Where to Travel Off-the-Track in the Caribbean
There are arguably two types of travelers, those seeking adventure and those looking for relaxation, and yet both can find the ultimate bliss amongst the islands of the Caribbean. Warm sun, white sand, crystalline water, and verdant rain forest combine to meet absolutely any need a traveler could have.
Unfortunately, most people have discovered the idylls of the Caribbean, making many of the islands popular (read: densely crowded) tourist spots. Fortunately, these crowded places are far from the only worthwhile destination in the West Indies.
The 10 most visited islands in the Caribbean, including Cuba, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, and more, account for more than 81 percent of visitor traffic to the region, which means that the remaining 22 Caribbean islands will feel utterly empty — true tropical paradises. If you are looking for Caribbean sand and sun without the hassle of other vacationers, consider the following under-appreciated yet absolutely enchanting islands.
Discovered way back in 1493 when Columbus first landed in the New World, the island of Marie-Gallant (named after one of Columbus’s ships) is one of the liveliest members of the Guadalupe archipelago. Suffused with the flair of the French West Indies, the locals may seem laissez-faire while the sun is up, but at night, invigorated by rousing piano music and local rum, the nightclubs are absolutely hopping.
During the days that follow, travelers can rest on sublime beaches, wander fresh farmers markets, or explore the island’s lagoons replete with coral reefs.
2. Parrot Cay Island
Turks and Caicos may be one of the more popular destinations in the Caribbean, but not every island in the nation is bustling with resort tourist traffic. Parrot Cay Island is a private island in Turks and Caicos, meaning the number of people admitted onshore is restricted to an elite few.
This allows Parrot Cay to remain an utterly pristine example of Caribbean beauty — and it all but ensures relaxing solitude for the duration of travelers’ stays. Interruptions are few and far between on Parrot Cay, which is why Turks and Caicos landed a coveted spot on Flight.com’s most romantic tropical beaches.
All travelers to Grenada will tell you that the most beautiful port in the Caribbean isn’t in the Bahamas or the U.S. Virgin Islands — it is the gemstone-green, crystal blue, and blazing reds, and sunny yellows of St. George. The colors are bright and clear in the tropical sunlight, and the city is quiet enough to hear the lapping waves and whistling breeze, as the country garners less than half a percent of the Caribbean’s tourist traffic. This warm, comfortable island is exactly what most people want when they dream of a Caribbean vacation — they just don’t know it until they see it.
Known as the “isle of spice,” Grenada is full of plantations for aromatic seasonings, like vanilla, nutmeg, and cardamom, among others, and travelers can smell the delicious spices everywhere they go. In addition to tours of spice plantations, rum distilleries, and chocolate companies, visitors can explore the Grand Etang National Park or scuba dive through any of 30 shipwrecks and coral reefs just offshore.
4. Rosario Islands
Just a short boat ride from Cartagena, Colombia’s humming Caribbean hot spot, the Rosario Islands offer a quiet, natural environment ideal for nature enthusiasts and outdoor explorers. The Rosario Islands are an archipelago of 30 keys, which are protected as part of the Corales Islas del Rosario Natural National Park. This park contains more than 4,500 square miles of delicate, endangered aquatic habitats, including reefs, sea grasses, and mangroves. The park welcomes snorkelers and scuba divers, who flock to the islands for the superb visions of marine life, but landlubbers can sightsee on foot, as well.
Just a couple decades ago, Montserrat boasted a lavish reputation as a haven for the rich and famous, but when a supposedly dormant volcano buried the island’s capital city under a layer of ash and lava, locals fled to neighboring isles and the travel industry ceased completely.
Today, instead of being a luxurious resort island like dozens of other Caribbean countries, Montserrat has reestablished itself in the traveler’s consciousness as an outdoors-lover’s dream. The island is now a nature sanctuary, the verdant rainforest lives up to the country’s moniker of “the Caribbean’s Emerald Isle.” Visitors can hike through the hills to the still-smoking volcano, tour the desiccated capital city, or dive off the coastlines into stunning oceans.