With over 7000 habited and uninhabited islands in the Caribbean, you’re spoilt for choice! These are the top 10 Caribbean islands for different types of traveler, to help you to choose your ideal destination.
The Top 10 Caribbean Islands to Visit by Category
Spread over 1 million square miles, the Caribbean archipelago is vast. It’s also quite a loose term, as there are several associate Caribbean countries as well as the 13 sovereign island nations.
However, the Caribbean islands are bound together by a unique culture which reflects itself in artwork, Creole cooking, architecture and many other facets of life. Celebrations are an important part of Caribbean culture, with colorful festivals and parades.
Best Caribbean Islands for Families
The Caribbean is a great vacation choice for families, whether you have young or teenage children. There are many all-inclusive resorts and quite a few kid friendly activities in each country.
1. Barbados – take an underwater tour with Atlantis Submarines to spot marine life, or a lunch cruise on board the Jolly Roger pirate ship from Bridgetown.
2. U.S. Virgin Islands – if you don’t all have passports, the three US Virgin Islands are a good choice. Kids will enjoy Coral World Ocean Park and spotting sea turtles at Smugglers Cove.
3. Puerto Rico – kayak through Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve and see the brightest bioluminescence effect in the world at Mosquito Bay by night.
4. Bahamas – technically in the Atlantic Ocean, but the Bahamas archipelago is often considered part of the Caribbean. Stay in Atlantis, Paradise Island which has its own 141-acre Aquaventure water park and over 50,000 aquatic animals, making it the world’s largest open-air marine habitat.
5. Aruba – take a bumpy jeep tour to Arikok National Park. There are lots of fun things to do in Aruba for kids and adults.
6. Trinidad & Tobago – explore Gasparee caves or go ziplining in Chaguaramas adventure park. This dual island nation has some great activities for kids.
7. St Kitts – the 30 mile long St Kitts Scenic Railway is a great way to see the island.
8. Cayman Islands – good for older children, with activities like Stingray City and more than 300 dive sites.
9. Curaçao – family friendly attractions include the Curaçao Ostrich Farm and the Curaçao Sea Aquarium.
10. Jamaica – climb a waterfall near Ocho Rios, ride the Mystic Mountain Bob Sled and try river rafting at Montego Bay.
Best Caribbean Islands for First Timers
If you’ve never been to the Caribbean, seek out destinations that are easy to get to, with stable weather and simple entry requirements.
1. US Virgin Islands – no passport needed for American nationals.
2. Curaçao – with over 30 beautiful beaches, this popular destination is below the hurricane belt.
3. Cayman Islands – English speaking and with a low crime rate plus many activities.
4. Dominican Republic – reachable from New York in under 4 hours.
5. Bonaire – outside the Atlantic Hurricane Belt so the weather is fairly predictable.
6. Montserrat – possibly the safest Caribbean island, with a murder rate of zero since 2008.
7. Puerto Rico – no passport required for United States citizens as it’s a US territory.
8. Anguilla – one of the safest Caribbean islands in terms of crime rates.
9. Cozumel – a compact island just 2 miles east of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
10. Aruba – an English speaking island with many international resorts.
Best Caribbean Islands for Foodies
The Caribbean is a melting pot of many different cuisines – Creole, African, Cajun, Chinese, Middle Eastern, European, Amerindian and Asian cooking.
1. Jamaica – the birthplace of jerk chicken and ackee and saltfish.
2. Martinique – a delicious mix of French and Creole cooking, with dishes such as lambi, a conch stew.
3. Nevis – known for its fresh fish and locally made sauces.
4. St. Maarten – tuck into crabmeat stuffed shells, washed down with St. Maarten’s Guavaberry.
5. Barbados – try the flying fish and other Bajan delicacies at Champers fine dining restaurant in Bridgetown.
6. Cayman Islands – enjoy Caribbean dishes such as bammy and heavy cake.
7. U.S. Virgin Islands – the St. Croix Food and Wine Experience is a week-long philanthropic event.
8. Anguilla – toes in the sand dining on beautiful white sand beaches.
9. Saint Barthélemy (St. Barts) – the island’s restaurants host The St. Barth Gourmet Festival every year in the first week of November.
