One of the great things about the Caribbean islands is the variety you have to choose from. If you are looking for an island with a lot of activity going on, somewhere quiet and secluded, or a destination with opulent resorts and amazing food, you can find it in the Caribbean.
Few places in the world offer such flexibility for any kind of vacation. You can stay on one of the best Caribbean islands that offer a lot of tourist attractions or you can stay somewhere that only offers the beach, sun, and sand. It’s up to you.
So, if you’re looking for a great place to vacation, look no further than to the Caribbean islands. You can experience any kind of vacation you want to, but all in the midst of the beauty and wonder of the Caribbean islands. What could be better than that?
» Looking for a cruise? Check out our Caribbean Cruise Guide to find one that suits you.
Aruba is the most visited island in the southern Caribbean, and anyone who dips their toes in its waters can see why. Its shores are lined with white-sand beaches, and the year-round beach weather is made even better by the island’s location safely outside “Hurricane Alley.”
A two-hour walk will lead you through colorful colonial architecture in the capital city of Oranjestad, but there are also deserts, craggy mountains, windy regions, and uncluttered areas around the island to explore, plus some really great snorkeling to be done.
Most guided tours include visits to a combination of man-made and natural island landmarks including the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins, the California Lighthouse, Ayo’s and Casibari’s Rock Formations, and Arikok’s National Park.
A day tour allows travelers to cover most of the island’s 20 miles (32 kilometers) on their own terms. Enjoy the sights while driving a 4×4 vehicle, riding a horse, or riding an ATV.
The Antilla Shipwreck, now home to marine life, and a coral reef at Arashi Beach also draw visitors, though either can be seen on a semi-submarine tour for those who would rather stay dry.
Tours to book:
- Aruba Atlantis Submarine Expedition
- Aruba ATV Tour Adventure
- Aruba Champagne Breakfast and Lunch Cruise with Snorkeling
#2 Montego Bay
When most people start thinking about a trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica, the first things that come to mind are beautiful stretches of white sand beaches, jerk chicken, and reggae music. Unfortunately, many travelers to Jamaica arrive either on a cruise ship or they’ll be staying at an all-inclusive resort.
The resorts are nice, but you can’t truly experience all that Montego Bay or Jamaica have to offer by staying put on the resort or by not getting off the cruise ship. No matter what brought you to Montego Bay, we encourage you to explore Jamaica beyond the resort by going on a few Montego Bay excursions.
Popular day tours from Montego Bay go to Dunn’s River Falls, Ocho Rios, or Negril. In all of these outstanding destinations you can go snorkeling, parasailing, or sailing on a catamaran.
Tours to book from Montego Bay:
- Dunn’s River Falls Climb plus Ziplines, ATV, Horse Ride & Swim
- CHUKKA – ATV, Horseback, Zipline & Catamaran at Ocean Outpost Park
- Blue Hole, Secret Falls, and Dunn’s River Falls Combo Day-Trip
#3 Nassau, Bahamas
Nassau, the island nation’s only city, is a far cry from the sleepy, sandy beaches of the Bahamas. Formerly a haven for treasure seekers, the Caribbean port is now a popular shopping and business destination.
On city tours, you will learn about the historical and cultural highlights of this city on the sea, including Fort Charlotte, Fort Fincastle, Ardastra Gardens, and the Government House. The Straw Market, Arawak Cay, and Queen’s Staircase are perennially popular places to purchase local straw goods and souvenirs.
Nassau is a popular cruise ship destination due to its deep-water port. After disembarking on Bay Street, passengers can choose a tour to explore the island, or choose to head straight to Junkanoo or Cabbage Beach to swim, snorkel, or go parasailing or jet skiing.
You can bike or drive around the mostly flat island, or simply eat your way around town: conch fritters, spices from the island, and barbecue are some favorites. There are also deep-sea fishing charters from Nassau, as well as day trips to smaller Bahamian islands such as Pearl Island, Rose Island and Exuma, which are known for their pristine sands.
Tours to book
#4 Playa-del-Carmen, Mexico
Located along the Yucatan Peninsula, not far from Cancun, Playa del Carmen is a favorite diving spot with great coral reefs and exciting snorkeling spots. There are also hidden cenotes to explore and lots of things to explore in the nearby nature park.
This is one of the best locations outside of Cancun for visitors who like to get out of the resort and see some local culture, visit boutiques, cafes, and eat at local restaurants, because there’s a nice town center that’s walkable from some of the area resorts.
While you’re there, be sure to visit the nearby Mayan Riuns, which are a close day excursion away, spend time on the gorgeous beaches, or hit up some of the golf courses in the area.
Top activities near Playa del Carmen:
- Rio Secreto Underground River Tour with Crystal Caves
- Jungle Buggy Tour from Playa del Carmen Including Cenote Swim
- Xplor Park All-Inclusive Admission
#5 Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Punta Cana, a beach and sea resort in the Dominican Republic, sits on the easternmost tip of the country, 121 miles (196 kilometers) from buzzing Santo Domingo.
Stunning beaches and rolling waves line the entire coast of this Caribbean paradise. The palm trees arch over the shoreline and the soft, white sand stretches along the entire shoreline. You can enjoy lazy days and relaxing sunbathing here, but you will also find plenty of outdoor activities.
Discover ancient palm groves and tobacco plantations while snorkeling on a catamaran cruise, parasailing over pristine beaches and lush forests, or golfing at the Caribbean’s best courses.
Tours to book
- Saona Island Paradise Day Trip
- Ful Safari Zipline, Buggies & Horse Riding
- Horseback Riding Adventure
- 4×4 Dominican Adventure with Chocolate and Coffee Tasting from Punta Cana
#6 San Juan, Puerto Rico
People who love islands, nature, and history all enjoy going to San Juan, the Puerto Rican capital, because it has a tropical rain forest, turquoise waters, and a 16th-century Spanish colonial historic district.
