Turks & Caicos
An island chain which on a map appears to be an extension of the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos are an exclusive, high-class holiday destination blessed by powder-soft, white sand beaches, crystal clear vivid blue waters, and a climate that defines devine! Secluded bays and islands with wild donkeys roaming free, historic towns and villages like something out of a pirate movie, it is the epitome of The Caribbean.
Capital of the island nation, and the largest island in the Turks group, but there isn’t the hectic hustle and bustle you would expect to find in a capital. This is a place for those who want to take it easy. There are no fast food restaurants or chain hotels. You may even see a horse or donkey, once a means of transportation during the days of Grand Turk's salting industry, roaming along Governor's Beach or through the narrow alleys in historic Cockburn Town.
The Cayman Islands
The British overseas territory of the Cayman Islands, are probably best known for their link to off-shore banking and tax-havens. The Caymans may lack the dramatic scenery and steamy nightlife of much of the rest of the Caribbean, but in their place you’ll find a charming, independent and deeply warm people spread over three islands boasting many of life’s quieter charms.
The largest island in the chain is a glitzy shopping mecca and global financial centre, dripping in 5-star resorts aimed at the wealthy from around the world. The island is crowded, no doubt, and it’s far from being an idyllic Caribbean hideaway, but with its excellent restaurants, shopping, activities and things to see and do, Grand Cayman is certainly not a place to be bored. For a more authentic Caribbean experience, you can head to the smaller islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Lying ninety miles off the shores of Cuba, is the lush and green island of Jamaica. Boasting a stunning coastline, and dense tropical rainforest-covered mountains at its heart, plus the same addictive sun rays, sugary sands and pampered resort-life as most of the other Caribbean islands. It is however set apart historically and culturally with a unique ‘African-ness’.
Montego Bay is the second largest city in Jamaica, trailing only Kingston, but it may be the king of tourist destinations. Those who come here find immaculate beaches, world class resorts, top-notch golf courses and tennis courts, and five-star restaurants. If you want a break from the gorgeous beaches take a stroll down bustling Gloucester Avenue for great shopping and eateries galore.
The other occupant of Hispaniola, and a step removed from the well-trodden tourist trail, this Caribbean country feels like new territory, yet to be discovered; a sense that is enhanced by its crystal clear waters. With lots of things to see and do, you can swim in a cool, natural pool, refreshed by a waterfall; tour through the mangroves; or even escape to the beautiful island of Cayo Levantado.
‘La Capital’ as it is typically called, is to Dominicans what New York is to Americans – a collage of cultures and neighbourhoods, and a vibrant beating heart that fuels the entire country. Amongst the cobblestone streets, reminiscent of the French Quarter in New Orleans, it would be easy to forget that Santo Domingo is in the Caribbean, apart from the heat and humidity.
The sun-washed backyard of the USA is a place that locals fittingly call the ‘Island of Enchantment’, renowned for its endless sandy beaches and wildly tropical terrain. Its coral reefs host a riot of tropical ﬁsh, its limestone caves in the misty central mountains resound with the chirp of coquí frogs, and its unique collection of forests – some of the wettest and driest in the Caribbean – harbour some of the rarest birds in the world.
San Juan is the second oldest European-founded settlement in the Americas. The atmospheric ‘Old City’ juxtaposes historical authenticity with pulsating modern energy. Beyond the impressive 500 year old walls of the fortifications of El Morro, San Juan is far more than a dizzying collection of well-polished artefacts.
British Virgin Islands
A complete sailing fantasy land of more than 40 islands, including the world renowned luxury resort of Necker Island, owned by Sir Richard Branson, the British Virgin Islands are the epitome of the Caribbean. While the islands are British territories, there’s little that’s overtly British. The BVIs are quite close to, and intermingled with, the US Virgin Islands, though the BVIs are more virginal as far as development goes.
A mountainous island, though verdant when seen from afar, the climate and vegetation are much drier than most other Caribbean isles. With no rainforest, cacti and succulents form the large majority of the indigenous flora, and due to the dryness of the island and the lack of run-off water, the surrounding sea is visibly clearer, making it a haven for divers and snorkelers.
Famed for its lobster, reputed to be the best in the Caribbean, Jost Van Dyke is a coral island surrounded by tropical reef, and its beaches are amongst the best in the entire region. They also happen to be amongst the most deserted, hence it is widely known as the ‘Barefoot Island’. Forget heavy tourism and development, rather find a shady beachside spot for a cool drink.
St. Kitts & Nevis
This two island nation combines the beauty of mountains with awesome beaches and a rich history in which to immerse yourself. With greater development and landmass, St. Kitts offers plenty to its visitors, from the languid charms of its former plantations to the astonishing bulk of the Brimstone Fortress. Nevis, is somewhat smaller and boasts its own volcanic mountain, smaller beaches and a charming main town called Charleston.
