Planning a once-in-a-lifetime getaway? There’s no better place to visit than the Caribbean islands. The waves are tranquil, the sun always shines, the exotic plants enchant with their colors and scents, and the party rarely stops.
But the Caribbean is also a diverse place with many islands and coastal towns that have different vibes, characters, and attractions. All of our favorites are certainly gorgeous, but they’re each best known for that one thing. Hopefully, that will help you choose!
The 15 best Caribbean places to visit are:
- Antigua and Barbuda: Made for Beach Bums
- Barbados: Most Diverse
- The British Virgin Islands: Beautiful National & Marine Parks
- Turks and Caicos: Swim Alongside Dolphins
- The Cayman Islands: Swim with Stingrays, Scuba Dive with Turtles
- The Bahamas: Quintessential Caribbean – Descendents of Atlantis
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Home of Golden Beaches
- Grenada: For Tranquility and Peace of Mind
- St. Lucia: For Party Animals
- Aruba: For a (Reasonably) Affordable Destination Wedding
- Bonaire: For a Secluded, Peaceful Getaway (and Goat Farms!)
- Sint Maarten: For Pirates of the Caribbean Cosplays
- Trinidad and Tobago: Heaven for Nature Lovers
- St. Barts: Ideal for Honeymooners
- St. Kitts and Nevis: Polar Opposites – The Party Twin & the Secluded Twin
Let’s go through what these unique destinations have to offer, so you can choose your “spirit” island.
Do you want your Caribbean vacation to be a hop-along from beach to beach? Then, the sovereign three-island country of Antigua and Barbuda is ideal for you.
Only the island of Antigua has 365 beaches — one for each day of the year, as they say.
No matter which beach you go to, you’ll find crystal-clear water. Some Antiguan beaches offer long stretches of shallow water, which makes them perfect for families with children. Other beaches allow you to go snorkeling and explore the diverse marine life surrounding the island.
After all that swimming makes you hungry, you can enjoy Antigua’s roadside kebabs and curry dishes. Plus, roadside markets sell Antigua Black pineapples — the sweetest in the world and native to the island.
An expedition across the inland will take you to art galleries, museums, and scenic viewpoints that lay the whole island before you. Zemi Art Gallery, Gilly Gobinet Art, Casa Santo Domingo Museums, and the Shirley Heights are a must-see for art lovers.
Barbados is the easternmost island in the Caribbean and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Atlantic. It offers both luxury and budget-friendly options, and it’s as beautiful and bustling as the Caribbean gets.
On the coast, you can enjoy white sand beaches and shallow waters that are perfect for families with kids. Inland, there are caves, botanic gardens, ancient distilleries, adventure parks, and abbeys.
The local cuisine is rich and diverse, with something to offer for all tastes. You can enjoy fish dishes such as flying fish, typically served with cou-cou, and exotic veggies and fruits like cassava, carambola, and okra.
The nightlife on the island is rich with calypso music venues, delicious cocktails, and parties going from dusk till dawn.
The British Virgin Islands, a British Overseas Territory stretching from the US Virgin Islands to Anguilla, are anything but homogenous. You can find luxurious resorts that will cater to your every whim, untouched jungles that resemble an Indiana Jones installment, and little residential areas hit by tropical hurricanes and poverty.
Only one thing is for sure: you’ll want to explore every nook and cranny of these islands.
The archipelago is home to four main and fifty small islands that offer attractions to anyone’s taste. Almost every island has jaw-dropping white sand beaches, but two standouts are the Baths and Devil’s Bay — two incredibly beautiful beaches divided by giant boulders.
Marine life enthusiasts can snorkel at the Rhone National Marine Park and hikers can enjoy excursions at the Sage Mountain National Park.
The four main islands in the archipelago also boast bustling nightlife. Nanny Cay and Soggy Dollar Bar, located on the White Bay, are the go-to spots for tourists. These beachside bars offer great music and affordable cocktails.
On a final note, the country is totally LGBTQI-friendly — and not all Caribbean islands are.
The Turks and Caicos islands are incredibly colorful thanks to their azure water, beautiful coral reefs, tranquil white sand beaches, mangrove habitats at the swamps and marshes, and last but not least — their bustling party life.
