Guide to the Caribbean – Which Island is Right for You?
The Caribbean is sometimes mistakenly lumped together as one big destination, even though the region is made up of hundreds of islands that cover an area larger than the continental United States. The official languages of the islands are as varied as the diversity of cultures, and what makes the Caribbean appealing is its variety—this is definitely not a been-there-done-that destination. Even if you have already visited one island, believe me, you haven’t experienced them all. In celebration of the diversity of the islands, we’ve developed a guide to assist you in choosing the island that will fulfill your vacation dreams.
The West – Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica
The islands of the west offer fantastic, white powder beaches and turquoise water that is more dazzling in-person than in pictures. Easy to get to with many non-stop flights, these islands also offer you the largest selection of accommodations from small guest houses to thousand-room all-inclusive resorts with endless activities. We highly recommend them for travelers who need a great beach, massage, fantastic selection of restaurants, and a chilled drink (with or without the mini umbrella).
The Bay Islands of Honduras
For the more adventurous, we recommend Roatán, Honduras. Nicknamed “The Big Island,” Roatán offers the best of both worlds: modern development as well as hidden, secluded beaches. Roatán is one of the most sought-after scuba diving destinations, located in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Enjoy a freshly grilled, locally caught fish under a thatched roof looking out over the sparkling water.
Closer to Home
The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the British and American Virgin Islands, St. Martin. All of these fantastic islands offer dreamy beaches and crystal-clear water. The islands of the Bahamas boast some of the largest casinos and resorts in the world and are best for travelers who seek a great selection of activities and entertainment. The Dominican Republic (or DR for short) boasts a great combination of beaches, fabulous resorts, and the opportunity to get out and see nature’s beauty. Puerto Rico is a microcosm of the Caribbean: San Juan features 400-year-old colonial architecture and beautiful new hotels with every amenity possible. And should you ever tire of the beaches (although we doubt it), a drive into the mountainous interior to experience the rain forest will refresh the senses and the soul. If you’re looking for a quieter, more intimate escape, the Virgin Islands are the answer. Both the British and American islands offer you a chance to find the perfect secluded beach or hike a trail through a nature preserve. And don’t forget St. Martin, whose French and Dutch influences make it a unique cultural experience. Whether you stay closer to Philipsburg (Dutch side) or Marigot (French side), the hills, valleys, forests, and unforgettable beaches of St. Martin are sure to please.
Far from the Maddening Crowds
Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St. Bart’s (among many others) offer you the chance to experience French culture closer to home. St. Bart’s (French: Saint-Barth) is one of the most exclusive destinations in the Caribbean and its prices reflect that, but many travelers swear by the experience and won’t go anywhere else. Guadeloupe and Martinique boast fantastic mountainous terrain and a wide selection of secluded beaches. And after a day of hiking and exploring, you can feast on the best French cuisine this side of Paris. St. Lucia has it all—the unforgettable Piton Mountains as well as extensive rainforests, surrounded by some of the most spectacular beaches in the area.
Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao
And let’s not forget our ABCs – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. These Dutch-influenced islands are paradise for divers (Bonaire is considered one of the best dive destinations in the world). Aruba features a great array of hotels from all-inclusive options to private guest houses, and its shopping and dining are some of the best in the Caribbean. Curacao and its amazing contrasts are too often overlooked: the charming historic urban center of Willemstad, hidden beaches throughout the island, small intimate inns, and large modern resorts.