21 Hottest Caribbean Escapes

Why We Love the Island Life

sunset at west end cliffs and rick's cafe in negril jamaica

Photo by Chris Ford, via Flickr Creative Commons, with cropping and editing.

Nothing says vacation like crystalline blue waters, white-sand beaches and luxurious indulgence. That's why we're counting down the 21 best destinations in the Caribbean, where vacation is a lifestyle.

Caribbean Beaches

Roatan, Honduras
Roatan

Roatan

Roatan, the largest of Honduras’s Bay islands, is located near the second largest barrier reef in the world. With its prime location, Roatan is known as one of the world’s best scuba diving spots. Often called the Caribbean’s “best-kept secret,” Roatan’s tourism has increased in recent years, attracting more than just divers. The laid-back culture and uncrowded beaches make Roatan an appealing alternative to other Caribbean islands. 960 1280

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Aruba

Aruba

Off the north coast of Venezuela lies Aruba, a popular island getaway with reliably sunny days. Outside of the hurricane belt, this Dutch island promises tourists plenty of beach days with its dry climate. Upscale restaurants and lively nightlife offer visitors plenty of options after a day of soaking up the sunshine. 960 1280

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Bermuda

Bermuda

This cluster of islands may not technically be part of the Caribbean but they sure feel like it. Bermuda is often dubbed the “Jewel of the Atlantic,” and rivals its neighbors in the West Indies as the perfect tropical island getaway. With pink-sand beaches, temperate weather and a unique fusion of British and African heritage, this is a place you’ll want to get lost in. 960 1280

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Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands

A diver’s dream destination, the Cayman Islands offer world-class scuba diving and plenty of outdoor adventures for the active traveler. Hike through the 200-year-old Mastic Trail, swim in Stingray City or walk along the stunning Seven Mile Beach. 960 1280

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Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos

Looking for a beach hideaway? Look no further than Turks and Caicos. Consisting of 40 islands and cays, 8 of which are inhabited, Turks and Caicos boast some of the most pristine beaches in the world. Lose yourself here in the turquoise waters and secluded white-sand beaches. 960 1280

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St. Thomas

St. Thomas

Only 31 square miles, St. Thomas is considered the most cosmopolitan of the US Virgin Islands. Escape the island’s bustle and head to Magens Bay, hailed by National Geographic as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. 960 1280

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Bahamas

Bahamas

A short 30-minute flight from Miami, the Bahamas’ proximity to mainland US makes it a convenient beach escape. Consisting of 700 islands in the Atlantic, the Bahamas provide much more to explore than just Nassau, the capital city that’s a popular cruise port. If you want to get away from the high-rise hotels and bustling crowds, head to the Bahamas’ Out Islands for secluded beaches and natural wonders. 960 1280

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Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

Offering more than just beautiful beaches, the Dominican Republic’s diverse landscape includes 3 large mountain ranges, including the2-mile-high peak of Antilles. A former Spanish colony, the Dominican Republic has a rich Latin culture as well as strong ties to America’s national pastime, baseball. More major league players hail from the Dominican Republic than any other country. 960 1280

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Barbados

Barbados

The coral island of Barbados attracts tourists from around the world with its unique natural beauty. Coral reefs line the coast, offering incredible snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. Visitors should also be sure to catch a meal that includes the national dish -- flying fish. 960 1280

  

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

A US territory, Puerto Rico doesn’t require you pack a passport to visit its shores. With over 270 white-sand beaches, the Caribbean island begs to be explored. You’ll have the beach to yourself in Vieques, Puerto Rico’s “secret island.” This national wildlife refuge is just a 30-minute flight (or a short ferry ride) from San Juan. 960 1280

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Jamaica

Jamaica

Jamaica is known for its strong African history more than any other Caribbean island. The island nation celebrates its vibrant culture through strong reggae beats and memorable jerk dishes. And don’t miss a chance to explore the island’s diverse landscape of mountains and rainforests. 960 1280

  

Gustavia
Gustavia

Gustavia

Gustavia, the capital of St. Barts, was named for King Gustav III of Sweden. Fort Karl and Fort Gustav are popular areas for hikers, and if you’re not into hiking, then go shopping. This city has several high-end boutiques -- an essential source of revenue for the island. And don’t forget to take a stroll around the harbor to sneak a peek at some of the extravagant yachts. 960 1280

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Kitesurfing

Kitesurfing

Go kitesurfing on the beach in Grand Cul de Sac. This watersport is quickly becoming one of the most popular sports on the island. Local companies offer kitesurfing lessons, but they can be pricey, costing up to $300 for a 3-hour lesson. 960 1280

