With so many Caribbean vacation spots, how do you choose the best Caribbean destination to visit? It can be overwhelming to decide which island or country fits your travel plans, especially if you and your travel partners are looking for different things out of a trip! Here are the best Caribbean destinations to visit with a little information about each destination and why you need to add it to your tropical destinations bucket list!
If the Bahamas aren’t on your list of Caribbean destinations to visit, you need to add them. When you open Instagram and see people snorkeling in crystal clear water, swimming with sharks, and playing with beach piggies, I can almost guarantee they were in the Bahamas!
The Bahamas are an archipelago of over 700 islands, and is the closest Caribbean destination to the USA. The Bahamas are filled with beautiful blue water, lots of different islands and gorgeous beaches, amazing snorkeling, lots of island options, and is easily accessible from the US. At only 40 miles away, Bimini Island is the closest Bahamian island that people visit via boat from Miami. It’s a small island, relatively quieter compared to some of the bigger islands, but there is so much to see and do there! You can read more about Bimini here!
Some of the more popular islands to visit, and the ones with all the bucket list activities like the sharks and the pigs are the chain of the Exumas.
These are most easily accessed by boat, but there are some small private airports on some of the small islands. If you fly into Nassau (or book an excursion through a cruise), a power boat ride only takes a few hours to reach the Exumas.
The best way to experience the Exumas is by spending a few days aboard a boat and anchoring off the more remote Cays. The Land and Sea Park stretches across many protected islands, and they are some of the prettiest islands I’ve ever seen. Great Exuma is a popular spot for sailors, and can be pretty busy in the anchorages, but the sense of community is lots of fun!
If you could only visit one area in the Bahamas, I would definitely recommend the Exumas!
The busiest season for the Bahamas is from December to April, with average temperatures around 76 to 78 degreesfahrenheit (F). The main cruise ports are in Nassau and Freeport, with 5 smaller islands that the cruise lines use for day stops. The cruises typically offer excursions throughout the islands, so be aware that different waves of people can be seen throughout your visit. Nassau also offers major resorts like Atlantis and Margaritaville. If you’re looking for quieter islands to visit, try Eleuthera, the Exumas, or head further south towards Long Island!
The Virgin Islands are often one of the more popular destinations in the Caribbean due to proximity to the US, the fact that you don’t need a passport for the US Virgin Islands, and for the natural beauty that surrounds the islands! Within the US Virgin Islands, St. John has the reputation of being the nicest and safest, but both St. John and St. Thomas offer all inclusive resorts, pristine Caribbean seas, and a lush tropical landscape!
While I haven’t been to the British Virgin Islands yet, I have heard that their natural beauty is one not to miss, especially with places like the Baths on Virgin Gorda, and the BVIs are super high on my bucket list!
Of course, one of the best ways to experience the Caribbean destinations is from the water. Whether sailing or snorkeling, or lounging by the beach, you definitely want to experience the Virgin Islands from the water!
Since the Virgin Islands are closer to the USA, it is a popular cruise destination. St. Thomas in the USVI is the location of the cruise port, so if you’re looking for a quieter island, look into St. John or the British Virgin Islands!
The high season for the Virgin Islands is from December to April, with an average high temperature of 83-84 degrees (F). With such warm temperatures through the winter, it is a great Caribbean destination to visit to escape the winter cold!
Grenada is by far my favorite and in my opinion the BEST Caribbean destination to visit. Grenada still feels more “untouched” than some of the more popular islands. The culture is super rich, the all-inclusives are primarily in one area, and the island is super friendly. With some of the prettiest beaches in the world, tropical jungles, waterfalls, sulphur springs, amazing diving, and plenty of cultural experiences, Grenada should be at the top of your list.
If you’re looking for a beach vacation, Grenada has some incredible beaches to visit, from little secluded hideaways to longer, sprawling beaches. Check out this ultimate beach guide if you want to see some of the best beaches in Grenada! Try your hand at getting Scuba certified at Eco Dive, hop on an island tour, ride horses along the beach, visit a cacao plantation, try the local rum, and visit one of Grenada’s best waterfalls!
If you’ve ever wanted to immerse yourself in culture while you travel, you need to visit Grenada for Spicemas, (Carnival). Carnival is similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but Grenada actually celebrates in August! If you visit Grenada during Carnival time, definitely take a few hours (or a few days) to immerse yourself in the festivities. Just be prepared to get messy during the J’ourvet celebration!
