The Caribbean is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, attracting over 25 million tourists a year. Known for their white sand beaches, beautiful weather, and great food and drinks, Caribbean islands have a reputation as a premier tourist destination. But there are some islands that are better than others, especially when you factor in cost, accessibility, and safety. Here are the best Caribbean islands to visit in 2021.
5. Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands are a group of islands located south of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea. Accessible by plane or by cruise ship, the Cayman Islands’ largest, most populous, and most visited island is Grand Cayman.
First discovered by Christopher Columbus on his final voyage to the Americas, the Cayman Islands has a rich colonial history, changing hands between Spain and Britain, and being settled by pirates, shipwrecked sailors, deserters from the British army, and merchants. The islands have been a popular tourist destination since the 1950s, and today has a vast tourism industry and infrastructure.
The islands have a tropical marine climate, with a rainy season during the summer, and warm, dry weather during the winter, making it a perfect winter vacation spot. The beaches all over the island are gorgeous, with unbelievable turquoise waters, white sands, and clear, blue skies. Popular activities on the beaches include swimming, snorkeling, diving, boating, or just relaxing with a drink in hand. Other attractions include submarine tours of the local reefs and shipwrecks, beach horseback riding, and carnival and festivals.
The official language of the Cayman Islands is English, so there is no language barrier and communication with the locals is not a problem. The Cayman Islands are also home to large number of immigrants in addition to the frequent tourism, so outsiders are very common and widely accepted by the locals.
The Cayman Islands are one of the wealthiest islands in the Caribbean, with an average income of $56,000, although the island is a tax haven, and the legal residence of many extremely wealthy individuals and corporations around the world, so this number is inflated. But the point remains that the Cayman Islands is relatively wealthy, which means that it can be expensive to vacation on the island. This wealth also means that the island is safer than most other Caribbean islands, with very low crime rates and almost non-existent violent crime targeting tourists.
All of these factors make the Cayman Islands a great place to spend a weeklong vacation, or just a day or two stop on a Caribbean cruise.
The fourth best Caribbean island to visit, Anguilla is a self-governing British Overseas Territory located just north of Saint Martin, and east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Anguilla is on the smaller side as far as Caribbean islands go, at approximately 16 miles long by 3 miles wide, and a population of 15,000.
First settled around 1300 BC by indigenous peoples who migrated from South America, Anguilla has a rich history, having changed hands and been fought over by the French, Dutch, English, and Spanish, with settlers including Huguenot refugees, English planters, and Dutch merchants.
In the 20th century, Anguilla was politically tumultuous, with referendums and independence movements, which were finally resolved in the 1970s. Since then, Anguilla has become a booming tourist destination thanks to its beautiful beaches, breathtaking landscapes, vast coral reefs, and wealth of watersports and other activities to partake in.
Anguilla is a great place for an active, adventurous vacation. The island has many caves that are open for exploring and tours, two in particular stand out as being the largest and most popular–Big Springs in Island Harbour and The Fountain in Shoal Bay. Snorkeling and scuba diving are also popular activities, as Anguilla has a huge number of coral reefs located just off its coast, which are teeming with tropical fish, turtles, sponges, mollusks, and other marine wildlife. If you prefer to stay dry while exploring the reefs, you can take a glass bottom boat tour.
The beaches are stunning and a perfect place to relax with a drink in your hand and catch some sun. Many of the beaches are sparsely crowded, so you can enjoy the peace and quiet.
Further inland, Anguilla is covered in farmland, scrubland, and some tropical forests, with low-lying, flat terrain that is easy to traverse on foot or bicycle. Some interesting sites on the island include the Wallblake House, an 18th century plantation thought to be the oldest extant building on the island; the Heritage Collection museum; the Old Salt Factory & Pumphouse; and the Hydroponic Farm and Organic Gardens.
3. The Bahamas
The third best Caribbean island to visit, The Bahamas is an archipelago in the West Indies, located east of the Florida Keys and north of Cuba. Consisting of more than 700 islands, with over 2,200 miles of coastline, The Bahamas is world famous for its beautiful beaches, breathtaking landscapes and scenery, friendly locals, and welcoming towns.
