Top 20 Caribbean Destinations for Your Next Vacation
It's no stretch to say that the Caribbean is one of the world's most naturally-gifted regions. Blessed with warm temperatures and postcard-perfect landscapes, it's the premier destination for escapists and romantics alike. With that in mind, here are 20 of the most seductive places to get you started:
1. St. Lucia
The true beauty queen of the Caribbean, St. Lucia might be less known than some of the other hotspots in the region, but it'll win you over in a heartbeat if you give it a chance. Flanked by the twin volcanic peaks known as the Pitons, the island is a veritable smorgasbord of interesting sights. Beach lovers will rejoice while taking in the vistas of Marigot Bay, while nature fans are sure to love hiking the Tet Paul Nature Trail. In addition, the Diamond Botanical Gardens with their namesake waterfalls are a real treat for sore eyes, and the lovely city of Castries caps off this remarkable place in style with its scenic harbor.
2. Havana, Cuba
A supremely elegant destination filled with old-world charm, Havana is the vibrant capital of Cuba and one of the foremost cities in the Caribbean. The Old Havana part of town is particularly enticing thanks to its colonial architecture, with gems like the Cathedral of San Cristobal and the Palacio de los Capitanes among its many highlights. And no one can resist the splendor that is El Malecon, Havana's iconic seafront boulevard, which also contains the historic Hotel Nacional de Cuba. Indeed, as you stroll through the city you'll feel as if time itself has stopped, owing to the numerous classic cars dating back to the 1950s that are patrolling the streets.
3. Turks and Caicos Islands
Even among heavy competition, this tiny archipelago remains one of the Caribbean's most alluring due to its excellent weather and relaxing atmosphere, which make it perfect for family outings. Once you arrive, the choices are limitless. From the renowned Grace Bay Beach, one of the cleanest and most highly-rated beaches in the world, to the history-rich Turks & Caicos National Museum, you'll never lack for options here. Scuba diving and snorkeling are immensely popular activities, especially in dedicated hotspots such as Bight Reef, where you can witness colorful fish and turtles swimming around the area's many mini-caves and crevices.
4. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic as a whole is an awesome place to be if you love the great outdoors, but Punta Cana takes it up a notch. The area is filled to the brim with excellent beaches, from Macao to Bavaro Beach, all of whom feature that gorgeous white sand the island is known for. Additionally, Punta Cana boasts spectacular waves that make it a prime destination for the watersports crowd, while also harboring one-of-a-kind swimming spots such as Hoyo Azul, known for its crystal clear waters. And if you're itching to continue the adventure on land, then Scape Park with its adrenaline-pumping zip lines is a must, as is the Dolphin Island Park, where you can actually swim alongside the titular creatures.
5. British Virgin Islands
A little slice of British sophistication in a land as rich as the Caribbean is something to be treasured. And when it comes to beauty, the British Virgin Islands certainly don't disappoint. Take the beach-adjacent area known as The Baths. Famous for its perfectly-sculpted granite boulders, the place boasts several tidal pools and scenic grottoes that are open to the sea. Then you've got the islands themselves, which range from the exclusive (and expensive!) Necker Island to the more easily accessible but still quite gorgeous Jost Van Dyke. Finally, the many restaurants and shops that come stocked with European products will make you feel more at home without sacrificing any of the archipelago's exotic flair.
Located north of Venezuela, the island of Aruba is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and features a rare climate and landscape for the Caribbean. Unlike most destinations in the region, the island has a dry climate, with plenty of arid, desert landscapes. This makes it even more exotic, as you won't find many places like the Ayo Rock Formation or the Bushiribana Ruins in the vicinity. That's not to say that Aruba doesn't also excel in terms of beaches. On the contrary, it has some of the most spectacular ones in the Caribbean, with Eagle Beach and Palm Beach being just two notable hotspots. Watersports are particularly popular in the area, from kite surfing to diving the numerous wreck sites that surround the isle.
