Heading just about anywhere in the Caribbean will guarantee a gorgeous, memorable trip, but only if you pick the right places to visit.
We’ve compiled a list of the best Caribbean islands to visit – scenic islands that are packed with activities and natural beauty, safe for travelers, showcase colorful cultures and traditions, and offer a completely immersive Caribbean experience.
The 9 Best Islands in the Caribbean
While there are countless islands to visit in the Caribbean, some are better than others in terms of their beaches, resorts, outdoor adventures, food, safety, and picturesque tropical scenery.
Visiting the best islands in the Caribbean is the only way to truly get a sense of what makes this region so close to paradise on Earth. We highlight the 9 top islands in the Caribbean Sea below so you can skip the mediocre and experience the best the Caribbean has to offer!
1. The Bahamas
The Bahamas is a chain of over 700 subtropical islands on the Caribbean Sea with a little of everything — secluded, natural beauty, bustling resorts and tourist-centric islands, postcard-worthy beaches, and family-friendly to romantic experiences with warm weather year-round.
Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to steal away with your sweetheart for a week or an island with an abundance of activities, attractions, dining, and shopping, you can find it in this archipelago known for turquoise waters and sugar-white sand.
Weather in the Bahamas is refreshingly mild and balmy. The islands experience average temperatures from 74°F to 83°F year-round. Even a January visit welcomes you with highs around 79°F and 70°F lows!
You’ll appreciate the convenience of traveling to the Bahamas, too.
Everyone speaks English, there are plenty of direct flights from airports around the U.S., the Bahamian dollar is pegged 1-to-1 to the U.S. dollar for easy conversion, and the infrastructure is good across the main tourist islands.
You’ll find much to see and do while you’re here:
- World-class diving and snorkeling on reefs and shipwrecks
- National parks, hiking, and birdwatching in tropical and subtropical forests
- Thrilling water parks, like Aquaventure, and tons of water sports
- Museums and historic landmarks, like Queen’s Staircase and Pirates of Nassau
- Dining on traditional Bahamian food, fresh seafood, and classic American favorites
The islands are known for some incredible dive spots, including Andros Barrier Reef (the 3rd-largest coral reef in the world) off Andros Island, Deep South Reef off Cat Island, and Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck off the Berry Islands.
It’s also one of the safest places to go in the Caribbean so you can enjoy a worry-free travel experience.
From exploring bustling Nassau on New Providence to the resort-rich, family-friendly Paradise Island, find out the best islands to stay in the Bahamas and try to plan your trip during the high season from December to April for a top-tier experience.
2. St. Lucia
Visiting St. Lucia is a real treat with rainforests wrapped in majestic mountains, bordered by the sparkling blue Caribbean Sea. Small towns dot the island and carry the laid-back island vibes you’re seeking when you head to the Caribbean.
The dramatic scenery will draw you to St. Lucia, but it’s the authenticity, gorgeous beaches, lush rainforests, endless adventures, and friendly locals that make it one of the best islands in the Caribbean.
Warm temperatures are guaranteed when you visit with highs ranging from 83°F to 87°F year-round and a short rainy season from June to November. It’s prime weather for hiking, swimming, and exploring the island!
This is an island of hidden gems, where wandering a skinny trail through the leafy rainforest leads you to stunning 50-foot waterfalls like Toraille that cascade into lush gardens below. Exploring St. Lucia feels like you’re the first one discovering it.
Most travelers head to its capital and cruise port, Castries, and the popular Rodney Bay on the northern side of the island to begin their trip. You’ll find so much to see and do here:
- Lounging and playing on white sand and multicolored volcanic sand beaches
- Scuba diving and snorkeling on coral reefs and shipwrecks
- Hiking in the Piton Mountains and Pigeon Island National Park
- Mineral baths and waterfalls at Diamond Falls and Sulfur Springs
- Adventures like zip lining, rainforest and waterfall hikes, and gondola canopy rides
- Traditional St. Lucian food, like Creole bread, green fig and saltfish, and black pudding
St. Lucia is also one of the safest islands in the Caribbean, so it’s easy to relax and unwind while you’re here enjoying the sights, scenery, and endless activities on the island.
