top of page

The Best Places to Visit in the Caribbean

Updated: Aug 4



A tropical Caribbean vacation is at the top of vacation wish lists, but there's so many destinations to choose from that it's hard to know where to start. Of course, it all comes down to what's important to you.

  • Do you want to stay in U.S. territory so you don't have to deal with passports and the hassle of going through customs?

  • Do you want the convenience of an all-inclusive resort so you don't have to worry about anything while you're away? If so, get those passports ready because traditional all-inclusives are an international offering, not a U.S. thing.

  • Are you looking for that clear turquoise water and white sand beaches but still want civilization and don't want to spend the whole day getting there?

  • Do you want lush landscapes, natural adventures, and some culture and history to keep everyone entertained once they're bored with the beach?

  • Or do you want something off-the-beaten path and don't mind more difficult travel days and fewer options for accommodations?


The Caribbean has so much diversity, so the key question is: What are the best places to visit in the Caribbean ... for you?



I've done all the research for you and have created an overview of most Caribbean destinations - 23, to be exact. I've evaluated each destination on the following:

  1. Claim to fame - what the destination has to offer

  2. How easy is it to get there. For you local Indianapolis folks, I've also included details on how long it takes to get there from IND. Destinations that are difficult to get to are highlighted in red or yellow depending on level of difficulty.

  3. How easy is it to explore once you're there

  4. What kind of accommodations are prevalent

  5. Best beach and why it's a favorite



Before we dig into the details of each destination, let's talk about the best times to go to the Caribbean and the tradeoff between beautiful beaches/water and dramatic landscapes.


Caribbean: When To Go

When the weather is bad in the U.S., that's high season in the Caribbean. Prices and crowds will be highest in winter (mid-December through mid-April), with the Christmas holidays being the highest. If you want to travel during high season, you should book 12 months out for the best prices and availability.


The only true low season in the Caribbean is hurricane season - August through October - when travel is risky. Even if there's no hurricanes, the weather can be hot, muggy, and rainy. However, some destinations are less risky than others, especially the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao), which are so far south, they're outside the hurricane belt. September is considered the peak of hurricane season, but in my recent trip to Turks & Caicos in September, the weather was beautiful. If you want to save money and travel during low season, talk to your Travel Advisor about the less risky destinations and purchase travel protection!



Beautiful Beaches vs. Natural Diversity?

Can you have both insanely beautiful beaches and diverse landscapes like mountains and rainforests? Unfortunately, not really. For the most part, the best white sand beaches and clearest water are on the flattest islands - Turks & Caicos, Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, the Bahamas. So if you're happiest on the beach or in the water, these islands are great choices!


If you're looking for diverse landscapes (mountains, rainforests, waterfalls) and more to do than just lie on the beach, mountainous and volcanic islands may be more your speed. But know the beaches will be more golden in color (or even black sand), and the water won't be clear turquoise everywhere you look. Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts/Nevis, Dominican Republic, Grenada all have natural diversity to offer you adventures and sightseeing beyond the beach.


Of course not every destination fits into a specific box, so you'll find some islands with beautiful white sand beaches as well as a varied landscape, like Barbados and the Virgin Islands, for example.


What do you want for your vacation? Clear blue water and white sand beaches or dramatic landscapes and lots of adventure? Or do you want something in between?




 

Best of the Caribbean


Here's where we get into all the details of each island, so you can determine which Caribbean destination is best for you! I've grouped each destination into the categories below. Some destinations fit solidly into one category while others I had to force into one bucket to make it easier for my readers.

  • Best Caribbean Destinations in the U.S. (U.S. territories)

  • Best Destinations for All-Inclusive Resorts

  • Most Beautiful Beaches and Water Destinations in the Caribbean - that are easy, too

  • Best Dramatic Landscapes Destinations

  • Off-the-beaten-path Caribbean Destinations

Your beach cabana awaits, so let's get started!

A cabana is calling your name!

Note: All the destinations included here are considered part of the Caribbean from a tourist point of view, although not all of them technically are. And not all of them are islands either. So pardon my simplification for the sake of making it easy for my readers to digest!


 

Best Caribbean Destinations in the U.S.

No passport is required and no hassle in customs when you visit these U.S. territories: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Grenada.

  • Puerto Rico is the easiest destination by far.

