The 10 Best Caribbean Islands to Visit (You’ve Never Heard of #7)

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Best Caribbean Islands to Visit

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Inside: From family-friendly Caribbean powerhouses to tiny, undiscovered tropical islands, here are 10 incredible islands to add to your Caribbean Bucket List.

Ahhh, the Caribbean.

Sugar sand beaches, sparkling turquoise waters, and fruity rum cocktails adorned with tiny umbrellas.

What’s not to love?

Whether you’re seeking to escape the winter freeze or just in need of a sun-soaked resort any time of year, the Caribbean is a brilliant destination.

But with so many amazing islands to choose from, the hardest part of Caribbean vacation planning can be choosing the right island for you. Not to worry, I’m here to help!

With more than 30 Caribbean island visits in 10 trips around the globe, I’ve developed quite a few breezy tropical favorites. And, as usual, I’m going to share.

Looking for a 5-star all inclusive on a pristine white sand beach? I’ve got you covered.

Ready to truly “unplug” in a beachfront bungalow and experience the Caribbean as it was decades ago? Yep, you’ll find that here, too.

And you just might discover a Caribbean island or two that you’ve never even heard of (like #7 on my list).

So sit back, relax, and get ready to start planning your dream island vacation.

But first, when choosing a Caribbean island, many travelers are looking for one of three things:

  1. Cheap/affordable islands
  2. Family-friendly islands
  3. Romantic islands for couples

So, let’s briefly cover those first!

Cheapest Caribbean Islands to Visit

There are inexpensive hotels and cheap things to do on most Caribbean islands. However, two of the most affordable Caribbean islands to visit are the Dominican Republic and Cozumel, especially if you’re looking for all-inclusive resorts.

For an affordable escape that avoids the mega-resorts, try the Bay Island of Roatan or Belize’s relaxed Ambergris Caye (more on both of those in a moment).

Best Caribbean Islands for Families

The US Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, and Aruba are considered some of the top family destinations in the Caribbean. But there are oodles of family-friendly resorts located throughout the Caribbean. For example, the popular Beaches Resorts, like the Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa, offer beautiful white sand beaches and plenty of activities for kids of all ages.

Some of the best family-friendly resorts in the Caribbean are St. Croix’s Buccaneer Beach & Golf Resort (I have friends with kids who swear by this one!), the Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas, and Marriott’s Aruba Ocean Club.

Best Caribbean Islands for Couples

As one of the world’s most popular honeymoon destinations, the Caribbean is well-known for its luxurious, romantic resorts. Jamaica and St. Lucia top the charts for their sheer number of couples-only resorts but many other islands also boast romantic retreats perfect for two.

Some of the Caribbean’s best resorts for couples are Saint Lucia’s exclusive Jade Mountain Resort, the Caves Resort in Jamaica, and the private island resort of Palm Island in the Grenadines.

And now, without further ado…

From family-friendly Caribbean powerhouses to tiny, undiscovered (and no frills!) tropical islands, here are 10 incredible islands to add to your Caribbean Bucket List right now.

The Top 10 Caribbean Islands to Visit

1. Aruba

While Aruba is the smallest island of the three ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao), it’s easily the most popular with visitors. It’s also the one island known for the most pristine beaches of all three islands.

Aruba’s picture-perfect beaches, sunny climate, and friendly locals have earned it the apt nickname, “One Happy Island.

Located in the southern Caribbean Sea, Aruba is renowned for its beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, and warm year-round climate.

Flamingo Beach Aruba ABC Islands
Flamingo Beach Aruba

Why You’ll Love It

Aruba is one of the Caribbean’s sunniest islands, it also happens to fall south of the hurricane belt making it an ideal Caribbean destination during hurricane season.

How to Get Here

Of all the dreamy islands on this list, Aruba is probably the easiest to reach. With direct daily flights from many US cities to Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA), you can easily go from city life to beach life in a matter of hours.

Where to Stay

If you want to visit Flamingo Beach (pictured above), there’s just one choice, the Aruba Renaissance Wind Creek Resort. Guests of this resort have exclusive access to the resort’s private island, Renaissance Island, home to Flamingo Beach.

Read More: Know Your Caribbean ABC Islands: Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao

2. Curacao

Aside from a certain electric-blue liqueur, the island of Curacao is probably best known for its colorful, Dutch-inspired capital of Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The gabled buildings that line the sea could just as easily be located in Amsterdam if not for their rainbow of colors.

Yes, Curacao does have lovely beaches and resorts, but the island’s charming capital city is the real draw.

