The Caribbean is a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea to the east of North America, simply known to many as paradise!
What do you think of when you think about the Caribbean – we bet its BEACHES!
A long-time favourite of holidaymakers from all over the world, ALL of the islands offer gorgeous sandy beaches with clear blue waters.
The Caribbean is known as the Island Countries – because the Caribbean isn’t a country itself, it is actually made up of thousands of islands (as many as 7000) – of which there are 26 countries.†
So, how many have you heard of?
1. AnguillaA good place to start, pretty much everything you want from a paradise island! Set in the east of the Caribbean sea, this island is pretty small and has a few even smaller islets around it.
It’s warm and welcoming and is great for families and couples. It has a mix of high-end luxury and more casual affordable accommodation.
2. Antigua and BarbudaMade up of two main islands, as its name would suggest, plus a handful of smaller islands too. These islands are green, known for their rainforests and reef-lined beaches – great for diving!
3. ArubaThis tiny little Caribbean island is actually Dutch (it’s an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands), it was formally part of the Netherlands Antilles, but is now independently viewed as a country. It is a favourite with American tourists and honeymooners because of its idyllic setting.
Off the coast of Venezuela – this island is known as having “blonde” coloured sand rather than the white which many of the islands are known for.
4. The BahamasPossibly one of the most well-known Caribbean islands among Brits, this “paradise island” is actually an archipelago of islands made from coral. It was on these islands that Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492 when he was exploring – and in that case the islands haven’t changed! Great for tourists looking to both explore and experience a relaxing paradise in on trip.
5. Barbados Another of the better-known Caribbean islands, Barbados has it all; beaches and resorts for all budgets. Diving and water sports, along with the kind of night-life that can only be experienced in the Caribbean – fun yet chilled, and often fuelled by rum!
6. British Virgin IslandsAs the name suggests, these islands (four main islands plus many other smaller islands) are part of British overseas territory ,but we can assure you the beaches are nothing like those in the UK!
These islands are especially loved by sailors – due to the steady trade winds and hundreds of little islands to hop between.
7. Cayman Islands Another British territory, consisting of three islands – the largest is Grand Cayman and loved for its beaches and incredible diving. The second largest is Brac and is known for great deep sea fishing, while Little Cayman, the smallest, is home to a very diverse mix of wildlife. However, there really is nothing British about these islands, warm waters lap white sandy beaches, where manta rays, whales and dolphins are frequently seen.
8. CubaSome people don’t realise that Cuba is a Caribbean island – it is possibly thought of more for its culture and as being South American, with its vibrant Hispanic/Latino capital, Havana, top on the list for visitors.
But it has the paradise beaches you expect of the Caribbean too – so it’s a really great island to visit for those who like a mix of both!
9. DominicaNot to be confused with the Dominican Republic, this island is mountainous (well volcanic actually) and has many geothermal spas. There are plenty of places where visitors can relax in hot spas – and even visit the bubbling lake. The island is also covered by rainforest and edged by sandy beaches – this is the kind of place that we imagine you might find Robinson Crusoe living in a tropical tree house!
10. Dominican Republic A Caribbean nation, the Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. It is known for its pristine beaches and top-class, all-inclusive resorts, which is why UK holiday makers love it so much.
The island is also known for its quality golf courses – drawing golfers from all over Europe.
11. Grenada Known as the spice isle – Grenada consists of one main island and six smaller ones. This island is rich and fertile, growing plentiful fruits and spices – you can actually smell the nutmeg when you arrive.
It is a pretty island that is reminiscent of parts of Italy, with Georgian buildings overlooking the picturesque harbour.
12. GuadeloupeThis French territory sits in the south Caribbean, and from above its two main islands look like a butterfly. So much so it is known as le papillon (butterfly in French)!
This island retains its French identity quite strongly – locals say the following of the five islands, “decidedly French yet undeniably Caribbean”.
Another example of a varied landscape – these islands change from tropical rainforests into white sandy beaches in a blink of an eye.
13. HaitiSharing the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, Haiti has the eastern half, with the Dominican Republic to the West.
Many will have only have heard of this Caribbean country since the earthquake in 2010, from which it is still recovering in many ways. Luckily for holidaymakers, many of the islands striking 19th Century buildings survived.
Travel restrictions imposed at the time are now lifted, and we wonder if this beautiful little Caribbean island will rise again from the rubble. We certainly think it deserves to – with its wonderfully rich culture and stunning beaches!
14. Jamaica With its capital Kingston home to music legend Bob Marley, the reggae lifestyle is perhaps what first springs to mind for many holidaymakers, but this island has so much more about it than just that.
