea, south of Martinique. St. Lucia is renowned for its natural beauty and has remained virtually unspoilt whilst offering visitors an incredible experience.
The landscape is mountainous and its famous Twin Pitons soar 2,000 feet into the blue sky. St. Lucia boasts wonderful rainforests inhabited by birds of paradise and tropical birds and orchards of banana, coconut, mango and papaya trees scattered across the landscape.
There is a huge range of activities available on St. Lucia from golf, hiking, bird watching and the thrilling Soufriere volcano – the world’s only drive-in volcanic crater!
Jamaica is part of the Greater Antilles and sits in the Caribbean Sea, 145 kilometres south of Cuba. Almost in testament to atmosphere on the island, a handful of Jamaica’s beaches have been voted the best in the world! Jamaica is famous for its laid-back approach to life and people visit to escape the commotion of everyday life.
There is an array of things to see and do in Jamaica from ecological treasures, such as the limestone cave labyrinths, to the invigorating Dunns River Falls. History certainly plays a significant role in Jamaica’s culture and with places like Devon House Heritage Site and the Bob Marley Mausoleum, you can relive some of the most motivating moments in Jamaican culture.
Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and Havana is its lively capital city. Between the mountain ranges and plains lies a heavenly choice of 289 glorious beaches to kick back on. After a sunset stroll, call at one of the beach bars for a well-deserved Cuba Libre Cocktail, containing local rum.
The history of Cuba is significant; its years of independence and its unique Afro-Latin culture make it a must-see holiday destination. Famed for its coffee, cigars and 1950s cars, the atmosphere in Cuba is like no other. Holidays here give you a chance to take in some of the best Spanish colonial architecture in the Americas, with a unique Cuban flare.
Grenada is made up of three islands – Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique. The islands are affectionately known as “the spice of the Caribbean” because Grenada produces a third of the world’s supply of nutmeg. Many other spices also come from here, like cinnamon, ginger and vanilla, so the aroma on the island will certainly evoke your senses!
The capital of Grenada is St. George’s and has been described as one of the most picturesque cities in the entire Caribbean. Visitors will enjoy French and British Colonial architecture and sumptuous Grenadian cuisine like callaloo soup made from a blend of fresh local seafood.
The Bahamas sit in the Atlantic Ocean, about 100 miles east of the Florida coast. There are around 700 islands and islets, but only 30 are inhabited. The main islands are Grand Bahama and New Providence (where the capital, Nassau, is found) but to really escape it all the outlying islands are well worth a visit, including Abaco, Acklins, Andros, Berry Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, Inagua, Long Island, Mayaguana and San Salvador.
Full of history and unspoilt landscapes, the Bahamas are one of the most romantic archipelagos, attracting many newlyweds and couples looking for a romantic getaway. The locals are well known for being polite and for welcoming travellers with a warm smile.
The weather in the Bahamas is warm all year round with breezes to cool you down. Temperatures stay between 18˚C and 25˚C in January, rising to 32˚C in July. Perfect!
Not strictly part of the Caribbean, Bermuda has a wonderful charm all of its own. Lying hundreds of miles north of the Bahamas, east of North Carolina, Bermuda is probably most famous for things disappearing. But it has a lot of treasures too, like some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world and incredible golf courses, most famously at Port Royal, home of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.
If Golf isn’t your favourite pastime, there’s still plenty to see and do on Bermuda. With the most churches per capita, ancient forts, historic houses, blooming botanical gardens and the renowned Crystal Caves, sightseeing is a must! Bermuda is also famous for its pink sandy beaches with sheer turquoise waters lapping the shore, and with 75 miles of coastline there is something for everyone from snorkelling to speciality spas.
It may be the fifth-largest country in the Americas, but Mexico definitely has a Caribbean feel to it. Bursting with diversity, there’s ancient tourist attractions, beautiful beaches and stylish beach hotels in some of the most popular resorts like Cancun and the island of Cozumel. Both Cancun and Cozumel offer some of the most stunning beaches in Mexico and offer something for everyone from water sports to sunbathing in the glorious sunshine.
If you visit between 29 October and 2 November, you’ll witness the spectacular Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. This celebration marks the two days when dead relatives are allowed to return to the mortal world to visit loved ones. Another must-see sight is Chichen Itza, a large pre-Columbian archaeological site built by the Maya civilization in the northern centre of the Yucatán Peninsula. After a worldwide vote, it now features as one of The Seven Wonders of the World.
Once visited by Christopher Columbus, the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola, has a diverse culture which has soaked up Spanish, French, Haitian and African influences over its history.
Like other islands in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic is stunning with natural landscapes and great river valleys. It has a vast array of beaches with miles of soft white sand and opaque turquoise waters. For thrill seekers, the beaches offer a huge range of hair-raising activities whilst sports lovers will enjoy an island favourite – baseball.
If shopping sounds more appealing, there’s an abundance of local stores offering all kinds of interesting souvenirs from beautiful amber adorned carnival masks and Mamajuana, a local liquid cure believed to help many ailments.
British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands are Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada, and each one is as beautiful as the last.
As there are four islands to choose from, the things to see and do are endless. There are three National Parks to visit and witness the natural beauty of these islands first hand. If you love to feel the wind in your hair and the sea at your feet, why not try windsurfing or kayaking. To be more at one with nature, why not swim with dolphins in the warm tranquil waters – an experience like no other! If relaxation is what you’re after, then the British Virgin Islands are what you’re looking for with bountiful rejuvenation for the mind, body and spirit.
