Renowned around the world for its beautiful beaches, gently swaying palms and tempting turquoise waters; the Caribbean is a lovely place to vacation.
Many come to soak up the sun, splash about in the sea and enjoy its wonderful watersports. Its attractive archipelagos and islands boast some captivating cities with pristine nature reserves dotted about both on land and offshore.
While many of its tropical islands are low-lying, some are volcanic in origin with rugged mountain ranges, rainforests and waterfalls coating their interior and colorful reefs lying offshore. Here’s a look at the most beautiful Caribbean islands:
Number 23. Bonaire
Bonaire is known for its world-class diving spots that are just a stone’s throw away from the shore. But this little Dutch island has a lot more in store too. Its tiny, coastal capital, Kralendijk, is quaint and very cute, plus it’s so small it’s easily walkable!
Cound can also try out windsurfing at Lac Bay or go kayaking amongst the winding paths that run through the island’s mangrove forests.
Number 22. Dominica
If you want to spend your holiday sunbathing on sandy beaches then Dominica isn’t for you, but if exploring valleys with thick jungle-like vegetation and hiking to the top of mountain peaks sounds more like your thing then this is definitely a destination worth considering.
The island was nicknamed “the nature island” and it’s not hard to see why – Dominica has natural hot springs, gushing waterfalls surrounded by rainforest, and bountiful hiking trails. Go snorkeling off the island’s rocky shores and visit the Boiling Lake that changes color and bubbles away deep within a volcanic crater.
Number 21. St. Martin
So strongly desired by two countries because of its beauty and location, the island of Sint Maarten, or Saint Martin, is shared by the Netherlands and France. It is the smallest island in the world to be ruled by two different countries.
In St. Maarten you can explore the Caribbean with a Dutch twist, and in St. Martin you can enjoy dining on delicious French food.
The island is very lively, and has a lot of beach parties, casinos, bars, and clubs that are mostly in St. Maarten. It’s the perfect Caribbean destination for groups of friends!
Number 20. Puerto Rico
The stunning Caribbean island of Puerto Rico is a US territory, but it has a mix of a Latin and Caribbean feel to it. The island’s capital, San Juan, is a melting pot of the colonial and metropolitan.
The city has an array of quaint and colorful streets in the Old San Juan district, which is contrasted by the modern skyscrapers in the Condado neighborhood.
Its beaches are well worth a mention, too Next, go on an outdoor adventure in El Yunque National Forest, which is a tropical rainforest riddled with funky wildlife you won’t have come across before and magnificent flora.
Number 19. Martinique
Martinique is nothing if not culturally interesting. A French island in the Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles, there is a fusion of French and West Indian cultures that you can experience.
The island’s scenery has plenty to inspire you, with gorgeous beaches, botanical gardens, volcanic peaks, and historical architecture. Discover the capital, Fort-de-France; its museums tell the tale of the island’s pre-Columbian and colonial past.
Visiting Saint-Pierre is a must, too. This modern city was built among the ruins of the island’s former capital after it was destroyed when Mount Pelée erupted in the 1900s.
Number 18. Aruba
Aruba is known for its gorgeous weather featuring sunny skies, cool breezes, and almost nonexistent rain. One of the most popular Dutch Caribbean islands, Aruba boasts a unique contrast of gorgeous white sand beaches and dessert terrain.
Visitors can tan or snorkel one day and then go horseback riding or hiking the next day. They can also try out different water sports like kitesurfing on Palm Beach, or enjoy some solitude and quiet on less popular beaches like Baby Beach.
Dutch colonial architecture can be found in the capital city of Oranjestad situated on the southern coast.
Number 17. Bahamas
There’s not much you can’t do in The Bahamas. As it is made up of some 700 islands, the Bahamas have it all!
Whether you want to go on a luxury holiday, escape to secluded beaches, party all night, island hop, or go on a family trip – there’s an island for you in the Bahamas.
A popular destination is the lively Nassau Island, which is home to an array of luxury and all-inclusive resorts and caters for families and party-lovers alike. To experience the Bahamas like a local, don’t miss out on a night at a fish fry – keep your class full of rum punch in true Caribbean style!