It has incredible beaches and all inclusive hotel resorts, but there is even more to the island that these too – hidden away in the rainforests are beautiful waterfalls and secluded lakes for swimming – Jamaica is a beautiful place, that can sometimes get a bad rap.
15. MartiniqueAnother French territory, this rugged island has an interesting blend of French and West Indian culture. Known as the isle of flowers because of its rich, lush, tropical vegetation, bright in colours. However, they are not the only things which are colourful – its coastlines are dotted with brightly coloured houses too, which make this island very pretty indeed.
This island is also great for active, outdoorsy visitors, as there is so much to do here – it’s a walkers paradise.
Coral reefs and rocky caves also line the north of the island, making it picturesque above the water and rich in marine life below.
17. Netherlands AntillesFormally a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Dutch influences can clearly be seen – especially in the architecture on the island of Curaçao.
There is some debate as to whether this group of island consists of three islands – or five, including Aruba and St Marten, which for this article we have covered separately.
One thing is for sure – all of the islands have the kind of beaches which make the Caribbean famous, including Curaçao, which has a staggering 38 miles of them, with 38 secluded coves!
18. Puerto Rico
Although a Caribbean island, Puerto Rico is also an unincorporated territory of the United States of America. If the endless beaches on this island could talk ,they would no doubt tell you stories of pirates and smugglers – the most famous was El Pirata Cofresí, who was born into a wealthy Puerto Rican family in the 18th Century, but turned from a fisherman to a pirate as it was more lucrative!
With pirates long gone, visitors to the island will now experience a beautiful medley of Spanish and American influences, and the kind of tropical beaches which are perfect for both sun worshipers and surfers.
19. Saint BarthelemyKnown more commonly as St Barts, this French-speaking island is high-end and packed full of luxury resorts and designer shops – but of course, like all of the islands, it comes with idyllic beaches!
Just eight square miles in size, asides from the designer yachts, luxury hotels and celebs, you will meet charming locals (descendant of the original French settlers) and a large population of iguanas!
20. Saint Kitts & Nevis A dual island nation, these islands sit in between the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. Once the land of sugar plantations they are now geared towards tourism. Offering picture-perfect inns and boutique hotels, set to a backdrop of stunning beaches and mountains that reach the clouds!
21. Saint Lucia Another of the more well-known Caribbean islands – its tourist board touts this as the place to come for romance, rejuvenation and adventure.
It is yet another example of an outstanding island with beaches galore, palm-lined with stunning views of mountains, are its specialty – along with world-class accommodation and spas!
22. St MartinThis island is an interesting one, like Hispaniola it actually comprises of two separate countries. Split in half there is the northern French side (also called Saint Martin) and the southern Dutch side (called Sint Maarten).
Both sides have a busy beach culture – the island is a popular stop off of many Caribbean cruises because of the stunning beaches!
It also has a lively night-life and many designer shops, well-know among Brits for selling duty free alcohol and fine jewellery.
23. Saint VincentFormally called Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, this group of islands sit in the south of the Caribbean Sea. Its main island, St. Vincent, is perhaps best known for its luxury yacht-filled harbour, but what’s best about these islands is the fact that they are relatively unknown by tourists.
Visited mainly by residents of other Caribbean islands, a trip to St. Vincents will give you an experience of true island life. These peaceful, secluded islands are definitely great for honeymooners – with, yes you guessed it… beautiful beaches!
24. Trinidad & Tobago Yet another dual nation island, these two nations both have very strong Creole influences, especially the cuisine – which has resulted from the Spanish and Portuguese settlers. Yet, this is where their similarities end.
Trinidad has rich mangroves and waterfalls, while Tobago is, perhaps, exactly how you’d picture a Caribbean island to be – packed with white sandy beaches.
What is most interesting about these two nations, is the fact that they remain pretty untouched by the tourism industry, so they are perfect for independent travellers who like to do things themselves.
25. Turks & Caicos IslandsAnother British territory , yet unheard of by many, the forty-or-so coral islands are all yet further examples of paradise.
Favoured by celebrities this island has luxury hotels, bars and restaurants, perfect for those looking for a peaceful yet classy retreat. For tourists, the islands have legendary diving and world-class hospitality – one to check out for sure.
Life is relaxed and lived on the beach – with rum and West-Indian food in abundance.
So, how many of them did you know? Are there more than you thought?
We certainly think that there is a whole Caribbean world out there waiting to be discovered, all slightly different, yet with one thing in common…. seriously stunning beaches and scenery, along with that much-loved mix of Caribbean culture and ambiance.
†The number varies depending on source and how territories and countries are defined. For the purpose of this blog we are focusing on the 26 Caribbean countries as featured within the Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Caribbean_island_countries_by_population
This list excludes Belize and Bermuda – which some sources count as Caribbean territories.