Choosing the right island can definitely make the difference in your vacation experience. Many travelers assume the islands of the Caribbean are all the same, with great beaches, plenty of sun and warm turquoise waters . . . and most islands offer plenty of the above. I say most because the islands of Dominica and Saba are not on any beach lovers list.
Aside from spending time at the beach, most vacationers enjoy a particular lifestyle or activities such as: Shopping, Gambling, Nightlife, Quiet and Secluded, Hiking, Golf, Photography and Nature, History and Archeology buffs, Snorkeling, Diving, Sailing, All Inclusives, Family Friendly Islands, and the list goes on.
Just remember when spending your hard earned money, choosing the right Caribbean island will ensure the “perfect” Caribbean vacation.
SHOPPING IN THE CARIBBEAN
You can shop on any island, but if you are looking for a “shop til you drop” experience, head to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Curacao (pronounced cure-uh-sow). Both islands have extensive stores, shops and designer boutiques that rival any U.S. or European city. Other islands that offer a variety of shopping are Barbados, Grand Cayman, Puerto Rico and St Martin/St Maarten.
CARIBBEAN GAMBLING CASINOS
The largest gambling casinos in the Caribbean are found in Aruba, The Bahamas (Cable Beach & Paradise Island), Curacao, San Juan, St Croix, and St Maarten. Barbados and Jamaica only have slot machines. Antigua, Belize, Bonaire, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St Kitts, St Vincent and Turks & Caicos all have much smaller gaming operations.
Lots of fun when the Caribbean sun goes down can be found on Barbados, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St Martin/St Martin, and St Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
QUIET AND SECLUSION
Travelers who are looking for a more peaceful, secluded vacation will find it on Parrot Cay which is located on Turks & Caicos, St Kitts, St Vincent & The Grenadines, and Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.
HIKING IN THE CARIBBEAN
Dominica – Valley of Desolation and the Boiling Lake; Dominican Republic – Pico Duarte Ascent (Caribbean’s highest peak); Grenada – Mt. Qua Qua; Guadeloupe – La Soufriere Volcano; Jamaica – Blue Mountains; Puerto Rico – El Yunque National Forest; St. Kitts – Bloody Rivers Stream; Tobago – Little Tobago Cay; Trinidad – Asa Wright Nature Center; and the US Virgin Islands – 2/3 of the island of St John is a nature preserve.
The best Caribbean golf courses are found on the islands of Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Nevis, Puerto Rico, St Croix and St Thomas.
CARIBBEAN PHOTOGRAPHY AND NATURE
Dominica, Jamaica, St John, St Lucia are wonderful islands for photography and nature lovers. In fact Dominica is called the nature island of the Caribbean.
HISTORY & ARCHEOLOGY
History and Archeology buffs will find the Caribbean islands of Barbados, Curacao, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico quite interesting.
Antigua, Bonaire, Grand Cayman, Curacao’s Marine Park, St Martin, The Grenadines, Tobago, St Thomas, Turks & Caicos, St Croix and St John all offer the best snorkeling in all the Caribbean islands.
Caribbean diving enthusiasts prefer Bonaire, Grand Cayman, Saba, The Bahamas, St Croix, Turks & Caicos, and Virgin Gorda.
The best sailing in the Caribbean can be found on Antigua, Barbados, St Martin, The Grenadines, US Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands.
CARIBBEAN ALL INCLUSIVES
Both Jamaica and The Dominican Republic do not have an infrastructure that is set up for tourism. This is why both islands offer an abundance of all inclusive hotels and resorts. Jamaica is the largest of the Caribbean islands, and has many points of interest, however the roads are extremely bad. It should be noted that Jamaica is one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean, and travelers should be careful in choosing which part of Jamaica to visit. English is spoken in the resort areas, however once you get into the Dominican countryside, Spanish is required.
FAMILY FRIENDLY CARIBBEAN ISLANDS
Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, St Lucia, Tobago and Turks & Caicos. Also, the Four Seasons on the island of Nevis offers a great kid program, and all the Hyatt Regency resorts throughout the Caribbean offer family friendly vacations.
Hopefully this will give travelers a guide to choosing a Caribbean island that will fit any lifestyle.
Linda Thompkins is a Caribbean Travel Consultant and owner of Travel 2 the Caribbean Online Agency. Travel 2 the Caribbean offers visitors and clients both online booking, and travel agent services. Linda lives in the Midwest USA, and has traveled the islands of the Caribbean extensively.
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