While the blue sea separates the islands in the Caribbean, their personalities make them each individualized for their own reasons. Whether you’re searching for the best place to relax, sail, or conquer new adventures, the islands of the Caribbean have a distinctive allure of calming serenity. Here’s a look at the 10 best and what you can expect to find there.
When you’re in search of relaxation on the beach, choose Anguilla, where on a clear day you can see St. Bart’s in the distance. This relatively undeveloped island features Rendezvous Bay with a view of St. Martin to the south. Try the roadside barbecue shacks for affordable meals. By night, visit the entertainment hub in Sandy Ground filled with beach bars and casual restaurants. At sunset, turn to Crocus Hill, the highest point on Anguilla at 213 feet above sea level that crowns the beautiful turquoise bay and offers spectacular sunset views as well as a bit of history.
Just an hour flight from Miami, the islands of the Bahama stretch 500 miles across the Caribbean. The 700 islands that make up the archipelago each have their own character to offer the most variety in the Caribbean. You can sample local dishes such as conch fritters and stone crab claws. Get In the water by diving off Andros, swimming off the pink beaches of Harbour Island or water parking it on Paradise Island. For the wilder side of the Bahamas, partake in the Junkanoo parades in Nassau on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
Sailing through the 30 tiny isles that make up the Grenadines gives you a sample of the many varieties of cultures you can find here. Most of the islands are uninhabited, but along the way you can see Mustique, where the rich and famous unwind in multimillion dollar villas, the 1,200-acre Raffles resort in Canouan, the fishing island of Bequia and the quaint and remote Mayreau. Most of the islands are a mere hour apart by boat.
With its tiny population of 11,000 and tightly controlled development, Nevis features a flat coast that climbs to the 3,200-foot tip of Mount Nevis. On the island you’ll find no high-rise hotels, let alone traffic lights. While Pinney’s Beach is the most well-known, make like a local and head to Paradise Beach on the northern edge for seclusion in the palm-lined sand.
Wildlife galore, 14 hiking trails, pristine reefs and sumptuous rain forests make Saba an adventurer’s dream. Saba, the tiny Dutch-owned Island sits on a dormant volcano with only one road crossing over it. The real adventure is found underwater at Saba Marine Park, where 28 dive sites give you views of octopus and hawksbill turtles. Only a 12-minute flight from St. Martin, it’s easy to tack on a day trip to this five-square-mile island.
When you have money to splurge and want to rub elbows with the stars, head to St. Bart’s, an easy 15-minute flight from St. Martin. This eight-square-mile island is pricey with hotel rooms at nearly $1,000 a night and upscale restaurants. While you’re there, relax in the soft sands of Anse des Flamands or discover your own beach when you climb Columbier for the 30-minute walk down to the secluded Anse du Grand Columbier, only accessible by hike or boat.
Laurance Rockefeller donated the first 5,000 acres of the Virgin Islands National Park that made up two-thirds of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands to protect it from development. The island is the least populated of the U.S. Virgin Islands and a 20- to 45-minute ferry ride east from St. Thomas. Nature lovers will enjoy the hike from Caneel Bay or Cruz Bay to Honeymoon Beach to discover this serene paradise. First-timers should visit Trunk Bay with its snorkeling trail managed by the National Park Service. Underwater plaques identify the coral and fish residing there.
This protected parkland in the British Virgin Islands requires a ferry or plane ride from St. Thomas or Tortola. But once on this easternmost of the British Virgin Islands you’ll find a rugged country with a laid-back feel. Visit The Baths, the most famous beach on the island with granite boulders that appear tossed about and grottoes in mysterious coves.
This former U.S. Naval Base in Puerto Rico may very well be the next St. Barth’s. For now, enjoy the tranquility afforded by the rustic nature of Vieques Island. To socialize, head to Navio, the island’s best beach, and for quiet, Garcia Beach offers palm trees and an island escape just a short swim away. Be sure to view the bioluminescent bay by night and don't miss the wild horses.