Nearly everyone knows about islands like the Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, Jamaica, and its famous Montego Bay, but what about the more unique Caribbean island destinations? Visiting a lesser-known Caribbean island can bring the opportunity to enjoy white sand beaches practically all to yourself.
Just imagine gazing out at the endless turquoise of the Caribbean Sea, with the only sounds of the gently lapping water, the songs of the birds, and the palm trees swaying in the breeze. That can be your reality by visiting any one of these spectacular Caribbean islands.
NOTE: No matter what your destination is in the Caribbean, you’ll need pure drinking water to stay hydrated. While there are some hotels and resorts on islands where tap water is considered safe to drink, many are still vulnerable due to infrastructure issues such as old pipes. It’s best to bring your LARQ Bottle Filtered to remove contaminants and improve the taste in areas where bacteria is not a concern.
Salt Cay, Turks and Caicos
There are six main inhabited islands in Turks and Caicos, but it seems nearly everyone heads to Providenciales, the main tourism hub. Instead, consider Salt Cay, a quiet island ideal for a more authentic, laid-back experience. While it was once a major sea salt producer, today it only supports small-scale commercial fishing and limited boutique tourism.
A visit to Salt Cay offers the chance to enjoy powdery white, pristine beaches where you’ll never encounter a crowd, outstanding snorkeling and diving, and whale watching. Humpback whales are commonly sighted between late January and early March. Adding to the beauty and charm of the island are cattle and donkeys that roam freely, descendants of those used for work during the salt days.
Little Cayman, Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands are some of the best Caribbean islands to visit this winter, but instead of heading to Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman with everyone else, consider Little Cayman. It’s just a mile wide and 10 miles long, with a population of only around 160 but as there is little development there’s been virtually no human-caused damage to the coral reefs. One of the world’s best places for snorkeling and diving, its marine park status ensures continuous protection of the spectacular underwater attractions.
Bloody Bay is considered the Caribbean’s most breathtaking drop-off where one can swim over a coral cliff. The walls are teeming with all sorts of creatures, from gigantic barrel sponges to tangles of rope sponges. You might find a hawksbill turtle staring at you while floating in the translucent blue waters, along with countless colorful fish. The bird watching is epic here too, with the Booby Pond Nature Reserve home to the Western Hemisphere’s largest breeding colonies of red-footed boobies. You’ll find plenty of ways to relax as well, including naps in a hammock beneath a palm tree and some of the most beautiful beaches for tossing down a towel.
Cat Island, Bahamas
Cat Island is one of the least visited and most stunning of all the Bahamas Out Islands. Remote and unspoiled by tourism, it’s all about peace and tranquility here. The perfect tropical fantasy, everything is idyllic, including the beaches. In fact, it even boasts a long, eight-mile stretch of pink sands.
If you’re looking for authenticity and culture, you’ll find it here too, with Obeah religious practices and ripsaw music still surviving today. There are historic landmarks, including everything from old and characterful buildings to plantation ruins, while Griffin Bat Cave once served as a hideout for slaves. Don’t miss the “Boiling Hole” – it’s most famous for its sea monster with the tidal conditions causing mysterious bubbles and burps while being a great place to spot rays, baby sharks, and a wide variety of birds that rest in the surrounding mangroves.
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Located in the Eastern Caribbean, Virgin Gorda is within easy reach of many cities on the eastern coast of the U.S. and Canada, yet it’s often overlooked, it’s managed to retain an authentic feel and offers an abundance of striking natural beauty. Not only are there spectacular white sandy beaches like Savannah Bay and Devil’s Bay, but those who like to hike can head to Gorda Peak for a panoramic view of the sea and surrounding islands.
Virgin Gorda also hosts a magnificent geological wonder on the north shore known as The Baths. It’s formed by huge granite boulders that shelter sea pools at the edge of the beach for a dreamy swim.
The island of Saba is one of the closest neighboring islands to St. Martin/St. Maarten. While many visit on a day trip it’s worth a stay of its own. Known as the “Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean,” there are no sprawling resorts or franchises on this five-square-mile volcanic island. Instead, eclectic bars, eateries, and hotels are often housed in gingerbread-type houses with beautiful gardens.
Saba is a lush paradise where one can hike trails through tropical rainforests and enjoy outstanding diving with abundant marine life while the underwater canyons and caves reveal the history of the island’s many volcanic eruptions.
Culebra, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is a lot more than the mainland. It’s an archipelago with more than 140 islets, keys, and islands like Culebra, part of the Spanish Virgin Islands. A tranquil paradise off Puerto Rico’s east coast, it’s surrounded by smaller islands that include the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge with deserted beaches, hiking trails, and over 50,000 seabirds.
There are no shopping malls or mega-resorts on Culebra but its more than 100 white sandy beaches are edged by brilliant aquamarine water for snorkeling alongside colorful fish and green sea turtles. Divers can explore shipwrecks and underwater caves. While the island is mostly undeveloped, accommodation can be found in vacation rentals and small inns. There are shops and eateries clustered around Ensenada Honda too.
Petit St. Vincent, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
There are many private islands in the Caribbean. To stay on one, you’ll have to book a reservation at a private island resort like Petit St. Vincent. Located at the southern tip of the Grenadines, 40 miles from St. Vincent, it’s a secluded paradise with two miles of soft, unspoiled white sands while providing the ultimate in pampering. Whenever you need anything, just place a note in your mailbox and raise the yellow flag. Like magic, it’s done.
Petit St. Vincent Resort is the perfect place to relax and do nothing at all but gaze out at the breathtaking scenery. Still, there is a wide range of activities available, including sailing excursions to idyllic islands like Mayreau and Tobago Cays Marine Park, home to the tiny, uninhabited island of Petit Tabac where Captain Jack Sparrow, was marooned with Elizabeth Swan in the “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
Often referred to as “The Nature Island of the Caribbean,” Dominica is mostly undeveloped, nestled between Guadeloupe and Marie-Galante to the north and Martinique to the south. It’s a mountainous island with tropical rainforests and natural hot springs, with three reserves established to protect the marine environment. It’s also home to the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the eastern Caribbean: Morne Trois Pitons National Park.
The national park boasts countless rivers and waterfalls, jungle, and natural swimming holes. Black Sand Beach is renowned for its hawksbill, leatherback, and green turtle sanctuary. The waters off the island’s shores are an ideal haven for sperm whales – it’s the only country where they reside year-round, although the most frequent sightings are from November through March. Some outfitters even provide the opportunity to snorkel or dive with the majestic creatures.