Beauty may be subjective, but anyone would agree the Caribbean is full of beautiful places. So choosing the 12 prettiest islands in the Caribbean certainly leaves you spoilt for choice.
From the delights of St. Lucia, with its distinctive Pitons mountains, to the wonders of Grand Cayman’s coral reefs, there is beauty all around. The cooling rivers and waterfalls of Jamaica, or the rainforests of Puerto Rico are equally lovely.
The other thing these islands all have in common is beaches with turquoise waters, golden sands, and balmy weather. No wonder the very word “Caribbean” conjures up thoughts of paradise—an earthly delight to be enjoyed by all.
Puerto Rico is a beautiful island with the added bonus of rich culture, busy shopping, and nightlife. Travel the coastline or the interior, and you’ll find many delights.
First, take the time to appreciate the beauty of Old San Juan. This historic area of cobbled streets, colorful buildings, and impressive forts is great to explore on foot.
Snorkelers or surfers are spoiled with choice among Puerto Rico’s lovely beaches. Playa El Escambrón, on the outskirts of San Juan, is popular with both.
Offshore islands such as Culebra and Vieques have quiet beaches and clear water. The Bioluminescent Bay in Vieques is a must-see for any visitor.
In the El Yunque National Forest, you can find unexpected peace, and beauty, amid its natural wonders. Enjoy one of Puerto Rico’s best hikes, swim in a waterfall, or just listen to the coqui frogs that are a symbol of the island.
St. Kitts & Nevis
The travel posters for St. Kitts & Nevis would make anyone long to visit this charming island. Images of beautiful beaches, historic plantation houses, and tropical greenery capture a lush paradise.
The reality does not disappoint, from the charms of Romney Manor to the delights of Frigate Bay’s two beaches. Hop aboard the St. Kitts Scenic Railway to take it all in at leisure.
Photographers will also delight in Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its panoramic views of the island and out to the Caribbean are spectacular.
There are more wonderful views at Mount Liamuiga, a dormant volcano that dominates the island. Hiking to the top is one of the best things to do in St. Kitts, but you can also just enjoy a more distant view from the black sands of Dieppe Bay.
If time allows, take a boat to visit the tiny island of Nevis. It brings to life that saying about the best things in life coming in small packages.
Barbados would make any list of the prettiest islands in the Caribbean just for its beaches. Some visitors never even leave the golden sands of the western side of the island to explore the wilder eastern Atlantic coast.
At Carlisle Bay, you can understand why. It has everything you want or need in a beach: soft sands, warm waters, lively bars, plenty of people-watching, and some of the best snorkeling in Barbados.
Surfers looking for more wave action head eastward to beaches such as Bathsheba, with its big breaks and rugged rocks. Another popular beach in Barbados is Crane Beach on the southern shore, famous for its pink sands, and a photographer’s delight.
Photographers also enjoy the underground rock formations in Harrison’s Cave. Awesome stalactites, stalagmites, and crystallized formations have a beauty all of their own.
At Animal Flower Cave, on the northern tip of the island, you’ll find a sea cave you can swim inside. However, the views from above of the waves pounding against the rocks are worth the visit alone.
The Pitons—twin volcanic peaks risen from thick, green forest—are icons of St. Lucia. If you have time, the hike to the top of either will show off this prettiest of Caribbean islands.
If you’ve come to relax, however, you’ll enjoy some beautiful beaches in St. Lucia. Picturesque Anse Chastanet and Reduit are among the most popular, for good reason.
Anse Chastanet is on the quieter southern coast, near to the island’s hot springs, and Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens. The Pitons loom over this picturesque, curving bay, where snorkeling is a delight.
Reduit Beach is much livelier, but its beauty is undimmed by its popularity. Its golden sands and clear waters are perfect for swimming and sunbathing.
At the other side of Rodney Bay is Pigeon Island National Park, where you can take in grand views of this side of the island. Hiking trails lead you from one lovely viewing point to an even lovelier one.
Jamaica has been a star of the movies for so long that its beauties need little introduction. Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios may well be the most famous, with a spectacular drop that cascades over a series of steps straight into the Caribbean.
The limestone from which the waterfalls have carved out the falls also gives rise to the nearby Blue Hole, one of the best places to visit in Jamaica. You can enjoy its beauty while hiking, or swimming amid the tropical greenery.
This is also the setting for raft or kayak trips along the White River. Named for the white limestone rocks on the riverbed, it’s also a place to swim or hike.
Of course, you can’t visit Jamaica without spending time on Negril’s Seven Mile Beach. This Jamaican beach is an archetypal Caribbean beach of soft white sand and crystal-clear waters.
To take a break from the sun, take a tour of the Green Grotto Caves. Once a refuge for runaway slaves, they are famed for their rock formations and mesmerizing underground lake.
The French-Caribbean history of Martinique is seen at its height in the island’s “habitations” or plantations. Habitation Latouche, in Le Prêcheur, is a colonial-style mansion, with lush gardens.
Habitation Clément, in Le François, has a beautiful Creole-style mansion, with lovely botanical gardens. Once a rum distillery, it is now a cultural center hosting art exhibitions and other events.
There are more glimpses of Martinque’s troubled past in the ruins of Saint-Pierre. The former capital—once known as the “Paris of the Caribbean”—was destroyed by an eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902.
You can visit the villain of the piece by hiking to the summit of Mount Pelée. It’s a tough climb, but the views take in most of Martinique’s coastline and several neighboring islands.
Much less strenuous is a stroll through Jardin de Balata, which showcases many tropical orchids and exotic palms. Take to the elevated walkways for picturesque views of the many trees and flowers.
Grand Cayman is known for its diving and most visitors at the very least enjoy some snorkeling. The highlight for many is visiting Stingray City, where you can swim with these gentle creatures in complete safety.
The amazingly clear waters of Grand Cayman leave every swimmer in awe. They start right just north of George Town at the famed Seven Mile Beach.
One of the most famous beaches in the Caribbean, the beach has powdery white sands and turquoise waters. Despite being popular for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports, it’s long enough to stay uncrowded.
Escape the sun in the shady pathways of Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, one of the best things to do in Grand Cayman. Its themed gardens include an Orchid Boardwalk, while the Blue Iguana Recovery Program is another highlight.
There are more gardens at Pedro St. James National Historic Site. This site also features a restored mansion that enjoys panoramic views of the Caribbean.
The old Dutch architecture of Oranjestad makes for an unexpected sight in the Caribbean sunshine. However, the bright colors make the buildings a perfect fit for the waterfront of Aruba’s capital city.
Away from town, Aruba’s beaches are spectacular. Eagle Beach, with its soft white sands, and two windworn Fofoti trees, is one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean.
Equally lovely, but much busier, is Palm Beach, named for the shady trees lining it. It’s packed with yachts, resorts, and bars as well.
If you ever tire of the beaches, explore the desert, cacti, hills, and caves of Arikok National Park, one of the best places to visit in Aruba. A highlight is swimming in the Conchi natural rock pool as waves crash ashore nearby.
There are sweeping views of the sea at the California Lighthouse on the northern coast. Named for a ship that sank nearby in 1891, the lighthouse enjoys amazing sunsets.
The beauty of Dominica starts at Champagne Beach, only 15 minutes from the capital of Roseau. Swim or snorkel in underwater thermal springs that support the hypnotic sponges of the unique Champagne Reef.
Keep going south and you reach Scotts Head, a pretty village with a dramatic promontory. Here you enjoy sweeping views of the Caribbean Sea meeting the Atlantic Ocean.
The island’s interior is equally rich in sights. At the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Morne Trois Pitons National Park, you’ll find a rich supply of hikes, waterfalls, and panoramas.
The most famous falls in the park are near the village of Trafalgar. These two falls are reached by a short hike, with a dip in a natural hot spring as a reward.
If you enjoy natural pools, then visiting the Emerald Pool in the north of the park is another unmissable thing to do in Dominica. Deep within the rainforest, this is fed by a lovely cascade in the most picturesque of settings.
Grand Etang National Park on Grenada is one of those sights you can scarcely believe even when in the midst of it. Several 2,000-foot-high peaks, their slopes covered in lush vegetation form the heart of this hiker’s paradise.
Below the spectacular Grand Etang Lake is Annandale Falls, a natural wonder set in a Forest Park. Some 30 minutes’ drive away you can enjoy a cooling dip at Concord Waterfalls.
Among Grenada’s many beaches, Grand Anse stands out for its palm-lined beauty. Only 20 minutes from Saint George’s port, it’s perfect for swimming or sunbathing, and has great views of the island’s coast
Anyone who loves diving or snorkeling will want to see Grenada’s Underwater Sculpture Park in Moliniere Bay. Its eerily beautiful underwater statues are now a rich habitat for marine life.
British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands are perfect slices of the paradise you come to the Caribbean to find. From the moment you set foot in the capital Road Town, on Tortola, you know you are somewhere special.
Find your way to nearby Cane Garden Bay and the number of yachts calling in tells you this is one of the island’s finest beaches. Land, sand, sea, and sun combine into one of the prettiest vistas in the Caribbean.
A sailing trip is essential to see more of the islands. On Virgin Gorda, you will want to see Devil’s Bay—reached by a short hike through scenic landscapes.
Devil’s Bay is part of The Baths, a name given to a unique geological formation of massive granite boulders, pools, and grottos. Swim, paddle, or just stroll around in wonder.
Near to Tortola is Jost Van Dyke, one of the best Virgin Islands to visit to find amazing beaches, and clear waters. Its laid-back island atmosphere is almost as much of an appeal as its natural beauty.
Escape even more on Norman Island, where snorkeling at “the Caves” is a must-do. The island may have inspired the novel Treasure Island, and you will understand why when you see it.
Among the natural wonders of Tobago, Argyle Waterfalls stand out for their setting amid rich rainforest. The hike delivers breathtaking views, with a dip in the pools afterward to cool down.
If the beach is a priority, head instead to Mt. Irvine Bay Beach. Known for its gentle waves (and nearby golf course), this is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.
Uninhabited Little Tobago Island (also called Bird of Paradise Island), is a sanctuary for bird and marine life. Birdwatchers will love the many tropical species, while snorkelers will also be in their element among its reefs.
Visiting Buccoo Reef is one of the best things to do in Tobago for snorkelers and swimmers. You can even see the coral reefs, and shoals of fish, on glass-bottom boat tours.
Fort King George is a historic site overlooking the island’s capital of Scarborough. Now also home to the Tobago Museum, it’s a handsome structure, with great views.
Has this list of the 12 prettiest Caribbean islands tempted you to visit some of them, of not all? Then browse our Caribbean cruises to find the perfect getaway for you and your loved ones.