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A Guide to Choose the Right Caribbean Island for Your Vacation

Planning a trip to the Caribbean, but are confused about where to go? This Buzzle article will help you in choosing the right Caribbean island for your vacation.
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Tip to visit a Caribbean Island without an American passport
Did You Know?
Out of the Caribbean's numerous islands, only 2% are inhabited.
The popularity of the Caribbean as a tourist destination is increasing all across the world. The region features numerous picturesque islands, scattered all across the Caribbean Sea, that offers tourists a safe and peaceful escape from the monotony and hustle and bustle of the cities. Topographically, with their fascinating beaches surrounded by crystal blue waters, they might seem pretty similar to one another in the first instance. However, as one takes a closer look at these islands, one seems to realize that all of them are, in fact, amazingly distinct from each other. Each of these islands has a very unique local flavor to it, which often leaves the visitor in awe.

More often than not, a Caribbean-bound visitor seems to get confused by the wide array of choices that are there at his/her disposal. It always seems to be a rather challenging task to choose the right Caribbean island for spending a vacation. There are several things that need to be considered while selecting the right Caribbean island, and the most important one of these is the kind of experience a visitor is looking forward to. In order to ease this confusing task a little, Buzzle presents a list of the most-visited Caribbean islands, and what each of them has to offer.

Caribbean Islands and What They Offer

** There are a number of direct flights to the following Caribbean islands from the US and Canada, and hence, are easily accessible.

Aruba

Aruba

If you are looking for a pleasant honeymoon destination with luxury resorts and plenty of gorgeous, relaxing beaches having state-of-the-art amenities for visitors, Aruba is your place. With its arid and almost featureless topography, is it definitely not one of the most exciting islands in the Caribbean; however, it is a great place to be with your friends and loved ones.

Ideal for: People aiming to relax and chill out on the beach.

Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands

With up-to-date tourist infrastructure, and resorts that are affordable to all kinds of tourists, the Cayman Islands is a hot favorite destination with people looking for a place similar to, but a bit milder than the urban American hubs like Florida. Apart from the scenic beauty, excellent nightlife, and fine dining, the three islands are regarded as a grand playground of water sports in the Caribbean.

Ideal for: Water sports, calm and relaxing vacations.

Jamaica

Jamaica

If there is one place in the whole of Caribbean that can give you the feel of the entire region in a nutshell, it is undoubtedly Jamaica. One of the most popular and picture-perfect tropical destinations in the world, Jamaica offers everything from rural calm to urban rush, from crowded beaches to pristine waterfalls, and from spicy music to spicy food.

Ideal for: Foodies, music lovers, adventure-seekers, and people seeking the best all-inclusive holidays.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

An ideal example of 'old meets new', Puerto Rico, with the ever-buzzing San Juan at its heart, is truly mesmerizing. The island boasts of an upbeat Hispanic vibe, and tends to offer a subtle mix of colonial and modern-day America. One finds high-class luxury resorts located in a rather historic setting with ancient churches next to them, and high-end boutiques placed adjacent to street stalls―an absolutely intoxicating blend.

Ideal for: A one-of-its-kind experience beyond the beaches.

Saint Martin/Sint Maarten

St. Martin

Two cultures, two different names, one island―the French and the Dutch have been proudly sharing this small island since centuries, which has made its culture, a very unique blend and indeed very lively. For a curious tourist, the place seems like an altogether different world; like he/she is taking day trips to France and the Netherlands. The island is also famous for its airstrip that is very close to the beach. As you can see from the image, arriving airplanes almost touch the heads of people on the beach as they prepare to land.

Ideal for: People wanting to enjoy Caribbean on a budget.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas

One of the most developed tourist destinations in the Caribbean, offering a large number of choices, the Bahamas, with its 700 islands, is the first choice of visitors seeking a luxury getaway. With a number of mega resorts, superlative beaches, excellent water sports opportunities, fine dining, and exciting nightlife, these islands seem to be a home away from home. Plus, the natural beauty is absolutely awesome.

Ideal for: Adventure-seekers, party animals, and Americans wanting to take a quick and exciting break.

** The islands mentioned below are a little cut off from the mainland, in that there are fewer direct flights, and one often requires airline transfers to reach them.

Anguilla

Anguilla

Set a little farther afield is one of the smaller Caribbean islands of Anguilla, known for its thriving local culture on serene and tranquil beaches. Anguilla is ideal for tourists, looking for luxurious holidays on a tight budget. It offers lesser all-inclusive options, but you can book in a luxurious hotel at an affordable price. The island also offers a lot of opportunities to mingle with the locals.

