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5 Best Caribbean Islands For Your Next Vacation

Explorers Away logo: MainLogo Explorers Away 2/22/2023 Carley Rojas Avila

When you think of the Caribbean, do cookie-cutter beach hotels and vacations confined to a resort come to mind? While many Caribbean islands share similarly dreamy destinations like stunning white sand beaches and clear, warm waters, you might be surprised to see how different and unique the islands of the Caribbean can be - and how much they have to offer travelers.

Get ready for lush tropical jungles, hidden waterfalls, delicious local food, and an array of cultural diversity it's impossible not to fall in love with. These are the five most fascinating Caribbean islands to add to your bucket list - get ready to start planning the trip of a lifetime to paradise!

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1. Cuba

The largest and most fascinating Caribbean island isn't even on many travelers' radars. That's a big mistake. Cuba boasts historic cities like Havana and Trinidad, little-visited but pristine national parks, great food, and friendly people. Even better? It's practically easier than ever for travelers from the United States to visit Cuba. If you haven't yet traveled to Cuba, add it to the top of your bucket list.

Plus, this unique Caribbean island has a hidden secret: Cuba's 4,000+ barrier islands boast some of the most pristine beaches in the world and some of the Caribbean's last truly untouched and undeveloped shores. Cuba is truly something special, but these tiny hidden gems sprinkled around the coastline are among the best beaches in the Caribbean.

These cays make an unforgettable island vacation themselves or as a perfect day trip from a vacation spent enjoying the rest of Cuba. Cuba's paradise cays like Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Coco, and Cayo Cruz slice through the northern Jardines del Rey region with their sugar-fine sandy beaches and a growing number of luxe resorts tucked along the shores.

If you're craving an even more off-the-beaten-path hidden gem, visit Cuba's southern cay of Cayo Largo del Sur for a completely unique experience. Stretching out into the center of the Caribbean Sea towards the Cayman Islands, the longest of Cuba's cays also has some of its very best beaches, with Playa Paraiso and Playa Sirena topping the list of Cuba's most beautiful beaches.

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2. Dominica

It looks like 2023 is Dominica's moment. With new direct flights from Miami, a trending new world-class eco resort, and a coveted spot on Lonely Planet's prestigious list of Best in Travel 2023, Dominica is finally starting to get its time in the sun. Needless to say, it won't be considered so "hidden" of a gem for much longer.

Known as the Nature Island of the Caribbean, Dominica is a true tropical paradise. Mountainous terrain reveals rainforests covering almost two-thirds of the island, home to hundreds of species of colorful birds and misty, plunging waterfalls. Take it all in as you explore the over 300 miles of hiking trails on the island, offering unbeatable ocean views and first-hand encounters with nature.

If you can't imagine a Caribbean getaway without hitting the beach, don't worry, Dominica has a number of beautiful beaches to choose from, even of the unique black sand variety. Batibou Beach is among the best beaches in the Caribbean. Snorkeling and diving opportunities abound, with excellent options for beginners and experienced divers alike. Dominica is also known as the whale-watching capital of the Caribbean and the only country in the world where sperm whales reside year-round.

A stay at the island's brand new, ultra-sustainable Coulibri Ridge is a must; it's one of the most impressive boutique resorts in the Caribbean, and its eco-friendly features mean your stay in the Nature Island of the Caribbean will be an Earth-positive one.

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3. Roatan

Located just off the coast of Honduras, the Caribbean island of Roatan might be a bit off the beaten path among other Caribbean islands, but don't let that fool you: this lush island fringed with reefs is a true hidden gem, the ultimate laid-back island for travelers looking to escape. While you'll love stunning beach destinations on Roatan, like West Bay Beach with its range of cafes, restaurants, and shops just across the sand, the reefs surrounding the island are the true highlight for many travelers.

Not into diving or snorkeling? There's still so much to enjoy on Roatan. From jungle to explore, the picturesque accommodations on Sandy Bay, or the untouched and undeveloped beaches of the island's East End, you'll find plenty to do.

You won't find monstrous resort properties taking up the best beaches in Roatan like you will in many more touristed Caribbean destinations. Here you'll find a great range of rustic beachfront hotels that evoke the Caribbean of years ago, with a handful of more upscale properties for travelers looking for a touch of luxury while enjoying the laid-back feel of the island.

Opening in the summer of 2023, the Kimpton Grand Roatan Resort & Spa will be a new highlight for this hidden Caribbean gem. The property will feature 126 guest rooms, including a modern main building, beachfront condos, and even tree-top junior suites. The resort's Kao Kamasa Spa will have its own stand-alone building with private treatment bungalows, a highlight of a trip to Roatan worth a visit whether you stay at the hotel or elsewhere on the island.

5 Best Caribbean Islands For Your Next Vacation © Provided by Explorers Away 5 Best Caribbean Islands For Your Next Vacation

4. Guadeloupe

Originally known by the native Arawak population as "The Island of Beautiful Waters," Guadeloupe is about as dreamy of a Caribbean island destination as you can imagine, both from the water and on land. Officially a French overseas department, Guadeloupe is a group of five main islands with several other islets, offering tons of diversity and beauty in a small package.

Most visitors stick to the main islands of Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre; though they're connected by a causeway, these two islands couldn't be more different. Grand-Terre to the east is full of beach towns, restaurants, and great places to stay, while Basse-Terre to the west is home to Parc National de la Guadeloupe, a paradise for adventure travel, hiking, and spotting wildlife.

Guadeloupe's smaller islands, including Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the Îles des Saintes, are the definition of untouched Caribbean beauty. Whether you visit them on a catamaran ride from the larger islands or spend a night at one of the boutique hotels or rentals along the shores, they're well worth a visit.

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5. U.S. Virgin Islands

Leave your passport at home! The United States Virgin Islands are some of the dreamiest island vacation destinations in the United States, located just east of Puerto Rico and easily accessible by frequent flights to the mainland.

While the U.S. Virgin Islands are composed of over 50 islands and cays, most visitors head for the larger islands of St. John or St. Thomas or the less-visited St. Croix for a more off-the-beaten-path getaway. On the three main islands, you'll find the greatest array of accommodations, restaurants, and guided experiences to make your trip memorable - even world-class ecolodges and eco-resorts for sustainably-minded travelers.

A highlight of any visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands is visiting Virgin Islands National Park on St. John, one of the most popular national parks in the United States. A network of incredible trails crisscross the park's lush jungle, and white sand beaches like the famous Trunk Bay await. The park is also known for its protected reef areas, which make for some incredible scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities.


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