Island Hopping in the Caribbean: 10 Pristine Getaways

For the ultimate paradise experience, head to theses 10 pristine getaways filled with tropical wonders. In a world of underwater coral gardens teeming with marine wildlife and lush tropical rainforests, the islands of the Caribbean are some of the most cherished natural wonders in the world. In fact, vacationers travel from all corners to witness the clear, turquoise waters and scuba dive in the rare marine sanctuaries.

10. Guadaloupe

Set sail for a magical adventure in the tropics of Guadaloupe, a natural paradise filled with unforgettable activities like snorkeling the reefs, swimming with dolphins, and relaxing on white sandy beaches with a bright colored cocktail. With a minimum of tourism infrastructure, the large island is ideal for exploring pristine waterfalls and rivers in Basse-Terre, the mountainous western half and the smaller islands that float nearby in a stunning turquoise hued-sea. Other highlights can be found on the north coast at the Port D’Enfer and Pointe de la Grande Vigie with dramatic cliffs scattered across the dazzling aqua waters. Nature lovers can go on mountain treks through tropical jungles in Basse-Terre on a trail leading to the magnificent Cascade aux Ecrevisses on Route de la Traversee. And for an unforgettable scuba diving excursion, grab your gear and head to the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve, a protected underwater oasis.

Pointe de la Grande Vigie

9. Cuba

With Cuba’s vibrant cultural and history starting with the Spanish influence, get ready to enter a world of café con leches, vintage 1950s cars, and the cherished Buena Vista Social Club. Part of the Greater Antilles, Cuba is a perfect getaway spot for experiencing their distinctive cultural mecca of Havana and discovering some of the most untouched marine ecosystems in the world. For a scuba diving adventure of a lifetime, head to La Costa de las Piratas, an underwater sanctuary of 56 reef sites teeming with marine wildlife. Along the way, make a stop at the beachside town of Varadero to sample some Cuban cigars and drink rum with the sociable locals. All-inclusive hotels line the island’s most popular beach and could be a useful home base for afternoon water excursions.

cuba varadero

8. St. Vincent and the Grenadines

What sets St. Vincent and the Grenadines apart is its dramatic natural beauty and like many islands in the Caribbean, a great way to see the sights is by sailboat. You might recognize the white sandy beaches, waterfalls, and lush rainforests in scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean, which was filmed here. It also is home to Mick Jagger and David Bowie’s private islands outside of St. Vincent. With its jagged mountain terrain and La Soufriere volcano in the north, it’s a haven for eco-tours and nature trekkers. The hike up the 4,000-ft volcano is about a four-hour climb and along the way, you’ll pass through a series of diverse vegetation like tropical rainforests, coconut plantations, and a cloud forest with stunted growth.

Grenadines

7. Martinique

With its tropical flowers covering the countryside and lush mountain rainforests in the background, Martinique is a beautiful getaway that inspired the famous landscapes by French artist Paul Gaugin. To see the vibrant natural wonders up close, head to the Carbet Mountains on a scenic drive through the interior rainforest. The drive starts at Route de la Trace that follows an old path laid by the Jesuit priests in the 1700s. Scuba diving excursions are also popular, especially the graveyard of sunken ships off Saint-Pierre and the caves and tunnels off Rocher du Diamant. For the novice diver, a good place to get your fins wet are in the shallow coral gardens near Cap Enrage, a underwater habitat filled with tropical fish and sea turtles. The Main Hull, a sunken Canadian barge, is also an ideal spot for the beginner wreck diver.

Martinique

6. St. Lucia

When it comes to tropical island getaways, you can expect all the standards of paradise in St. Lucia, a small island in the Windwards and neighboring Martinique and St. Vincent. Get swept away in a natural wonderland filled with turquoise waters teeming with fish and corals, tropical rainforests, and unspoiled, white sand beaches. A good place to get into the island spirit is at Discovery, a high-end resort in the popular Marigot Bay. Flanked by lush, green hills, the bay is considered one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean and has been the setting of several films, including Firepower (1979) and Dr. Dolittle (1967). For stunning bay views and lounging poolside with cocktails, Discovery suites are nestled high in the hills overlooking the bustling marina. From here, you can take excursions to nearby coral sites for an afternoon of snorkeling.