If you’re looking to escape into the wilderness, El Yunque National Forest is a great place to do it. You can hike to waterfalls or zip through the air on a zipline, and it’s very close to San Juan.
A kayaking tour of Laguna Grande should definitely be on your itinerary. You won’t believe the bioluminescent microorganisms glowing in the water after dark. It’s a phenomenon you must see.
The island is also home to a few rum distilleries, and since rum is the most popular spirit in the Caribbean, you must visit at least one to learn the process and do some tasting. There’s Casa Bacardi rum distillery in Old San Juan, Hacienda Santa Ana where Ron del Barrilito is made, and PitoRico in the towl of Jayuya.
Tours and activities near San Juan:
- Old San Juan Walking Tour
- San Juan Guided Snorkel Tour
- El Yunque Rainforest Off the Beaten Path and Bio Bay Kayaking Combo Tour
#7 St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. Thomas in the Caribbean is a popular tourist destination for its clear waters, white sand beaches, and lush vegetation. For thrill seekers, you can’t get much better than this for diving, parasailing, and extreme water sports.
Charlotte Amalie is a busy city with a lot of small streets and colonial buildings. You can spend the day shopping in the duty-free stores and eating at the restaurants.
Take a city sightseeing tour to visit some of the most historic landmarks in town, like Fort Christian Museum and Hotel 1829. You can also explore Drake’s Seat for a beautiful view of the city.
For water sports, you can expect to get into kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, and stand-up paddleboarding. Or if beaches are more your thing, you can visit Lindquist Beach, Magens Bay, or Hull Bay to get those picturesque beach moments.
We also like sports fishing, snorkeling with turtles, and kayaking through the mangrove lagoons in St. Thomas. It’s one of the best locations on earth for these unique experiences.
Here are some top activities to enjoy in St. Thomas:
- Snorkel St. John Tour from Sapphire & Margaritaville
- Cocktail Sunset Cruise from Sapphire Beach Resort
- Turtle Cove Catamaran Snorkel & Sail Adventure at Little Buck Island St. Thomas
- US Virgin Islands Beach Bar and Island Hop
Endowed with rich natural beauty, the famous island nation of Barbados is located in the east of Caribbean Sea, near Puerto Rico, and is a part of the Lesser Antilles.
This island was discovered in 1536 by the Portuguese, and 90 years later it was colonized by the British. It became an independent member of the Commonwealth in 1966 after being a British colony for over 300 years.
Barbados is an island of carnivals and cultural events. Every year, thousands of tourists go to Barbados to attend its annual ceremonies and spend some time in the lap of nature.
Activities in Barbados for your itinerary:
- Barbados Catamaran Turtle Snorkel with Lunch and Open Bar
- Barbados Turtle & Shipwreck Snorkel Adventure
- Atlantis Submarine Day Tour
- Original Bajan Walking Food Tour
#9 Turks & Caicos
Pristine white sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise water and near perfect weather are just a few reasons you might consider Turks and Caicos travel, a different experience from your typical Caribbean destinations.
The natives to these islands are known for their friendly spirits; they will ensure a vacation that entails a truly relaxing These beautiful islands are home to the third largest coral reef system and some of the best tropical beaches in the world.
With over 230 miles of beaches, Turks and Caicos is a premier destination for family vacations, adventure seekers, ecotourism and of course for romance. An ideal location for diving and snorkelling, it is considered to be one of the top 10 in the world.
North Caicos is the lushest of all the islands and boasts the largest flock of Pink Flamingo on the islands. Here you will find Whitby Beach, a 7 mile stretch of white sands that covers most of the northern coast. North Caicos is also home to the famous Three Mary’s Cays where you can go snorkelling to find a huge Osprey Nest on the third Cay.
Grand Turk is the capitol island that features historical buildings and an unforgettable rustic charm. One of the main attractions of Grand Turk is diving. There are many dive operators and schools that cater from novice snorkels to experienced divers.
What to do in Turks & Caicos
- 4 Hour Group Catamaran Sail and Snorkel Tour from Grace Bay, Providenciales
- Mangrove Clear Kayak Tour
- Parasailing Adventure from Providenciales in Turks and Caicos
#10 St. Lucia
The island of St. Lucia is located in the Lesser Antilles between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It is just as beautiful as one would expect.
The two Volcanic Pitons stand tall over the shoreline on the southern end of the island, presiding over the island as two volcanic plugs. Many cruise ships stop by Castries, the capital, but other popular destinations on the Caribbean circuit inspire longer stays: Rodney Bay, Soufrière, and Marigot Bay.
The island of St. Lucia is famous for having the world’s only drive-in volcano, Sulphur Springs. Visitors can also see Diamond Falls and Botanical Garden, which are home to pristine waterfalls and lush vegetation.
If you’re looking for an adventurous vacation, you can follow your guide on a hike up the Tet Paul Nature Trail to the top of the Pitons for some unbeatable views of the surrounding landscape. You can also rent an ATV or dune buggy for some off-roading, or go horseback riding down the beach.
Things to do in St. Lucia:
- Land and Sea Tour in St. Lucia
- St Lucia Full-Day Catamaran Sightseeing Cruise With Snorkeling
- Rainforest Adventures St Lucia Aerial Tram and Zipline Tour (with Transfer*)
With all of these choices, you’re sure to find one of the best Caribbean islands to visit that fits your vacation style, whether it be relaxing on the beach, intense water sports, fishing, or diving. These islands have it all.
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.