DO YOU NEED A DISTRACTION from reality? Are you like me and dreaming of better days? Just the thought of a sandy beach, crystal clear water and some palm trees makes me want to book a plane ticket to the Caribbeans. Image if your biggest issue in this world was if you should spend all your day snorkeling or drinking Piña Coladas on a Caribbean beach? Not too shabby.
Realistically, I am not going anywhere. Instead, I decided to dive deep and find the most exotic islands (but keeping it safe) in the Caribbean that I think you would gladly paddle away to. Here are a few Caribbean islands that I find particularly captivating (now and after this pandemic) and an excellent escape:
An archipelago at the southern tip of the Bahamas that is the perfect hideaway. The Turks and Caicos Islands have over 40 beautiful islands to choose from. Which makes it an idyllic escape for travelers seeking paradise because you can be stuck here for months. The Grand Turk island holds historical significance as the place where Christopher Columbus first stepped ashore when he discovered the New World.
THINGS TO DO Your visit to the Turks and Caicos Islands can be as adventurous or relaxed as you desire. Here are some must-try experiences:
- Why not discover the marine life that lives in the protected coral reefs. Did I mention that it is a perfect snorkelling spot?
- Set sail to a deserted cay, explore Providenciales (also known as Provo).
- Swim in the clear blue water at Grace Bay Beach or just kick-back at the white-sand beach with a cocktail.
A Caribbean gem consisting of three unique islands. Grand Cayman is the largest island and home to the world famous Seven Mile Beach (a breathtaking stretch of shoreline). It is known for its underwater activities like snorkelling and seeing stingrays flock (at Stingray City), which is completely harmless by the way. Not to forget the capital, George Town where you can go shopping before discovering the cultural and historical sites all across town.
Don’t miss out on the sister islands: Cayman Brac that offers deep-sea fishing excursions, watersports and tranquil beaches. Little Cayman has an exotic and diverse wildlife which makes it a great scuba diving spot.
THINGS TO DO Cayman Islands offers much more than sun and sand:
- Unforgettable snorkeling and diving experiences, for example at the famous Cayman Wall (a must-visit for underwater adventures).
- Witness the beauty of the endangered blue iguana in its natural habitat at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.
This heavily touristy island in the Eastern Caribbean is an independent British nation and one big draw is its beautiful beaches (be aware of the rough waves). Don’t get surprised if you see locals drinking tea or playing cricket all afternoon. Barbados is also known for its rum, shop at Broadstreet, cruising port and botanical garden.
NOTE! Is actually one of the islands in the Caribbean that has banned single-used plastic.
THINGS TO DO what makes this heavily touristy island a must-visit destination:
- Stroll around the capital, Bridgetown which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and filled with history and colonial buildings.
- Thrill-seekers can indulge in a range of exciting water sports, from surfing to parasailing, along the island’s picturesque coastline.
- Don’t miss the opportunity to swim alongside majestic sea turtles in the island’s crystal-clear waters.
US Virgin Islands
The US Virgin Islands have displayed remarkable resilience following the challenges posed by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Comprising three main islands: St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas. This captivating destination offers a blend of natural wonders, pristine beaches, and delectable seafood.
THINGS TO DO
- You get to learn about the islands’ colonial past at the Christiansted National Historic Site on St. Croix.
Only a short ferry trip away are the two smaller islands:
- Trunk Bay Beach, Fort Christian and Blackbeard’s Castle on St. Thomas.
- While St. John offers hiking trails, snorkeling spots and historic ruins.
If you want to escape everyone and have a complete island to yourself, this is where you should go. It is often referred to as the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” due to its lush green landscapes. This tiny tropical island has an active Soufrière Hills volcano (erupted in the late 1990s), rich wildlife, hidden caves and is for sure a destination off the beaten path. It got stunning natural beauty, including lush rainforests, black sand beaches and hiking trails.
THINGS TO DO Explore everything that this hidden gem has to offer and support the locals in rebuilding this entire island:
- Lay on the black-sand beaches with a great book and relax.
- Excellent scuba diving opportunities
A more active and lush destination and perfect for those who enjoy nature and beach life. I think this is the ultimate island because it has that full package for any vacation. You will find a beautiful coastline filled with fishing villages (check out Gros Islet), rainforest trails, dreamy waterfalls, a botanical garden and a drive-in volcano in the town of Soufrière.
THINGS TO DO
- Did you know that 80% of the island is rainforest? If you are adventurous you can hike the iconic twin peaks: Gros Piton and Petit Piton mountain tops (also UNESCO World Heritage Sites).
- If you want something more low-key then sleep in a bungalow on the beach
- Go on a volcanic mud baths tour (also known as Sulphur Springs).
- Did I mention that sea turtles go to Great Anse to lay their eggs on the sand?
An island that is owned by two territories, the French and the Dutch. Each offers a unique cultural experience and you are free to come and go on both sides of the island so: Ready? Set? Explore. Thanks to the year-round sun there is no bad time to visit St. Martin and Sint Maarten.
THINGS TO DO
- When you are getting tired of lying on the beach, why not go horseback riding or zip lining at Loterie Farm?
- You can also walk around in pretty town of Marigot
- Take advantage of the duty-free shopping paradise in the capital Philipsburg.
The island is tiny, but one of the more luxurious and laid-back islands in the Caribbean. Perfect for honeymooners and if you are into golf this is your playfield. But don’t worry there is more than just golf fields on the island. It has excellent water activities like great snorkel spots, SUPing and sail routes. You will also have plenty of time to relax at the Shoal Bay with a coconut in your hand.
THINGS TO DO
- Listen to some live reggae tunes
- Take a tour in a glass-bottomed kayak.
- Rent an ATV to best explore this idyllic island.
Are sandy beaches and flamingos on your Caribbean list? Look no further this Dutch island is where you will get all the vitamin C your body is craving right now. Aruba is also known as the ‘Happy Island’, with its warm turquoise water, ATV tours (or explore the island on horseback), small natural pools, afternoon catamaran sail, private cabanas, iguanas and relaxing climate.
NOTE! Aruba is located outside the hurricane belt, making it a relatively safe destination from hurricanes compared to other Caribbean islands.
THINGS TO DO
- Lay on the white sand beach and watch the pink sunset over the horizon.
- Visit the famous Flamingo Island and say hello to… well all flamingos.
- Try one of many water sports at Palm Beach.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring the Caribbean Islands. There are still 18 to go plus over 7000(!) individual islands in the Caribbean… but let’s save those for later.