St. Lucia

5. Barbados

With its beautiful beaches, clear turquoise waters and natural wonders abounding, the tiny island of Barbados encourages exploration, particularly along the coastline of Bathsheba, which is known for its massive rock formations and boulders scattered along the shore. Another popular eco-destination is Harrison’s Cave near St. Thomas, a spectacular labyrinth of hidden waterfalls and underground rivers. On the west coast, you’ll find pristine sandy beaches that are ideal for sunbathing under coconut and palm trees swaying in the breeze and with a coast lined with luxury resort hotels in the distance. The island is also full of colonial relics like St. Nicholas Abbey, a grand stone mansion built on a sugar plantation in the mid-17th century.

Harrison’s Cave

4. Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire

Just outside the Atlantic hurricane belt are the Dutch isles of Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire, which are protected from storms by their strategic southern Caribbean location. In Aruba, you’ll find a mix of lively street scenes at the action-packed casinos and resorts lining the coast. Close by is the Arikok National Park, a change of pace with its natural tranquility and thriving wildlife. Meanwhile, over in Bonaire, the flamingo colony in southern Pekelmeer enjoys protected seclusion in between trips from Venezuela for nesting obligations. The isle also has several protected marine sanctuaries, making it one of the top scuba diving destinations in the Caribbean.

Bonaire, flamingo

3. Anguilla

Standing out among the beautiful islands of the French Antilles is Anquilla, a modern resort island that is cherished by vacationers for its bright turquoise waters that glow from the surrounding ancient coral base. All around the island you’ll find cays and coral reef sites for unforgettable scuba diving and snorkeling excursions. Back on the mainland are some of the Caribbean’s most luxurious resorts like the swanky Carimar Beach Club on Meads Bay Beach or Cap Jula lining the west end of the coastline. The flatlands of the interior are also ideal for a horseback ride through the tropics and the horse handlers at Seaside Stables are always ready to help you saddle up for a romantic sunset trail ride in paradise.

Anguilla

2. Virgin Islands

The jewel of the Virgin Islands is St. John and the Virgin Islands National Park is the major highlight, a tropical Eden filled with pristine natural beaches, verdant hillsides, and reef patches in Caneel Bay. The great thing about tiny islands is that you’re never far from a strip of coastline that invites afternoons of swimming and snorkeling year round. Day sailing is also a favorite activity and a great way to explore the waters and inlets surrounding the islands. Boats leave daily from Cruz Bay and venture out to offshore cays and snorkeling meccas. Back on the mainland are excellent wooded hiking trails like Reef Bay Trail and Lind Point Trail, which have impressive views of Cruz Bay.

Virgin Islands

1. Trinidad and Tobago

Situated in the southernmost part of the Caribbean chain, the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a fascinating getaway with its diverse natural habitats and thriving tourism infrastructure. The shorelines range from wild, hilly terrain carpeted with verdant foliage to calm, sandy beaches that encourage blissful seaside afternoons and tranquil sunset strolls. Tobago’s central forest preserve is also full of wildlife and exotic plants in the oldest protect rainforest in the Western Hemisphere. More lush rainforests dominate the northern landscape of Trinidad next door while peaceful waters lap onto the serene shorelines on the east coast.

Tobago

10 Caribbean Foods You Need To Try

Caribbean cuisine has plenty of influences to thank for their amazing culinary creations, including cuisines such as African, East Indian and European. In spite of all these influences though the Caribbean has brought its own gastronomy to the table and produces dishes that are both simple and satisfying. They cook with the seasons and with the freshest of ingredients, delighting visitors from all over the world. There are hundreds of dishes to try when visiting the Caribbean but here are 10 of our favorite foods from this part of the world.

