Last Updated on December 19, 2023

The Caribbean covers roughly one million square miles and includes 7,000 islands. Not all are inhabited, or offer a place for tourists, but that’s ok, because the ones that do are absolutely amazing – each in their own right! Picking the best places to visit in the Caribbean often comes down to personal preference.

With powder-white beaches, tourmaline waters and balmy weather, the Caribbean has so many options for travelers spanning all interests and budgets, choosing your favorites won’t be easy. It wasn’t an easy task choosing mine as the Caribbean is filled with beauty and charm. Lucky for me, I’ve been numerous times and intend to keep returning!

Let’s explore each of the islands we particularly enjoy – be it for their history, diving and snorkeling, beaches, resorts, natural wonders, vibrant atmospheres or laid back, casual ambience.

St. Vincent & the Grenadines

St. Vincent and the Grenadines comprise 32 gorgeous islands and cays. This is a nature-lovers paradise with a tropical rainforest for eco-adventures, idyllic beaches, coral reefs teeming with sea life and thatch roof cottages hovering over turquoise-colored lagoons. SVG as its affectionately called is the ideal destination for sailing, scuba diving, exploring nature and relaxing in seclusion. Sailing is VERY popular due to the magnificent island trade winds!

Antigua and Barbuda

The low-lying island of Antigua is hugged by 95 miles of superb coastline and can boast a beach for every day of the year, so obviously, it’s renowned for its postcard-perfect sand. Barbuda, once a scavenger’s paradise because of the shipwrecks on the stunning coral reefs which surround it, features a large lagoon and a Frigate Bird Sanctuary.  

Beaches run the gamut from brilliant snow-white to cotton-candy pink and rosy-gold. Dickenson Bay is a draw for sunseekers with its soft sand and water sports while Half Moon Bay offers pink crystal sand and more seclusion. Other than its beaches, the islands are known for their warm, inviting people and the lively, vibrant town of St. John’s.

St. Lucia

Often dubbed “The Hawaii of the Caribbean,” Saint Lucia’s breathtaking scenery captivates anyone who sets foot on her magnificent coastline. The island is known for its towering volcanic peaks, stunning waterfalls, chalk-colored beaches and romantic resorts.

Nature has blessed St. Lucia with so much beauty it’s mind-boggling.

Because the island offers so many options from luxury resorts to eco-tourism venues and everything in between, this utopia also known for its healing mud baths and holistic therapies refuses to be pigeon-holed as a particular ‘type’ of Caribbean vacation.

Barbados

Mount Gay Rum dates back to 1703, though history suggests rum’s story on the island goes back even further. While you’ll find the standard Caribbean staples of sugary-sand beaches, verdant golf courses and palatial resorts, Barbados offers a whole lot more.

From plantation houses, to exotic tropical gardens and limestone caves to calypso, this easternmost island in the Caribbean still hangs on to its quintessential British traditions like afternoon tea, cricket and horse racing. And don’t forget to soak it up with the island’s Bajan cuisine, a tasty blend of African, Indian, Creole, Irish and British flavors.

Turks & Caicos

The first time I visited these islands located at the southwestern tip of the Bahamas chain, I fell hopelessly in love. The Turks & Caicos are one of the most magically magnificent clusters of islands I ever I’ve ever visited. Why? Because the locals are delightful, the food is incredible, and the views are simply to die for.

Here, it’s all about the water – calm and crystal clear with shades of blue ranging from light to deep azure. It’s no surprise water activities abound as does an abundance of marine life including dolphins, sharks, rays, turtles and whales.

Then there’s the amazing experience of kayaking to the mangroves and the many beach sports like windsurfing, kiteboarding, paddleboarding and snorkeling. Enjoy, as you’ll find you’re in one incredible adventure-filled aquatic paradise.

Dominica

Lush peaks, deep valleys and 365 rivers cover the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets. Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, this island begs for exploration.

