The sun-kissed islands of the Caribbean offer astonishingly diverse Caribbean holidays that include such activities as lounging on the beach, visiting a rain forest, learning about colonial culture and diving among the extensive system of fringing reefs.
Each island offers its own charms for exciting holidays, but a few common features of Caribbean travel include stunning beaches, beautiful weather, laid-back culture and world-class partying reminiscent of the U.S. South Beach scene.
Choosing a single destination could prove your biggest challenge when booking a Caribbean holiday. Many destinations offer exhilarating jungles to explore, tours of sugar plantations, deep-sea fishing, dune buggy off-road excursions, mountain biking, catamaran sailing and close encounters with dolphins in the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea.
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What islands make up the Caribbean?
The islands of the Caribbean are vast. Over 700 islands and 16 countries make up this area, situated just off of the Gulf of Mexico and North America – in the Caribbean Sea. Home to beautiful coral reefs, cays and islets, a visit to the Caribbean can most accurately be described as a trip to paradise.
Some of the most popular Caribbean destinations include:
Why should I visit the Caribbean?
Holidays to Caribbean destinations remain high on most people's must-see lists. Visitors can stay in shacks on the beach, budget hostels or luxury five-star resorts with all the amenities for the well-heeled traveller.
Regardless of which island, vacation package or accommodation you choose, the locals will welcome you warmly, offer unique spins on how to enjoy holidays and recommend hassle-free holiday options that include partying, diving, swimming, snorkelling, spicy food and spicy music.
The Caribbean is also an extremely popular honeymoon destination.
When is the best time to visit the Caribbean?
Caribbean weather is tropical and warm year-round, but holiday trips are most popular from the middle of December until the middle of April when northerners escape wintry weather or book Christmas holidays without the sleighs and reindeer.
Trade winds keep the islands cool throughout the year, but hurricane season could be a factor in your planning. Hurricanes rarely hit the same islands in consecutive years, and the season runs from 1 June to 30 November.
Trinidad and Tobago, Curaçao, Aruba, Bonaire and the Cayman Islands fall outside the hurricane belt and seldom experience intense, life-threatening storms.
What can I do during my holiday in the Caribbean?
Imagine that you're an island-hopping pirate and latter-day buccaneer devoted to partying, treasure-hunting and exploring. In the Caribbean's multitude of island destinations, you can leave your worries and focus on relaxing and having a good time.
Things to do and see include the following activities and attractions:
Festivals and parties are a way of life in the islands, and you can find exciting celebrations throughout the year from Carnival in the spring to unique Christmas celebrations under the palm trees. Why not book a once in a lifetime Christmas getaway for Christmas on the beach?
• Visit the Colourful Reefs
Colourful reefs in the Caribbean include The Baths, a series of underwater grottoes, caves and pools, and Bioluminescent Bay where the sea creatures glow when disturbed. People fly from all over the world to see the Caribbean’s coral reefs and the creatures that inhabit them.
• Explore the Rainforests!
The Caribbean rain forests have thousands of acres of animal and plant life, cool rivers, hiking, fishing and extraordinary scenic attractions that include spectacular waterfalls, green canyons and volcanic peaks.
• Book a Bespoke Tour
Speciality tours include destinations popularised by Jimmy Buffett, the pirate of partying, and tours of the scenic shooting locations for Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" film franchise.
Book a cruise, climb a waterfall, explore limestone caves where a pirate's treasure might be hidden away or visit historical communities like Bob Marley's home while sampling local rum drinks.
• Travel to the Bob Marley Museum
When visiting Jamaica, the Bob Marley Museum is an essential stop because reggae is king on the island and Marley is the acknowledged king of the musical genre. The Kingston home where Marley recorded from 1975 to 1981 ranks as the city's most visited attraction.
Take a tour of the site and get a real feel for the home of the Caribbean legend.
• Swim with the Sting Rays at Stingray City – Grand Cayman
One of the most popular attractions in the Caribbean is Stingray City. A visit to Stingray City allows you to swim with stingrays that are accustomed to humans and often wrap their wings over tourists in the waist-high water.