7. Montego Bay, Jamaica
Jamaica's premier resort town, Montego Bay is a paradise of beaches, theme parks and restaurants. This is the site of Doctor's Cave Beach, a historic spot that's noted for its crystal clear turquoise waters and fine white sand. There's also the smaller Dead End Beach, whose close proximity to the airport ensures that you'll occasionally catch a glimpse of a plane landing or taking off during your sunbathing sessions. Aside from its beach-centric attractions, Montego Bay also has a couple of tricks up its sleeve. The historic Rose Hall Great House is noted both for its imposing architecture, as well as for being reportedly haunted, while the Montego Bay Cultural Center showcases the work of many talented local artists.
8. Cayman Islands
The third British Overseas Territory on our list is another exotic gem. Surrounded by coral reefs, the Cayman Islands are known for their powdery shores and gorgeous natural landscapes. The archipelago's crowning jewel is the Seven Mile Beach found on Grand Cayman island, a stunning stretch of sand that contains some of the area's top resorts and restaurants while also being impeccably well-maintained. Additionally, Stingray City allows you to get up close and personal with its titular creatures, who are friendly enough to be cuddled by nearby swimmers. And, last but not least, the Cayman Islands offer the rare opportunity of witnessing the underwater world without getting wet via its Atlantis Submarines.
9. San Juan, Puerto Rico
As the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan aptly represents its country through the relaxed vibe and plentiful attractions it offers. One need only take a look at Old San Juan, the city's historic neighborhood, to see how life has flourished here over the past 500 years. A maze of colorful and lovingly restored buildings await, from the dramatic fort known as El Morro to the elegant San Juan Cathedral. On the seafront, the Condado and Ocean Park beaches give you the opportunity to go bathing without straying too far from the city's center. And let's not forget about unique places like the Museo de las Americas and the immaculate Paseo de la Princesa promenade.
10. Nassau, The Bahamas
The Caribbean is an incredibly popular place to visit for cruise ships, and very few of them go through the region without at least making a stop in Nassau. That makes this Bahamian capital a magnet for tourism, something that's reflected in the extravagant Atlantis Bahamas hotel and casino complex. No matter how long or short your stay is, you owe it to yourself to check out Paradise Island, home to Cabbage Beach and the aforementioned Atlantis resort. The Ardastra Gardens are another winner thanks to their large population of flamingos and other creatures. And you can't go wrong if you stop to pick up a few souvenirs from the Nassau Straw Market on your way back home.
11. US Virgin Islands
The US portion of the Virgin Islands is just as beautiful as the British one. Composed of three main islands and a few surrounding isles, the archipelago is famed for its natural splendor, with the likes of Magens Bay Beach and Trunk Beach offering that classic Caribbean environment where you can rest and disconnect from the stresses of everyday life. Additionally, the Coral World Ocean Park boasts a variety of ocean-centric activities and a full-fledged aquarium where you can admire dolphins, sharks and other sea creatures. There's even something for architecture lovers here, thanks to the presence of imposing landmarks such as Fort Christian and Blackbeard's Castle.
12. Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda
Half of the Antigua and Barbuda archipelago, the gorgeous island of Antigua is a vibrant place, one that's popular with the jet-set crowd while also offering plenty of recreational opportunities for budget travelers as well. As with many other Caribbean destinations, the main draw here is the coastline. Half Moon Bay and Jolly Beach stand as a testament to this - both stellar stretches of sand with crystal clear waters that are a joy to swim in. Antigua also contains its very own Stingray City, where you can play alongside the titular creatures without fear of getting hurt. And if you're interested in learning more about the area, the historic Nelson's Dockyard aptly showcases Antigua's cultural heritage and style.
Along with its sister islands of Aruba and Bonaire, Curacao injects a dose of European flavor into the typical Caribbean experience. Curacao takes things up a notch by containing a full-fledged mini-metropolis within its territory – the wonderful colonial town of Willemstad. Here, places like the Queen Emma Bridge and the fascinating Kura Hulanda Museum will almost make you feel like you're in Europe. Almost, because Europe rarely features awe-inspiring beaches such as Blue Bay and Mambo Beach, both of which can stand with the best of what the Caribbean has to offer. And if you're in an exploratory mood, cap your trip off with an excursion into the Hato Caves, a veritable maze of coral limestone.
