You want to go on a Caribbean Island vacation, and you know there are plenty to choose from. But the first and most important thing you should know before deciding on a destination is that not all islands are created equal! The best island for you depends on your travel style and what you want out of your vacation. Do you crave time on the beach, soaking up the sun? Are you more interested in trekking through rainforests and ziplining through forests? Do you prefer a mix of both relaxation and activities? Are the kids coming with you? There’s more to consider than you’d think. I’m here to help you pick the best Caribbean Island that suits your wants and needs.
Check out five of the best Caribbean islands and find the best match for your next trip:
Turks & Caicos
Blue water, beaches, plenty of chill time
If you’re dying to swim in the vivid blue water of the Maldives but don’t want to travel that far, Turks & Caicos is the Caribbean Island to visit. The archipelago of 40 islands boasts an astonishing number of white-sand beaches fringed with crystalline water, and is ideal for those looking for ultimate relaxation. Activities include soaking up the sun on Grace Bay (named one of the best beaches in the world), paddling with the kids at Taylor Bay’s shallow shores, and embarking on day trips to Salt Cay and Little Water Cay to check out more beautiful beaches (and some endangered rock iguanas). If you’re the type to get a little stir-crazy on the beach after a while, there are other ways to enjoy the pristine Caribbean: scuba diving, parasailing, and kayaking are popular pastimes that showcase the islands’ aquatic beauty.
A blend of beach-lounging and adventure
Jamaica is one of the top islands in the Caribbean for island-loving travelers looking to combine relaxation with adventure. An active couple or family gets plenty of bang for their buck with waterfall trekking, hiking, snorkeling, surfing, and golfing all on offer–not to mention some beautifully-designed hotels to unwind in at the end of the day. One of Jamaica’s bucket-list experiences is to visit Dunn River Falls, hike up the 960-foot terraced waterfall, dip in one of many lagoons along the way, and cap the day at the scenic sandy beach where the river meets the sea. Spend time recouping from your adventures on Seven Mile Beach, the island’s biggest and prettiest beach by day, and most lively party place by night. Between beach lounging and waterfall excursions, travelers easily fill their days hiking in the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, rafting around Blue Lagoon, or visiting the Bob Marley Museum.
Romance, natural beauty, outdoor activities
As one of the most romantic islands in the Caribbean, St. Lucia has long been a top choice for honeymooners. However, you might be surprised to learn that St. Lucia is also a fun destination for families with plenty of outdoor activities to interest both kids and adults. Known first for its luxury boutique hotels, St Lucia’s accommodations exceed expectations with excellent service, incredible attention to detail, and thoughtful romantic touches. While it’s easy to get swept away in the island’s man-made beauty, nothing compares to what lies beyond the hotel walls. Mother Nature bestowed endless blessings upon St Lucia, from nature preserves and botanical gardens, to the historic national park and twin volcanic peaks. Ziplining through the island’s eco-park or touring it by aerial tram are creative ways for families to spend the day. Couples feel connected to nature (and one another) with breathtaking hikes around the famous Pitons and Pigeon Island National Landmark, a site that caters to both history-buffs and nature lovers. And of course, the beaches–with white sand, clear water, and stunning sunsets–are second to none.
Island-living mixed with Old Town charm + shopping
This U.S. territory is an accessible tropical paradise well-suited for families and couples who are looking for a quick island getaway with pretty beaches, laid back watering holes, and some city sight-seeing. Even if your primary goal is working on your tan, a day dedicated to exploring Old San Juan’s coastal forts and shopping the outlets is time well spent. And while the west coast is the main attraction for surfers and beach-lovers, the rest of Puerto Rico’s diverse topography–stacked with waterfalls, rainforest, and mountains–shouldn’t be left undiscovered. With all the beauty and excitement packed into this one Caribbean Island, families with kids stay entertained, and couples and groups with different expectations agree that Puerto Rico is one of the best Caribbean Island for a vacation.
British Virgin Islands
Island-hopping excursions, sailing, and laid-back vibes
All the Caribbean islands draw plenty of U.S. travelers (and become exceedingly popular in the winter months), but if you’re looking to take on a slower pace and really settle into “island time”, look no further than the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Laid-back with one pretty beach on top of another, BVI offers beautiful sweeping bays and a variety of accommodation that run the gamut of rustic abodes to elegant 5-star hotels. But what makes BVI so unique is the ability to visit a different island every day. Ferries provide an island-hopping service between the main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke, as well as smaller islands like Norman Island (inhabited only by wild goats) or the tiny paradisal Marina Cay. With so many options at your fingertips, you’ll never get bored here. And if you do, you can charter a sailboat or catamaran to take you to secluded bays for swimming and snorkeling. Or better yet– set off on a mission to find the best “Painkiller” cocktail on the islands.