10. Conch Fritters

Considered a delicacy around the world, there is no better place to try Conch Fritters than the Caribbean, especially in the Bahamas. These fritters are small ball so conch snail meat that have been friend in batter with a number of seasonings. Conch is readily available in the Caribbean which makes this the freshest place to taste this delicious local treat. Many chefs put their own spin on this dish and often use ingredients such as onion, peppers and celery along with a variety of spices. Make sure to try this dish at numerous restaurants including the Poop Deck in Easy Bay, Nassau and Head Over to Conch Fritters.

conch fritters

9. Jerk Chicken

It one of the spiciest and well-known and well-loved dishes that originates from Jamaica. The jerk part of the dish is actually a special mixture of spices and can include soy sauce, brown sugar, whole cloves, bonnet peppers, jalapenos and more. The jerk is laced onto the chicken which is than grilled. The grilling process is of most importance when it comes to perfecting this dish and true jerk chicken is actually cooked over coals as well as fresh green wood, most traditionally the wood from the pimento tree. This tree also happens to produce allspice berries which is another component of the jerk marinade. Other meat can also be cooked in the same process and the jerk spice will work its magic by soaking the meat in its flavours.

jerk chicken

8. Aloo Pie

You will find this variant of the samosa on the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. This soft friend pastry is made from flour and water and filled with boiled and spiced mashed potatoes. Other vegetables inside accompany the potatoes such as green peas or split chickpeas without their seedcoat. A little larger than a typical samosa it looks more like a calzone and is ordered with a sweet and sour type dipping sauce known as imli ki chutney.

Photo by: Calypsos Spice
Photo by: Calypsos Spice

7. Callaloo

This Caribbean dish actually originated in West Africa and was brought to the Caribbean by slaves. This green soup is typically made with amaranth leaves; taro leaves or water spinach. In the Caribbean this dish is often served as a side dish and calls for such ingredients as coconut milk and okra. Callaloo tends to be different from island to island, for example in Jamaica they only use the callaloo leaf, salt, onions and scallions simply steaming the vegetables while in Trinidad they use the okra and coconut milk. Wherever you decide to try it, it is definitely a must and although the dark green soup may not look appetizing at first, it is absolutely delicious.

Callaloo

6. Coconut Shrimp

This easy to make and even easier to eat dish tastes that much better in the Caribbean due to the freshness of the ingredients. Soft shrimp is dipped in eggs and coated with shredded coconut, making the sweetness of the shrimp and the crispiness of the coconut come together in one delectable treat. If you are a health conscious individual, you can opt to have this delicious snack baked instead of fried. Try these shrimps out in multiples islands, each offering its own unique twist of spices and coatings.

coconut shrimp

5. Ackee and Saltfish

Ackee happens to be the national fruit of Jamaica and thus its fitting that Ackee and Saltfish is the national dish. Parts of the Ackee fruit are actually toxic and therefore much caution must be had when preparing this dish. Salt cod is soaked overnight before sautéing it with boiled ackee, onions, Scotch Bonnet peppers, tomatoes and spices. It is often garnished with bacon and tomatoes and can be served as breakfast or dinner. It can be served alongside breadfruit, dumplings, fried plantain or eaten with rice and peas.

Ackee and Saltfish

4. Keshi Yena

Laying at the extreme south of the Caribbean is the island of Curacao and it happens to offer one heck of a local main course dish. Keshi Yena is essentially one giant stuffed cheese ball and although it is prepared differently all over the island, the end result is the same, absolute deliciousness. Essentially a round bowl is lined with Gouda or Edam cheese slices, topped with meaty filling (mostly chicken) and than covered with more slices of cheese. Sometimes the cheese ball is smothered in a Creole sauce with plenty of tomatoes and peppers. Other ingredients are olives, prunes or raisons.