Number 16. Grenada
Grenada is popular for a number of things, from the famous Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park to its idyllic beaches. The island is also the home of nutmeg, and the smell of the spice is always lingering in the air.
Don’t miss out on the once in a lifetime chance to scuba dive your way through an underwater park with 65 different sculptures. Stay in Grenada’s capital, St. George, and enjoy this little city that boasts surrounding mountains and an adorable harbor.
Number 15. Guadeloupe
The French island of Guadaloupe is spread across two main islands and numerous smaller islands nearby. It is a hotspot for foodies and laid-back travellers who want to spend their time doing very little and taking it easy.
The island has spectacular restaurants that serve freshly caught fish and seafood dishes layered with spices and a Caribbean flare.
Laze around on the island’s sunny beaches, and when doing something more active takes your fancy head into the hills and explore the tropical flora. Excitingly, you can hike the Grande Soufriere volcano on the Basse Terre island!
Number 14. Cozumel
Surrounded by the glittering Caribbean Sea, Cozumel is one of Mexico’s most popular holiday spots to sunbathe and scuba dive.
It’s easy to see why as its picture-perfect white sands are bordered by twinkling turquoise waters and gently waving palm trees.
The nation’s largest island, it lies just off the Yucatan Peninsula with dense jungle coating its interior and atmospheric old Mayan ruins dotted here and there.
Rich reefs and marine life can be found just offshore with snorkeling and scuba diving all being hugely popular pastimes.
Number 13. St. Kitts & Nevis
These warm and welcoming islands have a laid-back feel to them and the rhythms of Soca are often playing in the background. You can spend the day on St. Kitts exploring the old military Brimstone Hill Fortress, which will impress all kinds of travelers with its old barracks and citadels. After, dance the night away at a club in Frigate Bay.
On Nevis, wander around the capital, Charlestown, and soak up the colonial architecture, or walk through abandoned sugar plantations that are dotted around the little island.
Last but not least, get out into nature and explore the volcanic landscape of this charming island!
Number 12. Dominican Republic
If you’re in the mood for a Caribbean holiday, the Dominican Republic is the place to go.
It shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti in the Greater Antilles. It is the island where Christopher Columbus made his first stop in the New World in 1492 and which later became the first capital of the Spanish empire in the Americas. You’ll find plenty of evidence of the country’s Spanish heritage.
Today, however, people visit the Dominican Republic for its beautiful sandy beaches and water sports activities.
Number 11. Cayman Islands
The collection of islets that make up the Cayman Islands offer nature, beaches, and unique opportunities like the chance to swim with stingrays. They are still owned by Britain and most of the islets are well developed and have plenty of resorts and beachside condos.
If you’ve come to the Caribbean to dive and get up close with corals and marine life, then you can’t go wrong on Little Cayman. The island’s Bloody Bay Wall is one of the best diving spots in the world.
Alternatively, stay on Grand Cayman for a relaxing beach holiday. Keep a lookout for blue iguanas as you explore the island – spotting this rare animal is a real treat.
Number 10. Barbados
Barbados is a great choice for travelers on a budget, though the island has plenty of luxury destinations too.
The island is also a great place to sample some of the best rum! Surfing, windsurfing, and days on the beach doing absolutely nothing are just some of the things the island has in store.
You’ll be spoiled for beaches on your trip, but Rockley Beach is definitely a must-see. Once you tire of the sand and the sea, head to Bridgetown and spend the day shopping and strolling through the downtown area, which is another of the Caribbean’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Number 9. Jamaica
Jamaica is a lively Caribbean Island that is filled with music, great food, and beautiful beaches. Jamaicans have a thirst for fun, and that is reflected in the many street parties.
Dancehall music is amongst the most popular tunes played in Jamaica, the Caribbean’s third largest island. Laze on a tropical beach on the north shore of the island where well-known spots like Seven Mile Beach are, or head into the Blue Mountains and get a taste of the jungle.
If you’re a reggae fan you can’t leave the island without going to the birthplace of the legendary Bob Marley. Make your way to the town of Nine Mile and go on a Bob Marley tour!
Number 8. U.S. Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands constitute about 50 islands that are all a part of the US. Some are so small they don’t have a single inhabitant on them!
