When choosing your next vacation, I’m sure a few things sound as appealing as a wonderful Caribbean holiday. Imagine cocktails, adventure, soft, white sandy beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and palm-fringed beaches.
But choosing can be difficult. The whole Caribbean area has more than 7,000 islands, keys, and islets, so I don’t know about you, but choosing what the best Caribbean islands are sounds like a feat too great for man.
Narrowing down your options isn’t easy, and that’s where I come in. This is a comprehensive guide to the best islands in the Caribbean, and I promise, there’s an island for everyone here.
My Bottom Line Up Front: The Best Island in the Caribbean
Calling the best Caribbean island winner is no easy feat, with thousands of islands to choose from. After much consideration, there can only be one: St. Lucia.
St. Lucia’s beauty is epic. There are loads of activities for everyone – whether you visit while on your honeymoon or with your family. You won’t be bored.
My Selection Criteria for the Best Caribbean Islands
When I decided to look into the best islands in the Caribbean region, I figured a checklist or selection criteria had always worked well for me, so why not trust this process again?
To choose the best islands in this part of the world, I considered:
- You, my dear reader. Every person is different – some want a chilled vacation where they laze and tan about on the beach, while others are into shopping, adventure, or cultural experience. My selection of the best Caribbean islands caters to all kinds of people.
- How to get there. There are multiple flights from various U.S. cities to these islands, and where there are layovers and needing to take a ferry or boat, it’s more than worth it.
- Where to sleep. Not everyone has the budget to stay in exclusive all-inclusive resorts, so I wanted to ensure there’s an accommodation option for every traveler – wealthy or on a budget.
- What to do. The islands I chose offer a variety of activities to keep you and your family engaged – all vacation long.
- The X factor. I also considered some of the lesser-known and smaller Caribbean islands for my guide. These islands offer something extra special in the uniqueness factor, ensuring they are a must-visit.
12 Best Caribbean Islands
Looking for the best island(s) to enjoy your vacation or trip? Here are the 12 best Caribbean islands for you!
Best for: Those who love the outdoors
When it comes to first impressions, St. Lucia easily wins. With the duo Piton Mountains rising out of the sea, the beautiful beaches, and tropical rainforests, it’s a sight to behold.
St. Lucia is ideal for honeymooners, couples, or those traveling with kids. It has something for everyone to enjoy. You can just chill at the beach, book a tour, partake in numerous water sports, hike through lush rainforests, or sample the local culture and cuisine.
Where to Go in St. Lucia
- Anse Chastanet beach
- Reduit Beach
- Pigeon Island National Park
- Marigot Bay
- Rodney Bay
What to Do in St. Lucia
- Hike up Gros Piton or Petit Piton (or #both)
- Walk the Tet Paul Nature Trail
- Join the Gros Islet Beach Party every Friday night
- Drive into a volcano
- Take a mud bath in the sulfur spring pools
- Stroll through the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens
- Book an ATV tour, a rum tour, or a tour of a sugar mill plantation
- Splash for fun at the Splash Island Water Park
Consider These St. Lucian Accommodation Options
- Sandals Regency La Toc
- Sandals Grande St. Lucian
- Sandals Halcyon Beach
- Calabash Cove
- Stonefield Villas Resort
- Sugar Beach
- Royalton St. Lucia Resort and Spa
The Cayman Islands
Best for: A chilled or adventure-filled experience
The Cayman Islands is home to 66,000 friendly locals. They live on any of the three islands that form the Caymans:
- Grand Cayman – an elegant island
- Little Cayman – a tranquil island
- Cayman Brac – an island ideal for the adventurous spirits
There’s something for everyone in the Cayman Islands.
It may feel like you never left the U.S. when you vacay on these 102 square miles of islands; you get a South Florida vibe in the Cayman Islands. But it’s more chilled with less traffic.
Where to Go in the Cayman Islands
- Georgetown, the capital
- Starfish Point Beach
- Black Pearl Skate and Surf Park
- Locked Inn Cayman
- Cayman Craft Market
- Oasis Aqua park
What to Do in the Cayman Islands
- Visit the colonial forts like St James Castle
- Explore the museums that chronicle Carib piracy and British maritime history
- Be amazed at the stingrays, multi-colored iguanas, starfish, and endangered sea turtles
- Get your tan on at sun-kissed beaches like Seven Mile
- Attend al fresco parties at the Sunset House or cocktail parties at Billy Bones
- Go scuba diving, deep diving in Cayman Trench, or snorkeling
Consider These Cayman Islands Accommodation Options
- The Residences at the Ritz Carlton
- Treasure Cove Guest House
- Holiday Inn Resort, Grand Cayman
The Dominican Republic
Best for: Souls that love nature
If you know a little about the Dominican Republic (not to be confused with Dominica, which is also located in the Caribbean), you’ll know it’s an international golfers hub. However, this Caribbean island offers much more than getting your “tee” on.
