Make a splash with your next getaway by heading to one of the best islands in the Caribbean! See the top 9 islands to visit and what makes each one special.
Why You Should Visit the Caribbean Islands
The tropical shores of the Caribbean islands – more than 700 in all, divided into 13 sovereign island nations – are a favorite destination for travelers seeking sunshine and fun.
You probably don’t need a reason to visit the Caribbean islands with images of swaying palm trees, sparkling blue waters, and calypso music filling your head.
But if you’re looking for an extra push to get away to the best islands in the Caribbean, we’ve got some convincing reasons for you to visit!
Idyllic Weather and Scenery
It doesn’t get much better than the weather and scenic beauty of the Caribbean islands! Situated just off the equator, the Caribbean islands enjoy near-perfect weather and temperatures year-round.
That guarantees lush rainforests, flowers bursting in bloom, and beautifully green landscapes whenever you visit. Scenic isn’t the word to describe the islands of the Caribbean – it’s magical.
Whether you’re seeking vast, sandy beaches dotted with palm trees and low-growing tropical plants, dense rainforests, mountain peaks covered in greenery, gushing waterfalls, or thick stands of mangroves, you’ll find it all in the Caribbean islands.
Lively Caribbean Culture
The Caribbean islands are a cultural haven that will expose you to new experiences, languages, foods, music, dances, and practices. For many, that’s one of the main reasons to travel.
Depending on the islands you visit, you could try delicious local takes on seafood and island dishes, watch performances of indigenous dances, hear calypso and reggae music, and learn phrases in Spanish or Haitian.
Shop local-made trinkets and souvenirs to get a taste of the culture where you visit and visit local churches, museums, and galleries to really dive in.
Snorkeling, Diving, and Water Activities
Get up-close and personal with the greater Caribbean’s marine inhabitants and life when you snorkel, dive, or splash around in the aqua waters enjoying fun water activities.
The Caribbean islands are home to some incredible coral reefs teeming with colorful life like fish, sea turtles, octopuses, and even sharks. Snorkeling and diving on the reefs makes for an amazing experience!
Travelers love to try their hand at windsurfing, fishing, parasailing, surfing, and take rides on banana boats, jet skis, sailboats, and cruise boats to enjoy the waters of the Caribbean.
Extensive Lodging Options
When you visit the best islands in the Caribbean, you can be sure you’ll have plenty of options for great places to stay at every price point.
When you choose an all-inclusive resort, your room, food, drinks, activities, and more are taken care of with amenities like spas and fine restaurants onsite!
The 16 resorts we chose as the best of the Caribbean range from about $560 to over $15,000 for a 4-night stay for 2, so you can find an option for any budget.
The 9 Best Islands in the Caribbean
Heading just about anywhere in the Caribbean will guarantee a gorgeous, memorable trip, but the 9 best islands in the Caribbean are absolutely stunning.
We’ve compiled a list of the best Caribbean islands to visit – islands that are packed with activities and natural beauty, considered safe for travelers, and offer a completely immersive Caribbean experience.
The 9 best Caribbean islands to visit are:
- The Bahamas
- St. Lucia
- Dominican Republic
- St. Thomas
- Antigua and Barbuda
Learn more about each island and see which one will be the best destination for your trip next. Discover the tropical beauty and wonder of the 9 best islands in the Caribbean below!
1. The Bahamas
The islands of the Bahamas are a favorite Caribbean destination for travelers and offer a perfect tropical setting for family trips, romantic getaways, and adventurous experiences alike.
Named among the safest islands in the Caribbean, the Bahamas experiences excellent weather year-round with temperatures in the upper 60s to the low 90s.
Ample diving opportunities on colorful reefs around the islands will delight adventurous travelers, national parks make for great hiking and exploration opportunities, and the beaches and nightlife are perfect for soaking up sun and letting loose on your trip.
Find out the best islands to stay in the Bahamas (Nassau is great for budget trips, while Paradise Island is unbeatable for families) and be sure to go during the high season from December to April for a top-tier experience.
2. St. Lucia
St. Lucia (or Saint Lucia) is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean and our favorite spot for a Caribbean trip that rejuvenates and revitalizes you.
With scenic views of the rugged Piton Mountains, swathes of lush rainforest, multicolored volcanic sand beaches, and lots of coral reefs to snorkel and dive around, there’s no shortage of things to do in St. Lucia.
You’ll enjoy the highs around 84F-88F through most of the year here with the best time to visit being December through March, when rainfall is low and beach days are perfect.
