The islands of the Caribbean have always been a popular vacation spot. With some of the best beaches in the world, a holiday here is all about relaxation. There's so many islands, it's often hard to know which is most suitable for your vacation. There are also so many Caribbean cruises it's hard to know which cruise to select! Here you'll find travel tips and advice to make your Caribbean vacations a little easier to plan.
Caribbean Islands: Greater Antilles Guide
The Caribbean islands of the Greater Antilles are relatively large in size and are to the South and South East of Florida.
Cuba: great beaches and beautiful colonial cities make this (potentially) the most cultural vacation option.
Cayman Islands: cater towards luxury vacations. Excellent beaches and crystal clear waters make this a good option for diving holidays.
Jamaica: this large island is well known for it's friendly locals and great beaches. There's a huge range of beach resorts to suit almost all tastes and price ranges - many are adult only all inclusive resorts, but there are plenty of family resorts in addition. Cruises to the Caribbean often include Jamaica on their itinerary.
Haiti: currently politically unstable, which is a shame as it has great tourism potential.
Dominican Republic: much to offer for vacations - relax, explore or party on holiday. The Dominican Republic has white sand beaches, wonderful mountains in the interior and wildlife viewing possibilities in addition.
Puerto Rico: again a range of travel options in addition to excellent beaches. There's 15 Championship golf courses, good surfing and numerous luxury hotels. Puerto Rico has a quite an Americanized feel.
Caribbean Islands: Lesser Antilles Guide
Running in an arc between the Greater Antilles Islands and South America, the Caribbean islands of the Lesser Antilles are much smaller in size, and many offer a more exclusive vacation option.
US Virgin Islands: a laid back island with one of the most beautiful coastlines in all the Caribbean.
British Virgin Islands: extremely beaufiful, there are 16 inhabited and over 40 uninhabited British Virgin islands. Sailing vacations are particularly popular here, and scuba diving is also excellent.
St Barthelemy / St Barts: this French influenced island has pristine beaches is one of the most exclusive in the Caribbean. Almost all hotels are small luxury boutique style sophisticated hotels. The rich and famous often have private villas on the island of St Barts.
Anguila - one of the smaller islands, catering towards luxury holidays, with friendly locals and sophisticated cuisine. Anguila still retains a laid back feel but is fast developing with numerous luxury resorts.
Antigua and Barbuda - Antigua has a multitude of excellent beaches and vacation resorts to match. The local tourist board claims there are 365 beaches ("One for every day of the year"). There is a wide range of hotels from mid range to luxury options, and the sister island of Barbuda is relatively undeveloped. Caribbean cruises often stop at Antigua.
Saint Martin - split ownership between the French and Dutch, the dutch side of the island is much more heavily developed with numerous large luxury resorts and frequent dockings by Caribbean cruises.
Montserrat - this volcanic island was devasted by a volcanic eruption in the 90's. It's now recovering, and is like no other travel destination in the Caribbean. There's just a couple of hotels and a few guesthouses. It's a wonderfully underdeveloped island.
Saint Lucia: numerous large resorts have developed making this very popular for package holidays. However, the island is big and it doesn't feel overdeveloped.
Guadaloupe - French and creole cultures mix making a very interesting island to visit. Besides excellent beaches, this laid back island also offers pretty rural hamlets and rainforest tours suitable for all types of vacations.
Saint Kitts and Nevis - these British influenced idyllic islands are still relatively undeveloped but probably not for long. Large hotels and resorts (eg. the Hilton) are appearing, golf courses being developed and Caribbean cruises being attracted. A good option for honeymoons.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines - an undeveloped and tranquil island, this is an exclusive and luxurious vacation getaway, particularly suitable for honeymoons.
Dominica: great for diving, hiking and wildlife, this is one of the less developed places in the Caribbean.
Martinique: heavily influenced by the French, Martinique has slightly overcrowded beaches in the south and beautiful black sand beaches and rainforest in the north.
Barbados: this little England of the Caribbean, Barbados has numerous upmarket luxury vacation resorts and many cruises call here.
Grenada: mountains, rainforests, waterfalls and secluded beaches, plus many excellent luxury hotels.
Trinidad and Tobago: Trinidad is heavily populated, while Tobago very undeveloped. The islands are strong on Caribbean culture and have some lovely beaches.
Margarita Island: part of Venezuela, this is a package holiday destination with numerous large hotels.
Los Roques: excellent for diving vacations, these beautiful islands have a few small guesthouses are are popular with Italians in particular. There are no large hotels. Los Roques is part of Venezuela.
San Andres and Providencia: part of Colombia, San Andres has numerous resorts and is more developed while Providencia is undeveloped and idyllic with only a few small hotels.
Aruba: excellent beaches and many large luxury beach resorts, though parts of Aruba remain undeveloped.
Bonaire: one of the best places for diving vacations, these islands combine well with a vacation to Peru if you're flying from Europe as KLM touch down en route.
Caribbean islands more associated with Latin America
Mexico has Caribbean islands on it's Riveria Maya such as Cozemel and Isla Mujeres. Belize has numerous Cayes that provide some of the best diving (Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world). Honduras also offers excellent diving holidays at the island of Roatan. Nicaragua has the undeveloped but beautiful Corn Islands. In Panama, the archipelago of Bocas Del Toro has a laid back feel and some beautiful beaches where you can walk for an hour without seeing another soul (it won't stay that way for long as real estate business is starting to boom there). The San Blas Islands in Panama will stay untarnished by tourism for years to come though - these fascinating Caribbean islands are semi-autonomous and run by the indigenous Kuna Indians, who place great emphasis on preserving their local traditions. Until 10 years ago, the main form of currency was the coconut!