St. Croix is the biggest, and it’s most likely to be your base during your holiday. There’s lots you can do from St. Croix, like taking a trip to Buck Island that is known for its colorful reefs. St John cloaks two-thirds of its area in parkland and draws a more outdoorsy crowd.
All are US territories, but they feel a world away.
Number 7. St. Vincent & The Grenadines
Scattered between St Lucia and Grenada there are 32 islands and islets that together make up St.
Vincent & The Grenadines. The main island, as you might have guessed, is St. Vincent. So why come here over some of the more well-known Caribbean Islands? Well, the beaches are less crowded and the laid-back, slow pace of life is great for travelers looking for a tranquil and peaceful holiday.
It’s easy to island hop in St. Vincent & The Grenadines – make sure you visit the largely undiscovered island of Bequia from St. Vincent! Based on the island’s pirate riddled history you might even find hidden treasures.
Number 6. Cuba
Long shaped by communism, Castro and the Cold War, Cuba is now an increasingly popular destination with a rapidly expanding tourism industry.
Visitors to the largest island in the Caribbean Sea will find beautiful beaches, breathtaking natural tourist attractions, crumbling forts, and gorgeous colonial towns.
With iconic streetscapes full of pastel-colored buildings and classic old Cadillacs, Cuba’s capital of Havana is one of the most magical and atmospheric places on the island.
The perfect trip to Cuba will include Havana, but it will also get off the beaten track and explore the incredible scenery and culture of the entire island.
Number 5. British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands are made up of more than 50 isles and are a hotspot for sailors! As you might have guessed based on the name, it’s an overseas territory that still technically belongs to Britain.
There are some must-see destinations, like the volcanic rocks at The Baths, and the secluded beaches at Cow Wreck Bay.
You can also go treasure hunting on Norman Island – legend has it that the treasure buried there in 1843 is yet to be discovered! Other highlights of the islands are their fun full moon parties and fresh fish and chips.
Number 4. Curacao
Known for its beautiful beaches and coral reefs; the island of Curacao really is a dream destination.
Located not too far off the Venezuelan coast, it makes up part of the ABC Islands with nearby Aruba and Bonaire lying to either side of it. As it was colonized by the Dutch, the tropical isle exhibits a mix of European and Caribbean cultural influences.
Its capital Willemstad, for instance features building styles you’d find in the Netherlands, but painted in beautiful pastel shades.
Snorkeling and scuba diving are both hugely popular pastimes due to the abundance of marine life and pristine coral gardens that surround it.
Number 3. Turks & Caicos
Turks and Caicos are a collection of some 300 tiny islets that are a British Overseas Territory, though some of them are no bigger than a small beach! The islands attract visitors thanks to their spectacular tropical beaches and pristine turquoise waters.
The capital of the islands is Cockburn Town, but Provindeciales is a more popular destination.
You can expect pirate carvings from the 19th century dotted around, opportunities to go scuba diving through vibrant coral reefs, and out-of-this-world beaches at Grace Bay.
Don’t leave without trying deep-fried conch clams!
Number 2. Antigua
Beaches, beaches, beaches! Antigua Island has a lot of beaches, around 365 of them to be precise.
Probably due to its landscape, the island is riddled with resorts. All-inclusive holidays are definitely easy to find in Antigua – whether you’re looking for luxury or budget!
Most of the resorts are along Dickenson Bay, Jolly Harbour, and Five Islands Peninsula. The west coast is less of a beach destination, but it does have some great spots history lovers will enjoy.
Explore Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, the island’s UNESCO World Heritage Site or sip on piña coladas on the beach in Half Moon Bay.
Number 1. St. Lucia
A tropical retreat in the Eastern Caribbean, the once-colonial island of Saint Lucia is about as scenic as it gets. Characterized by the iconic Pitons, lush rainforests, clifftop waterfalls, banana and pineapple plantations, and some of the most beautiful volcanic beaches, it is unapologetically photogenic.
While many fly in to take advantage of the island’s top-notch beach resorts and explore the quaint fishing villages, the melting-pot capital of Castries is also a popular cruise port.
From sulfur springs and secluded bays to bustling markets and Caribbean dance parties, Saint Lucia has a bit of everything.