The Dominican Republic shares its island with Haiti, so you may want to visit both if you have the time and resources. Choose to get your share of vitamin sea by visiting the beautiful beaches, or check out the colonial towns, mountains, rainforests, mangrove lagoons, and waterfalls.
Where to Go in the Dominican Republic
- La Romana for the best beaches and Bayahibe, an off-the-grid fishing village
- Santo Domingo, the capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Punta Cana
- Juan Dolio
- Bavaro Beach and Macao Beach
- The 3 Eyes National Park (Los Tres Ojos)
- 27 Charcos (or waterfalls)
What to Do in the Dominican Republic
- Golf (#ofcourse)
- Try out some water activities – snorkeling, diving, fishing, kayaking, or scuba diving
- Horseback riding
- Enjoy the vibrant nightlife in the capital
- Immerse yourself in the medieval era at Altos de Chavon
- See the stunning waterfalls (#ElLimon)
Consider These Dominican Republic Accommodation Options
- Boca Chica All-Inclusive Beach Resort
- El Malecon
- Calle El Conde (Old Quarter)
- Hotel Riazor
Best for: Reggae fans
Jamaica is one of the most famous Caribbean islands, and it’s for a good reason too. It’s #home to jerk chicken, reggae, and Bob Morley. Jamaica also offers soft, sandy beaches with pristine waters, delicious food at the local markets (soursop, ackee, and fried breadfruit), all-inclusive resorts, and action-packed activities.
Did you know? Rap music was initially created in Jamaica and became popular in the USA.
Where to Go in Jamaica
- Kingston, the capital
- James Bond Beach
- Seven Mile Beach
- Frenchman’s Cove
- Bob Marley Museum
- Blue Hole
What to Do in Jamaica
- Hike through the Blue Mountains (where some of the best coffee in the world is sourced)
- Be in awe of the Negril Cliffs
- Explore the Ocho Rios jungle
- See the birthplace of the legendary Bob Marley at Nine Mile
- Soak up the rum in the Kingston bars while you enjoy the Rasta off-beat tunes
- Climb Dunn’s River Falls
- Enjoy an ATV ride along the beach
Consider These Jamaican Accommodation Options
- Sandals Montego Bay
- Sandals Ochi
- Sandals Royal Plantation
- Sandals Royal Caribbean
- Sandals South Coast
- Sandals Negril
- Beaches Negril
- Beaches Ocho Rios
- The Half Moon
- Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay
Turks and Caicos
Best for: Those who are into water sports and stunning beaches
The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory consisting of 40-low-lying coral islands on an archipelago. Only eight of these islands and islets are inhabited.
The Provinciales, the third largest island, is busy with restaurants and cocktail bars, so if peace and quiet is more your scene, escape to the other islands in the archipelago.
Where to Go in Turks and Caicos
- Cockburn Town, the capital
- Grace Bay Beach – is considered to be the best in the world for its exceptional white sand and turquoise waters
- Grand Turk for diving
- Chalk Sound National Park
What to Do in Turks and Caicos
- Try deep-fried conch clams
- Go on a glass-bottom boat tour
- Take a boat cruise to Little Water Cay (an iguana sanctuary), Water Cay (secluded beach), or Fort George Cay (sandbars and sunken cannons)
- Hike through the thick mangrove forests (Bird Rock Trail is a must)
- Enjoy water sport activities like stand-up paddleboarding, windsurfing, deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving with more than 200 dive sites to choose from
- Horse riding at Long Bay
- Free-dive at the Wall (an underwater plateau)
Consider These Turks and Caicos Accommodation Options
- Beaches Turks and Caicos
- Grace Bay Club
- The Palms Turks and Caicos
- Blue Haven Resort
- Villa del Mar
Best for: The ultimate chic vacation vibe
Anguilla is a small Caribbean island with more than 30 picturesque beaches you can enjoy. Plus, the water is warm all year. (#coulditgetanybetter?)
You’ll get all the local Caribbean authenticity you need on Anguilla; there are no high-rise hotels, casinos, or cruise ships (#embargo). So you have access to all the low-key beachfront villas, coral-filled waters, and pretty sandy beaches.
