The Caribbean, a grouping of islands named for the sea in which they reside, has long attracted travelers with its combination of sugar-sand beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, palm trees that rustle lazily and slowly, and the promise of relentless sunshine.
It’s a formula that is overwhelmingly successful, with the Caribbean welcoming more than 28 million visitors in 2022.
That figure includes the Caribbean islands, some coastal areas of Mexico and chunks of Central and South America.
However, despite the obvious appeal and popularity of the entire region, a few destinations stand out and attract the vast majority of visitors.
Everyone knows Cancun, with its wide variety of beaches, and the all-inclusive resorts of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
The resort strips of Montego Bay in Jamaica and Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos are not the realm of the pioneers and will continue to attract scores of vacationers.
However, they are not the only options. For those looking for little-known gems and off-the-radar spots worth discovering, the Caribbean offers endless options.
And best of all, you won’t have to sacrifice the most appealing – sun, sea, sand – when visiting little-known Caribbean beaches and islands.
Caribbean News Digital brings you five little-talked-about Caribbean destinations.
Of sister islands Antigua and Barbuda, the former seems to grab most of the headlines for its 365 beaches, one for every day of the year, a fact that has helped a lot in promoting Antigua to beach lovers.
While Barbuda may not have anywhere near that abundance of sandy beaches, it has a dazzling pink-sand beach that will blow visitors away.
Near the town of Codrington, Palm Beach’s sand is pink because of the crushed shells that line its shores.
These shells come from tiny creatures that live in the nearby reefs and, when they wash ashore and are pounded relentlessly by the waves and salt water, they break down and create pink speckled sand.
Palm Beach is an undeniably romantic spot, where the turquoise water merges with the pink shore that slopes gently down into the water, but it’s also ideal for families and solo travelers.
Luckily, Barbuda is not a one-hit wonder, with a good range of attractions that may surprise visitors to this part of the world.
The island boasts an avian wonder in the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, a haven for frigate birds.
This large creature with jet-black plumage has a reddish-red pouch under its beak that it inflates during its mating ritual, a spectacle that must be seen to be believed.
Regular visitors to the Caribbean need no introduction to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
This archipelago is one of the Caribbean’s most mesmerizing destinations, with mesmerizing shades of blue on islands large and small.
For sailors, this island nation is like the Holy Grail of Caribbean sailing, an endless tableau of crystal-clear waters, hidden coves, deserted beaches and heart-stopping scenery. A total of 32 islands and cays make up this nation.
Covered in a blanket of vegetation, the islands are often mountainous, and some are part of a protected marine park.
Nine of the islands are home to a human population, and of these, perhaps Bequia is the most relaxing getaway.
It’s a short ferry ride from Kingstown, on the main island of St. Vincent, to Bequia, but its ambience is a world apart. The island is tiny, with 11 square kilometers of forests, hills, plains and cliffs, and a population of about 5,000.
Life here moves at a slow and leisurely pace, and you’ll soon find yourself striking up conversations with the people you meet, such is the warm welcome offered by the islanders.
Sugar production was a key industry for years, although today the island is most famous for its annual Easter regatta. But you can visit any time of year to enjoy the spectacular Princess Margaret Beach, named after the late British monarch who swam in these waters in 1960 during her honeymoon.
Grenada, a country made up of three islands, is a destination blessed by its abundant nature, with finely wooded interiors and abundant local spices, including the fabulous nutmeg.
Cocoa also grows here, and the Grenada Chocolate Company showcases it in all its glory, making some of the most delicious and delicately nuanced dark chocolate in the Western Hemisphere.
If you’re lucky, you can arrange a tour of the facility. Carriacou, one of Grenada’s islands, is a lesser-known Caribbean beach destination, but that anonymity is an advantage for travelers who make the effort to come here.
Carriacou, whose name translates as “land surrounded by reefs” (known as Karry-a-cou in the language of the Kalinago Indians), is a wonderfully relaxed place, devoid of glitzy resorts and, as its name suggests, home to great snorkeling and scuba diving.
By ferry, Carriacou can be reached from the main island of Grenada in an average of two hours, and by plane in about 20 minutes. It’s small enough that exploring is not difficult, as Carriacou’s total area is only 13 square miles.
While the laid-back atmosphere is one of the main reasons to visit this mountainous island, those looking for fun and culture can also find it.
During the annual Carnival, the pre-Lenten festival that is a staple of many Caribbean nations, Carriacou hosts its own unique celebration – Shakespeare Mas, where costumed revelers pretend to fight each other while reciting lines from the bard’s play “Julius Caesar.”
Trinidad and Tobago, a pair of islands located at the southern tip of the Caribbean, near Venezuela and outside the hurricane belt, gave the world calypso, steelpan drumming and delicious street food from the doubles.
While Trinidad is home to most of the country’s inhabitants, Tobago is home to the most dazzling beaches. At the top end of Tobago, on its west-facing coast, lies the village of Charlotteville, a quiet hamlet nestled in a rippling bay, populated by fishermen and a handful of small businesses catering to intrepid tourists.
The scenery here is spectacular, with dense hills of rainforest rising behind the bay, and the calm waters off a sandy beach are perfect for a quiet interlude of rest.
There are plenty of places to take a relaxing swim, such as Man O War Bay, just opposite the village, and Lovers’ Bay, a short distance away, where the pink sand provides a romantic contrast to the turquoise waters.
Scuba diving enthusiasts will appreciate Pirates’ Bay, also nearby, where parrotfish frequent the cove’s silky waters. The town itself is tiny, with a small tangle of roads, a handful of accommodations and a few places to eat and drink, but this simplicity is one of Charlotteville’s greatest attractions.
Few Caribbean islands have as many all-inclusive resorts as the Dominican Republic, with Punta Cana a real magnet for this convenient type of hotel model.
But even the best all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana are not for everyone, as these accommodations are places that guests rarely leave. With virtually everything on-site and much of it included in the room rate, why would they?
However, these guests run the risk of moving away from the culture, ambiance, sights and sounds of the destination itself. For travelers wishing to experience a more down-to-earth side of this Spanish-speaking country, Las Galeras, a quiet village on the Samana peninsula, is just what they need.
Nestled between two promontories of lush forests, the village is perhaps the antithesis of the commercial tourism that is only a few hours’ drive away.
If you come here, you’ll find only a few places to stay, similar gastronomic offerings and few tourist-oriented services (although there is a diving school).
However, that is the beauty of Las Galeras. But this does not mean that it is a boring destination, quite the contrary. For starters, beaches like Playa Rincón and Playa Madama are really top-notch, with soft sand and silky sea. Hiking, mountain biking, jungle quad biking, surfing and scuba diving are also available.
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