Try to plan your St. Lucia trip during the best time to visit (December through March) with sunny days, minimal rain, and comfortable highs from 83°F to 84°F.
For the ultimate experience, it’s worth staying 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 is situated on the eastern part of the island of Hispaniola with Haiti on the west end. Home to 100+ small offshore islands offering a range of adventures, this tropical, sunny nation is one of the best spots for a Caribbean getaway.
You’ll find some of the world’s best Caribbean beaches, lush rainforests, rolling plains, and rugged mountains (including Pico Duarte, the tallest in the Caribbean) with vibrant, Spanish-influenced cities like Santo Domingo on the island.
With average temperatures from 75°F to 81°F and very little rain, it’s sunny, warm, and comfortable on the island year-round with little bad weather to derail your visit.
There’s no shortage of beautiful scenery or things to do in the Dominican Republic. You’ll find everything from secluded, unspoiled beaches and bustling all-inclusive resorts with top-tier facilities to charming towns with Gothic and Colonial architecture to explore.
When you’re in the Dominican Republic, you might have any of these activities and places to visit on your to-do list:
- Relaxing on pristine Dominican beaches, from Bavaro Beach to Playa Rincon
- Enjoying water sports like windsurfing, diving, kayaking, and parasailing
- Staying at all-inclusive Punta Cana resorts with meals, activities, full facilities, and entertainment
- Dining on traditional Dominican foods like mangu, sancocho, and La Bandera Dominicana
- Exploring the capital, Santo Domingo, and its historic architecture, restaurants, and markets
The resort town of Punta Cana is the most popular destination for travelers heading to the DR for sun and fun. Home to famous all-inclusive resorts that pack everything you need for your trip into one destination, it’s one of our favorite places to go on the island.
The Dominican Republic is generally safe for tourists, especially at secure, enclosed resorts. Venturing off-property can be a lot of fun, especially if you want to explore historic towns and try authentic foods.
Whether you’re chowing down on the traditional lunch, La Bandera Dominicana (Dominican flag, or rice, beans, and meat), or trying mangu mashed plantains and 7-meat stew (sancocho), you’ll taste the hearty Spanish influence in the Dominican Republic with Caribbean flair.
Come during the high season from December to April for the most idyllic weather, very little rain, and a huge range of events and festivals happening around the island.
4. St. Thomas
One of the best islands to visit in the Caribbean is St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). Situated in the eastern Caribbean Sea, it’s the most-visited Virgin Island and packed with beaches, resorts, recreation, Dutch Colonial architecture, and volcanic peaks overlooking the ocean.
Famous for textured mountains blanketed in green, white sand beaches that perfectly contrast the aqua waters, and a casual vibe with gorgeous scenery, St. Thomas is as beautiful to look at as it is fun to explore and play in.
St. Thomas has a friendly, small-town feel that makes you feel welcome and at home as soon as you arrive. You’ll enjoy hanging out downtown in Charlotte Amalie, the capital, to visit upscale shops and restaurants.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a bad time to visit St. Thomas, but it really comes alive in winter and springtime (two of the best times to visit). It doesn’t get much warmer than 89°F in summer and winter sees highs in the low 80s.
St. Thomas can be a luxe travel destination or an affordable getaway, depending on where you stay, when you go, and what you plan to do while you’re here. Some of our favorite activities on the island are:
- Visiting white sand beaches, like crescent-shaped Magens Bay, wrapped in tropical, lush scenery
- Biking or strolling beach trails, harbor paths, and bustling Main Street in Charlotte Amalie
- Dining on traditional Caribbean foods like chicken curry, conch fritters, and callaloo soup
- Trying water sports like diving, snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, and windsurfing
- Heading to the Mountain Top observation deck on St. Peter Mountain for incredible views
There are lots of places to stay and luxe resorts in St. Thomas, from the vibrant capital, Charlotte Amalie, to the scenic region of Magens Bay. It’s considered a safe island to visit with crime rarely affecting tourists.
Barbados is another excellent Caribbean destination with its sprawling beaches, colorful, colonial architecture, stunning national parks and wildlife reserves, and laid-back vibes for travelers seeking rest and relaxation.