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Grand Cul de Sac Beach

Grand Cul de Sac Beach

Located in the northeastern part of St. Barts, Grand Cul de Sac Beach is a beachgoer’s haven. Windsurfing, swimming, sunbathing and snorkeling are just a few activities that will keep you preoccupied when visiting. 960 1280

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Hotel Guanahani & Spa

Hotel Guanahani & Spa

Stay at the Hotel Guanahani and you will quickly realize why this beautiful resort attracts celebrities, including Bethenny Frankel, a former cast member on the Real Housewives of New York. Amenities include a pool, top-notch spa, tennis courts and delicious dining options. The beach by the hotel offers numerous activities, but it’s relatively small. So guests have been known to plan day trips to the nearby beaches. 960 1280

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St. Barts Bucket Regatta

St. Barts Bucket Regatta

St. Barts has a few fun festivals, including the St. Barts Bucket Regatta, St. Barts Music Festival and the St. Barts Film Festival. The Bucket Regatta is a sailing race extended to yacht owners, captains, crews and guests. A percentage of the race’s entry fee usually goes to a local charity on the 8-mile-long island. 960 1280

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French Cuisine

French Cuisine

La Route des Boucaniers, Eddy’s, Le Grain de Sel, Bonito Saint Barth and The Hideaway are a few places to wine and dine when vacationing in St. Barts. There are more than 80 restaurants to suit your taste, but French cuisine is king here. The seafood is fresh, and some of the top-quality provisions to restaurants arrive regularly from Paris. Bon appétit! 960 1280

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Anse du Governeur

Anse du Governeur

Relax on one of St. Barts most secluded and most popular places for nude sunbathing. Tourists should plan accordingly because there are no restaurants or other services in the area. However, Anse du Gouverneur provides beachgoers with a great view of St. Kitts, Saba and St. Eustatius. And it’s a romantic spot to watch the sun set -- with or without clothes. 960 1280

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Sailing

Sailing

St. Barts is a popular destination for yachting and sailing. Gustavia’s harbor has mooring and docking facilities for 40 yachts. Public, Corossol and Colombier are spots to stop when sailing in the area. Tourists can charter sailing and motorboats, and explore St. Barts above and below the ocean -- thanks to local companies like the Yellow Submarine and Jicky Marine Service. 960 1280

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Le Gaiac Restaurant

Le Gaiac Restaurant

Taste the amazing food served at the Hotel Le Toiny’s popular restaurant, Le Gaicac. Well-renowned Chef Stephane Mazieres blends innovative French cuisine with local flavors -- adding to some of the dishes -- vegetables grown in the restaurant’s organic green house. And rumor has it that Le Gaiac is the popular spot for Sunday brunch, serving scallops ravioli, yellow tail snapper on a skewer, watermelon and vegetable salad and much more. 960 1280

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Hotel Carl Gustaf

Hotel Carl Gustaf

Although it’s a 5-minute walk from the closest beach, Hotel Carl Gustaf is a luxury hotel that embodies the French Riviera style of St. Barts -- with mind-blowing ocean views and first-class service. Booking one of the 14 rooms isn’t cheap, but each suite and villa comes with its own private pool or plunge pool and private terrace, overlooking the ocean. 960 1280

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Le Ti St. Barts

Le Ti St. Barts

The nightlife is alive and well in St. Barts. Visit Le Ti St. Barts, a funky Caribbean tavern with an endless wine list, tasty food and great music -- necessary for patrons who want to dance into the wee hours of the morning. In addition to entrees like seared tuna with caviar, the provocatively-named desserts are just as delightful, like the Nymph Thighs -- airy lemon cake with vanilla custard. Other hot night spots include le Select, Do Brazil and Le Bête à Z'Ailes. 960 1280

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The second highest peak on Saint Lucia, Gros Piton can be climbed without ropes or mountaineering experience. 960 1280

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Giddyup! A man rides a horse along Cas En Bas Beach, a stretch of sand to the north of St. Lucia. 960 1280

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Don’t let the name fool you. This dish may be called “green figs and salt fish,” but there are no figs in it. Popular since the 1700s, it consists mainly of boiled green bananas and salted fish. 960 1280

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St. Lucia is home to Fort Rodney, an old British military base, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. 960 1280

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This soothing waterfall can be found at Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens, a 6-acre tropical retreat. 960 1280

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St. Lucia holds plenty of adventure, including the chance to zipline through its rainforests. 960 1280

