THE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS

Map caribnew

About the Caribbean Islands

The Caribbean Islands are comprised of the islands that border / are surrounded by the Caribbean Sea as well as islands in the nearby Lucayan Archipelago. In fact, what is called “The Caribbean” actually includes more than 5,000 islands, reefs and cays. Rather than focus on all of the Caribbean, we decided to highlight a few of our favorite Caribbean Islands: Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Aruba, Puerto Rico and St. Martin / St. Maarten.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Punta Cana Beach with Hobie Cat

Dominican Republic is actually not an island, but rather a nation on the island of Hispaniola shared by Haiti. The Dominican Republic is the second-largest Caribbean nation and has a population of nearly 10 million people. It also happens to be the most visited destination in the Caribbean.

Things to Do:

  • Spend the day at Punta Cana- This area of the island is known for world-class golf courses and gorgeous beaches. There are also zip line and dune buggy tours here that are sure to excite the thrill seekers in your group.
  • Surf with the wind – Windsurfing is certainly not an easy water sport, but there are lots of places to learn on the beaches of this island. You can start out slowly or go all in with the advanced lessons. Other exciting options in addition to windsurfing include boogie boarding and traditional surfing.  Both are very popular options and there are several places to rent a board in case you don’t have one with you.

 Most Exciting Adventure Activities

Imagine sneaking away to a secluded paradise. You might just forget for a moment that there are other people on the island when you hike to the Damajagua or Ciguapa Falls. These beautiful areas are not easy to get to and a tour guide is highly recommended, if not mandatory.  And the stunning views will not disappoint.

If that doesn’t get you excited then perhaps a day trip to Bonao is in order. This area of the island is off the beaten path and one of the most secluded spots to go horseback riding and swimming.  This is also where you will find some of the most picturesque places to snap some photos to make your friends on Facebook jealous.

JAMAICA

Dunns River Falls  

Jamaica is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and the fifth-largest island country in the Caribbean. Until 1655 when England took control of the island it was actually the Spanish owned country known as Santiago. Today, it is considered one of the most exciting and yet most romantic destinations to visit in the world. The beauty of the island along with the plethora of things to do here make it a top pick for weddings, honeymoons, spring breakers and every day vacationers just looking for an escape.

Things to do:

  • Stroll the Seven Mile Beach – Often touted as the most popular beach of Jamaica and even the world, the Seven Mile Beach is known not only for its silky white sand and turquoise water, but also for some of the best gourmet dining options and world-class resorts imaginable. The beach is so popular that it’s not unusual for random beach parties and live music and entertainment to spontaneously occur here.
  • Fly like a witch, sort of – Of course it’s not to suggest you grab a broom and attempt to fly.  But you will soar above a forest if you visit the Flight of the White Witch Zip Line Canopy Tour.  The only difference is you’ll substitute a broom for ropes. On this tour you will learn the story of the White Witch of Rose Hall while swinging from ropes through a forest canopy 1,200 feet above sea level.

Most Exciting Adventure Activities

Perhaps the most adrenaline inducing adventure of Jamaica is cliff diving at Rick’s Café. Located in Negril, Jamaica, Rick’s Café is considered to be the most famous restaurant on the island. The tallest cliff at Rick’s is 35 feet, but for the most daring of daredevils that is not enough as some locals have been known to climb the trees on top of that cliff and jump/dive from the highest point they can get to into the water that is so blue it almost looks like you could drink it.

ST. LUCIA

Sailing St Lucia

Named after Saint Lucy of Syracuse by the French, Saint Lucia is part of the Lesser Antilles. St. Lucia features some of the most diverse cultures and cuisine in the Caribbean Islands due to their African, Indian, Caribbean, British, Spanish and French influences. With secluded and public beaches, on-site water parks, ATV adventures, zip lining tours, stunning spas and so much more, the diversity of St. Lucia literally has something for everyone.

Things to do:

  • Visit Mount Soufriere and the “Drive Thru Volcano” at Sulphur Springs Park – Sulphur Springs Park is the most active geothermal area in the Lesser Antilles. The volcanic pit of Mount Soufriere vents sulfur into the air and there are pools of water that are constantly boiling. You can witness these bubbling pools from the safety of observation platforms or go with a tour guide to drive right up to the edge of the springs. After your tour you can head to an area near the springs and take a mud bath. The water is still hot here, but is cool enough for most people to jump in and wade in the mud.
  • Relax on the amber sands of Reduit Beach – There are several beaches on the island of St. Lucia, but Reduit Beach is considered to be the most loved amongst travelers in part because the bars, restaurants and water sports of this beach are said to be the best St. Lucia has to offer.

Most Exciting Adventure Activities

Hiking the Pitons is one of the most exhilarating and yet the most demanding adventures you can undertake in St. Lucia. This hike will test the limits of your mind and body, but once you reach the summit the views will be the best reward. Even the most experienced of hikers and climbers have said that it is difficult and if you decide to take it on expect that you will be both hiking and climbing as you work your way to the top. Bring snacks and water in a book bag because you will need both of your hands and be sure to wear sturdy tennis shoes or hiking boots!

