Which Caribbean island is right for you?
The Caribbean has long been the go-to destination with those seeking sun, sea and gorgeously white sand. However, knowing where to start, especially if you haven't been before, can be a little daunting.
To help you on your way, we've created this handy guide to the region's top islands, some packed with luxury and endless facilities, others more laidback with local, rustic charm and lashings of rum.
- Antigua & Barbuda
- Dominican Republic
- Puerto Rico
- St Lucia
- Trinidad & Tobago
Getting to the Caribbean: browse fabulous escapes to these islands for all budgets with Virgin Holidays*.
Antigua & Barbuda
- Main attractions: Devil's Bridge, Nelson's Dockyard
- Who goes: sailors, families, kite-surfers
- Best for: naval history, snorkelling, diving, great weather year-round
Known for its famous regattas, which take place from December to April, Antigua* is a haven for those who love to sail. Situated in the Leeward Islands, Antigua is more than a famous yachting port with 365 beaches, one for each day of the year. Half Moon Bay is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Head to Shirley Heights as the sun begins to set on a Sunday for steel pan music and live reggae, and the best view of English Harbour and Nelson's Dockyard, the world's only working Georgian dockyard. Then there's its sibling, Barbuda, with its 17-mile pink sand beach and the largest frigatebird sanctuary in the world.
- Main attractions: tram, ostrich farm, donkey sanctuary
- Who goes:18 to 30s, foodies
- Best for: holiday facilities, hot, dry weather, partying
Located just north of Venezuela, this half Dutch, half Spanish island is the most popular of the Lesser Antilles. There is as little or as much to do as you want here and, although Aruba is slightly Americanised, you can do practically anything from catamaran snorkelling trips over shipwrecks to exploring the volcanic and coral landscape on a yellow Jeep safari.
You'll find all the large resorts along the stretch of sand at Eagle Beach, which has a promenade perfect for strolling at night. Wildlife lovers should make for the ostrich farm or the donkey sanctuary where you can hand feed the rescued animals. Aruba has an instant holiday vibe and is one of the most popular in the Caribbean.
- Main attractions: Harrison's Cave, Morgan Lewis Mill, St Nicholas Abbey
- Who goes: families, couples, cyclists
- Best for: luxury, history, rum lovers
Barbados* is one of the flatter Caribbean islands, making it ideal for those who love exploring on a mountain bike whether cross-country through the island's parishes or along the rugged coastline of Bathsheba with giant boulders and dramatic cliffs.
Although you can find rum across most of the Caribbean islands, Barbados produces the oldest rum in the world - Mount Gay - where you can witness the rum-making process for yourself.
One of the highlights is the island's intricate cave system and taking the tram ride through Harrison's Cave should be on the top of your itinerary.
A visit here is not complete without a trip to the Concorde Museum, an interactive experience of one of the world's greatest flying machines and being so close to the airport makes it perfect for the hour visit before flying back on a more conventional aircraft.
- Main attractions: Old Havana, Trinidad, tobacco fields
- Who goes: solo travellers, music lovers, literary fans
- Best for: live music, beaches, culture
Cuban cigars, cobbled streets and colourful buildings - you can't get much more cultural than Cuba*, the largest island in the Caribbean. Meander around timeless architecture in Old Havana and learn about this country's past at the Museum of the Revolution (although largely explained in Spanish, there's still plenty to see).
If you love music, you'll be in heaven in Cuba, as this island has more live music venues than you could possibly see in one visit, including the world-famous Buena Vista Social Club.
Cuba is the hub of salsa beats and you'll find Cuban salsa pulsating from nearly every corner whether you choose to stay in colourful Trinidad or just enjoy a classic mojito from one of the many roof terraces overlooking a plaza in Havana.
Holguin has the type of beaches that you expect to find in glossy magazines with clear blue hues and soft white sand, ideal for those who want to soak up the sun the all-inclusive way.
For those who love to go more local, staying at a casa particular (private B&B) is the best way to meet people and experience this beguiling island at its very best.
- Main attractions: Santo Domingo, beaches, famous cathedral
- Who goes: beach lovers, couples
- Best for: beaches, music, old colonial capital
Known for its long stretch of sandy beach at Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic* is more than just all-inclusive resorts.
The capital, Santo Domingo, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the oldest cathedral in the Americas, while the city mixes colonial architecture and old fortresses with a sexy Latin nightlife. The birthplace of merengue and bachata, you'll find the locals dancing in the bars in this cultural capital.
Take a morning cable car ride to Mount Isabel de Torres for the view of the city of Puerto Plata, a once-important harbour in the Caribbean with a forest backdrop and distant coastline.