The archipelago offers many attractive activities to tourists, like snorkeling, deep-sea diving, kayaking, paddleboarding, hiking, horseback riding, partying, eating delicious local food, and drinking local craft beer.
The Grace Bay provides a sight of endless water meeting the horizon in the most spectacular fashion. Chalk Sound has a national park where you can wade through lagoons and enjoy the view. And you can dive to surrounding coral reefs at the Turtle Cove Marine.
But the real must-see in this country is the northwestern coastal settlement in Providenciales: Blue Hills. There, you can swim alongside dolphins and snorkel to see shipwrecks.
When it comes to the archipelago size and eclectic lifestyle, Turks and Caicos is a worthy match to the British Virgin Islands. It’s a British Overseas Territory consisting of eight main islands and twenty-two small ones. Safest Caribbean Islands when live Keep in mind that this archipelago is considered somewhat less safe than some of the other destinations listed here, and a particular danger to tourists is spiked drink or food — so keep an eye out if you decide to go.
You can swim in gorgeous crystal caves located in the northern parts of Grand Cayman’s tropical forest. Or, you can visit Stingray City on a boat tour and swim alongside hundreds of harmless stingrays.
You can also scuba dive to underwater caves full of turtles or enjoy the sight of giant starfishes on the Starfish Point beach. In other words, there’s no end to how you can enjoy marine life in the Caymans.
Besides wonderful beaches, crystal clear water, and a bioluminescent bay, there are also botanic gardens such as the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park located on the north side of Grand Cayman, where you can see all the versatile Caribbean flora in one place.
Lastly, these islands are among the most LBGTQI-friendly places in the whole Caribbean.
The Bahamas might be the most well-known tourist destination in the Caribbean, and not for nothing. These islands offer breathtaking scenery, luxury resorts that are ideal for families, and the sort of architecture that keeps the Atlantis myth alive. The Bahamas are actually where this mythical island nation is believed to have lived.
The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is an island country consisting of nearly 3,000 islands, islets, and cays in the Lucayan Archipelago of the West Indies section of the Caribbean. The Bahamas are replete with geographical, botanical, and cultural diversity.
You can swim in secluded bays, stay in cays that have been turned into resorts, visit plant reserves and national parks, and explore the hidden gardens in the inlands. The main islands in the archipelago, like New Providence and Grand Bahama, have a lively nightlife with lots of bars, clubs, and casinos.
However, the Bahamas aren’t as safe as the other islands we’ve talked about so far. The country has a crime index of 56.87, and it’s not safe to walk around during the night. Similarly, the US Department of State warns against potentially violent crime, especially in the Over the Hill area of Nassau, New Providence, where armed robberies are common.
Although St. Vincent and the Grenadines sounds like the name of an indie rock band from the early noughties, it’s actually a beautiful island state located in the southeastern section of the West Indies, Lesser Antilles.
The beaches in St. Vincent and the Grenadines aren’t white like they are in Turks and Caicos or the British Virgin Islands. Instead, they’re gold. These beaches intersect with cliffs, forests, and bushes, creating a more diverse coastline.
These islands’ rugged terrain adds to their biodiversity, so you can find flowers in almost every color in their botanical gardens. You can also hike through cross-country trails that offer majestic views and swim in waterfalls nestled deep within the inlands.
For a more low-key vacation, you can sit down at one of the coastal pubs and sip on cocktails without worrying about the bill. The cost of living in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is less than that of the US.
A place to quiet the mind and rest the soul, Grenada is perfect for those that prioritize tranquility and safety.
Grenada’s allure is not never–ending beaches. Rather, it’s the invitation it extends to your senses: a rich cuisine paired with high-quality rum (at the River Antoine Distillery) for your taste buds and intoxicating flower scents in Grenada’s botanical gardens for your nose. Not to mention they offer a rich spice catalog — in fact, this country’s main island is nicknamed the “Spice Isle” because of its nutmeg plantations.
Grenada is also home to the world’s first underwater sculpture park: the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park. Created by Jason deCaires Taylor, the park entertains 75 sculptures celebrating the coral life of the Caribbean. You can scuba dive, snorkel, or enjoy a glass-bottom boat tour of the park.
