The Caribbean Sea is known for having some of the most beautiful islands and beaches in the entire world. Located off the coasts of Central and South America, the Caribbean Sea is a massive body of water dotted with islands of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. Other than in continental Europe, you would be hard pressed to find a geographical area that speaks so many different languages! There are islands in the Caribbean that speak English, Dutch, Spanish, French, and Creole, and there are further dialects that branch off from there. As most of these islands were formerly colonies of European countries, the cultures have been heavily influenced by European nations thousands of miles away.
Planning a trip to the Caribbean can be daunting, as there are simply so many places to consider visiting. There are over 700 islands in the Caribbean that comprise over 30 different countries and territories, so instead of naming individual islands, we will name the larger name that they fall under, if applicable.
10. Turks and Caicos
Visit Turks and Caicos for Legendary Scuba Diving
Turks and Caicos is a group of 40 islands located in the northern end of the Caribbean Sea. The largest island is Grand Turk, and it is frequently known as the home of Grace Bay, which is recognized as one of the nicest beaches in the entire world. Turks and Caicos is a popular cruise destination from the United States, as Grand Turk’s cruise port sits just about 500 miles off of the coast of Miami. As Turks and Caicos is a British Overseas Territory, the official language is English, which helps to make it a stress-free, relaxing destination for many American and European travelers.
9. Cayman Islands
Visit the Cayman Islands for Pristine Beaches with High-End Amenities
The Cayman Islands are known globally as an international tax haven, but this little set of three islands is much more than just that! Armed with a seven-mile-long stretch of pristine beaches, Grand Cayman is one of the top destinations in the Caribbean for luxury travelers. Many of the resorts in Grand Cayman are among the best in the entire Caribbean, and the restaurants on and around the beaches are world class. Many travelers enjoy visiting hell, which is an area of the island covered in eerie black rock formations. There is even a post office from which you can mail postcards from hell back to your loved ones!
Visit Aruba for Unending Sunshine and Crystal Clear Waters
Aruba is a Dutch-speaking island located at the very southern end of the Caribbean, just north of Colombia and Venezuela. While every island in the Caribbean is encircled by gorgeous water, many travelers think that the water in Aruba is as good as it gets. The water is so clear that you can see for several feet below you, and you can swim a pretty far distance from the beach before the water starts to turn a darker shade of blue.
Also, due to its closer position to the equator, Aruba is known for having sunny weather for a larger portion of the year than many other Caribbean islands. As a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Aruba’s official language is Dutch and its culture is pretty unique compared to many other Caribbean islands.
7. Domincan Republic
Visit the Dominican Republic for its All-Inclusive Resorts
Known principally for Punta Cana and La Romana, the Dominican Republic has blossomed into one of the premier all-inclusive resort destinations in the Caribbean. Travelers flock here to relax on gorgeous sunny beaches, indulge in delicious food and drinks, and explore the beautiful and rugged terrain of the island. While most islands in the Caribbean have luxurious all-inclusive resorts, few have nearly as many as the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is a Spanish-speaking independent country, and it comprises the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola. Haiti is located on the western half.
6. British Virgin Islands
Visit the British Virgin Islands for Uninterrupted Relaxation
There are two different sets of Virgin Islands – the British ones and the American ones. Both sets of islands are very similar, and they are located right next to each other in the eastern part of the Caribbean Sea. Many people peg the Virgin Islands as some of the nicest places to sit back and relax in the entire Caribbean. The British Virgin Islands tend to be a bit quieter and more mature than their American counterparts on the western end of the archipelago, and three of the most popular British Virgin Islands to visit are Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Tortola.
5. U.S. Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands for Family-Friendly Island Excursions
The U.S. Virgin Islands are located in the same archipelago as the British Virgin Islands, in the eastern part of the Caribbean Sea. Not too far from Puerto Rico, these islands have started to be recognized as some of the most family-friendly destinations in the Caribbean. While the natural beauty is equal to that of the British Virgin Islands, the vibes on the American side are much more laid back and amenable to families with children, and the prices tend to be a bit more affordable, too.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are a great place to go on island excursions like riding ATVs and going Jet-skiing, and they are one of the best places in the Caribbean to do this with a family. Some of the most popular places to visit in the U.S. Virgin Islands are St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John.