Of course, if you want to spend your holiday barefoot with the sand between your toes, Punta Cana and La Romana are the stuff of Caribbean-beach dreams.
- Main attractions: chocolate factory, rum distillery, Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station
- Who goes: culture vultures, naturists, divers
- Best for: snorkelling, diving, sightseeing, bird watching
Welcome to the Spice Isle, a stunning Caribbean island that is not as well known as its neighbours. No matter where you go, you're surrounded by green forest and mountainous charm.
Part of a group of three islands, Grenada* has waterfalls, plantations, chocolate, rum and all the spices you can imagine from nutmeg to cinnamon.
St George's, the capital, is a quaint and colourful town with a mix of French and British architecture giving a nod to its past. The island's highlight has got to be River Antoine Rum Distillery, which has been producing rum the same way since 1785 with water power.
Sheltered stretches such as Flamingo Bay and Dragon Bay are ideal for snorkelling as well as the Underwater Sculpture Park in Molinere Bay; Grenada has even more to see beneath the surface.
- Main attractions: Dunn's River Falls, Montego Bay, Negril Beach
- Who goes: golfers, beach lovers, 18 to 30s, honeymooners
- Best for: beaches, historic plantations, reggae music
Many holidaymakers make the mistake of visiting Jamaica* and never leaving their resorts. Montego Bay is the most popular destination with several beaches that attract a younger crowd but venture outside of the beach for plantations and Georgian towns.
Jamaica also has 10 world-class golf courses to choose from, many offering views of the Caribbean Sea as you tee off. Known for its reggae, a visit to the Bob Marley Museum at the legend's former home is a must for music lovers.
Take a candlelit ghost tour around Rose Hall, a restored plantation house for haunting tales after dark or sail along Martha Brae River on a bamboo raft whilst learning about the Legend of Martha Brae, an old Arawak witch who changed the course of the river forever.
- Main attractions: Old San Juan, El Yunque Rainforest, Bacardi Rum Factory
- Who goes: adventurers, party-goers, adrenalin junkies
- Best for: island hopping, eating out, rainforest treks, zip lines
Although technically US territory, Puerto Rico maintains its Latin charm and you'll hear a mix of Spanish and English spoken on the island. You'll also find some of the best Latin music and a night out in one of the salsa bars in old San Juan should be high on your list. As should one of the island's zip line tours across Puerto Rico's rainforest.
Hop over to one of Puerto Rico's islands by ferry or on a 10-minute flight in an eight-seater plane. Soak up the rays at Flamenco Beach, one of the most photographed beaches in the world, or experience the magic of the bioluminescent bay in Vieques on a nighttime kayak trip.
As for the cuisine, it's crammed with Spanish, African and other influences, ensuring Puerto Rico has some of the tastiest food in the Caribbean.
- Main attractions: Marigot Bay, The Pitons, Soufriere volcano
- Who goes: couples, hikers, mountaineers
- Best for: wellness, hiking, eco-tourism
St Lucia* attracts those seeking a relaxing holiday and is known as a wellness island thanks to the BodyHoliday resort, among others. This island, with its mountainous terrain, is ideal for those looking to smother themselves in volcanic mud and bathe in a mineral waterfall.
If you prefer to stay dry, you can walk around Sulfur Springs Park instead and experience the most active geothermal area in the region.
Linked by the Piton Mitan ridge are two volcanic mountains named The Pitons, which attract hikers and mountain climbers, and aren't for the faint-hearted.
One of the most relaxing spots on the island is Marigot Bay with green, calming waters, which was the film location of the musical Dr Dolittle, and still has an aptly named bar within the marina.
Trinidad & Tobago
- Main attractions: Knolly's Tunnel, Maracas Beach, Rainbow Falls
- Who goes: divers, families, foodies, hikers
- Best for: carnival, Tobago beaches, eco-adventure, diving
One of the most cosmopolitan groups of islands in the Caribbean, its diversity is evident in the country's cuisine. Whether you prefer African, Indian or traditional Creole dishes, you'll find a wide choice of scrumptious food to enjoy. Tobago* is the more relaxing of the islands with a slower vibe and rainforest beaches to lime the day away.
Those who love exploring have a wide choice of eco-adventures with waterfalls and rainforests as well as over 40 dive sites along its coastline. One of the best ways to see this coastline is to take a boat ride around the islands off Trinidad.
A popular spot is Gasparee Island, aka Gaspar Grande, with its dramatic limestone caves, rock formations and beautiful houses. Tours tend to culminate with a stop at Scotland Bay where you'll find the locals partying the weekend away. With two islands for the price of one, you're spoilt for things to do here.
Found your dream Caribbean island? Check out the latest offers on breaks to the Caribbean with Virgin Holidays and book your exotic escape today.
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