Basseterre, St. Kitts
Established by France during the early 17th century, Basseterre became part of the British Empire following the Napoleonic War, while keeping its French name. Today, it retains much of its Georgian architecture, including the domed Treasury Building on the waterfront, through which every commodity (especially sugar) used to leave St. Kitts. With its perfect mixture of deserted beaches,
sleepy villages, lush rainforest and mini mountain range with dormant volcano could easily represent paradise
Guadeloupe is a fascinating archipelago of islands, with each island offering travellers something different while retaining its rich Franco-Caribbean culture and identity. Guadeloupe’s two main islands look like the wings of a butterfly and are joined together by a mangrove swamp. Grande-Terre, the eastern of the two islands, has a string of beach towns that offer visitors miles of sand to laze on and plenty of activities. Mountainous Basse-Terre, the western of the two, is home to the wonderful Guadeloupe National Park, which is crowned by the spectacular La Soufrière volcano. South of the ‘mainland’ of Guadeloupe are a number of small islands that give a taste of Guadeloupe’s yesteryear.
Volcanic in origin, Martinique is a mountainous island crowned by the still-smoldering Mont Pelée, which wiped out its former capital of St-Pierre in 1902. Offering a striking diversity of landscapes and atmospheres, its capital Fort-de-France is a bustling city. Travelling further north or south and you are met with some of the island’s most beautiful scenery - the rainforested, mountainous northern part is the most spectacular, but the south has its fair share of natural wonders, including lovely bays and miles of scenic beaches.
Another of France’s overseas territories, St. Barts is a volcanic island fully encircled by shallow reefs. Once the stomping ground for the rich and famous, it still attracts some very high-class and high-spending clientele, although that’s not to say that you can’t have an authentic experience here, as whether you are after the glamorous lifestyle of the glitterati, or simply a hushed bucolic village vibe, St. Barts has it all.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten
An island of two halves, split as it is between France and the Netherlands, and is the only island nation that is divided in such a way. Known as St. Martin to the French, and Sint Maarten to the Dutch, it is easy to understand why both countries wanted their stake in this paradise island, as a mere glance reveals conical, coolie-hat-like peaks rising dramatically from the depths of the ocean, and gentle cerulean currents that tumble landward to kiss the powder soft white sands. The city of Philipsburg on the Dutch and more populous side of the island is a popular cruise stopover and is also one of the best shopping spots in the Caribbean.
Antigua & Barbuda
The island of Antigua is ringed with beaches of the finest white sand, lapped by warm azure blue waters, and its isolated neighbour, Barbuda, is just the same, even though the pair couldn’t be more different from each other. Antigua is busy, and also an exceptionally popular package holiday destination, whilst Barbuda is very much off the beaten track, and more a haven for wandering seabirds.
The magnificent skyline of St. John’s is dominated by the evocative white baroque towers of the Cathedral. Officially the capital of the island group since 1981, it has been a centre for trade ever since it was colonised way back in 1632. St. John’s also acts as the main cruise port with many shops, restaurants and galleries situated round the waterfront at Redcliffe Quay.
A quiet village surrounded by sugar plantations and mills, Falmouth is picturesque, but dominated by the large horse-shoe bay that is home to the harbour. Falmouth Harbour is a popular destination for owners of super-yachts, including Bill Gates, who is a regular visitor.
Dominica is a dream-like island, full of surprises, from remote anchorages like Prince Rupert Bay, to the steep mountainsides and steamy orchid festooned rainforest, and you can really immerse yourself in this natural wonderland. How about a fascinating boat ride up the winding Layrou River, or a hike to the breathtaking Trafalgar Falls and a bubbling lake. Roseau is a charming costal village of Dominica and your gateway to one of the Caribbean's most untouched islands. For somewhere really unique, snorkel at Champagne Beach, where effervescing waters produce a fizzing effect.
Dominica’s vibrant capital is host to a wealth of sights. Best explored on foot, the French Quarter is well worth discovering, as is Bayfront. Thenarrow streets are lined with buildings influenced by Spanish architecture, while Reggae music can be heard during the daytime
Home to possibly one of the most iconic sights of the Caribbean, the world famous UNESCO Heritage site of the Pitons, St. Lucia is a Caribbean island literally torn from a holiday brochure. Its spectacularly rugged and rainforest covered interior is complemented by a beautiful coastline peppered with coves and beaches.
