Caribbean Beat Magazine

The Caribbean we love | Round trip

The world’s best beaches, stunning mountains, forests, and waterfalls, vibrant culture, delectable cuisine — there are many reasons the Caribbean is one of the world’s most desired tourism destinations. The global COVID-19 pandemic brought many travel plans to a halt, temporarily — but as lives gradually return to normal, it’s once again possible to plan for your dream vacation. When you’re ready to head out and experience the world, the islands of the Caribbean will be ready to greet you

  • The stunning view from Shirley Heights. Photograph by Eric Baker/Shutterstock.com
  • Setting sail from Nelson’s Dockyard. Photograph by Dbimages/Alamy Stock Photo
  • A classic streetscape in Old Havana. Delpixel/Shutterstock.com
  • Swimming in a blue hole in Grand Bahama Island. Photograph by The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation
  • The Pitons rising above Soufrière are the icons of St Lucia. Photograph by Lucia Pitter/Shutterstock.com
  • Everything irie in the Jamaican countryside. Jon Arnold Images Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Taking the plunge in Negril. Prisma By Dukas Presseagentur Gmbh/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Emerald Pool, one of Dominica’s natural gems. Photograph by Paulzizka/iStock Photo
  • The dramatic scene at Wavine Cyrique. Photograph courtesy Discover Dominica Authority
  • The pristine waters of Daaibooi Bay. Photograph by Naturepicfilms/Shutterstock.com
  • The windswept summit of Soufrière in northern St Vincent. Photograph by Stephanhornsey.com
  • St George’s, one of the Caribbean's most picturesque capitals. Photograph courtesy Pure Grenada Tourism Authority
  • The flavour and the friendly spirit of Grenada. Photograph by Oscar C. Williams/Shutterstock.com
  • Remote Paria Bay on Trinidad’s north coast. Photograph by Ziad Joseph
  • Trinidad’s diverse bird life — like this white-necked jacobin — is famed among birdwatchers worldwide. Photograph by Paul Wittet/Shutterstock.com
  • Tobago’s waters, teeming with life, are a diver’s paradise. Photograph by Imagebroker/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Englishman’s Bay on Tobago’s sheltered leeward coast. Photograph by Richard Seemik/Shutterstock.com
  • Orient Bay, just one of St Martin’s world-class beaches. Photograph by Thierry Dehove/Shutterstock.com
  • Majestic Kaieteur Falls on the Potaro River. Photograph by David Di Gregoire courtesy Guyana Tourism Authority
  • Bottom Bay on the southeast coast of Barbados. Photograph by Byvalet/Alamy Stock Photo

Antigua and Barbuda

Land of 365 beaches
The shared nickname of these twin islands at the northern end of the Leewards is an unsubtle hint about their major attractions. But it’s also a world-class sailing destination, a watersports paradise, and home to some of the Caribbean’s most intriguing historic sites. Then there’s the celebrated rum punch . . .

Top five

  1. Darkwood Beach: want to start a fight? Try naming Antigua’s best beach. West coast Darkwood Beach might be worth the trouble, though, with its iridescent water and pristine sand, and a distant view of Montserrat
  2. Nelson’s Dockyard: a living museum of nautical history, this former Royal Navy base with its restored buildings and wharves is one of the Caribbean’s best known heritage sites
  3. Shirley Heights: once a military gun battery, this hilltop location boasts Antigua’s most stunning views, and is the place to be each Sunday evening for sunset music and dancing
  4. Barbuda Caves: these natural limestone formations are a unique ecosystem, home to indigenous petroglyphs centuries old
  5. Green Corridor: launched in 2018, this designated area of forested hills and protected reserves near Antigua’s southwest coast has become an ecotourism magnet

Cuba

Pearl of the Antilles
Its natural beauty won Cuba its age-old nickname, and when you experience its lushly forested hills, sweeping plains, and beach-fringed coast, you’ll understand why. But the island’s incredible culture and history are what astound visitors — from museums and carnivals to some of the world’s best music and dance.

Top five

  1. Són cubano: the true sound of Cuba, ancestor of rumba and salsa, són — with its characteristic percussion and call-and-response structure — blends African and Spanish elements in an intoxicating formula
  2. Old Havana: the historic heart of Cuba’s capital, founded by the Spanish in 1519, is a postcard-perfect UNESCO World Heritage Site
  3. Viñales Valley: this broad limestone valley surrounded by distinctive hills called mogotes is the Caribbean’s most coveted rock-climbing location
  4. Ciénaga de Zapata: the Caribbean’s largest and most pristine wetland area, protected by a national park, is a birdwatchers’ dream, home to the famed bee hummingbird and endemic species like the Zapata wren and Zapata rail
  5. Trinidad: the city on Cuba’s south coast is sometimes called a living museum of historic architecture

The Bahamas

Seven hundred islands
Scattered over more than five hundred miles of brilliant blue sea, across the Tropic of Cancer, the islands of the Bahamas range from small to smaller to tiny, all of them stunningly beautiful. Sun, sand, and sea make the Bahamas a dream holiday destination — but don’t overlook the islands’ rich cultural life.