Queen Emma Bridge Willemstad Curacao
Queen Emma Bridge – also known as the “Pontoon Bridge”

Why You’ll Love It

From the Queen Emma Bridge to the historic neighborhood of Punda, Willemstad’s colorful architecture and quaint shops make it one of the Caribbean’s best capital cities to explore.

How to Get Here

American Airlines offers direct daily flights to Curacao’s Hato International Airport (CUR) from Miami and weekly service from Charlotte. Jet Blue and United also have weekly service from the New York area.

Where to Stay

Just a short walk from Willemstad’s main avenue, the Renaissance Wind Creek Curacao is situated next to the 19th-century Rif Fort and surrounded by a multitude of shops and restaurants. This modern hotel in the city is locally famous for its spectacular infinity edge pool.

3. St. Vincent & the Grenadines

Located between St. Lucia and Grenada in the southern Caribbean Sea, the multi-island nation of St. Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG) is comprised of 32 islands and cays spanning 45 miles. Of those 32 islands, only 8 are populated.

The largest of the islands is St. Vincent. Home to the majority of SVG’s population of 110,000, it’s also the home base for the island’s booming yacht charter industry.

Popular destinations for sailors include the islands of Bequia, Union, Cannouan, the Tobago Cays, and Mayreau.

Sailing St Vincent Grenadines
The Tobago Cays, St Vincent and the Grenadines

Why You’ll Love It

Many holiday seekers flock to the US and British Virgin Islands for their turquoise waters and closely grouped abundance of picture-perfect islands. But the Grenadines offer all the same beauty at a more affordable price (and with fewer tourists!).

Tip: It’s also a pretty fabulous place to learn how to sail!

How to Get Here

Fly directly into St. Vincent’s gleaming new Argyle International Airport (SVD) from New York or Miami. Or, book one of the regular connections to Saint Vincent from Saint Lucia and Barbados.

Where to Stay

The Grenadines are also well-known for a handful of exclusive private island resorts on Mustique, Petit St. Vincent, and the luxe Palm Island Resort. In Kingstown, try the lovely Blue Lagoon Resort.

Read More: A Learn to Sail Caribbean Vacation: Rookie to ASA Sailor in 7 Days

4. Jost Van Dyke, B.V.I

As part of the Lesser Antilles, the Virgin Islands form the border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Both the UK and the US lay claim to these picture-perfect Caribbean islands.

To the northeast of the island group; Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and Jost Van Dyke are the main islands comprising the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

But it’s Jost Van Dyke that gets my vote for a Caribbean paradise.

The sparkling shores of White Bay are home to the infamous Soggy Dollar Bar. There’s no dock on this pristine strip of white sand so be prepared to leap into the turquoise sea and swim for shore before handing over your drenched bills for a signature “painkiller” cocktail.

The Painkiller is a top-secret tropical concoction of premium dark Rum, Cream of Coconut, pineapple, and orange juice topped with freshly grated Grenadian nutmeg. Conveniently, this delightful adult beverage pairs perfectly with a hammock and the gentle swaying of palm trees.

Soggy Dollar Bar Jost Van Dyke BVI
Soggy Dollar Bar – White Bay, Jost Van Dyke BVI

Why You’ll Love It

Toes in the sand. Painkiller in your hand. If this island doesn’t make you feel like you’re living in a Jimmy Buffet song, no island will.

How to Get Here

There’s no airport on the island so the only way to get to Jost Van Dyke is by ferry, water taxi, or your own boat. New Horizon Ferry Service offers daily ferry service from Road Town, Tortola. You can also catch a ferry a few times a week from St. Thomas or St. John with Inter Island Ferry Service.

Or…visit the fun way and book a worry-free day trip like the VBI Beach Bar Tour (Foxy’s, Soggy Dollar Bar, Willy-T) from St. Thomas.

Where to Stay

The newest lodging option on the island is The Ocean View Villas, a luxury boutique resort with spacious suites and gorgeous views of White Bay.

5. St. John, U.S.V.I.

In the southwestern part of the Virgin Islands, the islands of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix anchor the US territory (USVI).  

At 9 miles long and 3 miles wide St. John is the smallest of the three United States Virgin Islands.

A repeat honoree on Condé Nast Traveler’s list of the “10 Best Beaches in the World“, Trunk Bay is St. John’s most well-known stretch of real estate.

Trunk Bay USVI
Trunk Bay, St. John – Virgin Islands National Park

Why You’ll Love It

A visit to the island of St. John reveals the Caribbean as nature intended it. Two-thirds of St. John is made up of the Virgin Islands National Park which makes it home to untouched forests and spectacular pristine beaches like Trunk Bay.