  • The three islands that make up the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) are all quite different so I will summarize each individually.

  • Grenada is not as developed and has limited air options, so it's more difficult to get there and get home.



PUERTO RICO

Claim to fame

Culture, nightlife, history, unique natural adventures - rainforest, caves, bioluminescent bays

Ease getting there

Non-stops from many major U.S. hubs

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) to SJU, about 6 hours total

Ease once in destination

Rental cars are a must if staying outside San Juan.

Island is easy to explore on your own.

Accommodations

No All-Inclusive resorts. Several large beachfront resorts near the rainforest plus many hotels near Old San Juan. Boutique hotels and inns throughout the country.

Best beach

Playa Flamenco on Culebra Island, a 50-minute ferry ride from the mainland. White/pink sand and clear water surrounded by the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge.




Puerto Rico: Culture, history, unique natural attractions (caves, bioluminescent bays, rainforest) and beautiful beaches!


 

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS

ST. THOMAS, ST. JOHN, ST. CROIX

Claim to fame

St. Thomas: shopping, nightlife, sailing, fishing, cruise port

St. John: beaches, national parks, snorkeling

St. Croix: shopping, history, sleepy island

Ease getting there

St. Thomas: Non-stops from many major U.S. hubs

St. John: quick ferry from St. Thomas

St. Croix: limited non-stops

Trip from IND

St. Thomas: 2 legs (1 stop) to STT, about 6 hours total

St. Croix: 2 legs (1 stop) to STX, about 7 hours total but limited options

Ease once in destination

You'll want to explore by taxi or rental car. Drive on the left and roads are tricky given steep, winding roads.

Accommodations

No All-Inclusives. Only a couple traditional resorts. Condos/villas are main offering.

St. Thomas: Ritz, Marriott, and Secret Harbour

St. John: Westin timeshare only resort. Villas plentiful but most not beachfront

St. Croix: The Buccaneer only resort. Condos/villas


Best beach

St. Thomas: Magens Bay - heart-shaped stretch of white sand and calm water

St. John: Trunk Bay - underwater trail for snorkeling




USVI: Beautiful water and beaches abound plus hiking, snorkeling, diving and shopping. The only thing missing from the USVI is traditional resorts

 

GRENADA

Claim to fame

Laid back, spices, harbor, lush mountains and rainforest

Ease getting there

LIMITED non-stops to GND

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) to GND, about 8 hours. But only 1 option!

Ease once in destination

Rent a car to explore beyond Grand Anse. Roads are narrow and winding, drive on the left.

Accommodations

Few All-Inclusive resorts including Sandals. Small hotels and villas on southwest coast.

Best beach

Grand Anse Beach - 2 mile semi-circle of white sand, gentle surf and shade trees



Grenada: Lounge on renowned Grand Anse Beach, hike in the mountains or explore the rainforests of laid-back Grenada - but know air options are limited.




 

Best Destinations for All-Inclusive Resorts

The big 3 for All-Inclusive resorts are:

  • Jamaica

  • Dominican Republic

  • Riviera Maya, Mexico - almost always the best value of the big 3

Given the sheer number of resorts, these destinations offer the best value due to competition. Plus you get the convenience of having all your food, drinks, and activities included - all you have to do is show up.


I debated whether to include Antigua here given most of their resorts are all-inclusive. However, the number of options is significantly lower in Antigua and the brands are mostly boutique offerings. So I didn't feel like Antigua qualified to be with the big 3.


Caribbean all-inclusive resorts... no wallet required!


JAMAICA

Claim to fame

Birthplace of All-Inclusive plus music, food, culture

Ease getting there

Non-stops from many major U.S. hubs

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) to MBJ, around 6 hours

Ease once in destination

Use tour operators/transfer companies to explore outside the resort. Island is 4,000 square miles so drive time between airport in Montego Bay and resort areas of Negril and Ocho Rios can be long. For South Coast and east side, fly into Kingston.

Accommodations

Many large all-inclusives serving both adult-only and all-family guests. Sandals has 7 resorts (adult-only) and Beaches has 2 with another being built (all-family) plus many other resort brands.

