Sometimes the lesser known Caribbean Islands are the real hidden jewels
“Aruba, Jamaica, ooo I wanna take ya, Bermuda, Bahama…” We all know the lyrics to the classic Beach Boys tune, “Kokomo,” — and the islands that they are singing about. When you think of the Caribbean, certain destinations are bound to come to mind, but there are many more islands in the sea than those we typically think about.
In fact, there are some who claim that if you want to see the “real” Caribbean, you’re better off to skip the more popular islands and plan a visit to one of the lesser known, but still gorgeous and hospitable, smaller islands. While you might have to take an extra flight or two to get there, and you won’t find sprawling all-inclusive resorts on these islands, you can still stay in a luxury hotel and enjoy unspoiled natural beauty, uncrowded (or even deserted) beaches, warm tropical breezes and spectacular sunsets. When you’re searching for Caribbean vacations online, don’t just limit yourself to the well-known, popular islands.
Trinidad and Tobago
Located in the extreme southern Caribbean off the coast of South America, Trinidad and Tobago is two islands but one country. The wealthiest country in the Caribbean — and one of the richest in the world, thanks to the petroleum industry — Trinidad and Tobago also has some of the richest biodiversity in the Caribbean. Expect to find mountains and plains inland with clear water and coral reefs just off the coast. But the real draw to these islands for many visitors is the annual Carnival, a pre-Lenten celebration of music, dancing, costumes and pageantry. You won’t find many large resorts here, but there are plenty of hotels, inns and guesthouses to choose from, as well as direct flights from several major airports. LOLA LOVES A PARTY!
First things first: if you want to spend your days on a white sandy beach, this is not the island for you. Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic) has very few sandy beaches, and instead has a very rocky coast. That said, it’s considered by many to be among the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean, with a lush tropical rainforest and mountains serving as the major attraction. Fans of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films might recognize some of the landscape of the island, as much of the second and third films of the popular series were made in the jungles here. The airport here is too small to accommodate large planes, but you can take a short flight on a small plane from Puerto Rico, Antigua or Barbados to explore the many rivers, waterfalls and rainforest areas on this island. PIRATES ARE ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA!
A not as well known, less-populated twin to the island of Antigua, Barbuda offers similar pristine beaches and stunning scenery, but without the crowds. Take a catamaran from St. John, Antigua, to Barbuda (a three-hour trip) and book a room in one of the few inns on the island. In fact, the island is so underdeveloped that you might think that you’re the only person there, making this the perfect destination for a relaxing getaway or honeymoon. Activities are limited mostly to lying on the pink and white sand beaches, beach combing or snorkeling among the many reefs and shipwrecks off the coast, but if you want laid-back and secluded, this is the island for you. YOU HAD ME AT PINK BEACH!
Known as the “Spice Island,” thanks to the abundance of spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg and clove grown there, Grenada is currently very popular among European travelers and is starting to gain notice among travelers from other parts of the world. Located in the southern Caribbean, the nation of Grenada includes the large island as well as several smaller islands, many of which are uninhabited. The vast majority of the tourism industry in this friendly nation is located on the southern coast of the main island, where you’ll find Grand Anse, widely considered one of the best beaches in the world. Further inland, you’ll find lush, jungle-covered mountains, full of colorful plant and animal life. IF IT’S POPULAR WITH EUROPEANS THEN SIGN. ME. UP.
Nevis, about 200 miles south of Puerto Rico, is one of the most unspoiled islands in the Caribbean, and really, on Earth. At the center of the island, the 3,200-foot Nevis peak begs to be explored — if you can pull yourself away from the pristine white sand beaches and the charming, historic town center. Accommodations range from mountainside bungalows to five-star seaside resorts, allowing you to kick back, relax and enjoy the natural beauty and laid-back feel of the island. 5 STAR, PRISTINE, CHARMING…I’M THERE!
The next time you think “Caribbean,” expand your horizons and consider visiting one of these or the dozens of other small islands. You’ll have a more intimate, relaxing and authentic Caribbean experience.