Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

25 Most Popular Caribbean Islands to Visit

The Bahamas are the most popular cruise islands.

The 25 most popular Caribbean islands get that way because they have unique attractions that increase their appeal.

Their popularity depends on whether people are visiting there on a cruise or to stay for multiple nights in a hotel or resort. The most visited Caribbean islands for cruises may not be the most visited for overnight stays and vice versa.

The most visited Caribbean destinations also depend on the country from which people are visiting.

Cuba is the second most popular resort destination because of visits from Canada and Europe. The Bahamas and U.S. Virgin Islands are popular with Americans in part because they are so near to the United States.

Most Popular Cruise Destinations

3U.S. Virgin Islands2,083,890
4St. Maarten2,001,996
5Cayman Islands1,609,555
7Puerto Rico1,356,822
8Turks and Caicos971,838
11St. Lucia641,452
16Dominican Republic435,494
17St. Kitts434,106
18British Virgin Islands378,083
23St. Vincent85,170
24Trinidad and Tobago42,820
25Not available

The most popular cruise islands get that way because their ports of call offer great shopping, dining and attractions in one location or close enough that visitors can see them in a brief visit.

Popular cruise destinations also tend to be easier to reach when they are closer together. Western Caribbean cruises are convenient because Cayman Islands, Cozumel, Costa Maya, Roatan and Belize are close enough for cruise ships to visit within a week.

According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the 24 most popular cruise destinations and the number of visitors per year are listed in the chart on the right.

The Bahamas are in their own class because they aren’t technically in the Caribbean Sea. But they make the list of the most popular Caribbean islands because they often are stops for eastern Caribbean cruises.

Their popularity is the result of their closeness to embarkation ports in the United States.

They receive frequent three- to five-day cruises from ports such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Port Canaveral in Florida.

They also are conveniently located for embarkation ports along the U.S. east coast such as Baltimore, New York and Charleston for ships that stop there on their way to the Caribbean.

Cozumel grabs second place because of beaches, Mayan ruins, easy access to Playa del Carmen and convenient location. It is the top port for western Caribbean cruises.

The U.S. Virgin Islands, mainly the island of St. Thomas, grab third place as the top destination for eastern Caribbean cruises.

It is both conveniently located in the northeastern part of the Caribbean.

Most Popular Hotel and Resort Destinations

1Dominican Republic5,141,377
4Puerto Rico1,688,472
8U.S. Virgin Islands730,367
10St. Maarten499,920
14Trinidad and Tobago412,537
15British Virgin Islands383,148
16Cayman Islands382,816
17Turks and Caicos368,164
18St. Lucia338,158
25St. Kitts93,130

The Dominican Republic captures the top spot as the most popular resort and hotel destination in the Caribbean.

Bahamas golf
Golf attracts many visitors to the Bahamas. Credit: Bahamas Tourism Authority

The country that shares the island of Hispaniola is famous for its many all-inclusive resorts that cluster around Punta Cana and Puerto Plata and lie along wide, white-sand beaches.

Cuba and Jamaica take second and third place for the same reason. The islands cater to visitors with the convenience of all-inclusive resorts.

More than three times as many people visit the Bahamas on cruises as they do for hotels and resorts. But the islands make it to number five on the list for the same reasons as the cruise visit.

Because they lie close to the U.S., visitors often go to the Bahamas for a quick getaways. Among other attractions, the islands have a large number of golf courses that attract many enthusiasts.