When I was younger, I travelled to the Caribbean a lot with my family. My parents loved cruises – they still do to this day – and the Caribbean has always been one of their favorite destinations. I have been lucky enough to experience many different Caribbean islands, both as stops on cruises and as lone destinations, and wanted to share the ones that I most strongly recommend. Disclaimer: I have not been to every island or destination in the Caribbean and this post is based on my personal experiences. As I continue to travel, I’m sure the list will change as everything does, but until then, here are my favorite Caribbean islands and the ones that I recommend the most:
Aruba – My family went to Aruba when I was nineteen. It’s so different from other Caribbean islands in that it’s all desert. A lot of the other islands in the Caribbean are tropical with lush forests. Aruba, however, is filled with cacti and divi-divi trees and has a much drier climate. We stayed at a resort right on Palm Beach which was incredible. Palm Beach is a picturesque white sand beach with clear blue water. For those that love the beach, this is a great option. Additionally, there are so many shops and restaurants that we could walk to from our resort, making it a fantastic location for those who are into shopping around and going out on the town. For more great places to shop and eat, downtown Oranjestad is also a blast. Not only is the city visually appealing with its colorful Dutch architecture, but it also offers fun nightlife and a vast array of shops and dining experiences. There is also Fort Zoutman, the oldest structure on the island that houses the Historical Museum of Aruba. One thing that I cannot recommend enough is renting a car and exploring the island. Aruba has so many natural attractions that showcase its beauty. The Arikok National Park is one of those attractions, being home to caves, sand dunes, and natural pools to be explored. In addition to the National Park, my favorite landmark that we found was the Baby Natural Bridge – a land bridge that had been carved out of the northeastern coastline by years of water erosion. I highly recommend prioritizing this, as well as stopping to see the Bushiribana Ruins – stone ruins of an old gold smelter – and the Ayo and Casibari Rock Formations – boulder formations with plenty of hiking trails and gorgeous views of the entire island of Aruba.
Grand Cayman – Grand Cayman is a very developed island in the western Caribbean. Despite being more developed than other destinations in the Caribbean, it still has a very distinct culture. It is one of the safer destinations, which is a big draw. It is a very relaxing and beautiful island that allows you to do as much or as little as you want. In the past, one of my favorite things to do on Grand Cayman was to go snorkeling at the Cayman’s barrier reef. The reef is enormous and offers a huge array of colorful fish and coral. It’s one of those places that even though you’ve gone before, you always see new things and it never gets boring no matter how many times you go. Additionally, I loved going swimming with the stingrays at Stingray City. Stingray City is a popular sandbar where stingrays flock to. While it can be crowded, it is so worth fighting the crowds to go. The stingrays are super comfortable with people and come right up to you. They’ll swim around you and brush up against you so it is definitely not for those who are terrified of stingrays. They’re so comfortable that they’ll swim directly under your feet as you walk, so be sure to shuffle your feet to avoid stepping on any stingray friends. For those that want to lounge on the beach, Seven Mile Beach is the way to go. It is exactly what it sounds like, a giant stretch of gorgeous white sand beach with clear turquoise water. You can relax in the sunshine or enjoy plenty of activities such as parasailing, snorkeling, or surfing. You can also walk to several hotels and enjoy their food and drinks.
Cozumel – I know Cozumel is technically a part of Mexico, but I’m including it anyway. It’s an island off of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the Caribbean Sea and it is incredible. This is another destination that I’ve been to several times with my family, and it gets better every time. Each trip that we have gone to Cozumel, we’ve spent a lot of time at Chankanaab National Park. Chankanaab National Park has gorgeous beaches that are great for relaxing in hammocks or snorkeling in the clear blue water. You can also zipline, kayak, and swim with dolphins if you’re feeling more adventurous. Additionally, the park has botanical gardens that can be explored and a spa where you can unwind and pamper yourself. For the history buffs, like me, San Gervasio Ruins are another great option to explore. The Mayan archeological site was once a temple for the Mayan Goddess, Ixchel. Here, you can admire the ancient stone work of the pre-Columbian civilization and learn about their culture and practices. You may also catch a glimpse of an iguana! For the beach lovers, there are many beaches that you can explore or lounge on such as Paradise Beach and Palancar Beach.
What do you think of my recommendations? Do you have a different favorite Caribbean Island? Let me know in the comments below!