10 Best Caribbean Islands to Visit

The most beautiful lonely beach in caribbean San Blas island, Panama. Turquoise tropical Sea, Palm Tree, Central America.

Mention the Caribbean to friends or family, and it will undoubtedly conjure up mental images of turquoise waters and white sand Caribbean beaches. They might even throw a few sea turtles into that daydream for ambiance.

But it doesn’t have to be just a daydream. The time to make it a reality could be this year. But deciding which island to visit can be a difficult choice. It’s best to match the island vibes with the type of vacation you’d most like to go on.

So, which Caribbean destinations should you consider? Which island is within your budget? Which island is the best Caribbean island for your dream vacation?

Choosing Which Caribbean Island to Visit

While all the islands have unique customs, festivals, and delicious foods, it’s best to consider what each island offers to best fit the type of vacation you want.

Are you traveling solo and looking for the best beaches in San Juan to sunbathe on, or do you need a luxury, all-inclusive Caribbean resort that will entertain your entire family? Are you looking for a quiet, peaceful, and relaxing vacation where you can destress, or do you want to party into the wee hours of the morning? It is important to have answers to these types of questions before booking those plane tickets.

While there are approximately 700 islands, islets, reefs, and cays in the Caribbean region, most people focus on the larger islands for their vacations.

Here are the top ten islands to consider for your next trip and the types of events you may want to attend.

1. Bahamas

The Bahamas is well known for its breathtaking beaches, clear waters, and prolific marine life. Thanks to the number of luxury resorts, water sports, and cultural attractions the Bahamas offer, you’ll have your choice of amenities.

Visit the Bahamas for world-class diving and snorkeling, the incredible Junkanoo festival with its colorful parades (December 26th and January 1st), music and dancing, and, of course, luxury yacht charters and sailing excursions.

This island has a little bit of everything, so it’s a good place to visit for first-timers who may not know what to expect or exactly what they are looking for. It offers easy activities for a new scuba diver and is a good introduction to Caribbean travel.

  • Best Time to Visit the Bahamas: December to April
  • Best Instagrammable Spots: Pink Sands Beach in Harbour Island and Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

2. Jamaica

You probably know Jamaica for its abundance of great reggae music, fabulous views, and wonderfully warm and welcoming Rastafarian locals.

The Dunn’s River Falls and the Bob Marley Museum are great places to visit in Jamaica. If you are feeling festive, try visiting in July for the Reggae Sumfest.

Once you’ve taken in enough of the art and outdoors, it’ll be time to enjoy some fantastic, authentic Jamaican food such as jerk chicken, goat curry, and ackee and saltfish, Jamaica’s national dish.

This island is perfect for those looking to submerge themselves in Rastafarian culture, food, and music.

  • Best Time to Visit: November to mid-December
  • Best Instagrammable Spots: Dunn’s River Falls, Blue Mountains, and Seven Mile Beach

3. Puerto Rico

This island is fantastic for exploring the historic streets of Old San Juan. You don’t want to skip this island if you love colonial architecture.

Love hiking? El Yunque National Forest is the rainforest to explore in Puerto Rico. It has a diverse array of plants and waterfalls you won’t want to miss. The San Sebastián Street Festival is the festival to visit in January.

Of course, one of the main reasons for going on vacation is to sample fantastic food, and Puerto Rico delivers. Try a plate of Mofongo or lechón, and don’t forget the piña coladas.

  • Best Time to Visit: December to April
  • Best Instagrammable Spots: Old San Juan’s colorful streets, colonial architecture, El Yunque National Forest, and the Bioluminescent Bay in Vieques

4. Aruba

Aruba is a beloved vacation spot for those who love pristine beaches, vibrant nightlife, and year-round sun. Its beautiful beaches and coasts draw you in for some Instagrammable moments, while the windsurfing and kiteboarding will keep you interacting with this stunning place. Try Hadicurari Beach for these sporty activities.

Outdoor enthusiasts can visit Airkok National Park and discover beautiful caves. Aruba also has the ever-fabulous Aruba Carnival in February or March. Also, check out the Bon Bini Festival, filled with Aruban music, dance, and cuisine. It’s currently happening every Tuesday evening.

For those who prefer shopping, Oranjestad is the place to be with its colonial architecture, an array of shops to satisfy that credit card itch, and casinos if you’re feeling lucky.

Visit this island if you love nature’s natural beauty and a laidback shopping and restaurant experience.

  • Best Time to Visit: April to August
  • Best Instagrammable Spots: Eagle Beach, Natural Pool (Conchi), and Arikok National Park

5. Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands are perfect for those who love to dive. Diving sites such as Stingray City and the U.S.S. Kittiwake Wreck are iconic dives you won’t want to miss. Would-be pirates will want to be at the Pirates Week Festival, usually held in November, and those who love sporting events will want to see the traditional catboat races.