Ideal for: People seeking isolation and privacy, and those looking for luxury on a tight budget.

Antigua

Antigua

One of the most popular yachting and cruising destinations, Antigua is to the Brits, what the Caymans are to the Americans. The island is known to cater well to tourists of every kind, and offer both lavish as well as budget facilities. There are a number of little beaches scattered across the island, where people can relax and bathe in the sun. Plus, Antigua also features plenty of tangible colonial heritage.

Ideal for: Relaxing beach holidays, and history/sightseeing enthusiasts who wish to take day-trips across the island.

Barbados

Barbados

Situated right on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the island of Barbados is also a popular tourist destination in the Caribbean, simply because of its all-welcoming attitude. Much like its bigger cousin, Jamaica, Barbados offers everything from lavish to mid-range resorts, fine dining as well as street food, amazing beaches, and excellent water sports.

Ideal for: Tourists with all kinds of budget, people seeking relaxation and luxury, as well as adrenaline junkies.

Bonaire

Bonaire

This tiny little island in the southern part of the Caribbean, actually belongs to the Netherlands. Known for its crystal clear waters and plenty of interesting marine and bird life, Bonaire is undoubtedly a haven for divers and snorkelers. Moreover, the island's main city, Kralendijk, with its long and fascinating history, also attracts a lot of tourists. Plus, there are a lot of affordable restaurants and a pretty decent nightlife.

Ideal for: Those traveling on a budget, divers, and people wanting to explore by foot.

British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands

Another hotspot for yachters, cruisers, and divers, the British Virgin Islands is an archipelago of some 40 odd islands. They are a little less developed and isolated than their US counterparts; however, they offer rather glamorous diversions. For instance, the main island, Tortola, is famous for the variety of street shopping opportunities that it offers.

Ideal for: Divers and snorkelers, cocktail party lovers, and shopaholics.

Cuba

Cuba

Weird, wild, yet captivating to the core, Cuba is the most outstanding destination in the entire Caribbean. If you are looking for a completely alien experience, an experience of truly being in a foreign land, Cuba is the place to go. With its absolutely stunning beaches and landscapes, it is undoubtedly a photographer's paradise. Moreover, the capital Havana, is very charming city set amidst political challenges and a wonderful clash of cultures where 1950s meet the present day.

Ideal for: Affordable holidays, explorers, and people wanting to have a truly 'foreign' experience.

Curaçao

Curacao

This small island, situated off the Venezuelan Coast, is ideal for off the beaten track vacationing. It has started gaining ground since 2010 as a tourist spot; however, it is still not as crowded as many of the other Caribbean islands. The island features amazingly sublime and uncrowded beaches, snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities in calm waters, and a beautiful historic harbor in its capital city, Willemstad.

Ideal for: People looking for seclusion and off-beat wanderings.

Dominica

Dominica

Offering a pleasant escape from the seemingly repetitive Caribbean clichés, the island of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea has been rightly nicknamed the "Nature Isle of the Caribbean". Dominica has relatively fewer beaches, unlike the other Caribbean islands, but is one of the region's most unspoiled natural gems. With numerous peaks, valleys, and waterfalls enveloped in a tropical rainforest, it is indeed "the" destination to visit.

Ideal for: Nature enthusiasts, climbers and trekkers, people seeking to enjoy Caribbean beyond the beaches.

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

One of the larger countries of the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic possesses a distinctively Hispanic vibe. As an island nation that treats all sorts of tourists well, the Dominican Republic has lively beaches that offer a large variety of adventurous activities as well as, a colonial flavor and a lot of history. Even the inland areas of the country offer a lot of opportunities to the adventure-seekers.

Ideal for: Nature lovers, adventurers, and sightseeing enthusiasts.

Grenada

Grenada

Aptly known as the Caribbean's "Island of Spice", one can actually smell nutmeg in the air of Grenada. This ex-British colony boasts of small, but inviting beaches that sit in the lap of beautiful hills, swathed by tropical rainforests. Its capital, St. George's, is particularly interesting with a lot of tangible history, scenic beauty, and a horse-shoe shaped natural harbor.

Ideal for: People seeking to spend an affordable holiday amidst natural beauty, and for those who want to mingle with the locals.

Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe

An overseas region of France, Guadeloupe is a group of islands in the Lesser Antilles that offers a large amount of diversity. From rustic regions to developed, bustling areas, from relaxed beaches to great food, Guadeloupe has it all. Each and every island in the group has something unique to offer, and as quoted by Lonely Planet, "It packs great beaches and tropical nature in a small package."

