Beneath their tropical paradise settings, these islands are home to rich culture and complex histories. Explore archaic ruins, beaches, rain forests and many waterfalls. Relax surrounded by the white-sand beaches and beautiful turquoise waters of the most beautiful islands on earth. Find adventure parasailing or swim with dolphins or just hang out and take a walk on pristine beaches. It's time to explore the many cultures that make up these exotic islands.
The Caribbean's most beautiful island according to some, Jamaica has sugar sand beaches, rivers, waterfalls, and jungle-like Blue Mountains that encourage endless outdoor adventures. Golf, hike, ride horses, snorkel, scuba dive, bird watch, or simply soak up the sun, with a rum drink at hand.
There's so much to do here - sightseeing in Old San Juan, golf, dining, shopping, gambling - that vacationers momentarily forget Puerto Rico's 272 miles of Caribbean coastline and great beaches. This U.S. commonwealth is easy to reach and passports are not required of U.S. citizens.
Sunny beaches ring this 700-island nation. From lively Nassau/Paradise Island, bustling with elegant resorts, glitzy casinos, duty-free shopping, activities for kids, and sports of all kinds, to the quiet Out Islands, the Bahamas are among the Caribbean's most popular vacation destinations.
Turks and Caicos
Comprised of some 40 small islands, Turks and Caicos attract scuba divers, snorkelers, swimmers, and sportsfishing enthusiasts. The 200-mile-long coral reef - the world's third largest - draws visitors to the archipelago's magnificent Caribbean underwater world, while top-of-the-line hotels pamper them on land.
Whether your passion is golf, tennis, history, spas, horseback riding on the beach or through sugar cane fields; snorkeling, or even mountain climbing, you can pursue it here. And that's not all: Baseball fans can catch the pros practicing from October to January, and polo season lasts till June.
U.S. Virgin Islands
A superlative shopping destination, the USVI also boasts two of the ten top beaches in the United States, according to a recent survey. Vacationers can explore hidden coves, hike through tropical forests, visit historic towns with well-preserved architecture, and play on championship golf courses.
Emerald isle of the Caribbean, St. Lucia is home to the verdant Piton Mountains, a tropical rainforest, a waterfall that changes colors, and a drive-in volcano. In addition to these natural attractions, the island beckons visitors to beaches, reefs, markets, and the annual St. Lucia Jazz Festival.
It's always tee time on Bermuda, with more golf courses per square mile than any other country. Well-manicured, well-heeled, and well-mannered, this British territory 600 miles off the coast of North Carolina also appeals to sophisticated visitors who like sun, swimming, and sailing in a safe haven.
Expect balmy weather, beautiful beaches, and a pronounced British accent in Barbados, home to some of the Caribbean's poshest resorts. Its varied landscape, well worth exploring, includes a wildlife preserve, botanical gardens, the craggy east coast, and shopper-friendly Bridgetown, the capital.
Combining the charm of a traditional Dutch village with the energy of Latin America, Aruba is a warm and welcoming island. Picturesque, palm-fringed beaches along the southwestern coastline, shipwreck diving, snorkeling, casinos, golf, historic gold mines, and shopping are among Aruba's highlights.
Antigua and Barbuda
Warm waters, gentle currents, and superb undersea visibility in Antigua's coral reefs make it a magnet for swimmers and sailors, snorkelers and scuba divers. English Harbour, where Admiral Nelson led the British Navy in 1784, and the restored Nelson's Dockyard National Park, are popular attractions.
Once the discreet hideaway of Rothschilds and Rockefellers, St. Barts today is a favorite haunt of celebrity rockers, actors, and other high-profile types from December through April. French in attitude and accent, the island offers 14 unspoiled ultra-clean beaches where topless bathing is popular.
Both beginners and experienced scuba divers agree: the Cayman Islands' coral reefs offer some of world's best locales for viewing underwater life and sunken ships. In total, the Cayman Islands contain some 250 dive sites. Clear, shallow waters off Seven Mile Beach are also ideal for snorkeling.
Leave the crowds behind. There's plenty of room to stretch out on Anguilla's expansive beaches, soft as powder and nearly as white. This former British colony east of Puerto Rico treats visitors royally: You'll find three of the Caribbean's most exclusive resorts here, plus cuisine to gratify gourmets.
St. Kitts and Nevis
Quiet and unspoiled, these tiny islands have an annual temperature of 79 degrees and low humidity. Constant tradewinds make them a favorite destination for windsurfers. Nature lovers, beach-goers, golfers, scuba divers, deep-sea anglers, climbers, and casino fans can also find plenty to do here.
St. Martin and St. Maarten
More than 350 years have passed since France and the Netherlands agreed to co-exist on this 37-square-mile island. The southern half (Sint Maarten) belongs to the Dutch, and is more touristy than the Gallic side. Crossing the border between the two is effortless, and both boast fine beaches.
British Virgin Islands
Sixty small, emerald-hued islands surrounded by the topaz-blue Caribbean comprise the British Virgin Islands. A favorite destination of the yachting crowd, the BVI's flawless beaches are virtually deserted during the day, yet tiny crowds gather nightly for rum and relaxation at waterfront bars.
With dozens of white sand beaches and stunning coral reefs, Curacao is ideal for sun worshipers and divers in search of tropical fish and marine life. Balmy evenings and casino action provide the perfect conditions for an exciting nightlife, and year-round sunshine and shopping complete the picture.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Sailors aren't the only ones who set course for Grenada and the Grenadines in the former British Windward Islands. Turquoise coves formed by jagged coastlines have secluded beaches that delight swimmers and snorkelers. Tropical nature reserves offer sanctuary to hikers, birdwatchers, and wildlife.
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