Photo by: The Traveling Table
Photo by: The Traveling Table

3. Jamaican Patty

Although it is most notably found in Jamaica, the Jamaican patty is also commonly found in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. This pastry is stuffed full of various fillings and spices, baked inside its flaky shell that is often tinted yellow with an egg yolk mixture or turmeric. The filling is typically seasoned ground beef but sometimes can be chicken, pork or lamb. In Jamaica the patty is often eaten as a full meal when accompanied by coco bread. This beef patty came to be shortly after the Cornish pastry was introduced in the Caribbean and using the cumin and curry spices along with the Scotch Bonnet, a hot pepper indigenous to Jamaica allowed them to make it their own.

Jamacian Patty

2. Flying Fish

One of the most popular foods in Barbados is flying fish and one can expect to have one land on their plate at some point on this island, which is a good thing considering how delicious they are. Flying fish and cou-cou is actually the islands national dish, featuring the fish steamed and served with cornmeal cooked with okra and water. Many visitors choose to have fish cutters, battered, crispy and fried flying fish that is served on salt bread, normally accompanied by lettuce, tomato, ketchup and mustard. However, which way you choose to eat this meal, you certainly won’t regret it.

flying fish

1. Boca Chica Style Fried Fish

The Dominican Republic boasts plenty of colorful and lively dishes but the most loved may just be Boca Chica Fried Fish. One of the most flavorful dishes in the Dominican, this fried fish- normally red snapper- is marinated in a mix of garlic, onions, bell peppers and paprika. Coated with flour and fried twice, the fish vendors in this part of the Island tell visitors it’s the love that goes into the recipe that makes it so good. Often served alongside a heap of friend green plantains, this dish is big on flavor.

Photo by: Arturo Feliz-Camilo via Dominican Heat
Photo by: Arturo Feliz-Camilo via Dominican Heat

The Best Places to Travel in January

It’s January. The holiday season has passed. The snow is piling ever higher and a wicked wind blows out of the north, bringing with it polar vortexes and wind chill factors enough to freeze your face in a matter of minutes. The nights are long and the days are frigid, even if they are sunny. You need to escape…but where? Try one of these 8 locations on for size, traveler, and get your bags packed for some nicer weather.

8. Belize

Mexico is the giant of Central American tourism, offering both cheap resort tourism for snowbirds and spring breakers, offering up opportunities to explore jungles, ancient Aztec ruins and contemporary Mayan culture, but Belize has many of the same qualities, but with fewer tourists. Lying along the Caribbean Sea, Belize is quite a bit smaller than the neighboring countries of Mexico and Guatemala, both in terms of area and population. In recent years, Belize has become a popular alternative for those looking to escape the droves of tourists in Mexico. Although Belize can cost a little more, it offers opportunities for travelers to explore extensive coral reefs, jungle and wildlife reserves and Mayan ruins. Belize is home to the largest cave system in Central America, if you’re up for some subterranean adventure. January averages temperatures of 24°C (75°F) and is part of the dry season, meaning you can expect sunshine.

Belize 2

7. Costa Rica

Costa Rica has been something of an anomaly in Central America; it has been democratically stable whereas other countries have faced upheaval and dictatorships, and Costa Rica has been pushing a green agenda to take care of its natural resources. The country aims to become carbon-neutral by 2021 and has even been named the greenest country in the world. For that reason, Costa Rica has become Latin America’s go-to for ecotourism, with a special focus on green tourism. Costa Rica’s most famous natural landscape is the cloud forests, tropical rainforests formed in the heights of the Cordillera mountains that traverse the country, and it’s marine ecosystems as the country is bordered by both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The country comprises less than 1% of the world’s landmass, but contains 5% of its biodiversity. January is dry season and average temperatures are about 27°C.

Costa Rica

6. Aruba

Just 29 kilometers north of the coast of Venezuela, in the Caribbean Sea, lies the island-nation of Aruba. Aruba is an interesting island: it forms part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and its citizens are Dutch. Aruba’s climate has helped its tourism industry as the island lies outside Hurricane Alley and experiences a dry climate, producing reliably warm, sunny weather year-round. The interior of the island features hilly terrain and desert-like scrublands dotted with cacti, while the south and western shores have white, sandy beaches that are relatively sheltered from the ocean. Although Aruba doesn’t celebrate its National Day until March, January 25 is the celebration of the birthday of Betico Croes, a proponent of Aruban independence and considered by some to be the “father” of Aruba as an independent state.