Where to Go in Anguilla
- Heritage Museum
- Prickly Pear Cays
- Shoal Bay East Beach
- Meads Bay
- Rendezvous Bay
- Scilly Cay
What to Do in Anguilla
- Get a drink and enjoy the music at Dune Preserve, a funky-mellow bar owned by local celebrity and artist Bankie Banx
- Enjoy a meal at Veya, a treehouse-style restaurant
- Snorkel at Little Bay
- Try various water sports like wakeboarding, sailing, and stand-up paddleboarding
- Sample the local BBQ in the Valley
- Have a spa day at Aurora Anguilla, Malliouhana, or Zemi Beach House
Consider These Anguillan Accommodation Options
- Belmond Cap Juluca
- Zemi Beach House, LXR Hotels and Resorts
- Frangipani Beach Resort
Best for: Those looking to experience the old-world charm
Saba (pronounced “say-bah”) is a tiny island only five square miles away. The island is a special Netherland municipality. With four main villages (called The Bottom, Windwardshide, Zion’s Hill or Hell’s Gate, and St. Johns, you’ll immerse yourself in old Caribbean charm.
Saba is “The Unspoiled Queen:” it has fewer than 2,000 residents and no traffic lights, cruise ships, casinos, fast-food joints, or high-rise hotels.
You can reach the quaint Caribbean island via a 12-minute flight from St. Martin or a 90-minute ferry ride.
Where to Go in Saba
- Sea Saba’s Dive Shop
- Five Square Gallery (for Saba lace)
- Jobean’s Glass Art Studio
- Mount Scenery
- Tide pools at Flat Point
- Saba National Marine Park
What to Do in Saba
- Climb the steps of the Ladder at Well’s Bay
- Explore Mt. Scenery Trail and make your way to the highest point on Saba
- See the neighboring islands of Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Eustatius from St. John’s
- Feel like you’ve time traveled and visit Crispeen Track
- Visit a sulfur mine
- Check out Sandy Cruise Trail and take in the views of the Saban coastline and Diamond Rock
Consider These Saban Accommodation Options
- Queen’s Garden Resort & Spa
- Juliana’s Hotel
- The Cottage Club
Best for: Spices, chocolate, and waterfalls
Grenada is also called Spice Island. I can imagine the salty ocean air mixed with the wafts of nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and other spices.
If you haven’t heard about this Caribbean island, that’s okay. It is closer to Venezuela and not a tourist hotspot, which makes this island so utterly charming. You wouldn’t have to worry about overcrowded dive spots, beaches, or nutmeg plantations.
Grenada has one main island and six smaller ones. Besides being known for its spices, Grenada is famous for its beaches, waterfalls, rainforests, chocolate, and colonial cities.
Where to Go in Grenada
- Sandals Grenada
- St. George
- Grand Anse Beach
- Morne Rouge Beach
- Levera Beach
- Seven Sisters Waterfall
What to Do in Grenada
- Take a tour of one of the spice plantations (and buy some spices for home use)
- Explore the Underwater Sculpture Park
- Get to the tallest point in Grenada by climbing Mt. Saint Catherine
- Hike through the Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve
- Tube down Balthazar River
- Shop at Market Square
- Laze around on black and white sandy beaches
Consider These Grenada Accommodation Options
- Sandals Grenada
- Mount Cinnamon Resort
- Spice Island Beach Resort
- Royalton Grenada Resort and Spa
Best for: Ecotourists and nature lovers
Montserrat, called the Emerald Isle, may sound like a French Caribbean island, but it’s British. It’s one of the least visited Caribbean islands, with around 8,000 visitors annually. In 1995, a volcanic eruption destroyed a lot of the island, which is still recovering. The severely affected areas aren’t open to tourists and form part of an exclusion zone.
But that isn’t to say 10-mile-long Montserrat shouldn’t be one of the best Caribbean islands. The island sees mostly day visitors, but you can stay for longer too.
Get to Montserrat via ferry or plane from Antigua.
Where to Go in Montserrat
- Rendezvous Bay
- Montserrat Soufrière Hills Volcano Observatory
- Plymouth, the former capital (the Caribbean’s Pompeii)
- Lime Kiln Bay
- Marguerita Bay
- Foxes Bay
- Bunkum Bay
What to Do in Montserrat
- Indulge in a frothy Guinness at one of the pubs
- Marvel at the volcano from Jack Boy Hill, or check out Garibaldi and views of Plymouth, Old Towne, and Salem
- Enjoy a drink at the Runaway Ghaut
- Hike any one (or all!) of the nine marked trails, like Dry Waterfall Trial (check out the Montserrat Petroglyphs), Oriole Walkway Trail, and Blackwood Allen Trail, and immerse yourself in the fauna, flora, and animal-life
- Beachcomb at Woodlands Bay and spot the washed-out driftwood
Consider These Montserrat Accommodation Options
- Tropical Mansion Suites
- Gingerbread Hill
- Grand View Bed & Breakfast
Best for: A quiet getaway
Dominica is like the Garden of Eden for the Caribbean because it’s so lush with rainforests, peaks and valleys, rivers (more than one for every day of the year), volcanic beaches, hot springs, and waterfalls. The undeveloped landscape will appeal to you if you love nature and are into green tourism.