Top five

  1. Arty Nassau: the capital of the Bahamas is a cultural hotspot, with historic architecture, art galleries, a thriving music scene, and a trendy film festival
  2. Glass Window Bridge: one of the Caribbean’s most breathtaking drives is along this natural wonder, a narrow peninsula in Eleuthera, separating the wilder Atlantic Ocean from tranquil Eleuthera Bight
  3. Blue holes: the legendary “blue holes” of Andros, Great Abaco, and Grand Bahama are flooded limestone sinkholes, some of them three hundred feet deep — fairytale spots for swimming and diving
  4. Tongue of the Ocean: this dramatic ocean trench separating Andros and New Providence — 150 miles long and twenty wide — is an unforgettable dive site
  5. Junkanoo: celebrated for centuries, with roots in West Africa, the annual masquerade is best experienced in Nassau

St Lucia

Helen of the West Indies
An island of poets, St Lucia offers ample inspiration in its natural beauty — of mountain, valley, forest, river, and coast — and rich Kwéyòl culture. As you drive down its sheltered west coast, the lilting names of the quiet villages almost make a poem, while the rugged Atlantic coast is a journey through the wild sublime.

Top five

  1. The Pitons: few natural landmarks are more indelibly associated with a country than these twin volcanic peaks, covered in forest, towering above the small town of Soufrière. The hiking trail up Gros Piton is an unforgettable adventure
  2. Sulphur Springs: on the outskirts of Soufrière, this popular site — sometimes called “the world’s only drive-through volcano” — includes mud baths where you can enjoy an all-natural spa treatment
  3. Rodney Bay: near St Lucia’s northern tip, this magnificent horseshoe-shaped bay is the island’s entertainment and nightlife capital, set right on the glorious waters of Reduit Beach
  4. Pigeon Island: across Rodney Bay from Gros Islet, this small island — now joined to the mainland by a causeway — has a rich history as an indigenous settlement and colonial military base, and today is home to the St Lucia Jazz Festival
  5. Derek Walcott Square: in the heart of Castries, this small park pays tribute to St Lucia’s literary Nobel Laureate. In the nearby Roman Catholic cathedral you can see magnificent murals by artist Dunstan St Omer

Jamaica

Land of Wood and Water
The north coast resorts of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios are world-famous, but to really experience Jamaica, head into the lush interior, a landscape of hills and valleys, fertile plains and winding rivers — this is where the island got its indigenous name. And don’t overlook Kingston, the Anglophone Caribbean’s biggest city and a cultural epicentre.

Top five

  1. Blue Mountains: dominating the landscape of eastern Jamaica, these peaks and valleys are known for stunning views, precipitous villages, and delectable coffee
  2. City of music: Officially recognised by UNESCO since 2015 for its musical heritage, Kingston is the birthplace of mento, ska, reggae, rocksteady, dub, and dancehall
  3. Portland: sleepy and picturesque Port
    Antonio, the mysterious Blue Lagoon, and Boston Bay, capital of jerk, all in one laid-back parish
  4. Martha Brae: a rafting trip on this quiet, bamboo-shaded river near Falmouth is as tranquil as it is Instagram-ready
  5. Negril: the seven-mile beach at Jamaica’s westernmost tip is home to some of the world’s most spectacular sunsets

Dominica

The Nature Island
In an archipelago of lush green islands, Dominica takes the drama of nature to incredible heights, with its breathtaking mountains and volcanic black beaches. Rebounding after 2017’s Hurricane Maria, Dominica is on the bucket list for hikers, scuba divers, birdwatchers, and adventurers of all types.

Top five

  1. Waitukubuli Trail: 115 miles long, running over spectacular terrain from the island’s northernmost to southernmost points, this is the Caribbean’s longest hiking trail and Dominica’s ultimate adventure
  2. Boiling Lake: Dominica’s volcanic geology bubbles to the surface at this sulphur-wreathed natural wonder, whose waters are kept simmering by geothermal heat
  3. Champagne Reef: volcanic activity is also responsible for this popular diving and snorkeling site in Soufrière Bay, where submarine thermal springs create naturally fizzy waters
  4. Emerald Pool: one of the gems of Morne Trois Pitons National Park, these brilliant green waters are fed by a forty-foot waterfall
  5. Fort Shirley: this scrupulously restored historic site on a picturesque peninsula is remembered for the 1802 revolt that resulted in all enslaved African soldiers in the British Empire being made free