The Bahamas has a rich history dating back to the first settlement of the islands by the Taino people at the end of the first millennium. Christopher Columbus’s first landfall in the New World in 1492 was in The Bahamas, although the exact location of this landing is disputed. Following Columbus’s voyage, the islands were claimed by the Spanish crown, but later changed hands to the English, and were settled by Puritans, and later merchants, who were subject to frequent raids by pirates and privateers. During the American Revolution, Indian Wars, and Civil War, the islands frequently became a refuge for various groups fleeing the violence.
The Bahamas was granted independence in 1973, and became a popular tourist destination in the ensuing decades. The main attraction in The Bahamas is the beaches, which are famous even among Caribbean beaches for their beautiful, hot sands and tranquil, turquoise waters. The Bahamas is sunny and dry for most of the year, with an average of over 340 days per year of sunshine. Winter is a great time to visit the islands, as temperatures are slightly cooler and the chances of hurricanes or tropical storms are low. Popular activities on the islands include snorkeling and scuba diving at the reefs, boating, wildlife tours, deep-sea fishing, kiteboarding, kayaking, and jet-skiing.
The Bahamas are accessible by plane from most major cities in the U.S., and are also a very popular destination for Caribbean cruises to make a one or two day stop. English is the official language of the island, although the accents and slang of the locals can be difficult to understand, especially in non-tourist heavy areas.
Some of the most popular sites on the island include the Atlantis water park, which is more than sufficient for a week-long vacation on its own; the capital city Nassau, which is famous for its open air markets; and the famous Pig Beach on Exuma, where tourists can swim with local pigs.
One of the best Caribbean island vacation destinations, Antigua is an island in the Lesser Antilles at the southernmost reaches of the Caribbean region. Antigua has been settled since around 2400 B.C. by natives called the Ciboney, although they had been replaced by the Arawak by the time of Columbus’s arrival in 1493. The colonial period was dominated by the English, who first settled the island in the early 17th century, and established sugar plantations. In 1981, the island disassociated from Britain, and established a new economy, heavily dependent on tourism. Since then, the island has become a premier tourist destination for tourists from the United States, Latin American, and Europe.
When you first fly into Antigua, you will see clear blue waters, white beaches, and rolling green hills. The island has a rich tourism infrastructure, with many high-end hotels and resorts. The weather is beautiful year-round, although July to October can sometimes see tropical storms or hurricanes.
Popular outdoor sporting activities on the island include fishing and hunting, with duck, deer, and boar hunts being among the most popular. Other popular activities include kitesurfing, jet-skiing, boating, sailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Cricket is very popular in Antigua, and is a favorite topic of conversation among the locals. The Antigua Recreation Ground is the national cricket stadium on the island, and is a great place to catch a cricket game. Golf is also a very popular sport, with several golf courses located throughout Antigua.
1. Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos ranks as the best Caribbean island vacation in 2021. A British Overseas Territory consisting of two main islands situated southeast of the Bahamas and Northeast of Cuba, Turks and Caicos is an ideal vacation destination.
The islands were first settled around 500 by Taíno people, and were later explored by either Christopher Columbus or Ponce de León in the late 15th or early 16th centuries. By the mid 1600s, the islands had been settled by English salt collectors, and later became a popular destination and hideout for Caribbean pirates. The islands changed hands between the French and British, before eventually being designated a British Overseas Territory, in 2002.
Turks and Caicos has been a popular tourist destination since at least the mid 20th century, and is today frequented by cruise ships and planes leaving from most major cities in the United States.
The islands are a biodiversity hotspot, and are a perfect place for excursions and adventurous vacations, including snorkeling and scuba diving at the coral reefs surrounding the island, exploring the dry forests and the hills, going on whale-watching and dolphin-watching boating trips. Other popular activities include fishing, jet-skiing, parasailing, and swimming in the cool, blue waters surrounding the islands.
The towns in Turks and Caicos are very tourist-friendly,with a variety of spas, salons, casinos, golf courses, and shops. Golf is also a popular activity, as is cycling to explore the island.