Where to Go in Dominica
- Morne Trois Pitons National Park
- Mero Beach
- Scotts Head
- Batibou Beach
- Soufrière Bay Beach
What to Do in Dominica
- Take in the Boiling Lake and go for a dip in one of the nearby waterfall pools
- Go birdwatching at Caroni Bird Sanctuary or the Syndicate Parrot Reserve
- Relax on the black sandy beaches
- Swim in the Emerald Pool
- Check out Victoria Falls
- Enjoy the sea turtles as they nest or hatch
Consider These Dominican Accommodation Options
- Jungle Bay
- Fort Young Hotel
- Beau Rive
Best for: Tourists and adventurers
Like some other islands on this list, you may not have known about Guadeloupe’s existence. But you will surely now remember it.
The Guadeloupe island is shaped like a butterfly, with wings spread over the two main islands (the largest ones) – Grande Terre and Basse Terre. Between the islands, you’ll find a few man-made bridges.
Grande Terre is the more touristy of the two islands, while Basse Terre is the wilder one.
Where to Go in Guadeloupe
- Pointe-à-Pitre, the largest city
- Grand Anse Beach
- Anse des Cayes
- Plage de la Caravelle
- Pointe des Châteaux (Castle Point)
- Damoiseau (rum) Distillery
What to Do in Guadeloupe
- Explore the nightlife of Gosier
- Be brave and check out Morne à l’eau’s haunting graveyards
- Relax and get some vitamin sea at the Caravelle beaches
- Hike to the tallest point in the Lesser Antilles – La Grande Soufrière (the Tall Lady; an active volcano)
- Find your inner Indiana Jones by sightseeing the ancient Arawak archaeological sites
- Dive at one of the many spots on Basse Terre
Consider These Guadeloupe Accommodation Options
- Marco Polo Resort
- Hotel Bakoua Les Trois Ilets
- Le Jardin Malanga
- La Creole Beach Hotel & Spa
Best for: Sampling Curaçao
I’d never have guessed that Curaçao is part of the Netherlands; it’s such a Spanish-sounding name! The Caribbean island is famous for Curaçao since it’s the birthplace of this delicious orange-flavored liqueur. The Lahara orange peels are used to make the liqueur, and it’s indigenous to the island.
Curaçao is blessed with great weather all year round: perfect temperatures, sunny days, and cool trade winds.
Where to Go in Curaçao
- Chobolobo Distillery (where Curaçao is made)
- Willemstad, the capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Shete Boka National Park
- Fort Amsterdam
- Jan Thiel
- Christoffel National Park
- Playa Lagun
What to Do in Curaçao
- Explore the Hato Caves
- Take in the multi-colored Dutch mansions in the capital
- Fawn over the diverse fauna, flora, and more at the national park – the Lady of the Night orchid, cottontail rabbits, deer, hummingbirds, divi-divi trees, and the massive stone peak
- Cross the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge that links Otrobanda and Punda, the two halves of the capital
- Go on a SCUBA excursion
Consider These Curaçao Accommodation Options
- Sandals Curacao
- Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort
- LionsDive Beach Resort Curaçao
- Curaçao Avila Beach Hotel
Caribbean Island FAQs
Question: What is the nicest of the Caribbean islands?
Answer: There are many nice Caribbean islands, but the nicest are St. Lucia, Anguilla, Aruba, Antigua, the Cayman Islands, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Grenada, Jamaica, Saba, and Turks and Caicos.
Question: What are the top 5 safest islands to visit in the Caribbean?
Answer: Unfortunately, some Caribbean islands have gotten a rep for being unsafe, but it’s always up to you to stay safe when visiting another country. Nonetheless, the safest islands to visit in the Caribbean are:
- St. Martin
- St. Barts
- The Cayman Islands
Question: What is the least touristy Caribbean island?
Answer: A few islands in the Caribbean offer an authentic, non-touristy vibe. These are Montserrat, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Saba, Curaçao, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
My Final Thoughts on the Best Caribbean Islands
You can visit thousands of Caribbean islands, and if that’s your #bucketlist, you won’t ever get bored. There’s plenty to do, see, and experience in the Caribbean.
I love St. Lucia because it’s a versatile island – whether you want to be in awe of the mountains and the green forests, do something adventurous, or just chill and sip a cocktail (or three).
Plus, the other guides on EpicCaribbean.com will further help you and give you the necessary information. Check out: