Best Caribbean holidays and countries to visit for 2023 – The Independent

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From active volcanoes to turtle-filled coves, there’s more to the Caribbean than picture-perfect beaches
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The Pitons dominate the skyline on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia
For a tropical climate, white sandy beaches and azure waters, the Caribbean has long been a favourite destination for Brits looking for sunshine and warmer temperatures.
Made up of 700 different islands, the Caribbean includes 13 different sovereign states and 17 dependent countries linked to France, the Netherlands, the US and the UK. Each of these has something unique to offer travellers. From high mountain peaks to shimmering reefs and spicy salsa rhythms to deep rolling reggae, the culture and scenery varies dramatically from island to island.
Nature lovers can hike through lush rainforest or snorkel among primary-coloured fish. Turtles and dolphins can be seen on scuba diving trips, which are made more thrilling by the possibility of spotting a bull, hammerhead or reef shark.
For those who prefer to stay on dry land, there are mountains to hike and volcanoes to climb. Highlights include the Unesco World Heritage listed Gros Pitons in St Lucia, the grumbling active Soufriere volcano in St Vincent, and the rugged Mont Pelee volcano in Martinique.
Read more on Caribbean travel:
Several islands claim to produce the best Caribbean rum, but Jamaica exports more of it than any other Caribbean country. St Lucia is famous for its chocolate, home of the Hotel Chocolat plantation, while the Dominican Republic has just-right conditions for growing coffee.
We’ve rounded up some of the Caribbean’s best holiday destinations along with all the details you need to plan the perfect island getaway.
Le Petit Piton looks over Soufriere Bay
Set towards the southwestern corner of St Lucia, the peaceful district of Soufrière is the best place to stay on St Lucia if you want to explore the twin peaks of the Pitons, which are a protected Unesco World Heritage Site. Gros Piton, the less lofty of the pair, is the island’s most popular trek. It takes around four hours to reach the top for some of the most amazing views of the Caribean.
Soufriere is also an ideal base for visiting the Diamond Falls botanical gardens, where you can bathe in mineral-rich natural spring water that is said to be good for easing the pain associated with various conditions like chronic rheumatism, respiratory complaints or ulcers. A visit to the Sulphur Springs is a must. Thanks to the high amount of silica, bathing in the hot black water can soften rough or dry skin. Plus, the mineral content of sulfur springs has been shown to help persisting skin conditions like psoriasis, acne and eczema.
A visit to local restaurants to try the famous dish of green figs and salt fish is also highly recommended. Locals boil unripe bananas and then add salt-cured boiled or flaked cot. Conch fritters, also known as lambi, are delicious at sunset after a day in the sun, washed down with some local rum or a freshly pressed fruit juice.
The church in the village of Les Anses d’Arlet is perilously close to the sea
If you want to lounge on the sand one day and get the adrenaline pumping the next, you’ll find that this island offers both and does it exceptionally well. Beaches border tropical rainforests, with one of the most picturesque being Grande Anse beach in the South West of the French territory of Martinique. This is one of the most photographed beaches in the Caribbean, with its long strip of bright white sand bordered by brightly coloured houses and restaurants, as well as magnificent coconut trees. The water is gin-clear and a diving school directly on the beach will take beginners as well as PADI certified divers to see sea turtles and barracudas up close.
The area is also ripe for exploration above ground. Martinique is full of hiking routes known as ‘traces’ that often follow trails used by early settlers to traverse the islands. The south of the island features more gentle trails from beach to beach via lush forests. For more of a challenge, head north for an adrenalin-pumping trace up the active volcano Mount Pelee.
The scenic view of Atlantis hotel in Paradise Island near Nassau, Bahamas
A popular destination for families, Nassau is home to the original Atlantis resort, which now has a second outpost on The Palm in Dubai and a third in Sanya, China. When it opened in 1994 on Paradise Island, connected to Nassau by a short bridge, it was one of the most spectacular, lavish resorts in the world, with a massive 1,194 rooms and suites surrounded by a 14-acre waterscape of swimming pools, waterfalls, lagoons and a lazy river ride. Such was the hype surrounding it that Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder were among the 60 A list celebrities at its opening party. Almost 30 years on, it still has plenty to offer thanks to buzzy bars, restaurants, an aquarium, a shopping mall and more.
Better value for money will be had from staying in Nassau itself, where you can rent beach houses or stay in family-run guesthouses. There are also hotels run by chains like Marriott or SLS, part of the Accor group, if you want some familarity or have loyalty points to spend.
Diving facilities are world-class as you can explore both wrecks and sea creatures, specifically sharks, with Stuart Cove dive resort offering an adventure dive in which you may be surrounded by 20-30 of them at once. You may need some of the local Ole Nassau Rum afterwards to steady your nerves.
The clear sea in Bequia is one of the best kept secrets of The Caribbean
For those craving the ultimate peaceful getaway to destress and recharge, Bequia is one of the Caribbean’s best-kept serets. The second largest island in the Grenadines is not visited by too many tourists and the beaches have sand that’s almost pure white. There’s no traffic, no casino, no huge resorts and no daily newspaper, so you feel able to enjoy a slower pace of life and truly relax and appreciate the surroundings.
