9 of our favourite Caribbean islands

10 April 2019

With 28 island nations and more than 7,000 islands across 2.754 million km², the Caribbean is a very big place, and with so many incredible destinations on offer, choosing where to go can often be an overwhelming experience.

Not everyone is as clued up on what makes each individual island so unique, so if you don’t know your Aruba from your Antigua or what separates Saint Martin from Saint Vincent, then we are here to help you get a better understanding of what some of the region’s most popular islands have to offer.

Barbados

Why is it special?

At 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, Barbados is deceptively compact considering its global reputation. But it’s good news for tourists because that means it’s small enough to drive around in a single day, and many seize the opportunity to hire a car to explore both sides of the island.

Pristine idyllic beaches can be found on every Caribbean island and Barbados is no different. Head to Bridgetown’s Carlisle Bay, Browne’s Beach and Pebbles Beach or Christ Church’s Miami Beach and Accra/Rockley Beach.

Barbados is also the birthplace of rum and pop star Rihanna, who was born and raised here and was recently named ‘Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary’ for the island.

What should I do there?

Bridgetown has enough fascinating historic sites to earn it the title of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A walking tour of the capital will likely include National Heroes Square (formerly Trafalgar Square and home to Lord Nelson’s statue), St Michael’s Cathedral, the Bridgetown Jewish Synagogue and Parliament Buildings.

Similarly, Garrison Savannah – a historic military base – is worth checking out, with its beautiful Matthias Church, St Ann’s Fort ruins and the Savannah race course, which is still used for many sporting activities today. It’s a great place to fly a kite, go jogging or just watch the world go by.

Rum fans will love it in Barbados. The island is home to the Mount Gay Distillery, which was founded in 1703 making it the world's oldest remaining rum company and serving as solid supporting evidence for its ‘birthplace of rum’ claim. Several other distilleries can be found on the island including St Nicholas Abbey and Foursquare Distilleries, as well as an estimated 1,500 rum shops across the island.

Oistins is a town on the country’s south coast, and on a Friday night, Oistins Bay Gardens plays host to ‘fish fry,’ an informal outdoor grill using fresh Bajan ingredients, prepared right in front of you. Whether you’re looking for seafood, meat or a vegetarian option, you’ll find a vendor to pile your plate high with delicious island food.

Who would love it here?

Whatever the budget or whatever you want to get up to, Barbados is sure to please all.

Where could I stay?

Sandy Lane (one of the Caribbean’s most prestigious resorts), Fairmont Royal Pavilion (newly-renovated in 2018), Cobblers Cove (reminiscent of an English country house hotel and part of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux collection).

“Barbados is an island of contrast, suited to anyone and to any budget. During my first visit, days were spent lazing on the public beaches mixing with locals, sharing bottles of rum outside ramshackle homes with chickens running around our feet and wonderful loud Afro Caribbean music blaring out beats from huge speakers. The local Bajan community is both warm and friendly, and the people are always providing a happy and genuine smile. It is a safe place to visit, with a very low crime rate.”

Helen, Travel Counsellor

Saint Lucia

Why is it special?

The mountainous volcanic island of Saint Lucia is the only island in the world with a drive-in volcano and the only sovereign nation to be named for a woman. No two parts of the island are alike – some areas offer bustling nightlife and beachside parties, while others offer opportunities to get away from it all and explore dense jungles and quiet vistas.

What should I do there?

Two words: The Pitons. Situated on the southwestern coast of the island, these two volcanic plugs – the 2,530-foot-high Gros Piton and 2,438-foot Petit Piton – are perfect for hiking around, with exotic plants and animals to spot as you go.

You can also sail around them and admire the beauty and shape of the dormant volcanoes from the water. Pigeon Island is also great for nature and history lovers, with the chance to explore the ruins of Fort Rodney, built by the English to fight the French. Beach fans will love Anse Chastanet and Anse Mamin beaches, which are great for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Who would love it here?

With fantastic adults-only resorts like the wellness-focussed Rendezvous and the three-walled suites of Jade Mountain, Saint Lucia appeals to nature-loving, luxury-seeking couples keen to press mute on life. That’s not to say that families can’t have a good time on Saint Lucia though, with the likes of Coconut Bay Resort & Spa, which features Saint Lucia’s largest water park and the superb Cocoland kids club with its very own water feature and mini zip wire.

Where could I stay?

BodyHoliday (adults-only), Jade Mountain (adults-only), The Landings Resort & Spa, Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort  

Antigua and Barbuda

Why is it special?

