Well, I dunno about you, but when it comes to the Caribbean, I’m a sucker for the lesser-known islands. The well-known ones are popular for good reason, of course, but in true Global Debauchery fashion, I like exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations. I feel like it gives a more authentic experience. So, while I shared the best Caribbean islands to visit last week, I’ll be sharing lesser-traveled Caribbean beach vacations to add to your list this week. Much thanks to my fellow bloggers for their contributions on this super fun collaboration!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
For Scuba-Diving Beach Vacations, Bonaire Is Where It’s At
Hidden beaches. Breathtaking views. World-class diving. All of this and more is what you can expect from beach vacations in the tiny island of Bonaire. Best known for having over 80 dive sites, scuba divers & snorkelers flock to this island paradise for the best shore diving in the Caribbean. Why spend time on a dive boat when you can park just steps away from each dive site?
Of course, Bonaire has more to offer than just diving. A wide range of marine life can be found in the blazing blue waters around Bonaire. Washington Slagbaai National Park features cliff jumping, mountain biking, and hiking on the north side of the island.
You can see flamingos in their wild habitat at the nearby Gotomeer. Not far from there is the 16th-century town of Rincón which is home to historic buildings and the incredibly unique Cadushy Distillery. And a relaxing beach is never far away no matter where you are on the island.
Once you have worked up an appetite, seek out Bonaire’s burgeoning food truck scene. Choose from local favorites like the Instagram-worthy tuna dishes at Kite City or the lionfish burger cooked to perfection by Cactus Blue. Beer lovers can wash down their meals with locally inspired beers brewed on the island by Brewery Bonaire.
With so much to explore, Bonaire is one of the best Caribbean islands to visit. An oft-overlooked paradise, adventure seekers simply cannot afford to miss it!
Contribution by: Connor of Standby With Me.
Be Budget-Friendly & Go Slow In Caye Caulker, Belize
Caye Caulker in Belize is one of the smaller Caribbean Islands, but you’d be surprised how popular this tropical destination is for its great snorkeling, diving opportunities and laid-back vibe.
If you’re looking around at Caribbean beach vacations, Belize might not be the first destination you think of. But this Central American country tucked in between Mexico and Guatemala has amazing tropical beaches.
Caye Caulker and Ambergris are the most well-know Belizean islands, but we’d recommend you to visit Caye Caulker unless you want to splurge on a luxury hotel. More budget-friendly Caye Caulker is popular with backpacking travelers, being one of the reasons for its laid-back atmosphere.
The island motto is ‘Go Slow’ and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing here. Unless you’re snorkeling or diving in the Great Belizean Reef or at the famous Blue Hole, you’ll be relaxing at the beach or your hotel pool. Make sure to make a stop at Iguana Reef to watch sea horses and enjoy happy hour around sunset.
Contribution by: Maartje & Sebastiaan of The Orange Backpack.
For Cultural Beach Vacations, Give Cuba A Try
Cuba’s unique history makes it feel unlike any other place on Earth, and is a one-of-a-kind travel adventure. Much more than just beautiful beaches or colonial architecture—though it boasts those as well—Cuba’s colonial past, the turbulent Cuban Revolution, and its wealth of art and culture make it a common bucket list country for travelers. And, while a wildly popular destination for Europeans, it’s much less visited by Americans.
Top travel experiences in Cuba include touring Old Havana, often in a restored American car from the 1950s, and taking in the colonial center of the city. A ride through Havana is not complete without driving the Malecón sea wall along the ocean and taking in a view of the city from the Spanish fortresses across the bay.
A perfect way to get in touch with Cuba’s modern side is to experience Cuba’s thriving art scene with a visit the Fábrica de Arte Cubano in Havana. This mixed-use art space has rotating gallery installations alongside performances from DJs and musicians, plus several bars and spaces for dancing.
With its close proximity to Havana, many visitors travel to Varadero to enjoy one of Cuba’s most beautiful white sand beaches, stretching for miles. There are many other beautiful beaches in Cuba to choose from as well, like Playa Ancon just outside the city of Trinidad, and the keys on the island’s north coast. Next time you’re searching for beach vacations, be sure to add Cuba to the list!
Contribution by: Carley of Home to Havana.
Eat Well & Live Colorfully In Curaçao
One of the best Caribbean islands to visit for food, culture and beaches is Curaçao! It’s one of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao) and is located in the very south of the Caribbean Sea, right above Venezuela. It also happens to be a Dutch Territory.
