7 Caribbean islands and what we recommend them for
Everyone loves the Caribbean, but which island should you choose?
ARUBA — Wedding bliss
Why go: Lying just 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba is a 33 km-long island of the Lesser Antilles. The island is well-klnown as a wedding and honeymoon destination thanks to perfect year-round weather — it lies away from the hurricane path and has no rainy season — and pristine coastline.
Many a cruise passenger have hopped off here to wed on its seven-mile palm-fringed beach. To make life easier the Aruba tourist board have created an online bridal registry.
Aruba is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and feels somewhat European culturally speaking. Highlights include the eerie ruins of the bushiribana gold mine, natural rock bridges and the Arikok National Wildlife Park which spreads over 20 per cent of the island.
Where to stay: Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort
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Getting there: find flights to Aruba
THE BAHAMAS — Eco travellers will love this
Why go: The name for the Bahamas comes from "baja mar", the Spanish for "shallow sea" and this destination is the perfect eco-getaway. There are 700 islands and sandy cays offering oodles of adventurous playgrounds for divers. New Providence and Grand Bahama providing the most varied diving.
There are 28 national parks spread over a million acres of land with amazing colonies of West Indian Flamingoes, mangroves and sea turtle research stations. Recently, the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve was opened on the island of Eleuthera. This was funded by the Leon Levy Foundation whose mission is to continue his philanthropic legacy, and supporting excellence in six broad areas: understanding the ancient world; arts and humanities, preservation of nature and gardens, neuroscience research and human rights.
Where to stay: Grand Lucayan
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Getting there: find flights to Bahamas
CAYMAN ISLANDS — Dive into these islands
Why go: Divers, get your flippers and head to the Cayman Islands. Thanks to the policing of the marine environment, the diving and snorkelling around these parts must surely rank with some of the best in the world. It has a vertiginous geology which means the islands are the tip of an underwater mountain range.
Some say the diving for pleasure trend started here and the Bloody Bay Marine Park is heralded as one of the world's great sites. Plunge 20 ft to see the awesome coral wall which stretches 6,000ft. Imagine the life that have made their home there.
Incidentally, one of the world's rarest lizards, the blue iguana, is the closest living relative to dinosaurs, and can only be seen on Grand Cayman.
Where to stay: Grandview Condominiums
Getting there: find flights to Cayman Islands
CUBA — Culture, colonial history and salsa
Why go: Where else can you salsa the night away with the locals, make like Hemingway in Havana, get a taste of the Spanish Empire, and soak up the colonial atmosphere and history from Columbus to Castro all in one place? And then add in cigars, rum and classic cars and you have a truly culturally rich destination.
This is the biggest island in the Caribbean but for half a century the country has been infamous for its politics, thanks to Fidel Castro. A lack of resources means its infrastructure has seen better days, yet despite that for visitors it offers a laid-back vibe and a unique Afro-Latin culture.
Where to stay: Hotel Nacional de Cuba
In addition to hotels, many people stay with the locals, also known as Casa Particular. For example, Casa 1932 in Centro Habana is an art nouveau den run by a former pharmacist — 3 lovely rooms & four-course meals every night.
Getting there: find flights to Cuba
GRENADA — Life is a beach
Why go: There are two and a half impressive miles of spacious white sandy beach on Granada. Add to that a backdrop of lush, verdant hills and sensational raintforest and the island feels alive with nature. Yet this island is not just beautiful its entertaining too. There are ample bars, restaurants and waters sports and for a day out hire a sturdy car and explore.
Where to stay: Coyaba Beach Resort
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Getting there: find flights to Grenada
JAMAICA — Reggae and rainforests
Why go: Famous for being the home of Bob Marley, Reggae, and the rainforest that tumbles down from the Blue Mountain to rocky coves and of course, the coffee. Its dashingly blue shoreline is the welcome mat for underwater caverns and caves.
Where to stay: Jamaica Inn
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Getting there: find flights to Jamaica
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO — Lime with the locals
Why go: There is an intriguing cultural mix encompassing the Middle East, India and China. Popular "street food" includes the Indian channa dhal — curried chickpeas topped with chutney.
There is a weekly Sunday festival of steel bands with energetic dancing. Tobago, which as the oldest, protected forest in the eastern hemisphere, is a laid back place where you can "lime" with the locals (basically just hang out doing nothing) while Trinidad is more hard-working but has an abundance of natural and nocturnal attractions.
Where to stay: Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort — Adults Only
Getting there: find flights to Trinidad and Tobago
Read also: The Caribbean: 7 islands and what we recommend them for covering Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St Barths/St Barthelemy, St Lucia and St Martin/St Maarten.
You may also opt for a cruise around the Caribbean. Several companies offer Caribbean cruises, including Regent Seven Seas, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Princes Cruises or use an online travel agent like Opodo (in the UK) or Expedia (in the USA) to compare several cruise liners at the same time.
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