I love the beach and I’ve spent much of my adult life trying to avoid the cold, so the Caribbean islands always have a certain allure. The Caribbean is the epitome of relaxation, and according to the movies, it’s where everyone goes to run away and drink pina coladas in cognito. Not a bad idea at all.
If you’re longing for powder white beaches with swaying palms and turquoise waters, then you’re in luck, because the Caribbean has an abundance of paradise islands that fit the bill. However, with over 7,000 different islands, islets, reefs and cays, it can prove to be quite tricky to choose a Caribbean island to park your towel on. One way to do it is to take a Caribbean cruise so you can see a number of different islands all at once. The Caribbean doesn’t have to be just for honeymooners either, so if you’re traveling with kids, there are always family cruises to ensure fun for the whole family.
Whatever your traveling style though, here are 10 Caribbean Islands to inspire you:
Jamaicans tend to be heavily stereotyped, but undoubtedly one of the appealing things about Jamaica is its unique African influence, laid-back reputation and that brilliant accent. The island produces some fantastic rum and coffee, but its most famous export is the legendary Bob Marley.
2. Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands comprises three islands named Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman is a popular attraction, and all three islands are a great for snorkeling and scuba diving. A popular activity is swimming with stingrays at Stingray City, a series of shallow sandbars inhabited by lots of southern stingrays.
3. Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan is one of the best preserved colonial cities in the Americas, and it’s most certainly worth spending a few days exploring the city’s streets and architecture. Puerto Rico is also one of the best surf spots in the world, and Rincon is the centre of the island’s surf scene.
4. British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands is a British territory just east of the U.S Virgin Islands, with the main islands being Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke. However, perhaps the most talked about British Virgin Island is Necker, the super exclusive private island owned by Sir Richard Branson. The BVIs are particularly known for their excellent yachting and are a popular destination for sailing vacations.
5. St. Maarten/St. Martin
Known as Sint Maarten or St. Martin depending on which country you’re from, this island is shared between the Dutch and the French, making it the smallest island in the world to be split between two nations. As a result, each side of the island has a very distinct personality from the other. St. Martin is a major yachting island, and the Simpson Bay Lagoon is ideal for sailing.
6. St. Lucia
The volcanic island of St. Lucia has some stunning mountain scenery and lush landscapes. Adventurous types can explore the island by foot, mountain bike, or jeep, or if you’d rather laze on the beach, St. Lucia has plenty of those too. St. Lucia’s most famous landmark is the majestic Twin Piton Mountains, and the island is one of only a few in the world to boast a drive-in volcano. Other highlights include the Botanical Gardens and Fort Rodney, an old British military base located within the Pigeon Island National Landmark.
Having been invaded by the U.S in the 1980s after it was seized by a Marxist military group, and destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Grenada has had a troubled past but things are back on track. Known as the ‘Spice Isle’ for its nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and cocoa, Grenada is made up of three islands- Grenada Isle, Carriacou and Petit Martinique. Granada Island has a lush, mountainous interior with beautiful waterfalls and rivers, and its capital, St. George’s has a beautiful horseshoe-shaped harbour- one of the most picturesque in the Caribbean.
Aruba, together with Bonaire and Curacao, forms part of the ABC group of islands in the Netherlands Antilles. This Dutch island has a very interesting and unique landscape for the Caribbean- the south and west coasts boast palm-fringed white beaches, whilst the interior is desert-like and dotted with cacti, divi-divi trees, rock formations and abandoned gold mines. The port of Oranjestaad features colonial pastel-coloured buildings and is good for duty-free shopping.
Barbados is one of the most well-known and popular islands in the Caribbean and it’s not difficult to understand why. With azure waters and paradise-white beaches, Barbados offers the ideal escape for those wishing to escape bitter winter climates elsewhere. Battered by waves from the Atlantic, the east coast of Barbados is popular with surfers, whilst the west and south coasts are full of high-end resorts. If you’re interested in cricket, it might be worth trying to get tickets for a match at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown.
Located in the northern Caribbean within close proximity to Florida, the Bahamas is a chain of 700 islands, uninhabited cays and large rocks covering an area of 13,939 square km. Of the 16 main islands, the capital of Nassau is the most popular and the main port of call for cruise ships. Glamorous Nassau is known for its luxury hotels, casinos, golf courses, restaurants and duty-free shopping and is linked to neighbouring Paradise Island by two bridges. If you want to get away from it all, then consider island hopping in the Out Islands and relax on the secluded beaches of Long Island.
photo by Andre Pipa on flickr