Curaçao

Dushi island
The charms of Curaçao are aptly summed up by the Papiamentu word “dushi,” a multipurpose expression of pleasure and contentment. Here you’ll find beaches of almost unbelievable beauty, quaint architecture, a rich hybrid culture — and a warm welcome to rival the world’s most hospitable

Top five

  1. Westpunt beaches: the leeward coast near the island’s western end is a string of bays and coves, large and small, with water so blue it’s almost blinding
  2. Christoffelpark: this protected reserve around Curaçao’s highest peak includes a forest of thorny divi-divi trees, rare wild orchids, and a herd of native deer
  3. Historic Willemstad: the two halves of Curaçao’s capital, Punda and Otrobanda, are dense with Dutch colonial-era buildings — none more famous than the ones lining the waterfront, best observed from the pontoon bridge across Sint Anna Bay
  4. Blue Curaçao: the famous azure-tinged liqueur is flavoured with a variety of bitter orange grown nowhere else in the world
  5. Klein Curaçao: a sixty-foot lighthouse, picturesquely dilapidated, is the main landmark on this beach-fringed islet east of Curaçao, a perfect daytrip escape

St Vincent and the Grenadines

One destination, 32 islands
One of the lesser-known treasures of the Caribbean, St Vincent is an island of dramatic scenery — thanks to its volcanic past — fertile rainforest, and quiet beaches, while the small islands of the Grenadines vary from laid-back escapes to posh resorts, all stunningly beautiful.

Top five

  1. Soufrière: St Vincent’s highest peak, a volcano that last erupted in 1979, offers one of the Caribbean’s most dramatic hikes to the rim of its crater, with 360-degree views
  2. Bequia: the “island of the clouds,” second largest of the Grenadines, has everything you need in a getaway island: beaches, a laid-back vibe, and an annual Easter regatta that brings together boat-lovers of all stripes
  3. Kingston Botanic Gardens: founded in 1765, this oasis in the capital is a living museum of tropical botany, and the easiest place to see the rare St Vincent parrot
  4. Tobago Cays: this sandy bank in the south Grenadines, studded with five tiny islets and protected by reefs, is a once-in-a-lifetime destination for yachties
  5. Black Carib territory: northeastern St Vincent is home to the island’s Black Caribs, descendants of indigenous peoples and enslaved Africans, who preserve a distinct way of life, rich in stories, music, and more

Grenada

The Spice Isle
Most southerly of the Windwards, Grenada’s rich volcanic soil is responsible for its lush interior hills, as well as its world-famous nutmeg. But don’t forget the incredible beaches of the island’s southwest, or the charms of the capital, St George’s — often called the most picturesque town in the Caribbean, with its heritage buildings and steep streets, and amazing views at every turn.

Top five

  1. Grand Anse: two miles of brilliant white sand and azure water — a beach you’ll never forget
  2. Grand Etang: this mysterious crater lake, once thought to be bottomless, is the centrepiece of a national park with unforgettable hiking and wildlife up close
  3. Levara: wild and windswept, this beach and lagoon near Grenada’s northern tip is a nesting site for rare leatherback turtles
  4. Cocoa culture: everyone knows about Grenadian nutmeg, but these days the island is almost as famous for its world-class cocoa, which you can sample via estate tours
  5. Underwater sculpture park: one of the wonders of the modern Caribbean, this submarine museum features innovative sculptures slowly colonised by coral and other sea creatures

Trinidad

Land of the Hummingbird
Caribbean Beat’s home island is renowned for its annual Carnival, “the greatest show on earth,” with a sweet soca soundtrack. But it’s also a nature lover’s paradise, with diverse ecosystems ranging from dramatic mountain forests to placid wetlands, home to abundant bird species — and one of the world’s most diverse cuisines.

Top five

  1. North coast beaches: Maracas is the most popular by far, with its iconic bake-and-shark stalls, but some of Trinidad’s most idyllic beaches are accessible only by hiking along the well-kept north coast trail
  2. Asa Wright Nature Centre: this world-famous centre for birding in the Northern Range is the place to experience the island’s amazing avifauna, including the rare and elusive oilbird
  3. Queen’s Park Savannah: north of Port of Spain’s downtown, this park is centre-stage at Carnival time, and the rest of the year is the place for strolling or jogging. The historic buildings around its perimeter are a history lesson in architecture
  4. Caroni Swamp: the scarlet ibis, Trinidad’s national bird, is the most famous resident, but a sunset boat trip through the mangrove lagoons will introduce you to dozens more birds and other species
  5. Temple in the Sea: on a manmade islet in the Gulf of Paria, this Hindu temple is a small but moving monument to cultural resilience

Tobago

The Sister Isle
Sister to Trinidad, that is — the two islands have been linked since the nineteenth century, but Tobago has its own distinctive culture and vibe. Gorgeous beaches, winding country roads, warm village life, and cherished folkways create an air of relaxation and release, an experience that soothes the soul.