Best beach

Negril's seven-mile beach on the western tip of the island - white sand, amazing sunsets



Jamaica: The birthplace of All-Inclusives plus beautiful beaches, waterfalls, culture, music


 

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Claim to fame

1000 miles of beaches, vibrant culture, diverse landscape (mountains, rainforests, rivers), whale watching in winter

Ease getting there

Non-stops from many major U.S. hubs to PUJ, the airport closest to top resort areas. 2 other international airports depending on destination.

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) to PUJ, about 6 hours

Ease once in destination

Use tour operators/transfer companies to explore outside resort.

Accommodations

Many large all-inclusive resorts serving both adult-only and all-family guests. Punta Cana/Cap Cana (east) and La Romana (southeast) are most popular resort areas.

Best beach

Playa Grande on north shore - mile of golden sand, cliffs and jungle



Dominican Republic: Lush landscapes, whale watching, beautiful beaches, vibrant culture, and all-inclusive resorts


 

CANCUN & RIVIERA MAYA

Claim to fame

Culinary, culture, Cancun and Playa del Carmen nightlife, adventure parks, cenotes, turtles, Isla Mujeres

Ease getting there

Non-stops from most major U.S. hubs

Trip from IND

Non-stop on Southwest during peak travel, 3.5 hours

2 legs (1 stop) on other airlines, about 5.5 hours

Ease once in destination

Use tour operators/transfer companies to explore outside resort. CURRENT CONSTRUCTION AN ISSUE FOR TRAVEL TIME

Accommodations

Countless resorts line the coast from Costa Mujeres north of Cancun's Hotel Zone down south to Playa del Carmen and on to Tulum

Best beach

Isla Mujeres Playa Norte - a short ferry ride away from Cancun and Costa Mujeres

Note: Riviera Maya, Mexico encompasses an 80-mile stretch of beachfront resorts and requires a separate story all on its own. The destination is reviewed at a very high level here for comparison purposes.

Map credit Travel Riviera Maya

Cancun/Riviera Maya Mexico: Culture, history, nightlife, food, natural adventures, beaches, amazing resorts, best value and more!




 

Best Beach and Clear Water Destinations in the Caribbean That are "Easy"


This category is a difficult one because every island delivers on beautiful beaches and water, to some degree. I've prioritized destinations that are known for:

  1. Long stretches of amazing white sand beaches

  2. Clear turquoise water everywhere

  3. Relatively easy travel (non-stop flights, no extra travel)

  4. Plenty of lodging options

The obvious islands that belong in this category are:

  • Turks & Caicos

  • The Bahamas

  • Antigua

  • Cayman Islands

  • Barbados

  • Curacao

  • Aruba

  • Belize

Other islands may have the pretty water and beaches but are difficult to get to, so those are included in the "off-the-beaten-path" section.


Anytime I'm in water like this, I have to be forced back on the boat. So heavenly.


TURKS & CAICOS

PROVIDENCIALES

Claim to fame

Clear turquoise water and white sand beaches as far as the eye can see, snorkeling/diving, slower pace, pricey

Ease getting there

Non-stops to Providenciales from many U.S. hubs

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) to PLS, about 5.5 hours

Ease once in destination

Easy to get around by taxi, although pricey, or can rent a car. Although most travelers hardly leave their resort, except by boat!

Accommodations

Only 3 All-Inclusive resorts: Beaches, Alexandra, Blue Haven.

Many other luxury resorts, but the whole island is pricey.

Best beach

Grace Bay Beach (where most resorts are), Half Moon Bay (by boat)

Turks & Caicos is made up of 40 islands with just eight of them inhabited. Grand Turks where the cruise ships dock is the capital, but Providenciales (summarized here) is the tourism hub. The most famous Turks resorts are on Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales - the most gorgeous stretch of white sand beach and stunningly blue water I’ve ever seen. Middle Caicos, North Caicos, and South Caicos each have unique natural adventures, but resorts are few – for now! You'll take a puddle jumper if you're visiting the smaller Caicos islands. Stay tuned for my blog story on Turks, including a review of several Grace Bay Resorts as well as Sailrock Resort on South Caicos!




Turks & Caicos: Arguably the most beautiful water and beaches - but expect to pay for it!


