Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Best Eastern Caribbean Islands for Beach Vacations

Magen's Bay USVI
Magen’s Bay, USVI. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Eastern Caribbean islands represent some of the best and most popular beach vacations in the Caribbean thanks to great resorts, shopping, beaches and attractions.

They also are some of the most popular islands to visit on an eastern Caribbean cruise. The fact that most of them are clustered closely together makes it easy to visit multiple islands in a single trip.

But many of the islands attract visitors to their hotels and resorts because of amenities and memorable things to do.

Most Popular Islands

According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the five most popular Caribbean islands for hotel and resort vacations in the eastern Caribbean are:

  1. Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is actually a country that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. It is especially popular for all-inclusive resort enclaves at Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. Cruise ships visit La Romana and Amber Cove.
  2. Cuba. Popular with Canadian tourists, Cuba is not easy to access for Americans.
  3. Puerto Rico. The major cruise port of San Juan is also one of the major attractions on the island.
  4. Bahamas. Although not technically in the Caribbean Sea, the Bahamas share many of the same cruises and other characteristics of the nearby eastern Caribbean islands.
  5. U.S. Virgin Islands. St. Thomas is the dominant island in that chain with help from St. John and St. Croix. It is a hugely popular cruise destination.

Best All-Inclusive Resort Islands

Playa Bavaro beach
Dominican Republic beach. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

No question about it. Dominican Republic resorts rank high among the eastern islands for their all-inclusive properties.

In fact, the main reason why this destination is so popular is because of a combination of the beautiful beaches and luxurious resorts. As we found out, there is almost no reason to leave the resort except to go back to the airport to return home.

Most of the other eastern Caribbean islands have a smaller number of true all-inclusive resorts. Instead, they have hotels with all-inclusive being an option rather than a standard (mainly covering food).

Best Shopping

Other than lying on the beach, what do people do on eastern Caribbean islands? Many visitors go shopping. Five of the best shopping destinations are:

  1. Bay Street in Nassau, Bahamas
  2. Old San Juan in Puerto Rico
  3. Front Street in Philipsburg, St. Maarten
  4. Havensight Mall and Main Street in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
  5. Port Lucaya Marketplace and International Bazaar in Freeport, Bahamas

Broad Street in Bridgetown, Barbados, wins an honorable mention.

It’s worth pointing out that islands emphasizing all-inclusive resorts such as Dominican Republic do not offer as much shopping.

Best Beaches

Eastern Islands List

The following list is ranked by popularity for overnight visits according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
  1. Dominican Republic
  2. Cuba
  3. Puerto Rico
  4. Bahamas
  5. U.S. Virgin Islands
  6. Barbados
  7. Martinique
  8. St.Maarten
  9. British Virgin Islands
  10. St. Lucia
  11. Antigua

Other islands include:

  • Anguilla
  • St. Barthelemy
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guadeloupe
  • St. Kitts
  • St. Vincent Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turks and Caicos

Yes, there actually are good beaches and bad beaches among the eastern Caribbean islands.

A good beach has a wide expanse of white sand, few rocks in the water, and extras such as tree shade, nearby facilities and plenty of room to play.

The following five are among the most popular and famous, but there are many more possibilities.

  1. Magen’s Bay on St. Thomas
  2. Shoal Bay in Anguilla
  3. Dickenson Bay and Half Moon Bay on Barbados
  4. Many of the beaches at Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  5. Grand Anse Beach in Grenada
  6. Grace Cay Beach in Turks and Caicos

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Trafalgar Falls Dominica
Trafalgar Falls; © Dominica Tourism Authority

All of the islands have generic things to do such as golf, sailing, jet skiing, etc.

Our definition of the best attractions is that they are unique and memorable. They include:

  1. Swimming with sea turtles in Barbados
  2. Waterfall hikes in Dominica
  3. Touring historical attractions in Old San Juan
  4. The Baths at Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
  5. Snorkeling in Dominica, Turks and Caicos or the Virgin Islands