The beaches are amazing here. Being a coral (not volcanic) island, the white sand of Barbados is finely-ground coral and creates some of the best beaches in the entire Caribbean region.
But don’t think that the local penchant for tranquility means there’s no adventure to be had here! Barbados is where you’ll find some incredible shipwrecks to dive in Carlisle Bay, enchanting cavern tours at Harrisons Cave, and big breaks to surf on Maycock’s Bay.
If you’re looking for a less-tourist-y experience, you’ll find it here by wandering off the beaten path to “secret” beaches like Shark Hole and Bottom Bay Beach. Hanging out and feeding monkeys in a leafy, forested reserve will be a highlight of your visit!
Here are some ideas for things to get into while you’re exploring and enjoying Barbados:
- Hiking the scenic coastal trails from Bath to Bathsheba
- Trying water sports like swimming with sea turtles, kayaking, and windsurfing
- Swimming and lounging on the pristine, white sand beaches
- Diving and snorkeling around reefs, shipwrecks, and piers
- Touring Fisherpond Sugar Cane Estate and Barbados Wildlife Reserve
You can do it all year-round with warm, sunny weather and temperatures ranging from 84°F in winter to 88°F in summer. Rain is more common during the fall and winter, but tapers off leading into spring.
It’s also 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 mild, dry weather!
6. Antigua and Barbuda
The Caribbean sister islands Antigua and Barbuda aren’t identical twins — they’re very much independent, and each one offers something delightfully different with similar but distinct scenery, vibes, and things to do.
Antigua is the big sister, offering the most action-packed experience with more resorts, restaurants, shops, and activities to take part in. You’ll find stunningly nice beaches, a central rainforest and volcanic mountains to explore, and charming towns and villages dotting the island.
Barbuda is the little sister with a flatter landscape, miles-long, unspoiled beaches, amazing birdwatching opportunities (check out the Frigate Bird Sanctuary), shallow lagoons teeming with life, and a reef-fringed coast that’s prime for diving and snorkeling.
Temperatures on the islands range from 83°F in winter and early spring and between 86°F and 88°F in late spring, summer, and fall. It’s nice here year-round, but there’s a rainy season from June to November to consider.
Antigua and Barbuda are a singular nation that pack the thrills of visiting two Caribbean islands into a single trip! You can take a high-speed ferry to get to Barbuda in about 90 minutes for a day of wild, natural beauty and fun.
There’s a lot to see and do around Antigua and Barbuda, including:
- White and pink sand beaches like Valley Church Beach (Antigua) and 17-Mile Beach (Barbuda)
- Exploring the Wallings Nature Reserve rainforest to see wildlife and ascend to great views
- Diving and snorkeling the coral reefs around the islands, including a new man-made reef
- Visiting Devil’s Bridge National Park for limestone arches and blowholes
- Dining on traditional Antiguan dishes like saltfish and fungie or pepperpot
You can stay on Barbuda if you want a more laid-back, natural experience, but options are limited and there’s a lot more to do in terms of tourist-y activities if you stay on Antigua.
Both are easy to navigate, very safe islands ready to welcome you for a visit. Try to plan your stay between December and April if you want the best time to visit Antigua and Barbuda for great weather.
Grenada is one of the most lush and scenic islands in the Caribbean, offering a lot more than just beaches, dive spots, and resorts. Known as the “Spice Isle,” this rum-soaked tropical island is shaped by volcanic mountains, waterfalls, and gorgeous, sandy to forested coastline.
The weather is warm year-round in Grenada, seeing highs from 86°F to 89°F with a rainy season between June and November. It’s nice and dry from December to May!
The big tourist zone centers around Grand Anse, where you’ll find most of the resorts, hotels, and guesthouses with convenient access to the beach. It’s a great basecamp to venture further out into the island or just enjoy some lazy beach days, drink in hand!
Speaking of drinks, you’ll want to sip on some Grenadian rum. It’s distilled right here on the island in strengths so potent, some varieties can’t be taken on the plane. Guess you’ll have to finish up your bottle here on the beach!
Over at St. George’s, about 6 minutes away, you’ll find a cool 18th-century French fort (Fort George) near the harbor entrance you can visit for amazing views over the town and horseshoe-shaped harbor.