 

THE BAHAMAS

Claim to fame

Beautiful water, diving/snorkeling, many islands, mega resorts and waterparks, swimming with pigs, bonefishing

Ease getting there

Non-stops from many U.S. hubs to Nassau (NAS)

Some non-stops from U.S. hubs to Exuma (GGT)

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) to NAS, under 5 hours short travel time

2 legs (1 stop) to GGT, about 5.5 hours

Ease once in destination

Taxis and transfers are easy

Accommodations

Nassau/Paradise Island: Atlantis and Baha Mar mega resorts and waterparks (NOT All-Inclusive). Sandals Royal Bahamian only All-Inclusive. Plus many smaller lodging options.

Exuma: Very few resorts - Sandals Emerald Bay Adult All-Inclusive, Grand Isle Resort and February Point (family properties).

Best beach

Harbour Island's Pink Sand Beach - 2.5 hour boat ride from Nassau. Harbour Island is considered the Nantucket of the Bahamas.

The Bahamas is made up of 700 islands, although only 16 are inhabited, and only 3 have major international airports - Nassau on New Providence, Exuma, and Grand Bahama Island (Freeport). Our overview here focuses on Nassau (includes Paradise Island) as well as the island of Exuma, the two most popular areas. The other islands would fit in our "off-the-beaten-path" section as they're more difficult to get to and offer limited accommodations.





The Bahamas: Mega resorts and waterparks, swimming with pigs, snorkeling/diving excursions, tranquility on the out-islands


 

ANTIGUA

Claim to fame

365 beaches - 1 for every day of the year, sailing

Ease getting there

Non-stops from a few major U.S. hubs

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) to ANU, about 7 hours

Ease once in destination

​Island is small (100 square miles) and road conditions are good. Easy to rent a car to explore but driving on left!

Accommodations

Most resorts are all-inclusive but expect high prices.

Many adult-only offerings. A few for families.

Best beach

​Pink Beach on Barbuda - 17 miles of soft sand from crushed pink shells. Barbuda is 1-hour ferry ride from Antigua, but Pink Beach is difficult to get to.




Antigua: 365 beaches, sailing, watersports, shopping, "boutique" all-inclusive resorts but pricier than what you're used to



 

CAYMAN ISLANDS

Claim to fame

7-Mile Beach, diving/snorkeling, busy cruise port (#3 in Caribbean), safe but pricey, banks

Ease getting there

Plenty of non-stops from U.S. to GCM

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop), about 5-6 hours

Ease once in destination

Can rent a car but beware of traffic and expensive gas

Accommodations

Most accommodations are timeshare or condo rentals. A few large resorts on 7-Mile Beach.

Best beach

7-Mile Beach, the best in the Caribbean



Cayman Islands: 7-mile beach (considered best in the Caribbean), cruise port, Stingray City, banking, pricey, few traditional resorts



 

BARBADOS

Claim to fame

Golf, nightlife, British culture, pink sands and beautiful beaches, varied landscape

Ease getting there

Limited non-stops from U.S. to BGI

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) but limited flights, 8-9 hours

Ease once in destination

Should get out and explore the island, good roads but drive on the left and watch for heavy traffic in areas

Accommodations

Sandals is the only traditional All-Inclusive resort. Many other boutique offerings.

Best beach

Bottom Bay Beach - soft white sand surrounded by cliffs



Barbados: Golf, pink sand beaches, nightlife, British culture, boutique accommodations, longer travel time/more limited flight options



 

CURACAO

Claim to fame

Diving - coral walls full of marine life, colorful architecture, City of Willemsted (UNESCO World Heritage Site), 38 beaches, sunny and dry year-round (outside hurricane belt)

Ease getting there

Limited non-stops from U.S. to CUR

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop), around 7-8 hours

Ease once in destination

Free shuttles into Willemsted or cheap taxi. 4WD needed to explore whole island.

Accommodations

Limited All-Inclusive resorts (Sandals, Dreams). Beyond that, mostly villas.

Best beach

Playa Portomari - white sand, double reef for snorkeling/diving



Curacao: No hurricanes, sunny and dry year-round, diving, colorful architecture, a few all-inclusive resorts plus condo/villas, longer travel time/more limited flight options


 

ARUBA

Claim to fame

Nightlife, casinos, culinary scene, welcoming culture

Outside the hurricane belt along with Bonaire and Curacao, dry, windy, desert-like island

Most repeat visitors of any island in the Caribbean

Ease getting there

Non-stops from most major U.S. hubs

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) to AUA, about 6.5 hours total

Ease once in destination

Small island (77 square miles). Easy to rent a car for a day or two to explore. 4WD needed for the Outback.

