A beach getaway sounds pretty good this time of year, doesn’t it? While you might be thinking of the usual destinations — Florida, California, or even Hawaii — there’s a trove of unique, beautiful islands in the Caribbean that are well worth your time, particularly if you live on the East Coast. Depending on when and where you go, you can usually get a great value. If you enjoy the convenience of an all-inclusive resort, you’ll have plenty of those options, too. TravelAwaits readers shared their expertise and favorites with us. Check out their favorites below, in no particular order.
There’s something for everyone in Aruba, one of four countries that makes up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Yes, that’s right — head to Aruba, and you’ll probably see several references to Dutch culture. But you won’t find windmills or tulip fields here. Aruba is an all-beach paradise. Think of gorgeous sandy beaches, crystal blue water, and resorts that cater to tourists from around the world. Speaking of accommodations, you can find high-rise resorts, vibey hotels, and a wealth of cozy Vrbo stays. Read more in Sandi Barrett’s article.
Beautiful Curacao is at the intersection of different cultures. Like Aruba, Curacao is a former Dutch colony. But it’s also just 60 miles from Venezuela – making it a diverse melting pot of the Venezuelan, Dominican, Haitian, and other unique cultures that surround it. Curacao also happens to be a lovely vacation spot. Visitors rave about the white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and thriving local culinary scene. Don’t miss the iconic Curaçao liqueur, or even better, the iguana soup! Read more in Meryl Pearlstein’s article.
For a taste of the Carnival spirit, look no further than vibrant Trinidad, where they celebrate year-round. You’ll most likely arrive in the Port of Spain, where you may see musicians and dancers hosting daily events in the public parks. If you want to venture out of the city to something more rustic and quiet, you’ll need a rental car or a local guide to show you the way. Of course, because this is the Caribbean, you’ll find gorgeous beaches. Maracas Bay is a beloved favorite, locally. For more on what to see and do in Trinidad, check out Keshler Thibert’s article.
For something entirely different, but no less beautiful and charming, head to Grenada. This is one of the Caribbean’s least-visited islands in terms of tourists. Like peace and quiet? This may be the spot for you. Grenada is lovingly called the “Spice Isle” and is home to several nutmeg plantations. Grenada also has a long and complicated history; several countries have gone to battle to claim possession of this small island just off Venezuela’s coast. Read more about the past — and how it informs the present — in Keshler Thibert’s article.
If you’re looking for fun, search no further than Barbados. Yes, it’s the home of superstar singer Rihanna. But it’s a lot more than that. Think yacht races, rum distilleries, and of course — gorgeous beaches. Bajans are friendly and welcome tourists with open arms: Both the local Barbadian currency and the U.S. dollar are accepted in most places. They also speak English. Barbados makes a great beach vacation for visitors who want to relax, but also for visitors who want to experience the culture and learn about the island’s past. Barbados has a long history as a British colony before reaching full independence in 1966. Read more in Barbara Barrielle’s article.
6. St. Lucia
Want a trip with more of an ecological focus? Try St. Lucia. Yes, it has the white sandy beaches the Caribbean is famous for, but you’ll also find verdant rainforests, mountains, a volcano, and gorgeous botanical gardens. Sounds pretty great, right? St. Lucia is a perfect destination for travelers who like to get off the beaten path a bit. Hire a local driver to show you some of the island’s natural beauty or join one of several locally organized tours. Don’t miss Sulphur Springs, the world’s only drive-in volcano. Yes, you read that correctly. Read more in Peggy Cleveland’s article.
For something that still feels a little untouched and under the radar, check out Guadeloupe. The island is world-renowned for its beautiful beaches, picturesque scenery (and stunning waterfalls), and even an active volcano: La Soufriere. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb it. Halfway up, you’ll discover a natural spa with hot springs inviting you for a soak. Back on terra firma (dry land), the island is packed with dense rainforest, gorgeous greenery, and tropical birds. Guadeloupe is a French territory, but her identity is completely her own. Read more in Inka Piegsa Quischotte’s article.