The busiest time to visit Grenada is from December to April, with the average high temperature during that time sitting right at 86 degrees F. Year round, the temperature doesn’t vary much, and the water temperature stays around 80 degrees. While cruises do visit Grenada, it is far less often than some of the other islands listed here. Since Grenada is so far from any major cruise terminals, the cruises are generally a couple weeks long, and cruise passengers typically stay a couple nights on the island.
Sint Maarten/Saint Martin
St. Maarten, also known as St. Martin, is a unique Caribbean island known for being split between the Dutch and French sides. Each side of the island offers a different cultural experience, all mixed with a Caribbean flair. Head to the French side (Saint Martin) for the foodie scene, French wines, perfumes, amazing shopping, and some of the island’s best views! And if you’re feeling brave, you can head over to the *clothing optional* beaches the French side has to offer!
On the Dutch side of the island, Sint Maarten, check out Maho Beach, where you can watch airplanes land on the adjacent airport, or even feel the wind on your face as the jets take off! If you want to experience this, be warned that the sand flies around and HURTS if it hits you! Make sure to wear sleeves and some sort of eye protection at the very least, or watch from a distance. Also on the Dutch side, experience the world’s steepest zipline, rum distilleries, and jewelry making that the island is famous for! The nightlife is definitely more popular on the Dutch side, and has the island’s only casinos too!
The high season for St. Martin/Sint Maarten runs from December to April, with average high temps of 80-82 that time of year. The island does have a cruise port (on the Dutch side), and can accommodate some of the world’s largest ships, so keep that in mind for your visit.
With the unique cultural differences across a small island, St. Martin is definitely one of the best Caribbean islands you want to visit!
Turks & Caicos
Turks & Caicos, lying just southeast of the Bahamas, is an archipelago of 40 islands with some of the most pristine waters you’ll ever see. The coral formed islands are home to some amazing luxury or all-inclusive properties, you can find some great deals on them below!
Some of the most popular things to do in the Turks & Caicos islands are in the water! From swimming with stingrays and getting 7 years of good luck by kissing one, to diving the 7000 foot underwater wall, the magic of these islands is definitely in the crystal clear Caribbean sea! Day trips are totally doable between islands, and relaxing on some of the most beautiful beaches is a must! If you’re not much for snorkeling, try horseback riding on the beach, shopping at Providenciales, rent a Jeep to drive the islands, or hop on a historical walking tour! There is something for everyone to enjoy, making Turks & Caicos an increasingly popular Caribbean destination!
The busiest season here is from December to April, with average high temperatures of 83-83 degrees F. Even during these winter months, the water temp stays around or above 80 degrees, so is nice and warm for all your underwater adventures! There is a cruise port on Grand Turk, which contains the country’s capital, Cockburn town, but there are plenty of other islands to visit if you want to avoid cities and cruise ports!
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Mexico is probably one of the most popular Western Caribbean destinations for all kinds of travelers! From digital nomads, to cruise passengers, all inclusive resort hoppers, and backpackers, Mexico has something to offer everyone. A popular area within Mexico to visit is the Yucatan Peninsula, with a rich Mayan history, stretches of tropical beaches, quaint villages, and wildlife, you can’t go wrong visiting this area.
Visit Tulum for cenotes (underground springs, similar to Devil’s Den in Florida if you’ve read my Florida Springs Guide), insta-worthy cafes and bars, health and wellness retreats, and ancient Mayan ruins. Nearby, Riviera Maya is known for it’s beaches, all-inclusive resorts, Mayan ruins, and tropical jungles! Cancun, only an hour away, is a popular vacation spot for spring breaks, honeymoons, and those that want a little more nightlife on their vacation, while still offering the proximity to the adventurous side of Mexico!
Heading to Mexico on a cruise? You’ll probably dock in Cozumel, a small island just off the Yucatan Peninsula. Most of the island is uninhabited and undeveloped, which means you can experience the natural jungle and protected marine parks. Heading inland? Hop on a guided ATV drive through the jungle. Looking to explore under the surface? Try a dive or snorkel trip and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees!
The busiest time of year to visit this area of Mexico is between January to April, with average high temperatures of 84-93 degrees F. I imagine the weeks of Spring Break (usually through March) are the busiest times to visit during the high season. With so much ancient history, and so many destinations within the Yucatan for every type of traveler, Mexico is definitely one of the best Caribbean destinations to visit!
Antigua is one of the southern islands in the Leeward island chain, just east of the Virgin Islands. An independent country, Antigua is known for its white sandy beaches. Antigua is said to have 365 beaches, one for every day of the year! If you’re planning a trip to Antigua, or want to see some of Antigua’s Best Beaches, you’ll want to check out my beach guide here!
