It’s easy to think of the Caribbean as a broadly homogeneous region (and that’s completely true when it comes to beautiful beaches and lovely places to stay) but take a longer look and you’ll discover that there are actually huge cultural and geographical differences between the islands, making this a region that rewards repeated visits. Read on for our roundup of the best islands in the Caribbean...
Turks & Caicos
The Luxury One
If it’s a luxury getaway you’re after, the Turks & Caicos Islands, located to the southeast of the Bahamas, will fit the bill perfectly. Home to a collection of sublime private villas and two of the finest hotels in the Caribbean: Amanyara and Parrot Cay, luxury is all but guaranteed here. Spend your dazing lazing on powder-soft beaches, indulging in the freshest seafood and unwinding with pampering spa treatments.
The Fun One
A little slice of palm-fringed England, Barbados has hedonism down making it one of the best islands in the Caribbean for some serious indulging. Sure, it can be a bit bling, but the island also has some of the most sophisticated properties in the Caribbean and there are heaps of adventures to be had. Hop between beautiful beaches (and beach bars); rent a car to explore the wild interior; and take to the water for wreck diving, stand up paddle boarding and sailing lessons.
The Diving One
Okay, so the diving in the Caribbean is never going to claim the crown as the world’s best, but it can be pretty decent, especially in the Bahamas where you’ll find the third-largest barrier reef as well as a number of blue holes and underwater caverns and wrecks. The Bahamas also boasts some of the best shark diving in the world, including the chance to see hammerheads up close in the warm waters of Bimini.
The Cool One
Jamaica sometimes gets a bad rap, but this is arguably one of the best islands in the Caribbean when it comes to diversity and a fantastic destination for families and couples alike. As the third largest of the Caribbean islands, there is an endless array of activities to enjoy from coffee plantation tours and hiking adventures through the Blue Mountains, to evenings spent bar hopping to experience the rum and reggae the island is famous for.
The Watersports One
Nelson famously described Antigua as a ‘dreadful hole’, which goes to show that admirable Admirals don’t necessarily make ideal identifiers of holiday destinations. Latter-day visitors can enjoy some of the best beaches and hotels in the Caribbean and – ironically for old Horatio – superb watersports from paddle boarding to snorkelling and, of course, sailing.
The Foodie One
Prepare for your Orlebar Brown swimmers to feel a lot tighter after a trip in Anguilla, thanks to the wealth of delicious dishes and world class cooking in hotels such as the Four Seasons, Cap Juluca and Malliouhana, as well as low-key eateries like Sunshine Shack (quite literally) on Rendezvous Bay. Seafood plays an important role in Angilla and you’ll likely find local red snapper and mahi mahi on menus, all washed down with a refreshing rum punch.
The Hilly One
With miles of unspoiled rainforest, dramatic mountain ranges and rugged coastline, St Lucia is one of the best islands in the Caribbean if you want to balance your lazy beach days with some truly awesome hiking adventures. Head to the south of the island to discover the finest geographical feature in the region – the Pitons, the island’s defining feature and a World Heritage site consisting of twin volcanic mountains. It is best viewed from the sea aboard a luxurious boat, but you can also snorkel between the peaks, climb them, or just take it all in from one of the idyllic white sand beaches.
British Virgin Islands
The Yachtie One
The BVIs (as they are universally referred to) are a necklace of verdant emerald isles surrounding a central lagoon that offers sailors a perfect maritime playground. The best way to explore is aboard a luxury yacht for an island-hopping adventure. Only 16 out of the 40 or so islands are inhabited, giving you the chance to live out your castaway fantasies, and the seas are remarkably calm.