With 365 beaches, you can visit a different beach every day for a whole year and not set foot on the same stretch of sand twice. Don’t mistake that for a case of quantity over quality either, because many of these beaches are about as good as it gets. Antigua is also home to Mount Obama, named after the 44th President of the United States in 2009 as ‘a symbol of black achievement.’

What should I do there?

Given a full year, you could attempt that ‘different beach every day for a year’ challenge. However, with a shorter space of time to play with, you should prioritise Dickenson Bay, Pigeon Point Beach and Jolly Beach.

For those seeking a little adventure, head up to Shirley Heights - a fantastic vantage point with panoramic views. It's the best place in Antigua and Barbuda to catch a sunset, so make sure you don't forget your camera. Another Antiguan hotspot is Nelson's Dockyard which is perfect on a Sunday when they host a weekly barbecue. Feast on sumptuous Caribbean cuisine to the sound of live music against the backdrop of many boats.

Who would love it here?

Anyone who likes resort holidays with a couple of day trips thrown in.

Where could I stay?

Blue Waters, Verandah Resort and Spa, Hodges Bay Resort & Spa by Elegant Hotels

Jamaica

Why is it special?

Jamaica is famous for being the home of Bob Marley and reggae music, as well as beautiful beaches with white sands and bright blue waters. Jamaica can also lay claim to having the largest botanical gardens in the Caribbean, the 200-acre Hope Gardens. James Bond was created here, too: Ian Fleming wrote the Bond novels from his GoldenEye home in Jamaica - now part of the 52-acre GoldenEye Resort & Spa – and the first James Bond film, 1962’s Dr No, was filmed in Ocho Rios.

What should I do there?

Jamaica is blessed with many lush waterfalls, and Dunn's River Falls near Ocho Rios has to be the most popular one of them all, receiving thousands of visitors each year. With hundreds of miles of coastline, there are many gorgeous beaches, too, namely Doctor’s Cave Beach, Rose Hall Beach and Cornwall Beach in Montego Bay, Seven Mile Beach in Negril and Boston Bay Beach in Port Antonio.

Anyone with even the slightest bit of affection for reggae will relish a tour around the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston. It is enclosed in a large, creaky, colonial-era wooden house on Hope Rd where Bob Marley lived from 1975 until his death in 1981. It’s here that the legend recorded some of his biggest hits including Jamming, Waiting in Vain, One Love and Redemption Song. Other notable attractions include Seville Great House and the unmissable National Gallery of Jamaica.

Foodies have a lot to thank Jamaica for. It’s the country that gave the world Jamaica blue mountain coffee – the world’s most expensive bean – and jerk chicken (although this special blend of spices can be applied to pork, fish or any meat with equally delicious results). Curious eaters should also try to check out Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish - a mouth-watering concoction of salted cod and ackee.

Who would love it here?

Everyone. Newlyweds, young families or retired couples will have no trouble making life-long memories in Jamaica. Many believe that the best family resorts lie on the west coast of the island (Montego Bay, Negril).

Where could I stay?

Beaches Ocho Rios, Sandals Montego Bay, Secrets Wild Orchid, Zoetry Montego Bay Jamaica. Jamaica has a tropical climate so it is generally warm and sunny any time of year. However, with hurricane season usually running from June to September, summer isn’t necessarily the best time to go.

“Jamaica is one of the liveliest and most compelling and captivating places I have ever been. Whether you want adventure or are ready to tie the knot, or if you simply want some rest and relaxation in paradise, Jamaica has it all.”

Sally, Travel Counsellor

The Bahamas

Why is it special?

“It’s better in The Bahamas,” so says the official website for this 700-island country. Just 50 miles off the coast of Florida, it’s certainly the more accessible destination in the Caribbean. It’s also the home of the famous (and adorable) swimming pigs.

What should I do there?

Visit Nassau, the capital of The Bahamas. It’s a bustling metropolitan hub full of culture and modern amenities, and just to the north is Paradise Island. The name says it all, with 685 acres of pure paradise with resorts, hotels, restaurants, shops, nightlife, a golf course, an aquarium and a casino.

It’s worth dropping by the Exumas too - an exotic collection of dream destinations, surrounded by sapphire-blue water with footprint-free beaches and ultra-exclusive resorts and islands fit for celebrities with private homes that regularly play host to some of the world’s most famous stars.

The water in the Bahamas is some of the clearest on the planet with a visibility of over 200 feet, so bring your snorkel. The rest of your time here can be filled with shopping, sightseeing, watersports, diving and dining.

Who would love it here?

Divers, A-list celebrities, pig fans.

