The Variety of Eastern Caribbean Islands

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BARBADOS

Located 100 miles east of its nearest Caribbean neighbor, Barbados offers big waves, a rugged northern coastline, and a mountainous interior that make it a haven for nature lovers. Measuring just 17 miles long and 14 miles wide, it’s is a tiny eastern Caribbean island with a huge heart.

Start by exploring Historic Bridgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to the Barbados Museum & Historical Society, whose collection includes artifacts from the island’s Amerindian and colonial history. You can even enter some of the old prison cells there.

In terms of natural attractions, there’s the 1.4-mile-long Harrison’s Cave, the 6.5-acre Andromeda Botanic Gardens (featuring the largest collection of tropical plants in the eastern Caribbean), and the Flower Forest (which is filled with flowers, birds and monkeys).

In terms of waterspouts, there’s also snorkeling with Sea Turtles in Folkestone Underwater Park & Marine Reserve, Scuba diving through sunken ships (such as the 360-foot freighter S.S. Stavronikita), and sailing in the trade winds off the island’s southern tip.

For a taste of true Bajan culture, head to the Friday night fish fry in the town of Oistin’s. And if you can time your visit for late July or early August, don’t miss the Crop Over Festival, the island’s most important cultural celebration.

CULEBRA (PUERTO RICO)

Although it’s located just 19 miles east of Puerto Rico, the smallest of the inhabited Spanish Virgin Islands feels like it’s a world away.

Seven miles long and three miles wide, with less than 3,000 residents, Culebra has virtually no nightlife to speak of.

But it does have crystal clear waters with 60+ feet of visibility, gorgeous white sand beaches (Culebrita is among the best), and the oldest lighthouse in the Caribbean.

Thanks to the establishment of the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge in 1909, there are also lots of seabirds and turtles, not to mention exceptional scuba diving.

DOMINICA

Often confused with the Dominican Republic, “The Nature Island” is 65% covered in tropical rainforest, with more than 300 miles of hiking trails.

And that’s just one of the many reasons it’s at the top of our personal list of the best Caribbean destinations to visit. The impressive sea turtle conservation program on the island is another.

Thanks to copious rain, impressive waterfalls are everywhere, with Emerald Pool, Trafalgar Falls, and Victoria Falls all making it worth the hardy hikes to reach them.

Other highlights include the Morne Trois Pitons National Park (the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the eastern Caribbean), snorkeling Champagne Reef (where geothermal activity makes the water warm and bubbly), and the Kalinago Barana Autê (home of the pre-Columbian Carib people).

GRENADA

With its growing focus on sustainable development– including eco-resorts, agritourism initiatives, and innovative environmental practices– Grenada is rapidly emerging as one of the best Caribbean islands for nature lovers.

The island has introduced/expanded its protected areas, including Levera National Park (a nesting site for Leatherback Sea Turtles) and Grand Etang Forest Preserve (which offers birdwatching, hiking, and river tubing activities).

If you get a chance, visit during the island’s countless cultural festivals, which include the Grenada Chocolate Festival, Fish Fridays, and the Carriacou Maroon & String Band Music Festival.

THE GRENADINES

The Grenadines are comprised of 31 islands and cays stretching between St. Vincent and Grenada, with ownership and governance divided between those two countries.

But the archipelago is sparsely populated. Even the biggest of the islands– 7.1-square mile Bequia and 12.6-square mile Carriacou– only have around 5,000 to 6,000 permanent residents.

These remote, idyllic tropical vacation destinations are some of the most beautiful caribbean islands and are rarely visited. They offer travelers a getting-away-from-it-all experience with unspoiled beaches, endemic birds, and dazzling coral reefs teeming with marine life.

Bequia boasts beautifully forested hills in the north, as well as some impressive drift dives. The Tobago Cays, which are protected as a marine park, offer some of the finest snorkeling in the Caribbean.

Union Island, a kiteboarding haven, has recently emerged as an off-the-radar adventure travel hotspot. And Carriacou teems with lively local culture, especially if you visit during Carnival.

MARIA-GALANTE (GUADELOUPE)

Discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus and named after his flagship, Maria-Galante is a 61-square mile island located in the Guadeloupe archipelago.

Best known for sugar production during the colonial era, the island offers a rural taste of French West Indies tranquility, with myriad farms, pristine beaches, and lagoons protected by coral reefs.

This is a place truly in touch with its folkloric traditions, which is one of the main reasons we consider it among the best Caribbean islands to visit.

MONTSERRAT

Montserrat was a showcase for the lifestyles of the rich and famous in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, when classic albums by icons such as Dire Straits, Duran Duran, and The Police were recorded at Sir George Martin’s AIR Studios.

But in 1995 the long-dormant Soufriére Hills volcano roared to life, destroying the capital city of Plymouth and forcing two-thirds of the local population to flee.

Now the island has been reborn as a nature sanctuary. Nature lovers will enjoy exploring the island’s nine world-class rainforest hiking trails, stunning scenic coastlines, and some of the best Scuba diving the Caribbean has to offer.

SABA (NETHERLANDS ANTILLES)

Known as “the Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean,” this Dutch island is just a 12-minute flight away from St. Maarten.

With a total area of 5 square miles (pop. 2,000), the island’s centerpiece is the aptly named Mount Scenery, which rises 2,910 feet above sea level.

Naturally, climbing and hiking the Caribbean Island’s mountain trails are among the most popular activities.

But the protected waters of Saba National Marine Park also draw visitors with stunning 220-foot tall volcanic pinnacles, dolphins, and the occasional whale sighting.

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