Some people believe that the Caribbean has become so commercialized and tourist-heavy that there are no secret Caribbean Islands left to explore. While it is true that many islands in the Caribbean cater heavily to tourists, for the more adventurous traveller, there are still plenty of lesser-known Caribbean islands that make great vacation destinations. You just have to know where to look. We have compiled a list of the 5 best secret Caribbean islands that you should consider for your next vacation.
5. Guana Island, British Virgin Islands
One of the few private islands left in the world, Guana Island in the British Virgin Islands is a hidden gem of the eastern Caribbean, that harkens back to a time when the Caribbean was largely untouched by tourism.
At 850 acres in size, Guana Island is on the smaller side, but it packs a lot of natural beauty into a small package. Most of the island is a natural preserve, consisting of lush, tropical forest, mountains, valleys, and hills. Unspoilt by the industrial development that has impact most of the rest of the Caribbean, Guana Island is still home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, including the red-footed tortoise, Caribbean flamingo, Puerto Rican racer, sharp-mouthed lizard, and white-crowned pigeon.
The waters surrounding Guana Island are calm, and a beautiful light-blue color, and just underneath the waters are three coral reef areas, which are home to a wide variety of tropical fish and other marine life.
The island has one luxury boutique hotel, with 18 rooms that can accommodate 35 guests at a time. There are seven secluded, white-sand beaches located around the island, with so few guests present at a time, you will almost feel like you are on your own private island that you have all to yourself.
Popular activities on Guana include snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, boating, stand-up paddle boarding, deep-sea fishing, water skiing, kitesurfing and more.
Known as the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” both for its passing resemblance to the coast of Ireland and the fact that many of the islanders can trace partial heritage back to Ireland, Montserrat is one of the secret Caribbean Islands that has managed to avoid the large-scale tourism of its neighbors, while still offering visitors some of the best experiences in the Caribbean.
Montserrat is the site of a previously dormant volcano, which became active in 1995, and forced the evacuation of half of Montserrat, most of which still remains uninhabited to this day. While this fact has dissuaded many tourists from visiting the island, for the adventurous vacationer, Montserrat’s beautiful coastlines, beaches, and mountains are well worth the trip.
Montserrat’s beaches are quiet and secluded, and beaches on different sides of the island are vastly different from one another. Like many Caribbean islands, Montserrat has extensive coral reefs located off its shores, which are a great destination for scuba diving and snorkeling, or paddling out a clear bottom kayak to enjoy the reefs without getting your feet wet.
Boat tours around the island are also popular, as they are the only way to see the half of the island that has been abandoned. A boat tour to the south side of the island offers incredible views of the volcano, and also is a great way to see what remains of the island’s capital city, Plymouth, and its original airport, both of which were abandoned in 1995, and remain standing as ghost towns.
3. Isla Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox is one of the well-kept secret Caribbean islands of the Riviera Maya. Located 40 miles northwest of Cancun and 75 miles away from Cozumel, Isla Holbox is an off-the-beaten path location that offers much of the same scenery and natural beauty of its more well known neighbors, in a quieter, more serene atmosphere.
Isla Holbox is not a major tourist destination. In fact, the island’s most economically important industry is fishing. Despite this, Isla Holbox is no sleeping fishing village. The island offers multiple boutique hotels and rentals that make great accommodations to get you well rested for the activities the island has to offer.
The main tourist attraction on the island is its whale sharks, which visitors can swim with during peak season from June to September. These enormous, peaceful sharks that feed primarily on plankton, and pose no threat to humans, frequently visit the waters around Holbox around those months. Swimming with these sharks is an experience that is offered in very few other places in the world, and the trip to Isla Holbox is well worth it for that experience alone.
That being said, Isla Holbox offers a wealth of other experiences and activities for visitors to take part in, including snorkeling, boat tours, and fishing. Holbox is also one of the best destinations in the world to learn kitesurfing. The calm, safe beaches with shallow waters and excellent kitesurfing school are a perfect place to learn.
2. Culebra, Puerto Rico
Culebra is a municipality of Puerto Rico, located in the Spanish Virgin Islands. Widely considered one of the most beautiful islands in the world, Culebra has long been one of the best-kept secret Caribbean islands, although tourism has picked up on the island in recent years.
Culebra has a long and rich history, believed to have been visited by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage; the island was empty at that time, but became populated by local tribes during the period of colonization. In 1902, the US Navy established a base on the island, and the beaches were used for military exercises up until 1975. Today, remnants of the U.S. military’s time on the island are still evident, and a rusted tank sitting on one of the beaches is a popular destination for photo ops.
The beaches and crystal clear waters surrounding the island make it popular with snorkelers, scuba divers, and swimmers. Smaller islands surrounding Culebra are known for their untapped natural beauty, and are only accessible via boat. These islands and Culebra itself are excellent destinations for hiking.
1. Petit Saint Vincent
40 miles south of Saint Vincent, the privately owned island of Petit Saint Vincent is the best-kept of the secret Caribbean islands. The 150 acre island is the smallest on the list, and offers visitors a secluded, quiet vacation, reminiscent of what the Caribbean was like in the past.
The island has one boutique beach resort, two restaurants, one spa, a tennis court, a beach barbeque, yoga pavilion, and beach bar. With one beach facing the Atlantic, another facing the Caribbean Sea, and a secluded bay on the north end of the island, Petit Saint Vincent offers some of the quietest, most authentic beach experiences of anywhere in the Caribbean.
The climate is excellent year-round, with temperatures in the high 70s to high 80s, and just a brief rainy season in September and October. For the adventurous traveller, Petit Saint Vincent offers a wide variety of activities, including scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, island hopping, windsurfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, deep sea fishing, and more.