If relaxation is at the top of your to-do list, Seven Mile Beach is the beach to be at. With its powdery sand and turquoise waters, you may never return to your hotel room.

The Caymans are also known for delicious, upscale restaurants focusing on fresh seafood and Caribbean cuisine. Hungry tummies should not skip enjoying these local restaurants.

Visit this island if you love to be active in the water on vacation. While there will be plenty of opportunities to relax when you need to, the Caymans are great for active adventures.

  • Best Time to Visit: November to April
  • Best Instagrammable Spots: Seven Mile Beach, Stingray City, and the Cayman Crystal Caves

6. Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic might be your go-to spot in the Caribbean if you love all-inclusive resorts with stunning beaches. Punta Cana and Bavaro are the top picks here. You’ll find plenty of golf courses here as well.

If you love exploring history, take advantage of exploring Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is worth seeing.

If you like a bit of adventure, try hiking to waterfalls in Jarabacoa or exploring Los Haitises National Park. This island also offers cultural experiences like Merengue and Bachata music and dance and Dominican cuisine like mangu and sancocho.

  • Best Time to Visit: December to April
  • Best Instagrammable Spots: Punta Cana beaches, Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo, and the waterfalls in Jarabacoa

7. Barbados

Barbados offers tourists a fabulous blend of luxury stays, water sports, and historic sites. Surfers love Barbados, too. The Soup Bowl in Bathsheba, located on the rugged east coast, is a huge draw for the wetsuit crowd.

History buffs will love St. Nicholas Abbey and the George Washington House, and the Crop Over Festival, usually July-August, is a local tradition whose beginnings go back to the 1780s.

If you need some nightlife on your vacation, take advantage of the music scene in St. Lawrence Gap.

  • Best Time to Visit: December to April
  • Best Instagrammable Spots: Bathsheba’s rugged coastline, Harrison’s Cave, and Bridgetown’s historic architecture

8. St. Lucia

St. Lucia is for lovers and is the best spot in the Caribbean for romantic getaways or honeymooners. Take sunset cruises, get a couples’ massage, and enjoy private dinners on the beach.

Love nature or photography? Don’t skip the iconic Pitons in St Lucia. Its volcanic spires rising up from the ocean depths are great for hiking and photography alike.

Consider St. Lucia if you love luxury resorts, too. Most here have stunning views of the Caribbean Ocean and are a great way to unwind and relax.

Cultural enjoyments include the St. Lucia Jazz Festival, usually held in May, Creole culture, traditional fish fry events, and the Gros Islet Friday Night Street Party.

  • Best Time to Visit: December to April
  • Best Instagrammable Spots: The Pitons, Sulphur Springs, and Anse Chastanet Beach

9. Antiqua and Barbuda

Pick this twin-island nation for your next vaycay if you enjoy sailing and yachting. Boating enthusiasts should explore Nelson’s Dockyard, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the English Harbour to regain their land legs after a day on the water. These twin islands are also an excellent spot for festivals and cultural events.

Don’t miss out on Antiqua Sailing Week, a fun event worth visiting for, usually held in April.

Enjoy Antiguan cuisine filled with fresh, delicious seafood and fungi as you enjoy watching traditional boat racing.

  • Best Time to Visit: December to April
  • Best Instagrammable Spots: Nelson’s Dockyard, Shirley Heights Lookout, Devil’s Bridge

10. Turks and Caicos Islands

Divers and snorkelers will love this area’s clear turquoise waters and barrier reefs. Secluded beaches such as Grace Bay Beach rank among the world’s best.

Nature lovers will appreciate this area’s uninhabited cays and nature reserves, such as Chalk Sound National Park and Little Water Cay.

If you want cultural entertainment, visit the Conch Festival in November or enjoy the Junkanoo celebrations. These two islands are great to visit for a more low-key vacation for people who simply want to relax and enjoy lying on a beach or going for a hike.

  • Best Time to Visit: December to April
  • Best Instagrammable Spots: Grace Bay Beach, Chalk Sound National Park, and the Middle Caicos caves

Not Sure Which Caribbean Islands to Visit? Try Them All

This is a short list of the most popular islands. But don’t forget, there are many others to try. So if the above list doesn’t inspire you, try taking a look at places like Anguilla, the Virgin Islands (British Virgin Island or U.S. Virgin Islands), Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Montserrat, Cariacou (part of Grenada), or St. Kitts and Nevis. No matter which one you choose, the best Caribbean island for you is just a few taps on the keyboard away. But you can’t really choose wrong with any of the islands in the Caribbean.

Deciding between such a large selection of unique Caribbean vacation islands can take time. But remember that while it’s great to settle into a place to relax properly, it’s also sometimes a good idea to do a little island hopping to see and do everything you’ve been dreaming about. But no matter what island you pick, the Caribbean will surely give you the relaxing sun and surf vacation you dream of.

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