A short boat ride off the coast of Grand Cayman, tours of this attraction are sure to make your trip to the Caribbean an unforgettable one for all ages.
• Swim with Sea Turtles
The giant turtles in Barbados are peaceful and impressive, and visitors can snorkel and watch huge turtles glide below their feet.
Species you can see in the Caribbean ocean include Leatherback, Green, Hawksbill and Loggerheads. These gentle creatures are astonishing to see up close and you are more than likely to see these on a boat trip around the islands.
• Step back in history to the Cuban Time Warp
Step back into history in Cuba where streets and automobiles remind visitors of the 1950s before the island's communist revolution, and nightclubs offer glimpses of the big-band era's glamour.
Explore the Caribbean Cuisine
Exotic fruits and vegetables native to each island, the cultural background of the indigenous people and influences from the native Arawk and Caribbean Indians help to determine the culinary style of each of more than 700 islands.
Food plays central roles in local festivals, family gatherings, holidays and restaurants. Spanish, Dutch, French and British settlers brought their own culinary roots to the islands, and African, Amerind, Arab, Chinese and East Indian influences followed rapidly in the islands' hotly contested histories.
Characteristic herbs include spicy peppers and green seasonings for curries and stews in oil-based marinades. Popular dishes include:
• Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Jerk chicken is a spiced chicken dish that originated on the island of Jamaica but is popular all over the Caribbean – and all over the world. Commonly served with plantain, coconut rice, grilled pineapple, or sweet potatoes. This dish is a must try during your stay if you haven’t already!
• Goat Stew
Stew is a home-cooked favourite all over the world, but most commonly in the Caribbean, Goat is used as the main protein. This dish is a staple amongst the islands and is extremely tasty.
• Salt Fish
Your mind may automatically think of salty fishes such as Anchovies, but in the Caribbean, this is not what this dish refers to; Salt Fish is a dried white fish that is preserved in salt to give the fish extra flavour. This dish typically consists of cod, haddock, pollack or even shark.
Ceviche is a popular seafood dish that was first made in Peru. It is spiced with flavours such as citrus and chilli and served cold.
Callaloo is a dish that contains various leafy vegetables and Okra. It strongly resembles spinach, and is thought to have a range of health benefits, such as helping the digestive system.
One of the region's most interesting culinary facts involves the diet of colonial ship crews. These crews depended on wild boar and feral cattle on the islands, and the meat was smoked and preserved for sailing on a wooden frame called a buccan by the native Caribbean Arawk tribe, which came from the French words ‘boucane’ and ‘boucanier’. Island hunters used the frames so extensively that all ship crews in the islands became known as Buccaneers.
Our Top Travel Tips For The Caribbean
• Protect Your Skin
Be sure not to underestimate the intensity of the Caribbean sun. Particularly if you’re travelling from a country with a cool climate, you can easily get caught out in the heat of the day. Apply your SPF regularly and be sure to stay hydrated to avoid sunburn and sun stroke!
• Beware of Mosquitoes
As with many tropical countries, you will find mosquitoes during your stay in the Caribbean. This can be easily avoided – burn Citronella candles on your balcony and pack plenty of mosquito repellent. You could even sleep under a mosquito net if they get really bothersome.
• Be Respectful
When visiting any other country or culture, it’s always important to remain respectful of their traditions and values. Be sure to only wear beachwear at the beach or at the pool, and cover up in all other circumstances. Cotton clothes are great for staying covered whilst staying cool.
Whilst you’re in the Caribbean – why limit yourself to only one of the beautiful islands? Multi-centre and cruise holidays are a hugely popular way to explore the islands and really experience the beauty that this stunning part of the world has to offer.
• Avoid touching the Coral Reefs
Whilst mesmerising and bright, the coral reefs of the Caribbean are hugely endangered and damaged. When visiting and swimming around the coral areas, please be careful and avoid touching the corals!