4. Sint Maarten (St. Martin)
Sint Maarten for the Most Unique Culture in the Caribbean
Sint Maarten, or Saint-Martin, is easily one of the most unique islands in the entire Caribbean. This island was split right down the middle by the Dutch and French kingdoms, thus the two separate names and two separate languages spoken on the island! Nowadays, the island is still split in half, with the southern half being an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the northern half being an overseas collectivity of France.
Aside from the unique cultural divide, Saint Martin is also known for having one of the most dangerous airports in the entire world. The main airport on the French side of the island has the shortest possible runway allowed by law, and planes take off just tens of feet over the heads of pedestrians. There is a popular beach located right outside of the airport, and daring tourists try to hold onto the fence while planes take off and land. Big planes often produce enough thrust to send people flying into the ocean.
Visit Cozumel, Mexico for a Taste of Mexican Culture
Mexico is easily the biggest country on this list, but it would be errant to include the country as a whole. Only a small part of Mexico even borders the Caribbean Sea, after all! However, Mexico’s biggest island, Cozumel, is located fully in the Caribbean, and it is easily one of the best islands to visit in the Caribbean. While it is certainly touristy at heart, there are many aspects of Cozumel that make it a great place to visit in Mexico. The street food in Cozumel is out of this world, there are some outstanding cultural attractions like Pueblo del Maiz, and the beaches are among the very best in the entire Caribbean.
We lived in Mexico for two years, and Cozumel was one place that we just had to go back to several times. From our favorite beach clubs and the best things to do on the island, to the best ways to get around, everything you need to know about visiting Cozumel can be found in our Cozumel Travel Guide.
Visit Cuba for Mojitos, Fine Cigars, and Iconic Muscle Car Taxis
Cuba is certainly one of the most unique places on this list. While the country has had a very difficult relationship with the United States, there is no denying that Havana is an absolutely electric city to visit. From the world’s finest cigar factories to some truly delicious cuisine (Cuba is the home of the mojito, after all), Cuba is one place that I highly recommend visiting in the Caribbean if you are able to navigate the paperwork necessary to do so.
If you are of certain nationalities, especially American, visiting Cuba can be very challenging. The American government in particular makes it very difficult for its citizens to visit Cuba, due to the tense political relationship that has existed between the two countries for decades. Despite being just a couple hundred miles off of the coast of Florida, visiting Cuba can be a real headache for Americans, but is well worth the time and effort if you are able to find a way to visit.
1. Puerto Rico
Visit Puerto Rico for its Charming Capital, its Rainforest, and its Bioluminescent Bay
If you were to ask us, Puerto Rico is easily the best island to visit in the Caribbean. Located in the eastern part of the Caribbean Sea, Puerto Rico is an island filled with a rich heritage, delicious food, cultural flare, and absolutely gorgeous beaches. Its capital city, San Juan, is absolutely stunning, and it could occupy travelers for days. Other major destinations on the island, like Ponce and El Yunque National Forest, provide visitors with a very unique blend of activities, attractions, and vibes.
As a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico is incredibly easy for Americans to visit, and not too challenging for Europeans, either. Old San Juan is easily the island’s highlight, but places like the bioluminescent bay in Vieques and El Yunque National Forest should not be missed. Despite being a part of the United States, the official language of Puerto Rico is Spanish, and the currency is the U.S. dollar.
Thanks for reading our post on the best islands to visit in the Caribbean. Hopefully this post helps you to plan an exciting itinerary for your next trip to one of the most famous seas in the world! If you have any questions about visiting any of these Caribbean islands, don’t hesitate to reach out – we’ve got you covered.