Dominica is a siren call to the eco-tourist who treasures authenticity when vacationing. It is adamant in its preservation and conservation of local forestry and wildlife, more so than any other island in the region. Exploring places like jaw-dropping Trafalgar Falls, the Boiling Lake fumarole in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, and the Papillote Tropical Gardens will make for an unforgettable trip. The island also has a lively festival scene!

Martinique

Another Caribbean isle of volcanic origin surrounded by verdant vegetation, mountains and tropical forests, Martinique gives visitors a taste of France in the Caribbean.

At 425 square miles, Martinique is the largest of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles archipelago. Offering a striking diversity of landscapes and atmospheres, the island is cosmopolitan and sophisticated yet also boasts world-class beaches, excellent hiking and a colorfully vibrant cultural life.

Curacao

About 90 miles north of Venezuela, the island of Curacao boasts one of the liveliest urban centers in the Caribbean. This is definitely an island for those who love the party vibe, but there’s more to this island than revelry.

Willemstad, Curaçao’s capital, offers a distinctive Euro-Caribbean experience where Dutch colonial architecture brings Amsterdam in pastels to this autonomous country within the Royal Dutch Kingdom. The capital was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its fascinating museums, rich street art scene and the Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue – the oldest continually running synagogue in the Americas.

The Handelskade, a strip of vibrant buildings along St. Anna Bay, fronts the Punda district, where shops and galleries line its picturesque streets.

Anguilla

A British Caribbean territory, Anguilla (not to be confused with Antigua) is known for its pristine beaches, clear waters, offshore islands and snorkeling and diving in its fish-filled reefs and shipwreck ruins.

Consistently named one of the safest islands in the Caribbean, Anguilla has other notable activities including its glamorous casinos. For more off-the-beaten trek fun, visitors can head to the East End of Anguilla and explore its quaint fishing village.

Six nearby islands and cays are wonderful places to enjoy a day of swimming and snorkeling with turtles, fish and stingray in emerald glowing lagoons.

British Virgin Islands

I’m choosing to include BVI’s four largest islands together since they are so close to one another. This unspoiled archipelago actually includes more than 50 smaller isles as well.

Tortola, the largest, is known for its uncrowded white sand beaches and luxury resorts, Virgin Gorda, for its incredible monolithic baths, Jost Van Dyke, for its stunning waters and charming beach bars, and Anegada, a unique island surrounded by striking reefs, underwater caves, tunnel formations and age-old shipwrecks.

St. John, USVI

While all three of the U.S. Virgin Islands have their charms, my favorite is St. John. Smallest of the islands, its unspoiled beauty is one of the greatest found anywhere in the Caribbean.

Spellbound and moved by the island’s resplendence, venture capitalist, philanthropist and conservationist Laurance Rockefeller purchased and donated 60 percent of the island to the U.S. National Park Service. Later, Congress expanded the park’s boundary to include submerged lands to further protect the stunning coral gardens, seascapes and lazy lagoons.

Its numerous beaches are gorgeous, the hiking is spectacular, and the views unforgettable.

St. Barts

Known for its flawless beaches – from beautiful Anse de Grande Saline to sprawling Anse des Flamands – and unique French Caribbean culture, this French Caribbean isle officially called Saint Barthélemy is in vogue with A-listers, yes, but it’s far from snobby. 

With no direct flights from the U.S., the small 9.26-square mile island in the French West Indies isn’t easy to reach, but that’s part of its allure. Many visitors arrive by plane or yacht, but those using other commercial means will understand how much it was worth the logistical planning when they arrive to see the treasure awaiting them at the end.

Author

  • Michael Kompanik

    Michael Kompanik is a retired Navy Captain, a managing editor of Rovology Online Magazine and a freelance travel writer. He currently resides in San Diego California with his wife Noreen who is also a travel writer and editor. Together they have traveled to such far off places as Europe, Thailand, Central America, Africa and more. Michael’s wide-ranging interests include history, nature, travel, photography, and, of course, military matters.