The choice destination for daydreamers everywhere, the Caribbean easily surpasses even the most fantastic images that spring to mind. Grab a pina colada and get ready to leave the slush behind because it’s time to check out the top 10 most visited Caribbean islands. A few more sips, and yes, there’s the warm breeze and the azure waves lazily lapping at your feet while you feast on mango and fried yucca. And we’re off…
[Also see our travel articles “The Ten Most Visited Countries in the World” and “The Ten Most Visited Cities in the World“]
10. Turks and Caicos Islands with 354,000 visitors
Turks and Caicos is the ideal Caribbean destination, with around 230 miles of white sand beaches lining the 40-island archipelago. Avid divers and snorkelers can enjoy pristine reefs, thanks to the protected status and lack of industry. Additionally, visitors can fish, bird watch and explore caves and shipwrecks. Or just unwind and indulge at the upscale resorts that often play host to vacationing celebrities.
9. Sint Maarten with 424,000 visitors
Sint Maarten is a mix-and-match of various cultures, cuisines and things to do. The Dutch constituent country shares the tiny island with the French collectivity of Saint-Martin. Visitors can feast on cuisine that mixes Dutch, French and native elements, test their luck at the casinos, spend the winnings at the duty-free shops, party until dawn, and then finally, take in the natural beauty. Adrenaline junkies can parachute over the island, explore the central mountain range and partake in any number of water sports. Sint Maarten is also ground zero for yachting, echoing the over-the-top indulgence of the whole island.
8. U.S. Virgin Islands with 536,000 visitors
[Also see our travel article “Ten Best Vacation Islands in the Caribbean“]
Water Island, St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas comprise the U.S. Virgin Islands, each with their own unique, must-see qualities. Over half of St. John’s 12,500 acres are national park, and each beach comes standard with clear waters, pristine sand and unspoiled views. For a historical take, walk the Heritage Trail on St. Croix and then visit the protected sea turtles at Sandy Point. Splash around in shallow Magens Bay and walk through the capital on St. Thomas. And if that isn’t enough, truly get away from it all on Water Island, where there’s no cars and nary a store, and barely 200 inhabitants.
7. Barbados with 568,000 visitors
As if the beaches and slow pace of life wasn’t enough, Barbados is also the birthplace of rum, and no visit is complete without a night of too many rum punches. Enjoy the signature drink while watching the horse races, at a fish fry, at the club or at any point of the the 70 miles of beaches. Honeymooners and travelers can snorkel or swim in the reefs on the south side of the island or surf on the choppy waves on the eastern edge, which is considered one of the best surfing spots in the world.
6. Aruba with 870,000 visitors
Just off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba is outside the the main hurricane avenue and has a dry, sunny climate, making it the ideal for a Caribbean getaway. The island has it all, from Arikok National Park, which covers almost 20% of the island, to world-class wreck diving and surfing to an all-night nightlife. Whether chilling out on Eagle Beach or horseback riding through the countryside, Aruba’s motto of “One Happy Island” immediately rings true.