Grenada isn’t as popular with tourists as other contenders on this list — but that just means you’ll have less of a crowd to deal with.
St. Lucia is like the antithesis of Grenade — it’s such a flurry of activity, you could almost observe the party from space.
Like other popular destinations in the Caribbean, St. Lucia offers scenic beaches, bays, and views. It’s also a go-to spot for extreme sports enthusiasts — you can zipline along the rainforest covering the island’s inland and get your yearly dose of adrenaline.
Additionally, St. Lucia is a true hub for musicians and music lovers. There’s a a jazz festival that takes place every year, towards the end of the tourist season — May or June.
If you’re an experienced hiker, you can visit the twin peaks of the Pitons, right at the edge of the town of Soufriere. The Pitons are a UNESCO world heritage site, and one of the best, albeit most difficult, treks in all of the Caribbean.
The only problem with St. Lucia is its crime index (61.58), which is higher than the other destinations on our list. However, the United States official travel advisory suggests that tourists exercise only normal caution: don’t walk alone in the backstreets, mountains, and villages during the night.
Aruba, a constituent country of the Kingdom of Netherlands, is one of the most interesting islands in the Caribbean. It’s a popular destination for couples who want a Caribbean wedding but don’t want to break the bank.
These weddings mostly take place on the northwest coast, on the beautiful Eagle Beach and Palm Beach. You don’t have to attend any weddings, but these beaches are a must-see.
For a taste of Amsterdam while you’re actually in the Caribbean, visit the city of Oranjestad, a perfect example of Dutch colonial architecture with pastel-colored buildings.
The island is also home to the Aruba Aloe Museum and Factory and one of the (possibly) most colorful pieces of land on earth: The Butterfly Farm, a place that will take you away from this world and put you in an animated Disney feature, where colors have no boundaries.
Finally, the crystal-clear water surrounding the island allows you to see shipwrecks, such as the SS Antilla and the SS California, from the comfort of a boat. But if you prefer — and have the training — you can also scuba dive or snorkel and explore the shipwrecks.
Bonaire was first visited by the colonialists in 1513, alongside Aruba and Curaçao. These first settlers referred to these three islands as islas inutiles, which means “useless islands.” This misnomer was totally ignorant, as colonists usually are.
Like Aruba, Bonaire is a constituent country of the Kingdom of Netherlands, and it has magnificent flora as well as diverse fauna.
Although some of the animals in Bonaire’s ecosystem are pretty common, you should still visit the goat farms — especially Aletta’s Goat Farm. You’ll get the rare chance to hang out with goats and try the best goat milk and cheese you’ll find in the Caribbean.
The rich marine life surrounding the island is another thing you definitely want to experience in real life. For instance, diving in the Salt Pier, you’ll get the chance to observe tarpoons, green murrays, and barracuda in their natural habitat. Additionally, the Bari Reef provides a colorful array of underwater plants for those who love diving.
Bonaire is a small island with a small population of under 23,000, so the island doesn’t have the vivid nightlife of other Caribbean destinations. Yet, for those who want to have a secluded and peaceful getaway, it’s a great choice.
Sint Maarten has all the prerequisites for a Caribbean vacation: lovely and mostly tranquil beaches; a fun nightlife that offers plenty of opportunities for dancing, drinking, and casino fun; viewpoints that unravel the island’s beauty all at once; a parrot sanctuary for animal lovers; and, last but not least, lots of Pirates of the Caribbean cosplayers.
Many tourists in Sint Maarten take boat tours that let them visit many different beaches in a single day. But for those who want to set up camp on a single beach, Cupecoy Beach, Mullet Bay Beach, and Orient Bay are lovely, secluded beaches with incredible views.
Additionally, you can join guided rainforest expeditions to explore nature and its gorgeous scenery. At Loterie Farm, you can zipline through the forest, and at the St. Martin National Reserve, you can observe iguanas in their natural habitat.
Unlike other countries that consist of multiple islands, Sint Maarten is only 44% of an island. The rest of the island, meaning the northern section, belongs to the French overseas collectivity of Saint-Martin. So, you can’t hop from island to island here, but there’s still plenty to enjoy.
Similar to Bonaire and Aruba, the other constituents of the Kingdom of Netherlands on our list, Sint Maarten is a perfectly safe location. It makes the country ideal for those who are looking to spend a worry-free vacation with their families.
