The 21 Most Beautiful Islands in the Caribbean


Empty beaches, azure water, towering peaks—what’s not to love?


December 5, 2023

Dreaming of a tropical winter escape? The best Caribbean islands have a little bit of something for everyone, from the brag-worthy hiking trails in St. Lucia to the pastel rainbow of 17th-century buildings in Curaçao. And don’t forget about the resorts, which number among the absolute best in the world.

With this in mind, we’ve selected the best Caribbean islands for travelers—whether you’re interested in nature, food, or just those pristine beaches—to help you plan your next warm-weather getaway.

Let the daydreaming begin.

This article was originally published in March 2016. It has been updated with new information.


Your first stop on this British Overseas Territory (just north of the dual-nation island of St. Maarten/St. Martin) should be Shoal Bay, Anguilla’s most famous beach. The blindingly white shore offers soft sand and non-touristy restaurants, plus an offshore reef for snorkelers and divers.

For the ultimate luxurious hideaway, book a suite at the newly renovated Belmond Cap Juluca—resort perks aside, the enclave offers unbridled views of Maundays Bay’s vanilla sands and blue waters.


Antigua mixes tropical beauty with British history—just look at the candy-colored colonial buildings and much-touted 365 beaches to choose from. The island is also a must-visit for any sailing fans out there. During the first two weeks of April, hundreds of yachts from around the world converge for the island’s annual Classic Yacht Regatta and Sailing Week. On race days, people gather atop Shirley Heights to get the best views of the boat-filled English Harbour.

Even if you visit on non-yachting holidays, Shirley Heights should be on your itinerary: Looking out over the harbor’s curved coastline is a truly unforgettable experience, with Sunday BBQs to boot.


Nearly every hotel along Aruba’s leeward beaches is a winner, but it’s a waste not to venture off this developed stretch. The island’s beaches are some of the best in the entire world, like powder-fine Eagle Beach and unspoiled, undeveloped Arashi. The Arikok National Park, comprising 18 percent of the island, is a hidden treasure—a cactus-filled landscape well worth exploring.


More than 700 islands and thousands of uninhabited cays make up this sprawling island nation barely 60 miles east of Florida. Although technically in the Atlantic, the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Bahamas are on par with islands farther south.

Another asset the Bahamas have? Pink sand beaches. At more than three miles long, Harbour Island’s iconic colorful beach is colored thanks to the pink and red shells of tiny coral-dwelling organisms, that have been crushed by waves and washed ashore.


Barbados has something for everyone: pink sand beaches, exotic wildlife (think monkeys, sea turtles, and eight species of bats), and sunsets practically begging to be enjoyed with a fresh cocktail.

Start at sea level at Bathsheba Beach on the east coast, where you’ll find big, surfable waves and shallow pools carved by the coral reef right off the shore. For a top-notch view of the island, head to Cherry Tree Hill, which offers views of the island’s east coast (with Bathsheba in the distance) from 850 feet up.


One of Bonaire’s most striking features is Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary, located on the island’s southern salt flats and home to more than 10,000 flamingos. While the sanctuary itself is off-limits to travelers, you can still enjoy birding from nearby Pink Beach, which offers a view of the similarly pink birds.

While the flamingos may be a draw, the island is home to 20+ beaches and marine cave formations that make it a paradise for nature enthusiasts and beachgoers alike.

Cayman Islands

If it’s pristine beaches you’re after, then look no further: The Cayman Islands—Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman—have some of the best stretches of sand in the entire Caribbean. Most people head to resorts on Seven Mile Beach (not to be confused with Jamaica’s beach of the same name) on Grand Cayman, but we suggest heading to Owen Island on Little Cayman for a more private beach day.

The islands’ underwater adventures are just as—if not more—exciting than those on land: Don’t you dare leave without visiting Stingray City (off of Grand Cayman) and snorkeling with the surprisingly friendly stingrays.


Cuba’s western, inland province of Pinar del Río is a treasure trove of natural wonders, with miles of mountain ranges and tobacco fields (hello, cigars). The region also happens to encompass Viñales Valley, arguably one of the most beautiful spots in the entire country. With its dome-like limestone formations and lush landscapes, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is the perfect place to watch the sunset.

Don’t get so enthralled by this province that you get stuck, though: The bright architecture of Old Havana and the beauty of Varadero Beach are reasons enough to explore the entire island.


Although Curaçao has often been dwarfed by its sister island Aruba, it has started investing more heavily in tourism—it seems like every day brings about a new hotel or restaurant to the scene.

Even without the trendy openings, the 17th-century, UNESCO-protected capital city of Willemstad is as pretty as it is historic. With its pastel-colored Dutch and Portuguese-inspired buildings, the architecture here will impress you from every angle. We’d say the “middle child” of the Dutch ABC Islands is officially ready for its close-up.


Dominica’s UNESCO-recognized Morne Trois Pitons National Park is filled with natural wonders. You’ll find a nearly 4,500-foot-tall volcano (among four other volcanoes), hot springs, waterfalls, three freshwater lakes, and some 50 fumaroles, or steam vents—the likes of which you’ve probably seen at U.S. national parks like Yellowstone.

