The Caribbean has long been a place of dreams, favoured by honeymooners and pirates, and one of the most popular of the world’s holiday hotspots. The Caribbean comprise hundreds of islands, with the Bahamas alone made up of 700 islands, although onyl 25 are I habited. Names of the Islands may betray their colonial heritage. From the British Virgin Islands to the US Virgin Islands, from Martinique to St Maartin, the languages spoken here include English, French, Spanish, Dutch as well as local patois.
It would be pretty much impossible to draw up a top 10 list of islands as firstly there are so many islands, and secondly, no one will be able to agree on the criteria. However we have drawn up a list of the top 10 most visited islands. There are some surprising inclusions and omissions!
10. Turks & Caicos Islands, 354, 000 visitors
Turks & Caicos may be a tax haven but it is also a haven for wildlife, due to the lack of industry, and is perfect for diving or just relaxing on its 230 miles of pristine beaches.
9. Sint Maartin, 424,000 visitors
A fusion of Dutch and French influences make this a unique place to visit, with a combination of casinos and duty free shopping and a natural beauty. St Maartens beach has become famous or notorious as the “best and scariest beach in the world with low landing planes almost skimming the shoreline, sadly resulting in one death in July 2017. Apart from escaping from the blast of a jet airliner, there is still plenty to satisfy the most avid adrenaline junkie.
8. US Virgin Islands, 536,000 visitors
Many of the areas here are National Parks, with sea turtles being protected on Sandy Point. There are no cars allowed on one of the islands. It’s rugged landscape and clean beaches are its major attraction to holiday makers wanting to unwind.
7. Barbados, 578,000 visitors
There is a slow pace of life here, the birthplace of rum. A coral island, it is famous for its snorkelling and diving. But the people here, known as Bajans, say that however beautiful their island may be, it is their friendliness that makes Barbados so special in the Caribbean.
6. Aruba, 870,000 visitors
We were surprised that Aruba came in at Number 6. It is situated to the north of Venezuela, just to the south of the Hurricane avenue, perhaps a major attraction in 2017, and has a more desert feel to it than the forested islands of the Caribbean. It’s motto is ‘The Happy Island” and with it’s perfect and all night evening entertainment and fabulous beaches, it certainly won’t disappoint.
5. The Bahamas, 1,346,000
With over 700 islands to choose from, and each offering something different, it can be hard to choose which one (or ones) to visit. Nassau has a cosmopolitan vibe with its restaurants and museums and shops. At the other end of the spectrum, Inagua National Park hosts a variety of wild life. The coast of San Salvador provides exciting diving among shipwrecks in the crystal clear seas of the Caribbean.
4. Jamaica, 1,952,000 visitors
Jamaica is perhaps the most well known of the Caribbean Islands, so perhaps it is surprising that it is only 4th in the list. Bob Marley and Reggae, Jerk Chicken and Red Stripe, Usain Bolt and Cool Runnings, and some of the world’s best cricketers, there are so many things that define Jamaica. Home to many of the most luxurious all inclusive resorts, Jamaica is very popular with honeymooners and romantic couples.
3. Cuba, 2,688,000 visitors.
Another surprise that Cuba is so high, in view of US sanctions. Cuba’s isolationism and lack of economic development gives visitors the impression of stepping back in time. It’s not just in the fading colours of the architecture where this is so evident. The 1962 embargo on cars imported from the US means that most cars on the Island are over 50 years old. Cuba’s most well known export is of course its cigars, and tobacco fields fill the island beyond the powder white sandy beaches.
2. Puerto Rico, 3,048,000 visitors
Who would have thought that Puerto Rico has more than double the number of visitors of the Bahamas! But it has a variety of activities and experiences second to none. Flawless beaches, fabulous food, incredible wildlife, and a colonial heritage makes Puerto Rico an unmissable destination.
1. Dominican Republic, 4,306,000 visitors.
The DR shares its island with Haiti, with the Republic to the East and Haiti to the West The North of the Island faces out to the Atlantic and the South onto the Caribbean. It is not just stunning beaches, but boasts fabulous waterfalls, deserts and forested mountains. One of the major attractions of the Island, perhaps the factor that pushes it so far to the front are its gold courses and all inclusive resorts. Santo Domingo, it’s capital, buzzes with excitement. The Island is famous for its cigars, with many aficionados believing that the cigars produced here surpass those of Cuba. Its coffee and chocolate is excellent, and its rum much prized.