Accommodations

NOT an All-Inclusive destination (although it's offered) because culinary scene is amazing and you don't want to tie yourself to one resort's selections. Hotels are divided into Hi Rise and Lo Rise - over-developed, crowded.

Best beach

Eagle Beach - widest beach, white sand, clear water, gentle surf, divi-divi trees



Aruba: No hurricanes, sunny and dry year-round, casinos and nightlife, culinary hot spot, most repeat visitors, high rise and lo rise resorts



 

BELIZE

Claim to fame

Diving (world's 2nd largest barrier reef, Great Blue Hole), snorkel Hol Chan, diverse culture, Mayan ruins, dense jungles, cave tubing, uncrowded

Ease getting there

Several non-stops from U.S. hubs to BZE

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop), around 6-7 hours

Ease once in destination

Rent a car for your time on the mainland to explore outside of crime-riddled Belize City

Accommodations

Smaller boutique offerings vs. large resorts

Mainland: Placencia Peninsula beachfront, Cayo District eco lodges

Ambergris Caye: luxury and boutique hotels

Caye Caulker: budget-friendly island, golf carts no cars, cabins and condos

Best beach

Placencia Peninsula - miles long with calm, protected waters. Much of Belize's coastline is lined with mangroves or is rocky rather than sandy. Belize is more about the water than the beaches.



Belize: For serious divers, Great Blue Hole, more about the water than the beaches, inland activities too like ruins and jungle, small boutique accommodations




 


Best Dramatic Landscape Destinations in the Caribbean

Many travelers come to me thinking they want white sandy beaches and clear turquoise water, but when I ask them what kind of activities they're looking for, they talk about hiking and adventure and say their kids tire of the beach quickly. A destination with a diverse landscape with mountains, caves, waterfalls, and jungle is better suited to these travelers as they will never run out of natural adventures - ziplining, waterfall rappelling, mountain tubing, hiking, ATV, wildlife spotting, whitewater rafting, and more! While you can find beautiful beaches and water here, they're typically not as blindingly beautiful nor as widespread as they are on flat islands. The top picks for landscape and adventure are:


  1. Costa Rica

  2. St. Lucia

  3. St. Kitts/Nevis

  4. Puerto Rico (summarized in U.S. territories)

  5. Grenada (summarized in U.S. territories)

  6. Dominican Republic (summarized in All-Inclusive resorts)


COSTA RICA

Claim to fame

Most biodiversity on the planet - rainforests, volcanos, cloud forests, dry forests, beaches, wildlife. Natural adventure.

Ease getting there

Many non-stops from U.S. hubs to both San Jose (SJO) and Liberia (LIR)

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop), around 6-7 hours

Ease once in destination

Best to stay in 2-3 destinations to see the country. Roads are difficult, so a driver is recommended.

Accommodations

Unique accommodations: eco-lodges built into treetops, beachfront jungle resorts, hotels with hot springs and volcano views. Handful of All-Inclusive options, but they aren't recommended as you'll miss out on an authentic experience.

Best beach

​No clear winner so will list favorites in popular tourist areas:

Manuel Antonio Beach - National Park and wildlife

Guanacaste: Conchal, Tamarindo, Flamingo Beaches

Papagayo Peninsula: Nacascolo Beach

Nicoya Peninsula: all of them



We'll be back in Costa Rica with the kids October 2023, so stay tuned for more stories!




Costa Rica: rainforests, volcanoes, cloudforests, wildlife, beaches, natural adventures, unique eco lodges nestled in the landscape itself



 

ST. LUCIA

Claim to fame

Lush dramatic landscape, pitons, honeymooners, welcoming culture

Ease getting there

Non-stops from many U.S. hubs to UVF

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop), around 7.5 hours

Ease once in destination

Curvy mountain roads not recommended for rental cars.

Long drive from airport to resorts up north - helicopter or boat best for speed and beautiful views!

To explore, book tours or resort can provide driver

Accommodations

3 Sandals adult-only all-inclusive resorts

Unique, breathtaking luxury resorts built into the landscape

Smaller hotels in Rodney Bay and Marigot Bay

Best beach

Sugar Beach between the pitons where they imported white sand. Rest of island's beaches are more golden brown.





