Atlantis Resort at Night
Atlantis Resort at Night

The Caribbean is all about sun, sand, and sea, but that doesn’t mean that all islands are the same. The lush landscape of the U.S. Virgin Islands is different than shiny, developed Aruba, but both are great options for the right traveler. Whether it’s your first trip to the Caribbean, or you’re traveling with a group and need to please everyone, here is a list of great caribbean islands to consider:

1St. Thomas

St. Thomas U.S.V.I. by Stuart Claggett

The scenery is reason enough to choose St. Thomas. Miles of white, sandy beaches and turquoise waters are set against a backdrop of towering green mountains, making the island a tropical paradise that’s relatively hassle-free for Americans; since the U.S. Virgin Islands are a domestic territory, passports are not required, and the local currency is the dollar.

Where to Stay

Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, one of just two all-inclusive resorts on the island, has a casual, island vibe with lively happy hours, a great beach, and lots of water sports. The all-inclusive package is optional but well worth it – dining and cocktails in St. Thomas are expensive outside of the resort.

What to do

Go island hopping to the nearby Virgin Islands. A fun and budget-friendly excursion is just a short ferry ride away from Red Hook to nearby St. John, which boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – Trunk Bay, along with an underwater snorkel trail and national park.

The British Virgin Islands of Tortola and Virgin Gorda are also just a ferry ride away, although you’ll need passports to visit these islands.

2The Bahamas

Atlantis Resort by Derek Key

Located just 50 miles off the east coast of Florida, the Bahamas provide a quick and easy getaway from the mainland with fun water sports and a lively nightlife. First-timers will love Paradise Island, located just across the bridge from Nassau.

Where to Stay

Comfort Suites, Paradise Island is not an all-inclusive resort, but the comfortable, tropical hotel offers access to the pricier Atlantis Resort, which is within walking distance. Guests receive wristbands and can access all of the pools, restaurants, and attractions at the Atlantis – a fabulous deal.

What to Do

Take the short ferry ride to Nassau and haggle for duty-free bags, jewelry, and crafts at the Straw Market; visit nearby Blue Lagoon Island for great snorkeling and nature trails; or simply soak up the sun on Paradise Island’s beautiful beaches.

3Aruba

Radisson Aruba by David Amundsen

Aruba is a diverse island packed with beach resorts, upscale dining and shopping, glitzy casinos, and first-class watersports. Unlike most Caribbean islands, Aruba has a dry, arid climate cooled by trade winds — a winning combination for first-timers searching for perfect sunny weather.

Where to Stay

There are many hotels along Aruba’s popular Palm Beach coastline, but the bright and cheerful Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino (formerly Radisson Aruba) is a star. The sprawling tropical resort is within walking distance to shopping and restaurants and has a large beach with free palapa reservations.

What to Do

Need a break from the beach? Head south for a tour of Arikok National Park, a nature preserve of lava, quartz diorite and limestone formations that shape the island. Twenty-one miles of trails navigate hikers through the park’s exotic flora and fauna.

4Barbados

Barbados Coast by Berit Watkin

Barbados is a great choice for first-timers; the west coast, known as the Platinum Coast is bathed by the warm, calm sea and lined with all-inclusive resorts. The friendly Caribbean island is distinctively British, and visitors can enjoy afternoon tea and cricket matches as well as beautiful beaches and of course an island favorite – rum.

Where to Stay

Mango Bay Barbados is an all-inclusive boutique resort located in St. James on the island’s popular west coast. Whether you choose to spend your days splashing around the pool, sunbathing, or taking a SCUBA lesson, it’s all included – as are all meals, afternoon tea and unlimited beverages.

What to Do

Take a turtle sailing cruise to swim with hawksbill and leatherback turtles in their natural habitat. Mango Bay offers a complimentary catamaran trip to snorkel with these magnificent creatures.

5Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos by actor212

Don’t be intimidated by this lesser-known island chain – they are located just south of the Bahamas and are easily accessible from the east coast. Like the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos are technically in the Atlantic, not the Caribbean, but with water this brilliant we’ll give them a pass. Come to Providenciales, the most developed island in Turks and Caicos, for miles of white sandy beaches, an extensive coral reef and some of the brightest blue waters in the tropics.

Where to Stay

Club Med Turkoise is an all-inclusive, adults-only resort with breathtaking views of sparkling aqua water – a perfect setting for the various water sports that are offered. In the evening, singles and couples can relax with a cocktail at the outdoor dance floor.

What to do

In a word: Scuba. The Turks and Caicos Islands offer some of the best diving and snorkeling sites worldwide and most resorts offer instruction, certification, and dive trips.


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