For the ultimate experience, it’s worth it to stay at one of the best all-inclusive resorts in St. Lucia within your budget (we found options as low as $1,425 for a 5-night stay for 2).
3. Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic boasts amazing weather, beaches, scenery, culture, and activities for travelers who want a picturesque tropical vacation with lots of opportunities for adventure.
With average temperatures around 79F, you can’t ask for better weather than you’ll find here. Come during the high season from December to April for lots of sunshine and festivals happening!
There are lots of places to visit here with activities like snorkeling and diving, a vibrant music and arts scene, and delicious food with African, Spanish, and Taino Indian influences.
These are just some of the highlights of a trip to the Dominican Republic! The private resorts here are excellent and range in price to fit every budget.
Named one of the safest island nations in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic is generally safe for tourists, especially if you choose to stay in one of the all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana or similar popular areas.
4. St. Thomas
Famous for mountains, sparkling white sand beaches that perfectly contrast the aqua waters, and a casual vibe with gorgeous scenery, St. Thomas is easily one of the best islands in the Caribbean.
All the best island activities are on the list in St. Thomas, including beaches, snorkeling, diving, shopping, hiking, and exploring the towns and hiking trails.
Part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas really comes alive in winter and springtime (two of the best times to visit). It doesn’t get much warmer than 90F and winter sees highs in the low 80s.
There are lots of places to stay and private resorts in St. Thomas, from the happening capital Charlotte Amalie to the scenic region of Magens Bay. It’s considered a safe island to visit with crime rarely affecting tourists.
One of the Caribbean’s lesser-traveled gems is beautiful Barbados. This island sees about a million visitors each year and has so much to offer!
One of the first things you’ll notice about Barbados is the colorful colonial architecture that gives the island a friendly, lively feel.
Dive on shipwrecks and coral reefs around the island, hike easy to moderately difficult trails, try your hand at windsurfing or snorkeling, and relax on the pristine beaches here.
Barbados is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean so you can feel secure while you enjoy all the island has to offer.
Try to plan your visit during January to April – the best time to visit Barbados for great weather and attractions.
6. Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is an island country made up of 2 separate tropical islands, each with amazing scenery and delightfully different landscapes.
Antigua is the largest and liveliest island here. Its sprawling beaches, central rainforest, secluded coves, and volcanic rocks are an incredible backdrop for your vacation.
Barbuda, a coral island, is flatter with a large lagoon and amazing birdwatching opportunities. This is where you’ll want to stay for fewer crowds, lower prices, and a more authentic vibe.
Both are very safe islands that are easy to navigate. Ferries make it simple to make your way between the two islands.
Try to plan your visit during December to April, the best time to visit Antigua and Barbuda for great weather.
Come to Grenada for the mountainous natural beauty with a lush rainforest landscape making this island something truly special. It’s one of the safest islands in the Caribbean so you can relax and unwind without worry!
Don’t miss Grand Etang National Park where you can explore the dense rainforest and lakes within. You’ll fall in love with the absolutely unreal Underwater Sculpture Park off the western coast!
The dry season from January to May is the best time to visit Grenada, but any time of year will be a good time to take in the wonders of this naturally beautiful place.
When you’re craving something different, take a break from all the adventure and natural wonder to enjoy the sophisticated vibe in the popular shops, restaurants, and bars in town.
Jamaica, famous for reggae and dancehall music, rum, and a lovably laid-back vibe, and one of the best islands in the Caribbean to visit.
Over 4 million people come to Jamaica every year for the amazing range of things to do, including gorgeous beaches, diving and snorkeling, hiking, zip lining, and caving. However, where you decide to visit is key.
Some areas of Jamaica experience high levels of violent crime, so the best way to experience Jamaica is in a private all-inclusive resort where you won’t need to venture far to take part in fun activities, great food, and free-flowing drinks.
As long as you know where to stay in Jamaica, you’re in for a Caribbean treat. Try to plan your visit during the balmy November-December period when prices are lower and crowds are thin with the promise of great weather!
Aruba is small at just 70 square miles, but it packs a ton of beauty and adventure into the space and is one of the best islands in the Caribbean you can visit.
The nickname “One Happy Island” suits it well, with several gorgeous white sand beaches, natural pools and rock formations, and picturesque parks dotting the island.
Aruba is a very safe place to visit and is home to some truly amazing all-inclusive resorts that pamper you and cater to every need during your stay.
Try to visit Aruba during January to mid-April, when you’ll find the ideal weather and open attractions. There are lots of things to do in Aruba and many excellent restaurants to choose from during your stay!
