It’s about time we ditched the unpredictable British weather and turned instead to warmer climes, tropical beaches with palm trees and white-pink sands. Now the Caribbean Islands are on the UK Government green list, these far-flung utopias seem closer than ever.
From the exotic beaches and vibrant rum festival of Barbados to the marvellous marine life in the clear waters of the British Virgin Islands, these Caribbean beauties are every traveller’s dream. Whether you’re looking for new adventures or a quiet coastal haven, these are the best Caribbean islands to visit this summer.
Whether you think of Barbados as the birthplace of Rihanna or as a sun-drenched palm tree heaven, this Caribbean jewel is so much more than that. Prepare to be amazed by towering stalactites at Harrison’s Cave and by rare plants at Andromeda Botanic Gardens. Walk along the peaceful Barbados Boardwalk connecting Accra and Camelot beaches – turtles and crabs are known to frequent their waters – and hop on a cruise to discover a protected coral reef which nurtures some fascinating marine life. And don’t forget the island’s long-standing rum tradition: join the Food and Rum Festival in October, or pop by the many roadside rum shacks and drink the night – or day – away, like a true Barbadian.
Home to sprawling parks, powdery white-sand beaches and fantastic diving sites, Grenada should be high on your Caribbean travel list. Apart from the mind-blowing natural treasures – including the postcard-perfect Grand Anse Beach and the peculiar wildlife in the Grand Etang National Park – there are plenty more reasons to visit this exotic gem. Start with the rainbow-coloured houses in St George’s, the capital, then take a spice tour to learn all about the local flavours at the Belmont Estate, and pop by Market Square for fresh produce and handmade items. Don’t miss the Underwater Sculpture Park, an underwater gallery of life-size sculptures now encrusted with coral growth and sponges.
Pinkish sands, rugged coastlines and chic resorts are some of the features that drive movie stars and wealthy moguls to this pair of islands. Antigua is the most cosmopolitan of the two, with its capital, St John’s, hosting a number of cute shops and museums. Pass by Nelson’s Dockyard national park for the glamorous marina and the former British naval dockyard. This is also a good starting point for a series of trails leading to historic forts with superb views. Alternatively, follow the 8km (5mi) Fig Tree Drive, lined with mango trees and coconut palms. When in Barbuda, marvel at the 17m (56ft) Martello Tower, before finding inner peace by the serene waters, ideal for fishing, sailing and windsurfing.
When it comes to lush bays, virgin waters and amazing marine life, there’s nowhere better to holiday than the British Virgin Islands. It was Columbus who initially gave them the name of Virgin Islands, and it’s no surprise it has stuck. Here, you can spend your days scuba diving and scouring the seabed for coral reefs or interesting shipwrecks – RMS Rhone, which was wrecked off the coast of Salt Island in 1867, is the most famous. Make sure to swim around the large volcanic boulders of the Baths on Virgin Gorda, the ultimate backdrop to a spectacular Instagram post, and relax at the private beach of Sandy Spit, about halfway between the islands of Jost van Dyke and Tortola.
Just south of Miami, you will find this chilled-out paradise that offers not only secluded beaches with emerald waters, but also a lively community of people who will invite you to join them in all kinds of fun activities. From attending food festivals and enjoying Sunday seafood brunches on Grand Cayman to sipping cocktails on Little Cayman, each of these islands has a unique list of exciting things to see and do. Hike dramatic cliffs on Cayman Brac, swim among brightly coloured starfish at Starfish Point beach and make friends with happy stingrays while snorkelling in the deep waters of Stingray City on Grand Cayman. The island also appeals to art lovers, who will appreciate the galleries and outdoor installations.
Thrill seekers will fall in love with the ecodelight that is Dominica. Even though the island has relatively few beaches, it’s worth exploring the pristine waters through scuba diving and snorkelling, or kayaking in the rivers. Rocky coastlines, dreamy waterfalls and tropical gardens – such as the pretty Papillote Wilderness Retreat – are a big part of Dominica’s wild allure. Hike through a forest of ginger plants and vanilla orchids to get to the surreal Trafalgar Falls, and swim in Boiling Lake, the second-largest hot spring in the world.