How to Get Here

You won’t find an airport or cruise ship dock on St. John, which helps to add to the island’s tranquil vibe. But luckily the island is easily accessible from larger St. Thomas via an hourly ferry.

Where to Stay

Most of this unspoiled island is protected as a National Park and the limited development keeps accommodation at a premium. For resort amenities, the Westin St. John Resort Villas is the best bet.

Tip: If you’re staying at the Westin, do not miss the super fun St. John Taco Bar and Snorkeling Cruise that leaves from the resort every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday (and includes lunch at a floating taco bar!).

6. Ambergris Caye, Belize

Located 35 miles east of Belize City, Ambergris Caye is Belize’s largest island and most popular tourism destination.

The island is just 25 miles long and one mile wide at its widest point. San Pedro, on the south end, is the main town and home to the airstrip and the main concentration of shops and restaurants.

Ambergris Caye is known as one of the top diving spots in the world. There are numerous fishing, diving, and snorkeling trips departing daily to many of the outer islands. 

Or, there are the ubiquitous hammocks dotting the shoreline if you’d rather do nothing at all.

On the extended north end of the island, you’ll find a string of beachfront homes and a large concentration of ex-pats. In fact, Ambergris Caye is home to Belize’s largest concentration of ex-pats – many of those from the US. So, when it comes to moving to the Caribbean, many Americans have obviously decided Belize is the best Caribbean island to live.

San Pedro Belize Ambergris Caye
Ambergris Caye, Belize

Why You’ll Love It

The island’s laid-back atmosphere and relaxed lifestyle are its biggest draw. It’s not uncommon for someone to visit and never want to leave (which explains the large number of US ex-pats!). No one here is on a schedule. And the only traffic jams involve the islands’ numerous golf carts (be sure to rent one at least for a day). 

How to Get Here

To get to Ambergris Caye, you first need a flight to Belize City. From there, it’s a quick puddle jumper flight on domestic carriers Tropic Air or Maya Island Air.

Where to Stay

For romance, it’s tough to beat the luxury cabanas at the adults-only PUR Boutique Cabanas. For a beachfront casita with castaway vibes, try Caye Casa. Or, for resort amenities, try the island’s newest resort, the Margaritaville Beach Resort.

Read More: How to Become a Blissful Beach Bum? Hint: Head to Ambergris Caye, Belize

7. Corn Islands, Nicaragua

In the 17th century, these forgotten little Caribbean islands just 50 miles off the coast of Nicaragua were a haven for pirates and buccaneers.

Today, the local population on Big and Little Corn Islands is a mix of the descendants of British prospectors and freed slaves who primarily make their living selling lobster and fish from the prolific waters just offshore.

To save energy, the island’s power is turned off from 5:00am – 2:00pm each day. During this time, you’ll have no choice but to plant yourself in a hammock with a good book.

Since there are no cars on Little Corn Island, there are, of course, no roads. Navigation basically consists of a system of trails around the island.  There’s not much to see or do on Little Corn Island but isn’t that the point?

To disconnect, relax, and enjoy the beautiful Caribbean surroundings.

Little Corn Island Nicaragua
The untouched beaches of Little Corn Island

Why You’ll Love It

No tourists, questionable power, limited wifi, and beachfront bungalows. If you’re looking for an off-the-grid Caribbean escape, Little Corn Island is your absolute paradise.

How to Get Here

Big Corn is easy to reach by air from Nicaragua’s Managua Airport. However, to get to Little Corn you’ll have to work a little harder (don’t worry, it’s worth it!). Travel from Big Corn to Little Corn involves a 30-minute open-air panga ride where you may or may not get soaked. It’s all part of the fun.

Where to Stay

The best choice on Little Corn Island is Little Corn Beach & Bungalow (LCBB). On Big Corn Island, book a room at the lovely Hotel Casa Canada or La Princesa de La Isla.

Read More: The Best Caribbean Islands You’ve Never Heard Of: Nicaragua’s Corn Islands

8. San Blas Islands, Panama

Run by the indigenous Kuna, the Archipelago de San Blas is part of the Comarca de Kuna Yala. The autonomous region is a narrow, 140-mile stretch of Caribbean coastline with almost 400 tiny palm-lined islands just offshore. 

An island for each day of the year, they like to say.

It is believed that the Kuna have lived in this part of Eastern Panama for more than two centuries. Today, they number around 70,000.

Of those, about 30,000 live on the islands, and another 8,000 live along the mountainous coast. The remainder reside outside the community (mostly in Panama City).

