written by By Cori Sutton
With so many incredible islands, beaches, cultures, waves, and flavors to choose from, finding your perfect paradise in the Caribbean has never been easier!
Pristine, sugar-white beaches extend as far as the eye can see. Sparkling azure waters glisten, fragrant tropical gardens explode in dazzling color, and picture-perfect sunsets ignite the sky. This is the Caribbean and this where the ultimate vacation dream becomes blissful reality.
From well-known sundrenched paradises like Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, to Martinique, Eleuthera, Saba and many other lesser visited islands, there’s a Caribbean paradise to match nearly every personality and taste for adventure. No matter which islands you choose to make part of your Caribbean getaway, you’re certain to have the time of your life!
REVISITING THE CLASSICS
Jamaica’s unmistakable vibe has long been attracting travelers from across the globe. With its dramatic mountain scenery, beautiful beaches, and one-of-a-kind atmosphere, it’s no surprise the island is a popular port of call on cruise itineraries as well as for all-inclusive resort stays. Of particular interest is Montego Bay, located on the island’s north coast. Montego Bay’s many restaurants, bars, and shops are centered on the “Hip Strip,” and nearby is the white-sand Doctors Cave Beach, famous for its mineral springs that are said to have therapeutic powers. Another popular spot just east of Montego Bay is Ocho Rios, which offers a relaxed and romantic atmosphere. This lush enclave is renowned for its stunning natural setting.
Should you prefer a seemingly magical destination rich in history and filled with natural wonders, Puerto Rico has it all: world-class resorts, championship golf, 300 miles of shoreline, fabulous shops, fine dining, and a nightlife that sizzles with nightclubs and casinos. Tour Old San Juan, the historic town of Ponce, and the 400-year-old forts at San Felipe del Morro and San Cristobal. Puerto Rico offers many adventures including Riu Camuy Cave System Park, where visitors can descend into a million year old cave.
Another group of Caribbean islands that’s always a favorite are the Virgin Islands. Here travelers can experience the unique culture of the Virgin Islands through their arts, crafts, music, and more during a variety of festivals and cultural events throughout the year. Both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands provide gorgeous beaches, world-class recreational activities, fine dining, casino action and golf. Visiting just the two main towns of St. Croix will give you a glimpse of the island’s incredible history, from regal 18th and 19th-century homes in Christiansted to a tropical rainforest in Frederiksted. While in St. Thomas, climb the famous 99 Steps of Charlotte Amalie for an incomparable view of the Caribbean.
OFF-THE-BEATEN PATH ISLANDS
For a certain breed of traveler, escaping to a beautiful island in the Caribbean just isn’t enough. That’s why a growing number of die-hard serenity seekers are looking past the more popular hotspots and are making their way to many of the pristine, lesser known islands throughout the Caribbean.
Marked by a number of rich cultural influences, Martinique is colorful, tropical, and very French. Measuring in at 425 square miles, the island packs in an incredible amount of natural beauty, outdoor activities, diversions, history, shopping, and culinary adventures. The north end of the island is characterized by dense forests, rivers, and waterfalls. The center of the island transitions to the south’s geologically older landscapes of rolling hills; and the southern coast is dotted with many picturesque bays and covers. Thanks to an average temperature of 79° F, Martinique is the island of the “never-ending summer.”
Martinique’s celebrated past is not only evident in its architecture, historic monuments, and museums, but in its culinary mastery too. This is where the island truly shows off its Frenchness, coupling Caribbean influences to create inspiring dishes found nowhere else. Hotels and better-known spots have menus in English, but some smaller places do not, so it’s wise to bring along a French phrase book if you want to dine like a local. Many restaurants offer both French and Creole dishes.
If you want to stay somewhere closer to home, yet feel like you’re a world away, the island of Eleuthera is fantastic. Just a stone’s throw from Florida and about 50 miles east of Nassau, Eleuthera was the first settlement in The Bahamas, founded in 1648. Of course, the island has undergone quite a bit of change since then, but you can still find many isolated beaches where you can easily escape to a blissful world of doing absolutely nothing. Essentially a pencil-thin island, Eleuthera is over 100 miles long and only two miles wide, assuring you you’re never far from the stunning white and pink-sand beaches. The landscape’s rolling green hills, dramatic cliffs, and sea-to-sea views truly make for some breathtaking sights.
The name Eluerthera is Greek for “Freedom” a fitting name for a Caribbean island that’s free from crowds, cruise ships and casinos. While the island moves at a slower pace than most visitors are accustomed to, the relaxed pace of life here, along with a varying selection of secluded villas, upscale resorts, and quaint inns, keeps visitors coming back year after year, including member of the British royal family. The island is divided between North Eleuethera and South Eleuthera. One of the most popular spots is Harbour Island on the north end, famous for its pink-tinged beaches.
Nature lovers and serenity seekers who don’t mind putting in a little extra effort in traveling should highly consider placing the island of Saba at the top of their list. Known as the “Unspoiled Queen” of the Caribbean because of its natural beauty above and below the water’s surface, Saba is a pristine island that makes visitors feel like early explorers. Located 28 miles south of St. Maarten, this small five square mile eastern Caribbean island rises nearly 3,000 feet above the sea and is cloaked in lush rainforests. Saba is the real deal for those looking for a secluded haven in peaceful and friendly surroundings. Though well versed in ecotourism, the island is relatively new to outside visitors helping it retain a low-key ambience.
The island’s brilliantly colorful coral life makes it one of the most sublime places to dive. The surrounding waters were designated as the Saba National Marine Park in 1987 and are now subject to government regulation to preserve its coral reefs and vast variety of marine life. Despite the island’s Dutch affiliation, English is the principle language spoken and the U.S. dollar is the official currency.
ALL-INCLUSIVE RESORT OR CRUISE?
Whether staying at an all-inclusive resort or traveling by cruise ship, there’s a side of the Caribbean for everyone. So no matter where you go, just make sure you remember to pack sunscreen.
For the ultimate in pampering, an all-inclusive resort getaway in the Caribbean promises a truly stress-free experience. For one flat rate, all-inclusive stays typically include meals, snacks, drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), certain activities, and accommodations. These resorts provide something for everyone, be it the relaxing sights and sounds of the surf, the feel of sand beneath your feet, fresh seafood, and plenty of activities both on and off the beach. The Caribbean is a prime vacation hot spot with loads of great beachfront resorts offering everything from all-inclusive getaway packages to luxurious long vacations.
If you prefer ever-changing views, a Caribbean cruise is a convenient way to visit multiple destinations all while enjoying the convenience of a “floating hotel.” A cruise vacation allows you to unpack once and settle into your cabin without the hassle of having to move your belongings as you generally would when you are visiting multiple destinations. The ability again to pay one flat rate maximizes just how far your vacation dollars can go, plus the price includes meals, great on-board entertainment, and much more.