You’ll find plenty of activities and places to visit while you’re on Grenada, including:
- Playing and relaxing at BBC Beach, Grand Anse, Hog Island, and Little Anse
- Venturing out to Seven Sisters Waterfall and Royal Mt. Carmel Waterfalls
- Hiking Mount Qua Qua and Grand Etang National Park & Forest Reserve
- Touring the River Antoine Rum Distillery and Diamond Chocolate Factory
- Dining on Grenadian foods like “Oil down” (meat, dumpling, and veggie stew) and lambi (conch)
While there’s lots of jungle and forest to explore along with idyllic beaches, make sure you take some time to don your diving equipment and check out the underwater sculptures at the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park. It’s fascinating!
Take the 2-hour ferry ride from Grenada to Carriacou, a nearby offshore island you can explore with nearly empty crescent-shaped beaches, a cool museum, and excellent diving around its coral reefs.
Jamaica is world famous as the birthplace of reggae and dancehall music, but it’s equally well-known for its gorgeous beaches, outdoor adventures, and for being a rum distillery and bobsledding hotspot with a lovably laid-back vibe.
Jamaica is a large island, the biggest in the Commonwealth Caribbean, and features narrow strips of pretty beaches, glowing lagoons, deep valleys, and rugged mountain ridges that beg to be explored.
The weather here couldn’t be better (it’s the Caribbean, after all) and highs range from 78°F to 83°F from winter to summer. May through October sees more rain, but the November to April dry season is absolutely prime.
It’s a tourist hotspot, especially around Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios. Bars, dance clubs, restaurants, and unique souvenir shops are everywhere in these zones!
There’s never a shortage of things to do in Jamaica, but these are some of the must-see highlights:
- Montego Bay: Hang out on the Hip Strip, visit Luminous Lagoon, lounge on Doctor’s Cave Beach, tour Rose Hall Great House, and float down Martha Brae River
- Negril: Visit YS Falls (7 waterfalls), go zip lining over Dunns River Falls, hang out at bars and clubs, and relax on Seven Mile Beach or Booby Cay
- Ocho Rios: Visit Dunn’s River Falls and Park, hang out at Ocho Rios Bay Beach, travel tunnels through Fern Gully, explore Green Grotto Caves, and bobsled at Mystic Mountain
Some areas of Jamaica experience high levels of violent crime, so we recommend booking 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!
Small but mighty and last but definitely not least, Aruba is one of the best islands in the Caribbean to visit if you’re into lounging on the beach, embracing “island time,” and exploring scenic natural areas with historic landmarks scattered about.
A small island spanning just 70 square miles, you’ll appreciate the near-constant ocean breezes that keep you feeling cool and refreshed during long, lazy days on the gorgeous white sand beaches or while you’re outdoors adventuring.
Arikok National Park (rent a jeep to explore it) on the east coast is home to old gold mill and mine ruins, a natural pool (Conchi), serene beaches, rock paintings in the Quadiriki Caves, and stunning views from the Arikok hilltop.
Aruba is known as “One Happy Island” and once you visit, you’ll see why. Locals are friendly and welcoming with smiles on their faces. Surrounded by white sand beaches and fringed with coral reefs, this paradise island injects joy into daily life.
You’ll find tons of things to do in Aruba for endless entertainment. Some of the activities you can try while you’re in Aruba are:
- Diving and snorkeling around coral reefs and shipwrecks, like the S.S. Antilla
- Relaxing on the white sand beaches, like Eagle Beach, Baby Beach, and Malmok Beach
- Jeep tours around Arikok National Park and its tidal pools, caves, and vista views
- Touring historic landmarks like the California Lighthouse and Aloe Factory Museum
- Visiting bird and wildlife sanctuaries to see the wilder side of Aruba
Aruba is a very safe place to visit and is home to several all-inclusive resorts that pamper you and cater to every need during your stay. If you’d prefer, there are plenty of hotels and guesthouses around Noord, Oranjestad, and Palm Beach!
Try to visit Aruba between January and mid-April if you can. This is when you’ll find warm, dry weather with calmer winds and all the best restaurants and attractions are open for business during the peak tourism season.
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.
Summary: The 9 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.