Where could I stay?

The Ocean Club - a Four Seasons Resort, Royal Plantation Island

Grenada

Why is it special?

Grenada is often referred to as the ‘Spice Island,’ a nickname earned due to being a major source of nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and even cocoa. It is blessed with some remarkable dive sites, awe-inspiring beaches, and dream-like waterfalls.

What should I do there?

There’s no shortage of things to do in Grenada at any time of the year, and the island’s social calendar is looking packed for 2019, with events like Grenada Carnival and the Grenada Chocolate Fest.

Amongst the island’s 30 dive sites is the huge Bianca C cruise liner, dubbed ‘Titanic of the Caribbean’ which sank in 1961 and is now ranked amongst the top 10 wreck diving sites in the world.

Grand Anse - Grenada’s longest and best-known beach - is a two-mile stretch of sand guaranteed to wow beach lovers with pristine sherbet-white sand and glistening waters.

The island has many amazing waterfalls too, such as Seven Sisters Falls, Concord Falls and the Royal Mount Carmel Waterfalls - the most forceful of the bunch, cascading down from over 70 feet

Who would love it here?

Divers, beach lovers, waterfall chasers.

Where could I stay?

Sandals Grenada Resort & Spa (adults only), Silversands Grenada, Spice Island Beach Resort         

Aruba

Why is it special?

Just off the coast of Venezuela is the tiny island of Aruba. It’s the very definition of a sun-soaked, Caribbean paradise and a must for any beach enthusiast.

It’s a popular beach destination with effortlessly clear turquoise waters and stretches of white sandy coast. Aruba’s beaches are some of the best in the world, notably Eagle Beach in Oranjestad - a great spot for turtle watching, with species such as the Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles nesting here.

What should I do there?

No trip to Aruba would be complete without a stop at Arikok National Park. Covering almost a fifth of the Island, Arikok is especially known for its Conchi Pool, a natural pool shielded from the sea by jagged rock formations, and the Quadirikiri Caves, which have impressive stalagmites and stalactites. Arikok is also home to the Fontein Cave, with its historic painted walls, as well as Jamanota Hilltop, which provides panoramic island views.

Who would love it here?

Nature lovers, beach fans.

Where could I stay?

Bucuti & Tara, Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort, Boardwalk Hotel

“What makes Aruba unique for me are the stunning white beaches scattered with the divi-divi trees against the backdrop of the sapphire and turquoise water. I couldn’t stop staring out to sea and quite often found myself transfixed for a moment or two.”

Stuart, Travel Counsellor

Saint Martin

Why is it special?

This 87-square-kilometre island is split roughly 60/40 between the French Republic (named Saint-Martin) and the Netherlands (Sint Maarten). Despite the uneven divide, the island’s population of 78,000 people is roughly equal and there’s no border to worry about.

This unique partnership means vacationers get to enjoy three distinct cultures, with the delightfulness and soberness of the Dutch on one side, the savoir-faire of the French on the other and the blending of both with exotic native heritage.

What should I do there?

Despite its compact size, this laid-back island is home to dozens of beaches and lagoons, a mountain range, luxury hotels, elegant villas and more than 300 restaurants. Shopping on the island is duty-free and casinos, discos and night clubs stay open till dawn.

Who would love it here?

Anyone, but especially someone who likes the idea of flip-flopping between French and Dutch cultures in a single day.

Where could I stay?

Divi Little Bay Beach Resort, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino            

Saint Vincent and The Grenadines

Why is it special?

Made up of 32 islands, Saint Vincent is lush, mountainous and agricultural with a 4,000-foot volcano. Saint Vincent has, to date, seen limited tourist development bar one large hotel complex. Its highlights include climbing a 4,000-foot volcano and catamaran trips up the dramatic west coast.

Some of the Grenadine islands like Mustique can be expensive but this is not the case with Saint Vincent. English is the main language spoken here, and there are a number of hotels, restaurants, and attractions for visitors to enjoy.

What should I do there?

Tobago Cays offers some of the Caribbean’s best diving and snorkelling spots. Snorkelling here is world class with sea turtles and parrotfish just some of the species you’ll see.

Who would love it here?

Food lovers will happily drool over some of the most exciting menus to be found anywhere in the Caribbean.

Where could I stay?

Bequia Beach, Palm Island, Cotton House

 

 

Intrigued which Caribbean island is right for you? Contact your Travel Counsellor to book your paradise escape and take advantage of exclusive benefits including full financial protection and a 24-hour duty office ready to assist you before, during and after your trip.

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