St. Kitts & Nevis
St. Kitts and Nevis are sister islands separated by a two-mile stretch of the Caribbean Sea, which only take 10 minutes to cross. Both St. Kitts and Nevis are delightful islands, so how do you choose which island to visit?
Both islands are so peaceful that they are truly enchanting. St. Kitts is well known for the sugar colonies scattered amongst the natural volcanic land whilst Nevis has the same lush landscapes where comical green Vervet monkeys chatter in the trees and botanical flowers flourish. Whatever your choice, both islands will offer your very own oasis of calm.
The Cayman Islands are made up of three main islands. The largest and most developed is Grand Cayman, the other two, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are separated by only 5 miles. With so much to see and do on the Cayman Islands, a visit will be an unforgettable experience.
Green Sea Turtles are now endangered, but the Cayman Turtle Farm is the only farm that has dedicated itself to preserving the species. Take a trip here and you’ll see the rare sight of these beautiful creatures swimming in their natural habitat.
All three of islands boast stunning beaches, the most famous of which is Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman. Cayman Brac also draws a lot of attention from scuba divers as it is home to an underwater 330-ft Russian Frigate shipwreck.
Aruba lies in the southern Caribbean Sea, north of Venezuela. It has a hot desert landscape not often associated with a Caribbean island and is home to divi-divi trees with their iconic wind-sculpted shape.
Thanks to its desert landscape, Aruba has a ribbon of stunning beaches shaped in a smile that has earned Aruba the nickname of ‘one happy island’. These beautiful beaches stretch as far as the eye can see and the serene turquoise waters compel you to take a dip. Some would say the weather in Aruba is close to perfection. It sits outside the hurricane belt which means rainfall is very rare and temperatures average 28˚c – perfect for sitting back, relaxing and soaking up some rays.
Antigua & Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda are part of the Leeward Islands in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Antigua is home to one of the most significant events in the maritime calendar, Sailing Week. This prestigious race attracts participants from all four corners of the globe each year and is certainly a sight to be seen.
Barbuda on the other hand is one of the most unspoilt islands in the Caribbean with only a select choice of luxurious accommodation. Popular with escapists, Barbuda is home to the red-necked Frigatebird. This beautiful island has unique beaches with white and pink sands, whilst Antigua has 365 beaches to choose from. So with one for every day of the year, you really will be spoilt for choice!
Claimed by France in 1635, Martinique remains an overseas region of France. This fascinating history has created a wonderful island to explore, with the 600ft Diamond Rock punctuating the skyline. This rock has a chequered history as a sloop for Admiral Hook and bizarrely it was once registered as a British warship!
Today Martinique is most famous for its intoxicating rum and distillery tours are certainly a favourite pastime amongst island visitors.
The Guadeloupe archipelago is located in the eastern Caribbean Sea and is one of 26 regions of France classed as an overseas department. Visit this beautiful string of islands and you’ll discover elements of France with a Caribbean twist.
The larger island of Grande-Terre lies to the east and is loved by visitors for its glorious beaches and abundant watersports. If you fancy sipping a cocktail and soaking up some rays there are plenty of beach bars to discover. On the west side of the island lies Basse-Terre, where you can find the lush forests and cascading waterfalls of the national park crowned by La Soufrière volcano. With plenty of hikes and the spectacular Jacques Cousteau underwater reserve, Basse-Terre is perfect for adventurers who love an action-packed holiday. There are many ways to view the underwater reserve from glass-bottomed boats to snorkelling amongst the coral reefs.
St. Barthelemy, also known as St. Barts, is bathed in glitz and glamour. Here the champagne and caviar flow freely, some say it’s like being in France but in the Caribbean!
St. Jean, east of Gustavia is often where you will find an array of indulgent bistros, brasseries and chic boutiques. St. Barts has twenty stunning beaches, the most famous being Anse à Colombier and the even more beautiful, Anse des Flamands. Along the beaches there’s a vast range of activities from boating, sailing, coastal to deep-sea fishing, horseback riding, scuba diving and tennis.
Dominica sits midway along the Eastern Caribbean archipelago, just a few miles from Martinique and Guadeloupe. Dominica is the most unspoilt island in the Caribbean with vast areas covered in lush rainforests. The natural landscapes, rivers, waterfalls and streams make the island a breath of fresh air away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The breathtaking Morne Trois Pitons National Park on the south of the island was the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the eastern Caribbean. A perfect paradise for the intrepid explorer, this National Park has plenty on offer to put you back in touch with nature. Water lovers can flounder in the Emerald pool, splash at The Trafalgar, Sari Sari and Middleham Falls. For eco-travellers, the awe-inspiring Boiling Lake and the Cold Soufriere Sulphur Springs are some of the best natural formations in the Caribbean.
Although not officially a Caribbean island, the coast of Belize meets the Caribbean Sea and the country has a distinctly Caribbean atmosphere.
Belize prides itself on being untouched by urbanization and offers an array of natural beauty spots like the longest barrier reef in this hemisphere and The Great Blue Hole. The Great Blue Hole is an incredible formation in the Caribbean Sea which attracts snorkelers from around the world. For all explorers, there’s plenty to see and do in Belize. Scattered through the lush rainforests you’ll discover ancient Mayan sites, some of which have been excavated and some still lay nestled in-between the rainforest.