The feeling of being in Bequia is akin to being a pioneer in Paradise, as its location an hour’s ferry-ride from Saint Vincent makes it remote enough to be truly relaxing, yet it offers much to explore. Swim into one of the island’s many coves for fantastic snorkelling opportunities or spend two hours climbing Peggy’s Rock, the highest mountain peak in Bequia. It’s named after island resident Peggy Kydd who had spectacular eyesight and would perch up on the rock and point out to the fishermen where the shoals of fish were.
Negril is home to a seven-mile stretch of beach
Jamaica is one of the Caribbean’s largest islands, with the resorts such as Negril, Montego Bay, Ochos Rios, Port Antonio and more all offering different cultural experiences, scenery and foodie experiences, including jerk chicken tasting and rum distillery-touring.
Negril has options for couples seeking romantic hidewaways, as well as families wanting to play on fine, sandy beaches. If you can tear yourself off the golden sands of Seven Mile Beach, one of the longest stretches of uninterrupted golden sand in the Caribbean, visit the awe-inspiring Mayfield Falls waterfalls; take a distillery tour of the Appleton Rum Estate; and eat your bodyweight in jerk chicken by stopping at the many restaurants along Seven Mile Beach that all claim to make the best jerk in Jamaica. A special shout-out goes to 3 Dives Jerk Centre, which also serves up freshly caught Caribbean lobster.
Speyside in Tobago is home to a diverse array of marine life
Speyside in the north of Tobago is a mecca for scuba divers, who come in their droves for coral reefs galore and sightings of colourful marine life (angelfish, turtles, parrotfish and sea fans, to name just a few). However, there’s a lot more to the small island of Tobago than just the warm, clear waters.
At only 25 miles long and six miles wide, it’s easy to get around, so you can fit in all the major sights in just one holiday. The island’s official tourism tagline is “unspoilt, untouched, and undiscovered”, and it lives up to that description. It feels more like a charming boutique hotel than a Caribbean mega-resort.
The island’s many independent restaurants offer diverse menus of local and international dishes. Local favourites include macaroni pie and callaloo soup, made from the nutritious green leafy tops of the callaloo plant. Visit Jemma’s Treehouse for the unique experince of dining up in the sky, with the tables set around the trunk of a tree that grows through the open-air establishment. Arrive hungry though; portions are plentiful and you may want second helpings of breadfruit pie.
Valley Church Beach is one of the most beautiful spots in Antigua
Home to more than 365 beaches, it’s possible to visit a different beach in Antigua every day of the year. Basing yourself in the capital city of St John’s will leave you with several sublime sandy vistas just a short drive away.
If you enjoy jet skis, boat trips and plenty of beach bars, then Dickenson Bay is a 15-minute drive away. For an unspoilt experience, 20 minutes outside of St John’s takes you to Valley Church Beach, which is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful in Antigua thanks to its pale blue waters. There’s just one open-air restaurant here, but it does serve up a rather strong rum punch that attracts visitors from all over the island.
St John’s itself offers an array of places to visit that will teach you about the history and culture of the island. Visit the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda or tour Nelson’s Dockyard. The latter is named after Horatio Nelson, who was stationed in Antigua from 1784-1787.
Bavaro Beach has plenty of shops and bars for visitors
What the Dominican Republic loses in unspoilt natural beauty compared to lesser-visited islands, it more than makes up for in opportunities for thrill-seeking and adventure. Head to Macao beach for consistent clear waves to surf. Or jump on a dune buggy tour for even more thrills and spills. Ever seen a giant humpback whale up close before? If you join a whale-watching trip between November and April, you have a 90 per cent chance of seeing one or more.
For nightlife, the Dominican Republic is unmatched. Coco Bongo in Punta Cana features a Las Vegas style disco show with dancing until the sun comes up. There’s also a Hard Rock Hotel, which was featured in The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and Legacy Disco Club offering Latin hits as well as a unique fusion of dance and hip hop.
The Caribbean offers pleasant temperatures all year round, but the region can experience a lot of rainfall between June and November. This is also a risky time for hurricanes, so you need to leave it until December to enjoy the best of what the islands have to offer in pleasant, calm conditions. December through to March are the best months for guaranteed sunshine, still seas and low humidity.
April, May and the last couple of weeks in November see the most affordable prices for hotel accommodation and flights to the Caribbean. Going just before and just after the main season means there’s a strong chance the weather will be good, too. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways both offer direct flights to the biggest Caribbean sovereign states and dependent territories, with flights from around £500 to St Lucia in April.
April and May are quieter months in the Caribbean as good weather is not guaranteed. While there may be the risk of the odd shower you can expect plenty of sunshine too, and you’ll be sharing the beaches with less than half the crowds that go from December to March.
Read more on the best winter sun hotels
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Le Petit Piton looks over Soufriere Bay
Getty Images
The church in the village of Les Anses d’Arlet is perilously close to the sea
Getty Images/iStockphoto
The scenic view of Atlantis hotel in Paradise Island near Nassau, Bahamas
Getty Images
The clear sea in Bequia is one of the best kept secrets of The Caribbean
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Negril is home to a seven-mile stretch of beach
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Speyside in Tobago is home to a diverse array of marine life
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Valley Church Beach is one of the most beautiful spots in Antigua
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Bavaro Beach has plenty of shops and bars for visitors
Getty Images
The Pitons dominate the skyline on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia
Getty Images
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