Dutch influence is seen all over the island from the colonial buildings that look like a colorful version of Amsterdam, to the Dutch cuisine and grocery stores. Make sure to try bitterballen, frikandel or if you’re really brave: a raw herring!
The island is best known for its brightly-colored buildings which can be seen all over the capital of Willemstad. You can also walk the Queen Emma Bridge and explore remnants of the Rif Fort, which was built to protect Curaçao from invaders.
While the city is great, you can’t miss the beaches. Curaçao has the most beautiful turquoise waters. And make sure to rent a car so you can explore the coast and the incredible scenery of the island.
Contribution by: Ashley of Jetset Jansen.
For Boozy Beach Vacations, Martinique Is Your Best Bet
Martinique, in the French Antilles, is a fantastic island to visit. One of the French departments overseas, the language is French, the currency is the Euro, and if you are part of the European Union, you only need a valid ID card to enter. The only difference between Martinique and France mainland is that they prefer rum more than wine!
Martinique is world-renowned for its beaches. The Martinique beaches are so varied, anyone can find a beach they like. There are also lush gardens, good hikes, fairytale waterfalls, and an interesting heritage from a colonial past. The historic rum factories are also fun to visit. And some of them have interesting guided or self-guided visits ending with rum tastings.
Finally, don’t miss the colonial towns and their colorful markets, which are an excellent opportunity to taste fresh local food for a few Euro.
The capital of Martinique is Fort de France, where most of the international flights arrive. Then, the best way to explore Martinique is with a car, as local transportation is scarce.
Contribution by: Elisa of France Bucket List.
Seek Solitude At Norman Island, British Virgin Islands
We spend part of our summers sailing the British Virgin Islands. While each island has its own unique charm and character, Norman Island will forever have a special place in my heart.
Known as the inspiration for Treasure Island by Robert Louise Stephenson, Norman Island has a fascinating pirate history and is the perfect place to hide pirate booty; legend states that there is still treasure left in the caves today.
The mooring at Norman Island is known as The Bight and it’s the most protected anchorage in the islands. Spend your day snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, searching for pirate treasure, or floating around on a noodle sipping Champagne.
The palm tree-lined white sandy beach is home to The Pirate’s Bight, the island’s only restaurant. After your meal, head up one of the numerous hiking trails to burn a few calories and reward yourself with a breathtaking view of the bay.
And then there is the Willy T, the famous (or maybe infamous) bar in Norman Island’s bay. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma beached the Willy T and rendered him uninhabitable. However, after rebuilding and relocating, the Willy T is back home. Not a family-friendly bar, but if you are in for some rowdy fun, don’t miss it.
Contribution by: Jenny of Traveling Party of 4.
For Historical Beach Vacations, Saint Kitts & Nevis Might Be For You
St Kitts and Nevis is an English-speaking twin island nation and is the smallest country in the Americas. With its laidback vibe and ‘rush slowly’ policy, St Kitts and Nevis are often dubbed “the Caribbean how it used to be.” And should be next on your list of Caribbean beach vacations.
Both islands have a long sordid history that can be traced back to the start of the African slave trade in the Caribbean, you can find ruins of the old sugar plantations dotted around amongst the rainforest and the overgrown cane fields which now grow untamed.
Top things to do on St Kitts and Nevis include visiting the Brimstone Hill Fortress where you will find canons atop the old fortress and amazing vista views across to the neighboring islands. On Nevis you can visit the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, relax and enjoy the volcanic hot springs or wander the botanical gardens.
If that doesn’t sound adventurous enough, try horseback riding on the beach, zip-lining through the jungle or one of the many great hikes, scuba dives or snorkeling spots.
Stop at the top of Timothy Hill and check out the narrowest part of St. Kitts where you can see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Continue down the peninsula road to Cockleshell Beach, one of the best beaches on St Kitts, where you can relax and enjoy unspoiled views of Nevis.
Contribution by: Steph & Lewis of Book It Let’s Go!
Experience A Colombian-Caribbean Paradise In San Andres
Colombia might be most well known for its coffee or perhaps its Caribbean coast and the islands of Cartagena, but the island of San Andres, which is actually closer to Nicaragua (but is owned by Colombia), is one of the best Caribbean beach vacations to visit in Colombia.