Of note is the Boiling Lake, a fumarole filled with fresh water and seemingly always enshrouded in a thick vapor. Note: Adventuring here is not for the faint of heart.


There’s no such thing as a bad view on the island of Grenada. No matter where you stand, it’s invariably green, moody, and pulsing with plant life. Even the capital city of St. George’s has a picture-perfect skyline, with brightly colored houses and churches reminiscent of an Italian coastal town.


It’s easy to see why Guadeloupe has long been a favorite vacation spot among French tourists. The butterfly-shaped territory has staggering waterfalls, white sand beaches, and clear water perfect for snorkeling.

The archipelago of eight charming islands has plenty of gorgeous spots to choose from, but we’re particular fans of the reefs rich with marine life off of Pain de Sucre (“Sugar Loaf” Beach) on the island of Terre-De-Haut. For that once-in-a-lifetime photograph, head directly to Sugar Loaf Hill—the 170-foot-high basalt slope overlooks the beach, is covered with cactus, and plunges into the sparkling Bay of Saints.


Many people use Jamaica as their entry into the Caribbean, whether it’s for a food crawl or an exclusive trip to GoldenEye (one of our favorite small resorts in the world). Even though we might go for different reasons, we all stay for the island’s unreal natural beauty.

Head to the western town of Negril for some of the best diving and swimming spots in the country (Seven Mile Beach is a particular favorite), then head inland to hike through misty mountains, with guaranteed views of hidden lagoons and waterfalls.


It may be smaller than St. Kitts, but Nevis is not throwing away its shot. The birthplace of Alexander Hamilton is almost perfectly round, with gentle slopes rising to the peak of its dormant volcano, and the island is known for its historic inns and top-drawer resorts.

Set up camp at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis for easy access to Pinney’s Beach, a favorite for both families with kids and travelers seeking a calm respite. The beach lets you walk for nearly three miles along the island’s sheltered west coast, where you can soak in the views of towering palms and the cloud-covered peak of Mount Nevis.

Puerto Rico

Most travelers highlight the beauty of Old San Juan—one of the best-preserved examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in the Caribbean—with brightly painted buildings and cobblestone streets that could launch a thousand Instagram shots. But don’t forget about El Yunque, a 28,000-acre tropical rainforest filled with more than 90 species of birds and 13 different types of coquí, a native tree frog.

Meanwhile, hidden gems like the laid-back islands of Culebra and Vieques, just off the main island, have fantastic snorkeling and never-crowded stretches of sand.


Tiny Saba’s unspoiled and undeveloped environment makes it stand out in a sea of bougie beaches and waterfront resorts. Located in the Lesser Antilles chain just south of St. Maarten/St. Martin, the island’s appeal extends both above and below the coastline—from the jagged silhouette of Mt. Scenery (an appropriate name, and the highest point in the Kingdom of the Netherlands) to the diverse and colorful coral reefs. You won’t find beaches to sprawl out on, but the island is still a hot spot for scuba divers and hikers.

St. Lucia

The scenery of St. Lucia can be summed up in one jaw-dropping sight: a duo of striking spires known as the Pitons. The two volcanic peaks—Gros Piton and Petit Piton—are the most iconic landmarks on the island, and visitors can enjoy them in a variety of ways. Hiking the mountains—an activity which takes the better part of a day—is arguably the best way to experience the peaks.

Regardless of which Piton you choose, the climb will be a strenuous and lengthy affair (the hike can take upwards of six hours round-trip—guided tours are essential), but those views from the top easily validate the journey. If you prefer to keep your feet at sea level, plop a towel down at Sugar Beach, set dramatically (and conveniently) between the two Pitons.

St. Barts

This tony territory has enough scenic views and water sports to give all of its famed five-star hotels a run for their money. On the south coast of the island, Anse de Grande Saline treats visitors to vegetated sand dunes and unobstructed views of turquoise waters.

For a more accessible beach experience, head directly to St. Jean, a coastal town that would feel at home along the French Riviera. The calm and clear waters are ideal for surfing, with plenty of boutiques to visit if you ever need a break from the sun.

Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos consists of 40 islands (eight of which are inhabited), so it’s pretty hard to go wrong here. Providenciales has some of the world’s loveliest white sand beaches, particularly near Grace Bay on the north shore. Grand Turk has a more developed feel, with charming colonial architecture throughout Cockburn Town.

United States Virgin Islands

No matter what kind of vacation you’re craving, you’ll find it on one of the U.S. Virgin Islands. St. John gets accolades for its natural beauty—particularly Trunk Bay in the Virgin Islands National Park, and the snorkeling spots in the Virgin Islands Coral Reef Monument.

If you’re an Alexander Hamilton fan, head to St. Croix where the U.S. founding father spent much of his youth. Or, if you’re heading to St. Thomas, make sure to book a room at the incredible Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas—complete with cruises on the resort’s private, 53-foot catamaran.

Virgin Gorda

Virgin Gorda is the third-largest of the British Virgin Islands, with natural beauty covering virtually all of its 8.5 square miles. The island offers quiet beaches, coves, and flora-filled national parks.

Perhaps the prettiest and most popular attraction is the Baths, pictured, a seaside area where huge granite boulders form scenic saltwater pools and grottos.