Other than the white sandy beaches, Antigua has a rich history to offer including the fort at Nelson’s Dockyard, some pretty incredible natural formations like the Pillars of Hercules, Devil’s Bridge, and incredible snorkeling and diving spots, Antigua has it all. The island is a hub for the yachting industry, so prices are a bit higher than some of the other islands, but the quality is often reflected in service. If you wanted the good luck of kissing a stingray while in Antigua, check out Stingray City! Click here if you want the ultimate travel guide for Antigua including all the best things to do on the island!
There are many all-inclusive resorts onboard the island, as well as little beach bungalows, or even marinas and yachts you can stay aboard! There is a cruise port in St. Johns, the capital of the island, on the northwest side, while some of the main attractions are further southeast on the island. The busy season is between December and April, with temperatures of 82-84 degrees F throughout that time.
Belize is a jungle and diving lover’s paradise. With the second largest barrier reef system in the world, the famous Blue Hole, and the Belize rainforest, this Central American destination is an amazing one for the adventure travelers and nature lovers!
Hop on a bus tour through the jungle to zip line and tube through huge caves. Be prepared for how dark it can get, thankfully the companies offer headlamps! Or, if you’re more of a history buff, head to one of the Mayan ruins and pyramids. Visit a wildlife sanctuary, or hop aboard a horseback jungle trek, there is so much adventure to experience in Belize!
If you’re looking for diving and snorkeling while on your Caribbean vacation, Belize’s barrier reef and blue hole are major bucket list items. The best place to stay if you’re visiting for diving is going to be on Ambergris Caye. This small island off the mainland has lots of dive resorts, and easy access to the popular dive and snorkel spots. You can even book a dive with seahorses and whale sharks if you’ve got that on your bucket list like I do!
Belize’s busy season continues from November to April, with high temps throughout busy season between 83 and 85 degrees F. Belize does have a cruise port, but no cruise dock. Passengers have to take a tender between the ship and mainland because of the reef system. Belize does offer lots of resort options as well, with even the all inclusive destinations being much more affordable than some of the other Caribbean destinations!
St. Vincent & The Grenadines
The best way to experience this area of the Caribbean is by far going to be by boat, even if just a day trip. Visit Happy Island, right off of Union Island for some rum punch on an island made of discarded conch shells. Watch kite surfers cruise between islands as their colorful kites line the sky. Swim with sea turtles in the Tobago Cays Marine Park, and snorkel some of the most beautiful water you’ve seen. Sail between islands anchoring while watching the sun melt between the islands.
Even if you only stay on St. Vincent, explore Kingstown, the country’s historical town, hike the volcanic island to visit beautiful waterfalls, or lounge on stunning beaches while overlooking the cays in the distance. There are many islands that you can stay on, with St. Vincent being the largest. There are 5 airports within the island chain, so it is easy to hop between islands if you don’t have access to a boat through SVG air. St. Vincent is actually close enough to boat from Grenada, but you DO need a passport to hop between Grenada and any of the Grenadines.
Busy season throughout these islands runs December and April, and has high temperatures of 85 to 86 degrees. There are tons of places to stay for your Caribbean vacation, from all inclusive resorts, private homes, little bungalows, and more! There is a cruise port in St. Vincent’s capital, Kingstown, but they are known to visit Union Island and Bequia as well.
Another Caribbean destination that you don’t need a passport from the US to visit is Puerto Rico! A surfer’s paradise, Puerto Rico is a hotspot for surfers chasing the best waves. Even if you don’t surf though, Puerto Rico is definitely one of the best Caribbean destinations that you need to visit!
Of course, surfing is one major draw, but diving is another popular activity around the island! The jungle towards the center of the island is not only beautiful to visit, but you can also zipline on the world’s longest zipline here too! Looking for more of a historical excursion? Head to the colorful streets of Old San Juan for a rainbow of colors lining the streets. Or hop on a puddle jumper plane to Vieques to visit the island inhabited by wild horses!
Of course, no Caribbean destination is complete without beautiful beaches to visit. Lay underneath the palms on some of the prettiest beaches in the Caribbean, chat with the locals and watch the surfers ride the waves in. Puerto Rico is a place that I constantly want to re-visit, and with cheap flights from Florida, no passport requirement, and a variety of cultural, ocean, jungle, and historic activities to experience, Puerto Rico needs to be on your list!
Puerto Rico does have a busy season from December to April, with high temperatures between 84 and 87 degrees F during that time. There are tons of accommodation options, from all inclusives to little surf shacks, as well as a cruise port in San Juan. If you want a quieter, more laid back trip, head towards the West side of the island near Rincon. Or if you like to be in the action, stay closer to San Juan.