St. Lucia: lush dramatic landscape, the pitons, haven for honeymooners/more of an adult destination, breathtaking luxury resorts plus 3 Sandals all-inclusive

 

ST. KITTS/NEVIS

Claim to fame

Great for history buffs and Hamilton fans, hiking, diving, windsurfing, unspoiled/uncrowded

Ease getting there

A few non-stops from U.S. to St. Kitts (SKB)

Ferry or catamaran to Nevis from St. Kitts

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) but limited options, about 7 hours

Ease once in destination

Rent a car on St. Kitts to explore. Taxi on Nevis.

Accommodations

Ultra luxury (Four Seasons Nevis, Park Hyatt St. Kitts) or boutique hotels and inns

Best beach

Pinney's Beach on Nevis - long stretch of golden sand shaded by palm trees

Out of all the destinations presented here that I haven't visited, St. Kitts and Nevis is top of my list for travel with my family! My hubs and I debated St. Lucia vs. St. Kitts for our 15-year anniversary. I'm glad we chose St. Lucia because it is a more adult destination. But St. Kitts seems like a great next stop for us and the kids! On our list for 2024!



St. Kitts: Watersports, hiking, history, Hamilton, unspoiled/uncrowded




 

Best Off-The-Beaten-Path Destinations in the Caribbean


These islands are beautiful but out-of-the-way, which means your travel days will be longer and more difficult. In addition, the islands are typically less-developed, which means fewer options for accommodations, dining and entertainment. Some, but not all, offer peaceful seclusion as reward for your longer travel days.

  • Anguilla

  • British Virgin Islands

  • Bonaire

  • Martinique

  • St. Barts

  • St. Maarten/St. Martin


ANGUILLA

Claim to fame

33 beautiful beaches (many among the world's best), luxury resorts, culinary and music scene

Ease getting there

No non-stops from the U.S.

Easiest to fly to St. Maarten (SXM) - but limited options -and then ferry to Anguilla

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) to SXM, transfer to ferry port, ferry to Anguilla. Estimate 9-10 hour travel day.

Ease once in destination

Small island but roads can be rough, drive on the left

Accommodations

Need big budget if you want luxury, but don't expect All-Inclusive or known resorts other than Four Seasons and Auberge. Villas and apartments available.

Best beach

Shoal Bay - 2 miles of white sand, crystal clear water, and family-friendly surf



Anguilla: Picture-perfect beaches and water but expect high prices and long travel days


 

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

Claim to fame

Sailing, diving/snorkeling, The Baths, island hopping, laid back luxury

Ease getting there

No non-stops from U.S. to Tortola (EIS) or Virgin Gorda (VIJ). Tortola more options than Virgin Gorda.

Best to fly to St Thomas or San Juan and ferry or small plane to destination

Trip from IND

3 legs (2 stops) or 2 legs (1 stop) to St. Thomas plus ferry

Ease once in destination

Can rent a car to explore but drive on left. Ferry between Virgin Gorda and Tortola.

Accommodations

Mostly small luxury resorts or condos

Tortola: more choices for dining, shopping, resorts

Virgin Gorda: Better resorts

Best beach

The Baths - small beach with excellent snorkeling in and around the huge boulders. But gets crowded with daytrippers.


British Virgin Islands: Sailing, island-hopping, diving, The Baths, can daytrip from USVI. Accommodations mainly condos/villas. Multi-step travel day.



 

BONAIRE

Claim to fame

Shore diving and snorkeling (near perfect visibility), peaceful, flamingoes, outside hurricane belt

Ease getting there

Very LIMITED non-stops from U.S. to BON

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) limited options, 7-9 hours

Ease once in destination

Taxis and rental cars cheap and easy

Accommodations

Limited options, more rustic accommodations

Best beach

Sorobon Beach - white sand, shallow clear water, great for kitesurfers when windy



Bonaire: Near-perfect visibility for shore diving and snorkeling, sunny and dry year-round (no hurricanes) but difficult to get to


 

MARTINIQUE

Claim to fame

French culture, culinary, beaches/water, pricey

Ease getting there

Only 1 non-stop a day from Miami. Pricey.

