When the temperatures drop in the Northern hemisphere people tend to flock down south to get a little escape from the winter’s chill. One of the easiest places to find the sunshine we seek is the Caribbean, with so many choices available to us depending on the experience we’re looking for. When we think Caribbean vacation, the popular places like Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and The Bahamas tend to come to mind first. Or the slightly more adventurous may think of the resort laden islands of Saint Lucia, Barbados and Turks and Caicos. These destinations, while popular for good reason are not your only choice in the vast expanse of the Caribbean Sea. Here are 7 lesser-known, hidden gem islands that are definitely worth checking out the next time the Caribbean is beckoning.
The island of Guadeloupe is actually an overseas region of France and has a total population of 403,750 as of 2014. While commonly referred to as one island, Guadeloupe is actually two islands, Basse-Terre to the west and Grande-Terre to the east. These 2 are separated by a narrow strait and crossed by bridges. Part of the French West Indies, the official language spoken is French, though almost everyone also speaks Antillean Creole. The currency used throughout Guadeloupe it the Euro, give that this island is part of the European Union. There’s tons to see and do on these islands, including swimming in hot springs, climbing an active volcano and visiting the many parks and historic sites throughout Guadeloupe. The winter months of January, February and March are an excellent time to visit this Caribbean destination as average rainfall is at its lowest.
You may be familiar with Barbuda from hearing it mentioned alongside its more popular sister island Antigua. Together the two make up the twin-island country that lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Those looking for a quite piece of island paradise will enjoy the island of Barbuda and it’s small, relaxed charm. The island is pretty tiny and only hosts a population of about 1,600 but the beaches are simply breathtaking. The only town on the island, Codrington is where you’ll find most of the island’s residents as well as the public airport. With only a handful of accommodations available, you won’t have to sift through pages of resorts before deciding where to stay. If quiet reflection in a world of untouched beauty sounds enticing, Barbuda is the paradise you seek.
The slogan of the island country of Grenada is ‘The spice of the Caribbean’ and that’s not just a clever tagline either. The nickname is due to the fact that Grenada is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of Nutmeg and Mace crops. It’s also the largest in the string of islands known as the Grenadines, with a total population of 110,000. Grand Anse Beach is world famous for its 2 mile stretch of soft white sand and calm waters, or if you’re looking for more seclusion and less crowds, visit any of La Sagesse, Bathway or Levera Beaches. If waterfalls are your thing, you’ll love the 4 falls that can be found throughout the island and beg to be jumped in. Annandale Falls is only a short drive from the capital city of St. Georges and has a paved pathway leading to the falls. It’s the perfect place for a hike and a picnic by the falls.
This next island is another half of a larger picture. Tobago is the smaller sister island to Trinidad and together they form The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Fun fact: Tobago was the filming location for the classic Walt Disney film ‘Swiss Family Robinson’. This island is a divers paradise with some of the best dive spots in all of the Caribbean and 3 underwater shipwrecks around the shores which make for some awesome marine life exploration. Despite being the smaller of the country’s islands with a population of around 62,000, visitors to Tobago will have no problem finding an abundance of hotels, bars, restaurants, shopping, golf and many more activities. Oh and of course no shortage of beautiful beaches as well.
Another overseas region of France, the island of Martinique, like Guadeloupe is part of the EU and its currency is the Euro. It is the third largest island in the region of The Lesser Antilles with a total population of 386,486 as of 2013. With little other trade and industry, tourism plays an important part in this Caribbean island’s economy and it’s estimated that 7% of the population and 16% of all businesses are in the tourism sector. There’s no shortage of exciting things to see and do around the island, like taking a trip up Mount Pelée, a 1,397 meter high volcano that marks the highest peak in all of Martinique. As a result of the historic volcanic activity in the island’s north end, there are several grey and black sand beaches to be found, but if you head down south you’ll find the fine white sand you’d expect in the Caribbean at beautiful beaches like Les Salines.
The small island of Anguilla lies directly north of Saint Martin in the Caribbean Sea. It is actually a British overseas territory and as such, visitors will notice that cars drive on the left side of the roads. The total population of the island is approximately 13,500 which drives home it’s small size compared to some of the other islands mentioned in this list. None the less, there are still countless activities and opportunities for fun in Anguilla. The beaches are truly something to behold with the Travel Channel even going so far as to call this destination “number one in the world for best overall beaches.” There’s 33 beaches in total and over 12 miles of powder white sand lining the inviting turquoise waters. And because of the lesser-known nature of Anguilla, these beaches are uncrowded and unspoiled.
Don’t confuse the number one island on our list with similar sounding countries like the Dominican Republic, the beautiful island of Dominica is a country all its own. This piece of paradise located in the southern portion of the Caribbean Sea between Martinique and Guadeloupe is dubbed as “the nature island”. One visit here will show you how it’s numerous waterfalls, springs, rivers and expansive rainforest with unique flora and fauna have earned it such a title. The island is also home to the world’s second largest hot spring, Boiling Lake which is located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park on the islands southern end. This nature-lovers paradise never ceases to amaze visitors with its endless unspoiled natural beauty.