Aruba

5. Cyprus

Want to get further afield and go trans-Atlantic for January? Check out Cyprus. Located south of Turkey, Cyprus has the warmest winters—and indeed, the warmest climate—in the Mediterranean European Union. Snow is only possible in the Troodos mountains, while most coastal locations experience pleasant 16–17°C weather throughout January. It may not be beach weather, exactly, but it is certainly warmer than some climates—and with almost 200 sunshine hours for the month on average, Cyprus can be a reprieve from the long, dark nights of more northern locations. Cyprus has a rich history, stretching from Greek to Byzantine to Ottoman empires, and many traditions to explore. Music, art and cuisine are all integral experiences for visitors. Not looking to escape winter? The Troodos mountains provide a great skiing experience, an excellent alternative to the busy Alps of western Europe.

Cyprus

4. Grenada

The island of Grenada and six smaller islands, located at the southern end of the chain known as the Grenadines, form the country of Grenada. Another southern Caribbean destination, Grenada is known as the “Island of Spice,” because it is one of the world’s largest exporters of nutmeg and mace. The island is cooled by the trade winds during the dry season. Beach tourism is centered on the capital of St. George in the southwest, while Saint David and Saint John parishes have witnessed the growth of eco-conscious tourism in recent years. Grenada has many idyllic beaches along its coasts, the Grand Anse Beach in St. George, a 3-kilometer long strip of white, sandy beach, is considered one of the finest in the world. Another major natural attraction is the island’s abundance of waterfalls, including the Annandale Falls, Mt. Carmel and Seven Sisters.
Grand Anse Beach

3. Canary Islands

Although part of Spain, the Canary Islands have a much different climate than most of the country. Temperatures average about 20°C on most of the islands in the chain, and January generally sees relatively little precipitation. Santa Cruz is the wettest island at this time of year, receiving, on average, about 1.25 inches of rainfall. The Canary Islands have plenty to recommend them aside from sunshine and warm temperatures. La Palma is home to cloud forests, similar to the forests of Costa Rica. Most of the islands, including Tenerife and Gran Canaria, feature black sand beaches. Tenerife’s nightlife at Playa de las Americas is legendary. Tourism is a well-developed industry and the island’s function almost like a Caribbean getaway for most of Europe. Perhaps the best part is that getting here won’t cost much more than flying to some Caribbean destinations.

Alexander Tihonov / Shutterstock.com
Alexander Tihonov / Shutterstock.com

2. Barbados

This island in the Lesser Antilles has earned itself a reputation as a more exclusive and chi-chi getaway in the southern Caribbean. This is somewhat true: trips to Barbados are usually more pricey compared to places like Mexico and Dominican Republic. The dry season runs from December to May, and gentle breezes keep the island’s temperatures more moderate than some of its neighbors. The western and south shores are popular for beach tourism, while surfers would do well to visit the Atlantic coast, where tumbling waves make for ideal surfing conditions. The country’s coral reefs provide ample opportunity for diving and snorkeling. Another popular activity is shopping, as there are several shopping districts in the south of the island, many of them offering duty-free shopping. Golf and helicopter rides are also popular tourist activities.

Bridgetown Barbados

1. Curacao

About 65 kilometers north of the Venezuelan coast, you’ll find the island of Curacao. Along with Saint Maarten and Aruba, the island is part of the Dutch Caribbean and forms a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Until 2010, it was known as the “island territory of Curacao,” one of five such territories in the former Netherlands Antilles. The island has a tropical Savannah climate and January marks the start of the dry season. The temperature hovers around 25°C and less than two inches of rain falls during the month. Curacao has been less reliant on tourism than other Caribbean islands, although it is popular with divers and snorkelers. Many coral reefs can be reached without a boat and the island’s southern coast features calm waters and numerous small beaches. If you’re looking for a less-frequented getaway, skip Aruba and spring for Curacao.

Curacao