10. Grenada – the Spice Island is the place to try soursop and nutmeg ice cream.
Best Caribbean Islands for a Honeymoon
1. Anguilla – has many luxurious spas, as well as Rendezvous Bay and Shoal Bay East beaches.
2. St. Kitts – known for its luxury hotels like the Park Hyatt St Kitts in Banana Bay and Belle Mont Farm.
3. Jamaica – the island has some of the best Caribbean overwater bungalows with butler service.
4. British Virgin Islands – the Beachfront Palapa Retreats at Anegada Beach Club
5. St. Lucia – Jade Mountain and Sandals Grande St Lucian are popular all-inclusive luxury resorts.
6. Turks and Caicos Islands – Como Parrot Cay and Amanyara are good honeymooner hotels.
7. St. Barts – stay at the Eden Rock or the Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France.
8. St. Vincent & The Grenadines – the Mandarin Oriental in Canouan is the most luxurious choice.
9. Barbados – enjoy the Caribbean sunsets at Sandy Lane Hotel.
10. Antigua and Barbuda – 365 beaches and some adults only resorts like the Royalton Antigua.
Best Caribbean Islands for Hiking
1. St Lucia – visit Sulphur Springs drive-in volcano, The Pitons mountain peaks and lush rainforest.
2. Guadeloupe – head to Guadeloupe National Park to see the waterfalls.
3. Dominica – natural hot springs and some great hiking in Morne Trois Pitons National Park.
4. Roatan – this island in Honduras has tropical jungle trails such as the one from Blue Harbor Tropical Arboretum.
5. Dominican Republic – hike 3 mountain ranges or 29 national parks!
6. Haiti – trek from Jacmel to Bassin Bleu, four natural blue pools.
7. British Virgin Islands – take the Baths National Park trail to Devil’s Bay.
8. Cuba – the Valle de Viñales is a scenic UNESCO World Heritage Site.
9. St Vincent – trek up La Soufriere volcano with a licensed guide if you’re quite fit.
10. Puerto Rico – El Yunque National Forest is well worth a visit for the waterfalls and scenic peaks.
Best Caribbean Islands for Snorkeling
1. Aruba – take a snorkeling boat tour to the Antilla shipwreck.
2. Bonaire – plentiful coral reef in the Bonaire National Marine Park.
3. Grand Cayman – don’t miss Seven Mile Beach, one of the best white sand beaches in the world, and Stingray City sandbar.
4. Curacao – coral reefs and crystal clear water at PortoMari, Playa Kalki, Klein Curacao and Tugboat.
5. Glover’s Reef Atoll, Belize – over 500 types of fish and 200 types of coral.
6. Turks & Caicos – good snorkeling spots include Grand Turk, Providenciales and Salt Cay.
7. Barbados – swim with local sea turtles on an eco-tour in Carlisle Bay.
8. Isla Mujeres, Mexico – excellent visibility for drift dives and close to the Museo Subacuático de Arte.
9. British Virgin Islands – 40 islands including The Bight which is good for snorkelling.
10. Grenada – for shore snorkeling as well as the Underwater Sculpture Park.
Best Caribbean Islands for Expats and Retirement
1. Ambergris Caye, Belize – combines casual beach life with upscale amenities.
2. Grand Cayman – has modern infrastructure and reliable utilities as well as political stability.
3. Cozumel, Mexico – superb beaches yet easy to reach Playa del Carmen and Cancun.
4. Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic – extremely safe, with beautiful beaches and a large expat community.
5. Isla Colón, Panama – friendly locals, a thriving expat community and low rental costs.
6. Barbados – steady economic growth, low crime rate and political stability.
7. Aruba – relatively affordable real estate, good medical facilities and a stable political climate.
8. Puerto Rico – good job opportunities, established infrastructure and stunning beaches.
9. Saba – often voted the friendliest Caribbean island, Saba is a special municipality of the Netherlands.
10. Roatán, Honduras – low overall cost of living and very safe.
Best All-Round Caribbean Islands to Visit
In no particular order, these are some of the best Caribbean islands to visit, which are good all-rounders.
10. Cuba – for culture lovers and fans of salsa dancing, with some great hiking.
9. Puerto Rico – Spanish colonial architecture in Old San Juan and tropical rainforest to explore.
8. Dominican Republic – Punta Cana is known for its all-inclusive and adults only resorts.
7. British Virgin Islands – Tortola has Sage Mountain National Park and Van Dyke island is small but scenic.
6. Saint Lucia – for the spectacular Pitons mountain range and luxurious hotels.
5. Aruba – for Eagle Beach and the divi divi tree as well as lots of adventure activities.
4. St. Martin – St. Maarten – 2 cultures, with St Martin being French and St. Maarten being Dutch!
3. US Virgin Islands – 4 main islands and 50 islets with coral reefs and white sand beaches.
2. Cayman Islands – enjoy wall diving on Little Cayman, wildlife spotting on Little Brac and nightlife in Grand Cayman.
1. Antigua and Barbuda – two islands but one country with rainforest and beautiful beaches.
Have you been to the Caribbean? Which is your favorite Caribbean island and why?
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