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Musicians Mike Stern, Richard Bona and Bob Franceschini perform on the final day of the 20th St. Lucia Jazz Festival. Held every May, the festival showcases various flavors of jazz from the US, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe. 960 1280

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A diving paradise, St. Lucia’s waters include a stunning array of coral, sponge and marine life. 960 1280

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A scenic town on St. Lucia’s west coast, Soufriere has many hot springs and mineral baths -- no surprise given that its name means “sulphur” in French. 960 1280

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Sulphur Springs is the world’s only drive-in volcano. It’s located on the southwestern end of St. Lucia. 960 1280

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Enjoy fresh papaya at Castries Market, a lively market filled with tropical fruits and vegetables. 960 1280

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Mountain biking in the Caribbean jungle of St. Lucia. Here, bikers take a break at Anse Chastanet Resort, which encompasses more than 600 tropical acres. 960 1280

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21. The Caves Resort
Negril, Jamaica
Kicking off the countdown is Jamaica's The Caves Resort. Poised on the limestone cliffs of Negril, The Caves is owned by famed music producer, Chris Blackwell. An oceanfront sanctuary featuring 11 exclusive cliffside accommodations, 2 main dining gazebos, private cave-dining and the sexy Cave Rum and Cigar Bar, The Caves is classic Caribbean luxury and the perfect romantic getaway.

20. Stanford Antigua Sailing Week
Antigua, The West Indies
To pack a little action into your Caribbean vacation, head to the annual Stanford Antigua sailing week. Participants from all over the globe flock to Antigua each year hoping to win what is now considered one of the premier sailing regattas in the world. The excitement of the race combined with the hospitality and beauty of Antigua make for a vacation you'll never forget.

19. Stuart Cove's
Nassau, The Bahamas
Dive underwater to experience the amazing visibility of the Bahamas' pristine waters. Stuart Cove's offers a unique way to experience undersea life. Climb into your personal undersea bubble: a seahorse-shaped submarine that propels you to a depth of up to 15 feet. No snorkeling or scuba experience is required, and you'll love exploring the coral reef in your own personal submarine.

18. Cap Juluca
Anguilla
Cap Juluca is only minutes from St. Maarten by air or boat, yet it feels completely insulated from the outside world. A self-contained enclave along 2 miles of the most pristine beaches in the world, the resort is a romantic paradise featuring 18 Moorish villas, 5-star restaurants and beautifully landscaped tropical gardens. The very definition of luxury, all the villas have direct beach access, and the spa services are guaranteed to melt all your worries away.

17. The Landings
St. Lucia
Open since December 19, 2007, The Landings has quickly become an idyllic vacation destination. The resort offers lavish 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom villas along St. Lucia's most gorgeous bay. The 7,000-square-foot RockResorts Spa, fitness gallery and Beach Club Restaurant all offer first-rate service to the hotel's guests. Elegant touches such as the personal pantry make The Landings stand out among other hotels; let the hotel know ahead of time what favorite groceries you want in your room, and your pantry will be stocked before you even check in.

16. Grace Bay Club
Provo, Turks and Caicos
Located on 11 acres of immaculate beachfront, the Grace Bay Club was Turks and Caicos' first luxury all-suite hotel. The hotel is divided into two sections: the adults-only hotel and a family-friendly villa resort. Each provides private swimming pools and dining experiences to meet your travel desires. New features to the hotel include the Caribbean's longest bar, luxury Anani spa tents, 100 new chic day beds, a kids' tree house and the Anacaona restaurant.

15. Nassau, The Bahamas
Visibility in the water off Nassau in The Bahamas can reach up to 100 feet -- and that's why it's home to the world's best diving. Explore the Blue Hole, a natural hole 100-feet across and 200-feet deep full of large schools of fish. Trinity and Piece of Cake caves both have openings large enough to swim through and are home to some large lobsters. There are also countless shipwrecks that have occurred along the reefs surrounding the islands of the Bahamas that make for some very exciting underwater adventures.

14. The Sandy Lane Resort
Barbados
From the moment it first opened its doors in 1961, The Sandy Lane Resort has been the preferred resort for royalty, celebrities and other members of the elite. A treasured hideaway for the world's most discerning travelers, the resort combines classic elegance with lavish state-of-the art amenities. Famous for its tranquility, the resort also boasts 45 holes of golf spread out over 3 epic courses designed by Jim Fazio.