8. St. Barthelemy (St. Barts)
What’s in a name? This is a good question on this island, simultaneously known as St. Barthelemy, St. Barts, or St. Barths. No matter what you call it, the consensus is it’s a lovely place to visit. The island is a favorite stop for cruise ships and yachts. Interestingly, the island used to be part of nearby Guadeloupe, until its citizens voted for independence. You can still see a lot of the French influence here. After all, the island’s official language is French — even if it’s spoken with a distinct Caribbean accent. As you may have guessed, the beaches here are stunning. But that’s just the beginning. Discover more in this article.
Perhaps the best way to describe Anguilla is by the numbers: 33 beaches, all between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Need more? Anguilla is small but huge on hospitality. The island has several luxury and mid-range resorts you can call home while you visit. Guests rave about the turquoise blue water and pristine, sandy beaches. If you snorkel, even better — there are gorgeous coral reefs that abound. Shoal Bay East in northeast Anguilla is consistently rated a “Best Beach” throughout the Caribbean. If you don’t love that one, remember that there are 32 others! Learn more in Jeanine Consoli’s article.
10. Virgin Gorda
More than 60 islands make up the British Virgin Islands, but Virgin Gorda might be our favorite. The island is famous for The Baths, a network of boulders that emerge from the water to create a network of grottos and shallows pools — perfect for a day of relaxing and exploring. The island has a rich history, too. Christopher Columbus gave the island its current name; he said its shape reminded him of a reclining woman. Spend time learning about the island’s African and Spanish settlements, or head into town to try some of the island’s delicious local cuisine. Read more in Meagan Drillinger’s article.
11. St. Thomas
What’s a tropical paradise worth? In 1917, St. Thomas in the Caribbean was purchased for $25 million in gold from Denmark. But after visiting, we bet you’ll agree it’s priceless. The island is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, meaning Americans don’t need a passport to visit. It’s a popular day stop for cruise ships, but really, it’s a worthy destination of its own. Travelers love the beautiful beaches, stunning coral reefs, and the local amber museum. Feeling adventurous? Try zip-lining. Read more in Inka Piegsa Quischotte’s article.
12. St. Croix
Would you rather vacation on a beach or in a rainforest? In Saint Croix, you don’t have to choose: the Caribbean island has both. Since Saint Croix is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands (in fact, it’s the biggest one), American travelers conveniently don’t need a passport to visit. It’s all about the vibes here, something the island’s tourism board understands well — their official slogan is “Saint Croix: a vibe like no other.” Whether it’s a welcome sample of local rum at the airport or the friendly locals you encounter all over the island, you are sure to feel welcome here. The beautiful beaches are the main event here, and you’ll find a range of accommodations to suit every budget. Read more in Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris’s article.
13. Turks And Caicos
The Turks and Caicos are a group of 40 low-lying coral islands in the Atlantic Ocean, yet considered a vital member of the Caribbean region. Most travelers usually visit Providenciales and Grand Turk and occasionally explore other, smaller islands from there. The islands are a convenient destination for East Coast travelers, with multiple direct flights from Miami. The beaches are stunning but if you have an adventurous streak, you’ll find plenty to do here. Consider horseback riding: Provo Ponies on Long Bay will even take you riding in the water. Read more in Barbara Barrielle’s article.
14. Grand Cayman
Admittedly, most of us know of Grand Cayman as an offshore tax haven. But it’s time to rediscover this beautiful island for its natural wonders — think lush beaches, verdant landscapes, and ecological treasures. Don’t miss Seven Mile Beach, one of Grand Cayman’s most popular destinations. Many travelers walk the crescent-shaped length of the beach, starting early in the morning in a swimsuit and flip-flops. There are cafés and bars all along the way for a break and maybe a tropical drink. Enjoy Inka’s article.
15. Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is just a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancún, Mexico. But it feels a world away from the rowdy spring breakers you might associate with the area. It’s a small island — just four miles long and less than a half-mile wide. It’s packed with gorgeous beaches, natural parks, and interesting souvenir shops. Playa Norte is the crown jewel, with its white sand beaches and turquoise water. Do a little snorkeling or just relax in the sand with a good book. It’s about a 10-minute walk from the ferry or you can rent a golf cart for a quicker commute. Read more in Cindy Barks’s articles.