Just the word ‘Caribbean’ evokes dreamy images of tropical palms swaying in the breeze along shores met by crystal clear blue-tinged waters. A dazzling gem with a big reputation, from the sun-drenched shores to the colourful cities, laidback vibes infiltrate the air while natural highlights and cultural quirks give each island its own unique personality. From one-of-a-kind Cuba to the celebrity-studded getaways around the British Virgin Islands, there’s a reason the Caribbean is the most popular cruising destination in the world. Whether you sail or fly in to this paradise of summer and swathe of sultry beaches, here are a few island hotspots to make sure it’s sizzling.
Cuba is a fascinating piece of the Caribbean, a step back in time and a land of curious discoveries. Famous for its gorgeous classics cars, crumbling colonial facades and, of course, the long-revered tales of Che Guevara, wherever you go it’s impossible to deny the social remnants of communist culture that forms backbone of the nation. An island that beats to its own drum in every way, the music too is inescapable – salsa rhythms sway the hips of locals on street corners. In the capital Havana, don’t miss the theatres and cabarets, or a wander through the old city and along the famous Malecon. Ride on a horse-drawn cart through the cobblestone streets of Trinidad, soak up the sun and historical riches at the infamous Bay of Pigs, or cycle through the cigar country of the Vinales Valley. For a more sanitised version of Cuba, head to the resort town of Varadero for western convenience along spectacular beaches.
One of the most developed islands in the area, Barbados has a price tag and style to suit every traveller. Drink cocktails on island time along the resort-laden west coast, ride the tumbling surf that pounds the east coast, or escape inland to discover a new world away from the palm-fringed shores. The limestone hills and lush heart provide a quaint insight into the local life, and is where you’ll discover the stunning stalactites and stalagmites of Harrison’s Cave, zip lining adventures through the treetops and the botanical beauties of Flower Forest. For more classic escapades, take a glass-bottom boat ride or a submarine adventure, indulge in the island’s fascinating history and colonial stories in the local museums, and wander through the quaint local fishing villages. You might even catch sight of the famous swimming pigs! If all else fails, taste test the range of great local rums.
A patchwork of over 700 spectacular islands that extend from the tip of Florida, The Bahamas is an oasis of sun, sand and some of the clearest waters on earth. It's also an incredibly popular honeymoon destination. Home to the world’s third largest barrier reef, around Andros, this archipelago is also one of only five places in the world that you can snorkel with wild dolphin pods, particularly around Bimini Island. But each of the main islands has its own unique appeal. Taste the sweetest pineapples in the globe on Eleuthera, explore charming colonial towns on Green Turtle Cay, and wander along the famous pearly pink shores of Harbour Island’s Pink Sands Beach. From the quaint community vibes of Mayaguana to the cosmopolitan frills of the capital city Nassau, on Paradise Island, that’s still just the start of it.
British Virgin Islands
If you’re looking for a sizzling Caribbean getaway that’s free from mass tourism, don’t look past the dozens of pristine islands, islets and cays of the British Virgin Islands. An illustrious sailing mecca, this is a playground for the rich and famous and they flock here by the yacht load. While it’s low key, the main tourism revolves around Tortola, home to white-sand beaches, ancient ruins and some fabulous restaurants. Once you leave here, it only gets quieter. Virgin Gorda touts some gorgeous national parks, fancy yacht clubs, secluded coves and upmarket accommodation, while Jost Van Dyke – a volcanic island with a tiny population – offers a contrasting atmosphere of rugged scenery, colourful tales and an even bigger nightlife scene. For a little island, it sure has a big reputation. But if you’re looking to escape it all, opt for Anegada, which practically floats amongst the reefs that surround it. Otherwise, go all the way and sail into the sunset until you reach one of the outer islands, where discoveries arise in the form of shipwrecks and marine life, uninhabited shores and the occasional cool beach bar.