Top five

  1. Pigeon Point: familiar from a thousand postcard depictions of its thatch-roofed jetty, this beach in the southwest checks all the boxes: broad expanse of sand, warm turquoise water, plus access to watersports and boat trips out to Buccoo Reef
  2. Main Ridge Reserve: the oldest protected forest in the Americas — designated in 1764 — the spine of Tobago is a lush home for wildlife, with numerous trails for hiking and biking
  3. Kelleston Drain: the island of Tobago is surrounded by bucket-list dive sites, with dramatic submarine scenery and reef life nourished by the Orinoco River outflow. Kelleston Drain is celebrated for its gigantic brain coral, one of the world’s largest
  4. Little Tobago: a short boat ride off the northeast coast, this small island is a major seabird nesting site, the place to get up close with magnificent red-billed tropicbirds
  5. Argyle Waterfall: it takes a forest hike to get to Tobago’s highest waterfall, cascading down three stages, including natural rock tubs for soaking

St Martin

The Friendly Island
The thirty-four square miles of St Martin are uniquely divided between French Saint-Martin in the north and Dutch Sint Maarten in the south. One is known for its gastronomy, the other for its shopping and nightlife — and the entire island is famous for its extraordinary beaches and even more extraordinary hospitality.

Top five

  1. Philipsburg: on a narrow strip of land between Great Bay and the Great Salt Pond, Sint Maarten’s capital is a duty-free shopaholic’s dream
  2. Grand Case: this small town on the French side, running along the coast for a mile, is the island’s culinary centre, with dozens of restaurants offering French, Creole, and every other kind of cuisine you can imagine
  3. Tintamarre: just off the northeast coast, this small uninhabited island is the place for a day trip to explore your castaway fantasies
  4. The Flying Dutchman: for this one you need a head for heights: the world’s steepest zipline, an exhilarating plunge from the peak at Rockland Estate
  5. Guavaberry: made at home for generations, and now commercially distilled, this unique liqueur is a taste of St Martin you can take home with you

Guyana

Land of Many Waters
The continental scale of Guyana’s landscape is unlike anything in the Caribbean archipelago. Here, beaches line rivers and creeks, forests have an Amazonian vastness, and the savannahs of the interior feel like a world away from the coast. Yet Guyanese culture has all the warmth and rhythm of its Caribbean neighbours.

Top five

  1. Historic Georgetown: the unique wooden architecture of Guyana’s capital, with ornate structures designed to sit lightly on waterlogged land — like soaring St George’s Cathedral — is best explored on a walking tour
  2. Kaieteur Falls: this magnificent treasure of the Guyanese interior, the world’s largest single-drop waterfall by volume, is an hour’s flight out of Georgetown — or a multi-day river journey up the Potaro
  3. Rupununi Savannah: this vast plain in
    Guyana’s southwest, divided by the Kanuku Mountains, is an unforgettable landscape of red earth, blackwater creeks, sandpaper trees, indigenous villages, eco-lodges, and wildlife like the jaguar, harpy eagle, and giant river otter
  4. Iwokrama: the thousand square miles of the protected Iwokrama rainforest, on the west bank of the Essequibo, are a centre for research and the place to indulge all your jungle fantasies
  5. Shell Beach: on Guyana’s Pomeroon Coast, near the border with Venezuela, this ninety-mile stretch of Atlantic coast is a nesting site for four species of endangered seaturtle

Barbados

Land of the Flying Fish
Easternmost island in the Caribbean, an outlier in the Antillean chain, Barbados is world-famous for its postcard-perfect beaches and luxury resorts. But there’s much more to this island, with its rolling limestone landscape, cherished historic buildings, and vibrant culture and music.

Top five

  1. West coast beaches: here’s another island where beach favourites is a dangerous game to play. But Barbados’s tranquil “platinum coast” is hard to beat for reef-sheltered, shell-strewn shores and warm, glistening sea
  2. The Garrison: south of Bridgetown proper, this UNESCO World Heritage Site, where eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings ring the Garrison Savannah, is a storied location in the island’s history
  3. Harrison’s Cave: near Barbados’s geographical centre, this network of limestone caverns, adorned with intricate natural formations, offers a thrilling and accessible glimpse into geological history
  4. Scotland District: these craggy hills above the east coast — named for their supposed resemblance to the Scottish Highlands — is the island’s most thickly forested zone, with sprawling views
  5. Oistins: once a sleepy fishing village on the south coast, Oistins is now best known for its weekly Friday night fish fry, an unpretentious party that revolves around delectable seafood