Ideal for: People seeking nothing but relaxation, and seafood lovers.

Haiti

Haiti

A complete antithesis of a hassle-free holiday is what Haiti has on offer for tourists. While the images of the devastating 2010 earthquake continue to haunt the world, this small nation is slowly recovering; however, tourists are up for some great challenges. While the country is as beautiful as the other Caribbean islands, there is very little tourist infrastructure and facilities. Nevertheless, Haiti is the most African island of the Caribbean, and the culture that came to the region with the slaves is still prominent.

Ideal for: People who love to travel independently, curious learners.

Martinique

Martinique

Another overseas territory of France, this is also the most Gallic region of the Caribbean. With a rather untouristy focus, Martinique has several isolated, far-flung beaches, ideal for day trips. The island also boasts of a lot of scenic beauty. Moreover, its capital Fort-de-France, offers a plethora of decent shopping options, and also a handful of museums and historic sites.

Ideal for: Nature lovers, hiking enthusiasts, and French-speakers.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Kitts and Nevis

The Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis is a federal two-nation island in the West Indies. An ideal place to sit back and relax in the sand, take a quick swim, enjoy a cocktail, and have a lavish dinner, Saint Kitts and Nevis is comfort redefined. Plus, if you are curious about pirates, this country boasts of having the largest pirate legacy in the whole of Caribbean viz., the Brimstone Hill Fortress.

Ideal for: Comfort-seekers and day-trippers.

Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia

Often glamorized as a honeymoon spot, Saint Lucia, a mountainous island that seems to suddenly emerge from the flat Caribbean Sea, thus, breaking its monotony, has much more to it. From beautiful beaches to interiors choked with a canopy of tropical rainforests, the island has it all. In fact, if there is one destination in the Caribbean that can give you a feel of an authentic West Indian lifestyle, it is this very island.

Ideal for: Water sports enthusiasts, trekkers and hikers, nature lovers, and people seeking a luxury refuge.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Buried deep within the Caribbean Sea, and so, relatively less exposed to exploitation by the outside world, is the island chain of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. A rather secluded location until now, these islands feature calm and peaceful beaches with crystal clear waters and sugary sands. What's more? The scenery is great, the fishing scene is awesome, and settlements, lively.

Ideal for: People with no fixed schedules, boaters and yachters, explorers, and those who like to fish.

Trinidad

Trinidad

The most southerly of the Caribbean islands and the larger one of the two islands that make up the nation of Trinidad and Tobago, this is "the" place in the Caribbean if you love partying. The island hosts an annual carnival, and the event is so grand that it directly rival's that of Rio de Janeiro. Undoubtedly, Trinidad is one of the most vibrant, colorful, and happening islands in the Caribbean.

Ideal for: Party animals, foodies, and alcohol lovers.

Tobago

Tobago

This smaller companion of Trinidad bears everything that the latter lacks. It is a much calmer and quieter place with an excellent bird-life and friendly locals. Tobago has a number of upscale holiday resorts and hotels, and boasts of having a much better tourist infrastructure than Trinidad.

Ideal for: People seeking a quiet refuge, bird-watchers, divers.

Turks and Caicos Islands

Turks and Caicos Islands

Hidden just under the radar, only about 90 minutes by airplane from Miami, the Turks and Caicos are in the queue to be discovered. Relatively less visited, in spite of having some world-class diving sites, these islands in the Lucayan Archipelago offer absolutely stunning beaches with turquoise waters and plenty of opportunities for water-bound activities.

Ideal for: People looking for a peaceful and uncrowded retreat, divers, beachcombers, and boaters.

US Virgin Islands

US Virgin Islands

An insular area of the United States in the Caribbean, the US Virgin Islands are a favorite tropical destination of the American tourists since they do not require a passport to get there. This group consists of three main islands viz., St. Thomas, which is more commercial, and those of St. John and St. Croix, which are less touristy but scenically superior to the former.

Ideal for: People wishing to stay in the mega-resorts, nature lovers, and (as mentioned above) Americans not having passports.

So, if you are planning to make a trip to one or more of these islands this vacation season, we hope that the above list will be able to sort out some your confusion about where to go. Remember to do an in-depth research and plan your budget, before you make a final decision. If you are still in doubt, consult a reputed tour operator or visit Caribbean travel, the official tourism website of the Caribbean. So, what are you waiting for? Pack up and kick off to the Caribbean, one of the finest places on Earth.
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Published: January 9, 2014
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