Best Caribbean Islands to Visit
Kuanidup Island, San Blas Islands

Why You’ll Love It

This magnificent, rarely visited island chain is one picturesque, deserted island after another. But my favorite part of visiting these remote Caribbean islands was meeting the local Kuna families. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with a truly remote culture.

How to Get Here

I’ll be honest, it’s not easy. But these stunning islands are worth the effort. It was once only possible to visit San Blas by flying. But in 2009, a road to the coast was completed making land crossings possible through the mountains.

Drive – It’s a 3-hour drive from Panama City. However, the road is still only navigable with a 4WD vehicle, and it’s not exactly the most pleasant ride. But if you’re up for a long day, it is possible to visit the islands via this Day Tour to the San Blas Islands Visiting 4 Islands

Fly – From Albrook, book a charter flight with Helicopteros Personales. Be sure to pack light – there are significant luggage limitations – but the flight itself is quick and easy.

Where to Stay

By far, the best way to see the San Blas Islands is to charter a sailboat. Panama Travel Unlimited is a great resource for finding charter options. Here’s just one terrific Sailboat Charter in San Blas (Sailing in San Blas – Wichitupo Grande Panama) option.

But there are a handful of on-island lodging options. For pure natural beauty, you can’t beat Cabanas Kuanidup (pictured above). Expect the accommodations to be, ah, “rustic.” The island has shared bathrooms and no power. And the wooden huts feature nothing but humble beds and a sand floor.

But it does have swaying palms, comfy hammocks, and cold beers (thank you, generator).

Read More: Kokomo, Kuanidup & the Kuna Yala: The San Blas Islands, Panama

9. Saint Lucia

Full disclosure, I didn’t love Saint Lucia the first time I visited. But, to be fair, it was just a cruise ship stop and I didn’t get to see much of the island. Nearly a decade later, I went back and stayed a few days.

This time I found a lot to love about this lush Caribbean island dominated by its majestic pitons.

Saint Lucia Pitons
Saint Lucia Pitons

Why You’ll Love It

Home to some of the Caribbean’s best luxury resorts, St. Lucia is ground zero for honeymooners. But don’t just seclude yourself in a 5-star hotel, this Land and Sea Tour of Saint Lucia is a great way to get out and explore the island.

How to Get Here

Easy to reach with direct flights from many US cities including Miami, Atlanta, New York, and more.

Where to Stay

St Lucia is famous for its uber-luxe resorts like Sugar BeachJade MountainSandals Halcyon and Ladera Resort.

Read More: Why I’m Glad I Gave Saint Lucia a Second Chance

10. Roatan, Honduras

Arrayed in an arc roughly 30 miles off the Caribbean coast of Honduras, the Bay Islands of Roatán, Utila, and Guanaja are known for spectacular diving, white powdery sand, and turquoise waters.

The islands have a colorful history of pirate raids and remained in British hands for more than 200 years before being ceded to Honduras in 1859.

Surrounding these picture-perfect islands is a magnificent reef second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. For experienced divers the islands’ draw is obvious, but for non-divers like me, Roatan Honduras is also one of the world’s least expensive places to get certified.

Or to just launch yourself into a hammock to enjoy the swaying palms and salty air.

Anthony's Key Resort Roatan
Anthony’s Key Resort, Roatan

Why You’ll Love It

If you’ve always wanted to get up close and personal with dolphins, this is your chance. Book the incredible Dolphin Trainer for a Day program at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS). This once-in-a-lifetime dolphin experience was the highlight of my visit to the island.

How to Get Here

Easy to reach with direct flights from many US cities including Miami, Atlanta, New York, and more.

Where to Stay

For incredible dive trips and the Dolphin Trainer for a Day program, it’s Anthony’s Key Resort, hands down. This all-inclusive retreat on its own private key, known simply as AKR, has been showcasing Roatán’s easily accessible underwater world to divers for more than 40 years. 

Tip: It’s also one of the least expensive places in the world to stay in an overwater bungalow.

Read More: Roatan, Honduras: Dolphins, Diving & Underwater Dating Dilemmas

So there you have it, my top 10 picks for the best Caribbean islands to visit!

From the sugar-white sands of the Virgin Islands and turquoise waters of the Grenadines to the carefree charm of Ambergris Caye and the castaway paradise of the San Blas Islands, you’ll find something to love in the Caribbean.

With so many incredible islands to choose from, no matter how you define paradise, there’s an island in the Caribbean that’s perfect for you.

Of course, if you truly can’t decide, there are plenty of Caribbean cruises that will take you to several of the above on a single trip.

Happy island hopping!