Things to Consider
What else should you keep in mind to make the most of your visit to one of the best islands in the Caribbean? Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind!
- Pick the island that fits your needs best. Most Caribbean islands offer similar tropical weather patterns, but the scenery, landscapes, local culture, and activities vary quite a bit. Some islands are geared more toward natural beauty and adventures than sophisticated resorts and sparkling pools. Base your choice on your preferred activities – hiking, water activities, relaxing on the beach, spending time in town, etc. – to narrow your choices down to find the best fit.
- Know the pros and cons of the wet season. Caribbean islands typically experience a cooler dry and warmer wet season each year. Visiting during the wet season means you’ll have more rainfall and possibly higher chances of a hurricane or tropical storm, but also translates into cheaper room rates and fewer crowds.
- Know the pros and cons of the dry season. The dry season for a Caribbean island usually coincides with the peak or high season for tourism, when things are busiest and prices are at their peak. You’ll have less rainfall and better weather, but at the cost of fewer available rooms, higher rates, and bigger crowds and lines wherever you go.
- Get familiar with local customs. No matter which of the best islands in the Caribbean you choose to visit, you’ll want to dive into the local culture to really experience the fullness of the place. Learn some phrases in the local language, try a regional favorite dish, check out the local parks and flora, and get to know the place you’re in.
- Consider island hopping. With so many Caribbean islands, there’s a good chance you’ll find smaller islands nearby no matter which one you choose to visit. Ferries, boat rides, small planes, and bridges can connect you to nearby islands that broaden your Caribbean experience!
Frequently Asked Questions
Learn more about the best islands in the Caribbean and what you need to know before you plan your visit by looking through the most frequently asked questions.
What are the prettiest Caribbean islands?
Every Caribbean island offers plenty of tropical beauty, but among the prettiest are St. Lucia and Barbados.
St. Lucia is famed for dramatic mountainous landscapes with secluded rocky beaches and dense rainforests. Barbados has some of the most beautiful beaches, especially along its glitzy white sand Platinum Coast on the western side.
What is the #1 Caribbean island?
Travel sites rate the Dominican Republic as the #1 Caribbean island, receiving around 8.5 million visitors each year - the most of all the Caribbean islands.
The Dominican Republic offers a range of gorgeous destinations for travelers, including sprawling beaches, mountains, dunes, and rivers and lakes. It's home to some of the best all-inclusive resorts in the world.
What is the best Caribbean island to explore?
If exploration is your main goal, the best Caribbean island to visit is a tie between St. Lucia and Grenada. Both offer natural beauty and diverse landscapes that make exploration magical and fun for solo travelers, couples, and families.
St. Lucia is home to the Piton Mountains, rainforests, great beaches, and reefs you can dive offshore for underwater exploration. There's plenty of nightlife and activity in town, too!
Grenada is a laid-back island with lots of natural beauty, from waterfalls and rainforests to beaches and steep cliffs. Hiking trails and scenic views are unmatched in Grenada for true adventurers.
What is the cheapest and safest Caribbean island?
Grenada is ranked one of the safest islands in the Caribbean and among those with the lowest cost of living. Overall, it's likely the cheapest and safest Caribbean island you can visit.
Petty theft is generally the main crime concern for travelers in Grenada, and that's easily avoided by taking precautions and keeping an eye on your belongings.
We found room rates in the $100/night range on Booking.com for popular areas in Grenada, so it can be very affordable to visit!
Which Caribbean islands have the worst crime?
Trinidad and Tobago followed by Jamaica and Puerto Rico have the highest crime rates of the Caribbean islands. While crime rates are higher in these places, following basic precautions and staying in a private resort area can help you stay safe if you choose to visit.
So, What Are the Best Islands in the Caribbean?
We’ve shown you the top 9 Caribbean islands to visit, from the ever-popular Bahamas to lesser-visited gems like Grenada and Barbados.
Whether you’re looking for a laid-back locale to relax and take in gorgeous tropical views or an adventure around every corner with hiking, windsurfing, and diving on your itinerary, there’s a Caribbean island for you.
All the best islands in the Caribbean have a welcoming, friendly vibe with beautiful beaches and stunning landscapes. Some are dotted with rainforests and mountains that seem to enchant the place.
Others are home to world-famous resorts and secluded bays and beaches that will cost more, but reward you with unmatched privacy and amenities.
In the end, the best islands in the Caribbean are the ones that have the landscapes and vibes you’re looking for in your dream tropical vacation.