The birthplace of Rihanna may not be a household name for everyone, but it's undoubtedly one of the jewels of the Caribbean. As one of the few nations in the region that uses English as its main language, the island has a distinctly British feel to it. This is evident in places like St. Nicholas Abbey, a lush plantation house that dates back to the 17th century. Other spots, such as Hunte's Gardens and the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, are more exotic and untamed, illustrating the island's resplendent foliage. But rest assured, Barbados has plenty of beaches up its sleeve as well, with Carlisle Bay and Paradise Beach being just two of its most obvious highlights.
15. Saint Martin
A rather curious geopolitical arrangement between France and the Netherlands resulted in the island of Saint Martin being split in two. Although this means you'll have to go through the hassle of border checks if you want to visit the whole island, Saint Martin is definitely worth it. The French side has the wonderful Loterie Farm, a treetop adventure park replete with its own restaurant. Meanwhile, the Dutch side is even more generous, being the site of Maho Beach, a popular tourist destination due to its proximity to the Princess Juliana Airport, which guarantees you the thrill of seeing planes landing and taking off from up close.
Located in the far south of the Caribbean region, Grenada provides an old-school taste of the typical exotic island fare. Its capital city of St. George is one of the prettiest in the region, a bustling harbor town with plenty of sailboats day and night. It also offers easy access to Grand Anse Beach, the island's foremost stretch of sand and a place that regularly tops countdowns of the world's best beaches. But you don't even have to venture out to the coastline to enjoy beautiful watery vistas, as the Grand Etang Lake in the middle of the island can attest to. And if it's history you crave, then a trip to the historic Belmont Estate or the River Antoine Rum Distillery should satiate your curiosity.
Known for being the namesake place that's adjacent to the infamous Bermuda Triangle where supposedly hundreds of ships have gone missing, in reality Bermuda is a quiet and supremely picturesque British territory. Nowhere is this more clear than in Horseshoe Bay, a splendid spot justifiably celebrated for its pink sands and clear waters. Whether you choose to spend your time here or in more secluded areas such as Castle Island is up to you. But either way, make sure you explore wondrous places like the Crystal and Fantasy Caves or the family-friendly Bermuda Aquarium, while also getting your picture taken at King's Wharf.
18. St. Barts
The abbreviated nickname for an island whose official name is Saint Barthelemy, St. Barts offers a seductive blend of European sophistication and relaxed island charm. Tropical beaches rule the day here, with the aptly-titled Shell Beach featuring millions of shells along its golden sands, while Anse de Grande Saline offers a secluded experience replete with its own nudist section. The French influence is also visible in the island's settlements. Gustavia, known for its pretty red-roofed buildings, is the premier shopping spot, whereas St. Jean provides fabulous restaurants and boutique stores that cater to high-end customers.
19. Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Despite its relatively small size, the Jamaican port town known as Ocho Rios packs quite a punch. After all, this is where the Dunn's River Falls are located, easily one of Jamaica's most seductive and popular attractions. But it's also a great place for adrenaline junkies thanks to the presence of Mystic Mountain, a top-shelf adventure park that lets you explore the rainforest through various thrill rides and activities. Of course, this being the Caribbean, the town doesn't disappoint when it comes to beaches either – Ocho Rios Bay Beach is a popular hotspot, as is the quieter Mahogany Beach.
20. Trinidad, Trinidad and Tobago
The busier island among the two that make up Trinidad and Tobago, Trinidad is rich in natural sights. Take Maracas Bay, for instance, whose titular lookout point offers great views of the island from above while also providing excellent relaxation amenities thanks to its deep bay location. Or consider the unique La Brea Pitch Lake, a sprawling lake that doubles as the world's largest natural deposit of asphalt. Last but not least, nature lovers will love visiting the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, a birdwatching staple that can also be explored by boat, while the bustling capital Port of Spain is there to regale you with huge mansions and its world-famous Carnival festivities.
All in all, we hope you've enjoyed our countdown of the top destinations in the Caribbean, and trust that you'll use our resources to create a personalized itinerary just for you and your trip companions. Exploring the Caribbean is a joy for the vast majority of travelers, so take advantage of any opportunity that allows you to venture into the region.