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) if flight is available. Around 8 hours.

Ease once in destination

Rent a car for a day or two to explore. Roads are good but are not lit at night. Heavy traffic during rush hour.

Accommodations

Only boutique hotels, inns, villas

Best beach

Josephine's Baths - white sandbars


Martinique: French culture, culinary scene, beautiful beaches, pricey and difficult travel


 

ST. BARTHELEMY

(ST. BARTH, ST. BARTS)

Claim to fame

The "scene", style, culinary, luxury shopping, watersports

Ease getting there

Island is only 8 square miles so no international airport

Fly to St. Maarten (SXM) and ferry to St. Barts

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) to SXM, transfer to ferry port, ferry to St. Barts. Estimate 9-10 hour travel day.

Ease once in destination

Taxis aren't cheap or plentiful, but renting a car can be tricky due to narrow, steep, and often unmarked roads

Accommodations

Small luxury (pricey) hotels and villas

Best beach

Saline Beach - unspoiled beachfront on the south shore with salt pond nearby


St. Barts: The "scene", luxury shopping, yachts, very small island that's difficult to get to



 

ST. MAARTEN/ST. MARTIN

Claim to fame

European dual nation: southern half is French (St. Martin), northern half is Dutch (St. Maarten) but open borders. Culinary hot spot, shopping, nightlife, 37 beaches, busy cruise port

Ease getting there

Few non-stops from U.S. to SXM

Trip from IND

2 legs (1 stop) but limited flights, around 7-8 hours

Ease once in destination

Explore with rental car but traffic can be an issue

Accommodations

Larger resorts and timeshares in St. Maarten, more intimate resorts/inns in St. Martin.

Best beach

Mullet Bay - mile long white sand with calm clear water. Good for surfing when it's windy.


St. Maarten/St Martin: Half Dutch, half French island with open borders so you can experience two cultures. Shopping, nightlife, busy cruise port, difficult travel



 

One last thing to think about: Sargassum

If you've never dealt with sargassum on your vacation, count yourself lucky. Sargassum is large brown seaweed that floats in island-like masses and never attaches to the sea floor. It's an essential fish habitat, and up until the last decade, sargassum wasn't much of an issue. However, in 2011, unprecedented quantities began inundating coastal areas, wrecking havoc on tourism as well as producing toxicities for both sea life and humans. Scientists say the inundation is likely a result of climate change as well as pollution from fertilizers and sewage waste. Ugh.


Unfortunately, the only sure thing about sargassum is its unpredictability. Some scientists say the season runs from April-August while others say it extends through December. This past year, the season started early, so that means it can be sargassum season almost year-round. The resorts do their best to keep the beaches clear, including erecting barriers out in the water. Some areas have less risk of sargassum because they're naturally protected - for example, La Romana in the Dominican Republic is shielded whereas Punta Cana is not - so it's best to work with a travel advisor who is knowledgeable about which areas pose less risk. But know there are no guarantees when it comes to Mother Nature. Conditions can change from day to day and even hour to hour. So if the conditions are bad one day, book an excursion and hope for less sargassum the next!



Sargassum in beach and in the water. Daily sargassum report for Riviera Maya, Mexico



 

 


Heather Vergara is a former Pepsico marketing executive who left the corporate world to be a Mom and never looked back. In addition to travel and adventure, Heather is passionate about kindness, community, whole food and fitness. Her travel business, Show Them the World, is more fulfilling than she ever imagined! In two years, she's helped more than 150 families see the world - Hawaii, Alaska, Costa Rica, Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean, National Parks, and more to come!


From this list of Caribbean destinations, Heather has traveled to: Aruba, the Bahamas, Cancun/Riviera Maya, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Turks & Caicos, and St. Thomas in the USVI. Puerto Rico and Costa Rica are on the travel calendar for 2023 so her kids can experience destinations she loves! Top of the list of Caribbean destinations she hasn't visited: St. Kitts/Nevis, Anguilla, and St. John with daytrips to the British Virgin Islands.

Heather has an MBA in marketing from Indiana University, a Digital Marketing Executive Education certificate from Columbia University, and a BA in Journalism from the University ofNorth Carolina at Chapel Hill. She lives with her husband, two kids, and two furry dogs in Zionsville, Indiana.

713 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page