The small, seahorse shaped island has gorgeous beaches and a neat blend of Latino and Caribbean culture. It is most well known for its Mar de Siete Colores, literally the Sea of Seven Colors, where the sun’s reflection off the Caribbean makes for a natural wonder of different colors.
Despite the island’s small size, there are several nice beaches to visit. Along the main strip of the North Shore, you’ll find a wide stretch of beach alongside downtown. Down the eastern shoreline, you’ll find the beach and nearby island Rocky Cay, as well as the less crowded beaches of San Luis.
At the southern tip of the island, see the spot known as Hoyo Soplador where waves crash up through a hole in the rocks. On the rocky, eastern side of the island there are several watering holes where you can jump from the rocks to the the sea below, and there is great snorkeling and fairly inexpensive diving all around the island and nearby.
One thing you’ll definitely want to do is rent a golf cart or moped so you can easily get around in style and see all of the great spots at this great Caribbean island to visit!
Contribution by: Adam from Cartagena Explorer.
For Culinary Beach Vacations, Hit Up Sint Maarten
One island in the Caribbean goes by two names—Sint Maarten and Saint Martin. Because it’s made up of two different countries. Some of the 34 square mile island is part of France, while the rest is part of the Netherlands. And, when you visit, it’s worthwhile to explore both sides.
The Dutch side of the island is where most of the cruise ships dock. It has most of the shopping and casinos. It is also home to the famous Maho Beach, where airplanes fly right over the beach. If that’s not daring enough for you, check out the Flying Dutchman, the world’s steepest zip line.
On the French side, you will find the town of Grand Case, known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean. Not too far from that is Orient Beach, perfect for water sports or people watching. Nature lovers can visit Loterie Farm to enjoy hiking and even more zip lines.
Sint Maarten is also an easy jump-off for island-hopping to Anguilla or St. Barts. You can enjoy the beaches and a change of scenery on a day trip from St. Martin.
Contribution by: Anisa of Two Traveling Texans.
Go Green In Trinidad & Tobago
Of all the Caribbean islands, Trinidad is one of my top beach vacations. Trinidad and Tobago are cousin islands that claim to have the biggest carnival party, yet are still an unvisited mystery. If you want a true introduction to Caribbean life, you must visit Trinidad.
The local people welcome tourists warmly and look after them. You will not feel unsafe on your visit to this tourist-populated island.
Trinidad and Tobago’s history is full of culture and colors that make it unique. Apart from its interesting history, the locals on the island offer amazing regional food to the tourists. The most popular food they cook regularly is Roti (introduced by Indians). They serve it with their twist, pairing it with a flood of roasted veggies and meat.
You should take at least a week to enjoy everything on this island. Top things to do include trekking the oldest forest reserve in the Western Hemisphere, kayaking, and bird watching at the ASA Wright Nature Centre.
The greenery on this island is carefully maintained. And, if sustainability is a cause close to your heart, consider a shopping spree with these recycled clothing brands before you visit.
Contribution by: Paulina of Paulina On The Road.
For Salty, Space-y Beach Vacations, Turks & Caicos Is All You
Turks and Caicos is made up of over 40 islands and is just a 90-minute flight from Miami off the coast of Cuba and the Bahamas. This British Overseas Territory is known for its award-winning beaches and provides high-end luxury for those able to afford it. Most of the luxury resorts are on the island of Providenciales, along Grace Bay Beach. However, the cruise port is on the island of Grand Turk, along with the capital city.
The cruise port is modern, fun, and, like most cruise ports, laden with alcoholic drinks. What makes the island so interesting, though, are its salt flats, remnants of the British empire. You can take an ATV or a number of other vehicles to go explore the salt ponds that are still here. It is a good place for beginners to ride. There are also wild donkeys roaming the area that would love to eat your food!
Grand Turk’s claim to fame is that it was the island closest to where John Glenn’s space capsule landed in 1962, when he made his descent from space. The small Splashdown Grand Turk exhibit has some cheesy photo ops that you’ll love if you’re a space nerd.
In addition to beautiful beaches, Grand Turk has great water sports. It is known for its wall scuba diving and, from January to April, you can even go humpback whale watching. All of this, and more, makes Turks and Caicos one of the top Caribbean beach vacations to experience.
Contribution by: Kristin of Growing Global Citizens.
What Caribbean Beach Vacations Would You Add To The List?
Which off-the-beaten-path Caribbean beach vacations should I add to my list? Which ones have you been to and which do you want to visit? Comment away or reach out via my Contact form!
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