The Caribbean is possibly one of the most diverse destinations in the world, from the shores of Jamaica to the volcanoes of St Kitts, each island presents its own microcosm of wildlife and wonder. Be it adventurous or amorous, foodie or adrenalin-fuelled, here are our recommended islands for every holiday mood.
For the diving
Comprising three islands (Grand Turk, Salt Cay and Providenciales), the Turks & Caicos make up a diverse diving destination. On Providenciales, locally named Provo, there is the renowned Northwest Point, home to parrotfish, angelfish, clown wrasse and even Caribbean reef sharks. For those travelling in the early spring months, Grand Turk and Salt Cay see hundreds of migrating North Atlantic humpback whales passing in close range.
The ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonair and Curacoa) also have some great opportunities to enjoy diving. This area of the Caribbean is outside of Hurricane Alley and so have missed any destruction by hurricanes in the past. This has allowed Bonaire to remain one of the most popular destinations for diving.
For the beaches
A well-known island getaway, the Cayman Islands is home to the popular Seven-Mile beach, featuring clear waters and coral sands. Located on the western shore, the whole stretch measures 5.5-miles long (not as the name suggests) and is public property, meaning anyone can stroll along the soft white sands and soak up the sunshine.
Alternatively, visit the island of Aruba where the miles of white-sand beaches and windswept vistas are perfect for lounging and sunbathing. Favourites include Eagle Beach, Palm Beach and Arashi Beach.
For the adventurers
What Dominica lacks in white powdery beaches, it more than makes up for with natural landscapes. Be welcomed by reefs and rainforests, hot springs and hiking trails. This island’s unspoilt landscapes are pierced with peaks and valleys, accented by waterfalls and swaddled in adventurous discovery. Dominica is a nature-lover’s dream and home to the Caribbean’s first long-distance hiking trail. It is also the only place in Eastern Caribbean that is still home to a sizeable population of indigenous people, the Kalinago.
St. Lucia is another island of adventure, being the most mountainous in the region and boasting rainforests, waterfall trails, botanical gardens, mud baths and sulphur springs in the capital city of Soufrière.
For the food
The Dominican Republic is a foodie’s favourite, blending Spanish, African and Taino elements and including the staple rice and beans. Breakfasts include huevos revueltos (scrambled eggs), mangú (mashed plantains with onion) and queso frito (deep-fried cheese), washed down with orange juice. Lunches are equally as hearty, but dinners are always the main meal of the day and a large family affair. For the best Dominican dishes, seafood is prepared in one of five ways and is exquisitely fresh, including sea bass, red snapper, lobster, conch, shrimp, octopus and crab.
Set sail for Curaçao, where a bold yet flavourful blend of Dutch and Indonesian cuisine is combined to make meals such as ayaka (meat tamales in banana leaves), kabritu (stewed goat) and sult (pickled pigs ears and feet).
With 700 islands within the Bahamas, it is no wonder this archipelago is the top choice for those looking to relax and sit-back in far-flung hideaways and mega-resorts. If big hotel complexes aren’t for you, this region is also home to properties such as The Cove, which hosts a mere 60 rooms on a 40-acre private property – perfect for soothing your senses under the sunshine.
Fringed by coconut palms and sea-grape trees, swaying to the melodies of sizzling barbecues and live reggae tunes, Anguilla is another island made for relaxing. The open-sided bars and glass-bottomed kayaking mean you can feel ultra-chilled even while exploring the island.
For the wildlife
Each island is a habitat for a variety of animals. Snorkel with turtles in Barbados; feed wild stingrays in Grand Cayman; or listen to macaws in jungle-filled Guyana, on the very fringes of the Caribbean.
Trinidad and Tobago play host to a thriving animal kingdom, with approximately 99 species of mammals and 470 species of birds. While following nature trails throughout the island you may catch a glimpse of howler monkeys, armadillos, bats, caiman, scorpions and a giant centipede which is thought to be the world’s biggest. The marine life is equally as varied, with manta rays making an annual visit to the shores, and morays, nurse sharks, southern stingrays and French angelfish frequenting the waters.
Big or little, near or far, remote or resort-packed, the right Caribbean island can tick all your boxes. With pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters being a staple for most islands, choose your destination based on the food, the lifestyle and your top Caribbean must-dos.