13. Rick's Cafe
Negril, Jamaica
Located on Negril's beautiful West End Cliffs, Rick's Cafe was the first public bar and restaurant of its kind to offer unrivaled views of the sunset from the naturally formed cliffs. The head chef, Phillip "Sheddy" Williams, has been in the kitchen for more than 15 years serving the first-rate menu. The cafe sits over one of West End Cliff's most incredible coves and many have jumped or dived from platforms as high as 35 feet into the crystalline water below.

12. Pink Sands Resort
Harbour Island, The Bahamas
A 20-acre haven set on the famous 3-mile pink sand beach, the Pink Sands Resort offers 25 cottages scattered throughout lush tropical grounds. The romantic resort offers a freshwater swimming pool, 3 tennis courts, an exercise studio and in-room massages.

11. La Concha Resort
San Juan, Puerto Rico
For a Caribbean escape that doesn't require a passport, head to La Concha Resort in San Juan. Originally built in 1958, the resort recently underwent a $100-million facelift. By day, it's all about the beach and the multilevel infinity pools; by night there are 5 restaurants and bars to fit your every mood.

10. High Seas Private Excursions
The Bahamas
If you're looking to create your own oceanic adventure vacation, then look no further than High Seas, Bahamas. You and your friends can choose what boat you'd like to be on, where you'd like to explore and how long you want to be at sea. Private beaches and exclusive snorkeling sites are part of the company's promise to show you the real Bahamas.

9. Silver Sands Resort
Christ Church, Barbados
Silver Sands Resort may sit on 12 beautifully landscaped placid acres, but its status as the windsurfing capital of Barbados is the real draw. The Club Mistral windsurfing station is open between November and June, but novices need not apply; a skill rating between 5 and 6 is required to windsurf and kitesurf the waters off Silver Sands.

8. Raffles Resort
Canouan Island, The Grenadines
Canouan Island is located in the heart of The Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean. Raffles Resort occupies 300 acres of tropical paradise boasting 3 secluded white-sand beaches. The horseshoe-shaped resort surrounds the bay and each of the 156 1- and 2-story villas offer gorgeous views. Trump Club Privee, a European-style casino, La Varenne restaurant and the Trump International Golf Course are just a few of the amenities Raffles offers vacationing guests.

7. Trinidad and Tobago
The islands of Trinidad and Tobago are the birthplace of steelpan and home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The islands are rich in biodiversity with more than 430 bird species, 108 mammals and 55 reptiles. Many who visit Trinidad head for Riviere Beach, the premier site for nesting turtles. Leatherback turtles nest between March and September and the beach's popularity is due to local conservation efforts. Riviere Beach is a great place to inject a little education into your island vacation.

6. The Four Seasons
Nevis, West Indies
Nevis, located in the tropical Leeward Islands, offers visitors near-perfect weather and beaches. The Four Seasons resort offers exclusive villas and estate homes, an award-winning spa and some of the world's most scenic golf courses. The canopy cover of palm trees stands uninterrupted, as the local government does not allow buildings taller than two stories.

5. Peter Island Resort
Peter Island, British Virgin Islands
Peter Island Resort is a private island paradise exuding relaxation and tranquility. The resort has more staff members than guests, offering an unparalleled level of service. Whether your heart's desire is to swing in a hammock, sail, scuba dive or hike, Peter Island promises you an island experience unlike any other in the Caribbean.

4. The Underwater Sculpture Garden
Grenada
For a truly one-of-a-kind vacation experience, visit the Underwater Sculpture Garden off the coast of Grenada in Moilinere Bay. The bay is now home to 65 sculptures, which are not only stunning to view, but create artificial reefs for marine life. The sculptures lie in clear shallow waters easily visible to snorkelers and glass-bottomed boats.

3. Tom Beach Hotel
St. Barts
Located on St. Jean Beach on St. Barts, the Tom Beach Hotel is the perfect combination of intimacy and luxury. The small hotel offers only 12 rooms, decorated in Caribbean colors with private terraces or patios. Two suites feature a terrace directly on the beach. On an island synonymous with celebrity getaways, the Tom Beach Hotel is the perfect place for chic relaxation.

2. CLOSED: Nikki Beach Hotel
Provo, Turks and Caicos

Nikki Beach Hotel closed in 2009.

1. Jade Mountain
St. Lucia
Jade Mountain is an eco-luxury resort facing St. Lucia's Twin Piton Mountains. The resort sits on over 400 acres full of biking and hiking trails, not to mention the scuba-diving available at the marine park. Guests here are at one with nature -- because there are only 3 walls to every room at the resort. There are no phones, televisions or radios in any of the rooms. It truly is a sanctuary rather than a hotel.

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