The capital of St. Lucia, Castries, offers a colourful local market and great shopping. Walking along the crowded streets of Castries, one is bombarded with the kinetics of a city that is on the go. With the three-four rhythm of a throbbing calypso beat that permeates everywhere, the town has a pulse that ebbs and flows. Sights and smells overwhelm as a smattering of colour and wafts of fresh food make their way through the crowded streets. The surrounding areas offer lush rain forests, striking waterfalls, beautiful beaches and sulphur springs.
Though Barbados gained its independence from the British in 1966, the island maintains a distinctly English flavour. From British products such as chocolate and china to the national pastime, cricket, the British influence is evident throughout this gorgeous Caribbean destination.
The bustling capital of the island is also its only city, and only natural harbour. Its many old colonial buildings can easily fill your day, however, there is also good shopping, especially along Broad Street and on the pedestrian-only Swan Street, which buzzes with the rhythms of local culture.
St. Vincent & the Grenadines
Like a string of 32 pearls in an aquamarine sea, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is perhaps one of the most evocative destinations in the whole of the Caribbean. Once the playground for for real pirates, these tiny islands are just waiting to be explored, with untouched beaches, and very few tourists, they have now become the playground for celebrities the mega-rich.
Kingstown, St. Vincent
Rough cobblestone streets, arched stone doorways and covered walkways conjure up a Caribbean of banana boats and colonial rule. Kingstown heaves and swells with a pulsing local community that bustles through its narrow streets and alleyways. Steep hills surround the town, amplifying the sounds of car horns, street vendors and the music filtering through the crowd.
Pronounced “Beck-way”, this idyllic paradise island is teeming with stunning beaches, and strikes a balance between sheer remoteness and accessibility, making it perhaps the most perfect island in the whole of the Grenadines. Bequia also offers visitors a range of activities from sailing to turtle watching at the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctury.
The Caribbean’s great escape, Mayreau is a secret treasure of peace and tranquillity. Only being accessible from the sea means that this island isn’t over-run with tourists, which makes the picture-perfect beaches and bays even more enjoyable. With its own house reef it also offers spectacular diving and snorkelling opportunities amongst the array of brightly coloured tropical fish.
Trinidad & Tobago
Lying outside of the hurricane belt, the twinned islands Trinidad and Tobago couldn’t be more different from each other. The larger of the two, Trinidad, is industrious and less geared towards tourism, although it does have plenty of natural attractions including some fantastic bird watching opportunities. Tobago, on the other hand is a laid back pleasure centre where sitting back in a deck chair and gazing at the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean is the done thing.
Capital of the bustling island of Trinidad, Port of Spain is a great place to spend some time, especially in the evenings when the local all come out to party, to hang out and to sample food from assorted stalls scattered around. Home to Trinidad’s famous carnival, and world-class shopping around Frederick Street or the recently expanding uptown area of St. James.
The capital and largest town on Tobago is dominated by the 18th century Fort King George but is by no means a tourist-trap full of souvenir shops. Rather the service centre of Tobago, with typically Caribbean shops and much that is of historical interest. The town’s architecture still features lacy fretwork on wooden ‘ginger-bread’ houses, traditional tin roofs and decorative balconies.
The ABC islands of the Dutch Antilles have a unique Caribbean feel. Sitting just off the northern coast of South America, they are below the hurricane belt, making them ideal for visiting throughout the year. All three islands display unique flora and fauna, with Aruba being a dry and arid land where cacti flourish, surrounded by glorious beaches; windy Bonaire being mostly devoid of beaches, but offering spectacular diving experiences; and Curacao with its multicultural diversity, intriguing music and cuisine.
Aruba is a small Caribbean Island measuring only twenty miles long by six miles wide. It may be small but it is a complete tourist destination featuring breathtaking beaches, crystal clear and inviting waters, exotic restaurants and nightclubs, and a host of other activities sure to make your stay an unforgettable one. Located on the picturesque southern coast, the city of Oranjestad is the historic Dutch capital of Aruba, where the traditional, tall, multicoloured houses combine carved wooden doors and typical Dutch tiles with open-air patios.
The capital of the island of Bonaire is more like a sleepy village than a city. Main attractions of this little town are the accessible Windsock and Bonaire Sunset beaches and the spectacular 17th century Fort Oranje. Bonaire is a small island, and as such is easy to traverse, just make sure you bring some good walking shoes.
Curacao is the largest of the six islands that comprise the Netherlands Antilles. It gained autonomy from the Netherlands in 1954, but the Dutch influence is still very visible. Curacao and the capital city of Willemstad in particular, have been transformed in recent decades into a complete tourist haven. Restored Dutch colonial landmarks, glitzy hotels, and wonderful shopping are all at your fingertips here, thanks to a revitalisation phase on the island that has restored many prime tourist sites to world prominence.