Everyone knows there are beautiful beaches and all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, The Dominican Republic and Cuba. But how about coming back from your next trip with a more unique story than that?
The Caribbean is full of off the beaten path islands that many have never even heard of that are home to untouched secluded beaches and lush tropical landscapes. Here are just a few of our favourites.
Grenada, Eastern Caribbean.
Known as “Spice Isle,” for its numerous nutmeg and other spice plantations, Grenada is an island country in the Eastern Caribbean.
Grenada’s main resort area is the Grand Anse Beach, a beautiful stretch of white sand with warm turquoise water on one side and rolling green hills on the other. This area is home to Grenada’s main concentration of hotels and resorts, bars and restaurants, and other amenities for visitors. However, despite its popularity for tourists, Grand Anse has maintained its roots as a favourite hotspot for beach-loving locals. This allowa it to preserve its authentic Grenadian charm.
Visitors to Grenada who enjoy scuba diving are treated to an underwater sculpture gallery filled with marine life, and the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean. For these reasons – along with many other wrecks and reefs – Grenada is known as the Dive Capital of the Eastern Caribbean.
Visitors can also explore the historic Fort George, which played a large role in the Seven Years War, the French Revolution, and the Grenadian Revolution.
St. Kitts & Nevis.
St. Kitts and Nevis is a two-island nation in the northern Caribbean. Covering just 261 square kilometres, this tiny island country is the smallest independent nation in the Western Hemisphere – both in terms of size and population (roughly 50,000 people). The larger island of St. Kitts is separated from the smaller Nevis by a shallow channel known as “The Narrows.”
Both volcanic islands have large central peaks surrounded by tropical rain forests sloping down to the flatter shorelines lined with beaches and bays. This makes them ideal destinations for hikers and explorers as well as for vacationers who prefer to lounge on the sand.
St. Kitts is the centre of the action with the lively capital city of Basseterre, the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, and the bustling tourism strip and resorts of Frigate Bay.
On the other side of the Narrows, quieter Nevis is home to a single volcanic mountain surrounded by a handful of beaches and the tiny colonial town of Charlestown. Nature trails lead up the tropical slopes of Nevis Peak. History buffs can visit the birthplace of American founding father, Alexander Hamilton. The small island also houses a host of modern hotels and resorts.
St. Kitts and Nevis is popular with divers particularly for the “Booby High Shoals,” located in “The Narrows” between the two islands. This 40-foot dive is teaming with aquatic life, being packed with lobster, tropical fish, stingrays, and sea turtles.
Saba, Dutch West Indies, Caribbean.
Known as the “Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean,” Saba is just a 12-minute flight or about an hour by ferry from the much better known St. Maarten. Part of the Dutch West-Indies, Saba is visited by tourists much less frequently than its sister islands. This is probably due to its lack of beaches. It makes up this however, with lush tropical rainforests, dramatic mountain ranges – Saba actually marks the highest peaks of the Netherlands – and spectacular snorkelling and scuba diving.
A volcanic island, Saba’s underwater region is marked with diverse formations and reefs, and its unspoiled shores make it a haven for an abundance of sea life. The Saba Marine Park circles the entire island and is home to turtles, dolphins, lobsters, stingrays and seemingly endless tropical fish.
If the lush mountainous landscapes look familiar, you may have seen them on the screen. The original 1933 movie King Kong was filmed here.
Caye Caulker, Belize.
Caye Caulker is a small Caribbean island just off the coast of Belize. It is divided by a narrow channel called the Split, which legend has it was created by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. A popular beach and bar are located along the clear waters of The Split.
On the south side is the island’s only town, Caye Caulker Village. There are no motor vehicles on the island, and its one and only traffic sign advises golf carts and bicycles to go slow. The nearby reef makes it an ideal spot for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts, as do the underwater caves in the limestone formations of the island.
The north side of the island is home to diverse tropical birdlife and a dense mangrove forest which can be explored by kayak.
Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe.
Roughly 15 kilometres south of Guadeloupe is small archipelago made up of eight islands called Les Saintes. Terre-de-Haut is the larger of the two inhabited islands and the main destination for travellers. Along with the other inhabited island, Terre-de-Bas, the total population of the Saintes is approximately 3,000.
As the name suggests, Terre-de-Haut is the hillier island with the archipelago’s highest elevation. The island is lined with sandy beaches and coves. Visitors enjoy tropical snorkeling, historic sites, and a taste of Southern France in the Caribbean with whitewashed, red-roofed houses, restaurants, shops, and galleries in the picturesque town.
The tiny – just 18 square kilometres – green and hilly S-shaped island of Bequia is the second largest of the Grenadines, roughly 20 kilometres south of St Vincent.
Bequia’s array of unspoiled beaches, bays and harbours attract travelers looking for a Caribbean adventure that is unlike the bustling tourist hubs of Cuba or The Dominican Republic. The small population of only 4,300 people gives the island a small-town feel.
Princess Margaret Beach, where Princess Margaret once swam, is a half a kilometre stretch of golden sand lined with cedar and almond trees. Some of the island’s other beaches have restaurants or bars nearby, while others are more secluded. This laidback island is a favourite for sailors and beach lovers.
Showcasing the diverse ecology of the island, Mount Pleasant is a patchwork of tropical rainforest, densely wooded valleys, and grass covered highlands at the summit.
Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Vieques is a Caribbean island 13 kilometres off Puerto Rico’s eastern coast. Because it was used as a testing ground by the US Navy until 2003, the island is still largely undeveloped. However, the former military land is now a national wildlife refuge where wild horses roam free. Numerous beaches still use the names given to them by the navy, including Red Beach, Blue Beach and Green Beach. These are often numbered among the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean for their azure-colored waters and white sands.
For that reason, Vieques is a great choice for people who love to spend their vacation sunning on the sand, swimming, and snorkelling. The island is also known for boat tours of Mosquito Bay, officially called Bioluminescent Bay because of the microorganisms that give the water a magical blue-green glow. Vieques is also home to the Fuerte de Vieques, a mid-19th-century Spanish fort and museum.
A visit to the Caribbean is always magical for the sun, sand, and sea, but some destinations have become so developed and well-travelled that there is very little sense of adventure left in your trip. So, if you’re looking to experience something a little different on your next vacation, try giving one of these lesser known, but still spectacular islands a try.
Or, if you know of a favourite undiscovered destination of your own that you don’t mind sharing, please let us know!