If hiking the Pitons seems too much for you there are boat tours of the area as well as plenty of places to see the mountains from the ground, but those who have reached the summit say that there is nothing quite like the view from the top.

ARUBA

Sunset Sail from Palm Beach

More than just a city mentioned in a Beach Boys son, Aruba is popular spot in the Caribbean with reliably warm and sunny weather with a dryer climate than most other Caribbean islands.

Things to do:

  • Explore the Donkey Sanctuary or the Ostrich Farm – Once the main form of transportation, many donkeys are now sick and/or injured so the Donkey Sanctuary takes them in and heals and protects them while educating the public on how to properly care for them. The Ostrich Farm is equally rich with education and even allows tourists to feed these large birds.
  • Deep sea fishing in the morning and sunbathing in the afternoon – Just a few of the fish you can expect to find when deep sea fishing off the coast of Aruba are Sailfish, Wahoo, Shark, Barracuda, Amberjack, Kingfish and more. After a morning of fishing spend the afternoon and evening on the sands of Eagle Beach, one of the most popular beaches of Aruba.

Most Exciting Adventure Activities

For a thrilling up-close look at Aruba consider touring the outback with an off-road jeep tour. See the best that Aruba has to offer by taking the wheel and driving to beaches, parks, must-see landmarks and more. Off-road jeep tours are considered to be the greatest way to get an overview of the island so that you will know which spots you want to explore in full on a different day or during your next trip.

PUERTO RICO

Vintage San Felipe del Moro

Puerto Rico is actually an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands that are part of the chain of the Spanish Virgin Islands. The group of islands is owned by the United States. In fact, those born in Puerto Rico are natural-born U.S. citizens and aside from Spanish one of the main languages in this territory is English.  Thus one of the greatest advantages of traveling to Puerto Rico is U.S. Citizens don’t need a passport! 

Things to do:

  • Explore one of the many caves such as Cueva Ventana – The karst region of Puerto Rico features many caves just waiting to be explored and Cueva Ventana is said to be one of the most exciting due to its pretty formations, magnificent views and intricate tunnels. Beware of bats and slippery paths though!
  • Go snorkeling – Swim amongst large sea turtles and stunning reef gardens of the coast of Puerto Rico. You’ll experience waters so crystal clear that you will see everything that is in there with you.

Most Exciting Adventure Activities

For a truly unique sci-fi type of adventure, kayak or canoe the Vieques Bio Bay at night! Vieques Bio Bay is a bioluminescent bay meaning the waters of this area actually appear to glow making it a must-do experience after the sun goes down. What causes the water to glow? Microscopic single-cell organisms called dinoflagellates that release energy in the form of light. In the waters of Vieques Biobay there are 700,000 of the organisms per gallon of water which is the highest concentration in the world making for one of the most amazing experiences you can have

ST. MARTIN / ST. MAARTEN

St. Martin and St. Maarten are actually two distinct nations that share one island. The northern nation is Saint-Martin and is French owned and the southern nation is the Dutch owned Sint Maarten. 

Fort over looking St Maarten

Things to do:

  • Try your hand at lady luck – From live entertainment to amazing food and some of the most exciting table games around, the casinos of St. Maarten are a must visit. Although there are a few casinos on the St. Martin end of the island, the best ones are located on the St. Maarten side.
  • Hike or bike Loterie Farm – Located in St. Martin, Loterie Farm features 150 acres of forest and farmland and is St. Martin’s only private nature reserve. Here you can hike or bike the area, but if you are feeling more adventurous there is now a zip line tour available.

Most Exciting Adventure Activities

One of the most popular activities on the island of St. Martin and St. Maarten is to go hiking at Pic du Paradis a.k.a. Paradise Peak. Most people who visit will take a taxi or drive to the peak and then hike around the top as it is the highest point on the entire island and offers some of the most stunning views of what is around and below. You can tour this area yourself, but several people that have done it suggest going with a group to get the most out of the trip while staying as safe as possible.

Best Time to Visit the Caribbean Islands

From December to April the Caribbean has little rainfall with average lows in the low 60s in the northern areas and 70s in the southern areas and average highs in the mid 80s all throughout the Caribbean. Because northerners come to the Caribbean to escape the frigid temperatures this is the most popular time for tourists and therefore, the most expensive and crowded time to visit.

Luckily, late spring and late fall also make for decent times to visit the Caribbean as the lows will be in the mid-70s and average highs will be in the mid-80s. This is considered the shoulder season and although it’s not the cheapest time to visit, it’s cheaper than the high season and significantly less crowded too. There is a little rainfall, but for the most part you will just experience sunny days and semi-cool nights.

Finally, the low season is the rainiest season- summer. Thought the highs are generally mid- to upper 80s, June is the rainiest month with July and August being sunnier, but with chances of showers. It should also be noted that hurricane season in the Caribbean runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, and that September and October are considered peak times for hurricane activity.

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