Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

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Caribbean

Top 10 Caribbean Destinations + 21 More

Aruba beach
Palm Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the Caribbean. Credit: © Scott S. Bateman

The top Caribbean destinations are often a matter of opinion because people vary on what they want out of a vacation.

Some people want a week or more in a single island and others prefer a cruise. Some have been to the Caribbean many times and want somewhere new while others go for the first time in their lives.

Either way, the most popular parts of any trip to the Caribbean usually start with beaches and include great experiences with shopping, nightlife and other things to do.

The best destinations have something unique that no other can offer. With that in mind, here are our votes for the best 10 Caribbean destinations.

Aruba

Aruba is an arid island and well-known for being outside of the hurricane belt. Palm Beach in particular is one of the better beaches in the Caribbean. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular because of more than 40 dive sites. The island is small and easy to explore.

Bahamas

Nassau is a major port of call for cruise ships, some of which go only to the Bahamas and many others that continue on to the Caribbean. Although in the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Caribbean Sea, the chain has several private cruise ports in addition to Nassau and Freeport. Its northern location has cooler winter temperatures than other Caribbean destinations.

Barbados

Barbados is a large, well-developed island with a large population. It has strong shopping and nightlife opportunities. Swimming with giant sea turtles is one of the better excursions in the Caribbean.

Belize

barbados beachThis small Central American nation is a common stop for western cruises. It has one of the best ecotourism excursions in the Caribbean—tubing along a river through dark caves in Sibun Caves Branch Archaeological Park. It’s also known for Mayan ruins.

Cancun

Another top draw, Cancun is a quick flight for most U.S. airlines compared to other destinations. It is known for its long strip of hotels, shops and restaurants that envelope a large lagoon. One of the most popular attactions is a long drive from the city: the famous and amazing Chichen Itza Mayan ruins.

Stingray City
Stingray City is one of the best Caribbean excursions. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Cayman Islands

This is one of the most popular stops for western Caribbean cruises. It is famous for one of the top excursions in the Caribbean—Stingray City, where visitors can snorkel in shallow waters with a school of friendly stingray.

Jamaica

Famed for its people, Jamaica ranks high with Dominican Republic as an all-inclusive resort destination. Its most famous attraction is Dunns River Falls, which visitors climb in a daisy chain.

Dominican Republic

Along with Jamaica, the Dominican Republic is one of the top places to visit for all-inclusive resorts. It also is known for beautiful white sand beaches. Unlike most island nations, Dominican Republic is much more popular for resorts than cruise ports, although it does have small ports at La Romana and Amber Cove.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia has a beautiful, hilly interior that offers many excursions such as hiking, biking, horseback and ATV rides. It also has great beaches and resorts.

St. Maarten

St. Maarten / St. Martin is the smallest island in the world shared by two nations—the Netherlands and France. Orient Beach on the French side is one of the most famous beaches in the Caribbean. Philipsburg on the Dutch side is a major eastern Caribbean cruise port.

More Caribbean Destinations

Eastern Caribbean

British Virgin Islands - This quiet and serene chain of islands is known for snorkeling, scuba diving and national parks.

Puerto Rico - San Juan is another major cruise hub. It also has one of the best historical attractions in the Caribbean at Old San Juan.

Turks and Caicos - Located near the Bahamas, this is an up and coming destination, especially among cruise ships. But a growing number of visitors are staying the week.

U.S. Virgin Islands - Known for duty-free shopping, St. Thomas shares excellent snorkeling and scuba with its nearby British cousin. U.S. citizens do not need a passport to visit this U.S. territory.

Western Caribbean

Cozumel sea life
Cozumel is known for snorkeling and scuba

Cozumel - Located 35 miles south of Cancun, Cozumel is one of the hottest destinations in the Caribbean and mainly popular with cruise visitors during the early months of the year. Also known for scuba, snorkeling and Mayan ruins.

Costa Rica - Like Belize, Costa Rica in Central America is a common stop on western cruises and a well-known eco-tourism destination for long-term stays. One popular excursion is canopying—zip-lining up in the air from one tree to another in lush rainforests.

Southern Caribbean

Antigua - This southern island claims it has one beach for every day of the year. It also has one of the nicer shopping districts.

Bonaire - It is one of the ABC islands along with Aruba and Curacao. As a result, it also avoids most of the bad weather each year. Bonaire also is the smallest of the ABC islands.

Curacao - This one ranks between Aruba and Bonaire for popularity. All three are Dutch territories, and so this one like the other two has a nice European flair.

Dominica - Another up and coming destination, Dominica is making a name for itself as an eco-tourism vacation. But for now it is mainly visited by cruise ships.

Grenada - Here you will find mountains, lush rainforests and quite a few waterfall hikes. A few smaller nearby islands make for a nice day trip.

Martinique - Martinique has far more vacationers visiting for the long term than by cruise ships. This dependency of France has a European flair with a number of cultural and historical attractions.

St. Kitts - Here is a place to go for quiet. The island is dominated by one large mountain that provides an opportunity for excursions to the top, nearby rainforest and hiking opportunities.

St. Vincent - The lesser-known St. Vincent is another eco-tourism destination because of heavy annual rainfall that creates lush interiors. Known for hiking and swimming in waterfalls.

Trinidad - Location of probably the most famous event in the Caribbean—Carnival. Otherwise, most people visit for a week or more. It also has the most waterfalls in the region.