There’s no better place in the Caribbean to go on an adventure than the magnificent Trinidad and Tobago — especially if you’re a nature lover. And that’s saying a lot.
The dual-island nation has an incredibly diverse plantlife, with over 2,500 identified species, 110 of which are endemic to the island. You can hike in evergreen forest sanctuaries that sprawl from hill to hill and mountain to mountain, visit wildlife parks to reluctantly pet a boa that’s held by its instructor, and listen to hummingbirds chirp in adventure farms.
Not enough? You can watch some of the most colorful birds on earth in the swamps or forest reserves. You can dive directly into the water from under the shade of trees in places such as Castara Bay or Englishman’s Bay. Finally, a natural must-see is Argyle Falls, where you can swim while a 175-foot waterfall crashes into the pool a few feet away from you.
If you time your trip for mid-February, you’ll catch the famous Trinidad and Tobago Carnival with its rhythmic music, creative dancing, and crazy costumes. And even if you miss it, you’ll always find a party in Trinidad and Tobago.
The US Department of State categorizes Trinidad and Tobago in the Level 3 threat category, urging its citizens to reconsider travel due to risks of terrorism, assault, and potentially, murder. However, the tourist-condensed zones are generally safer.
St. Barts is a hotspot for newly married couples looking for the ideal honeymoon destination. But it still has plenty to offer to anyone else who’s looking to get away from the crowds.
The island’s small population of under 11,000 inhabitants makes it the perfect place to be left alone — which is why honeymooners love it. You’re finally away from families who never leave you alone and able to focus on each other.
Even though there’s not many people, there are plenty of restaurants run by world-famous cooks. This is partly because the island is a favorite for yachters, and yachters tend to have lots of money. What’s more, bartenders in St. Barts have a reputation for knowing exactly what to do with a cocktail shaker.
There are lots of beaches scattered around the island, all with crystal clear waves and awe-inspiring views. Almost all of them can be classified as secluded, another reason why they’re inviting for newlyweds.
Are you worried about your safety in secluded beaches? Don’t be, because St. Barts is considered to be the safest island on the Caribbean.
Saint Kitts and Nevis is a twin-island setup located in the southern parts of the Caribbean. Unlike many other small Caribbean islands, though, Saint Kitts and Nevis is now a sovereign state. In fact, it’s the smallest sovereign state in North America with a population of just 47,000.
St. Kitts is the bigger, showier, and more conspicuous of the two islands. It has luxurious hotels, resorts, and restaurants.
For adventurers, there is a rainforest sprawling alongside the St. Kitts’ coast where you can go on guided tours. Other than that, many hotels and companies on the coast offer full island panoramic tours and ATV adventures. That way, you can visit Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park or Greenview Botanical Garden, too.
For party animals, the island is full of clubs and beach bars scattered around the coast. These parties conclude with the island’s own music festival every June, bidding farewell to the tourist season with one last big hurrah.
Nevis, on the other hand, is a more tranquil vacation spot, with small residential areas and secluded beaches, such as Pinney’s Beach or Oualie Beach. These beaches are well-protected from the sun by the shade of palm trees. Nevis is also full of mountain trails like the Nevis Peak Hike that put you right into the thick of it.
While Saint Kitts and Nevis are quite safe, their wave conditions and beach safety are questionable. There are no beach flags communicating the safety of the waves, and the rescue service isn’t responsive.
The Caribbean has something to offer for everyone: lovely beaches, mountain hikes, animal sanctuaries, vivid coral reefs, underwater sculpture parks, festivals, and more!
For a family trip, the best destinations are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Bahamas, St. Barts, Grenada, and Bonaire. These destinations have luxury resorts and are very safe for tourists.
If you want a nature adventure of exploring caves and forests, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, and St. Lucia are perfect. However, exercise increased caution in Trinidad and Tobago due to high crime rates.
For a week of partying, St. Lucia is your go-to destination, thanks to its bustling beaches and jazz festival. St. Kitts, Sint Maarten, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Turks and Caicos, the Cayman Islands, and the British Virgin Islands are other Caribbean destinations where you’ll find that the party doesn’t stop.