5 Under-the-Radar Caribbean Destinations
Heading to the Caribbean on vacation might seem like an obvious, almost cliched, choice. There are, however, plenty of lesser known islands that cater to just about any kind of traveler. And while the Caribbean suffered ample damage following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, a fair number of these islands are back up and running (if they suffered damage at all). So whether you’re looking to spend your days sunbathing on a black-sand beach, exploring cultural sites, hiking or diving, we’ve rounded up some of the best, less frequented Caribbean island getaways.
Martinique, Lesser Antilles
For a mix of trekking, beaches and cultural sites, Martinique is your answer. This Lesser Antilles island, located just north of St. Lucia, offers a blend of French and West Indian culture. Head southwest on the island and pay a visit to the chilling Anse Cafard Slave Memorial. These 20 white stone statues pay tribute to the slaves who died in the cargo hold of a ship that crashed into Diamond Rock Mountain in 1830. Other attractions include the beheaded statue of Empress Josephine and the Schoelcher Library (best known for its architecture), both located in Fort-de-France, and the rum distillery, Habitation Clement. If, however, you’re simply in the market for a vacation spent soaking up the sun, consider heading to one of Martinique’s many beaches, from Anse Turin (which offers great views of the volcanic mountain of Montagne Pelee, which more adventurous travelers can trek if they choose) to the black-sand beach of Anse Noire.
If spices are your thing, add the island nation of Grenada (also dubbed the Spice Island) to your list of Caribbean destinations. Spice aficionados will want to book into one of the many spice tours available. The island is perhaps best known for its nutmeg production, producing roughly 20 percent of the world’s stock, so a stop off at the Nutmeg Processing Cooperative, located in Gouyave, is a must. Meanwhile, soak up the sun on the silky white sands of Grand Anse Beach. Located on the southwestern edge of Grenada, this beach is an ideal spot to take in views of turquoise-colored waters while enjoying a drink (or two) at one of the many beach bars. Divers can enjoy a day out exploring British artist Jason deCaires Taylor’s Underwater Sculpture Park. The site currently comprises 80 works of art, all located north of St. George’s in Moliniere Bay.
Saba, Lesser Antilles
If laying on a beach for days on end isn’t your idea of the perfect vacation, but you’re still keen to visit the Caribbean, the Netherlands municipality of Saba has you covered. Located to the east of the U.S. Virgin Islands, this 5-square-mile volcanic island is best known for its trekking and diving opportunities. Spend your time exploring the nearly 30 dive sights in Saba Marine Park, which surrounds the island — from the Third Encounter, which is the location of the 180-foot rocky spire known as the Eye of the Needle, to Diamond Rock and David’s Dropoff. Thanks to the island’s volcanic nature, visitors can expect dramatic, plunging cliffs, while healthy reefs support an abundance of marine life. Back on land, trekkers will want to lace up their hiking boots and tackle the island’s highest point, Mt. Scenery. This 2,877-foot volcanic mountain features a variety of flora and fauna, though its highest points are often shrouded in clouds. If you prefer less demanding hikes, consider exploring the tide pools at Flat Point.
Canouan, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
For travelers seeking that idyllic beach holiday, one with crystal-clear waters gently lapping against white sandy beaches, Canouan should be your next vacation destination. This 3.5-mile island, located in of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines archipelago, is home to a number of 5-star hotels, opulent spas and a championship golf course. While you certainly could spend your days simply lounging on the talcum-powder-like beaches with a drink in hand, there’s plenty of other activities to enjoy. Head to the Jim Fazio golf course, located on the sprawling grounds of the Canouan Resort, for a round of 18 holes with a few friends. If time on the water is more your speed, book a sailing tour and spend the day exploring the surrounding Grenadines. And for the more get-up-and-go types, consider hitting the trails and trekking up Mount Royal, the highest point on the island, for spectacular views of the southern Grenadines.
Nevis, St. Kitts and Nevis
Fans of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” will want to head to the island of Nevis, the birthplace of the play’s Founding Father namesake. The smaller, southern island of the nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis offers 36 square miles for visitors to casually explore, though you won’t find kitschy “Hamilton” merchandise forcibly touted. In the island’s capital of Charlestown, visitors will, instead, find impressively maintained British colonial buildings dating back to the 17th century. The capital is also home to the quaint Alexander Hamilton museum (also named the Museum of Nevis History). Meanwhile, Nevis’ crystal-clear waters make for ideal snorkeling opportunities. Visitors can simply head to the many snorkeling sites around the island -- from Pinney’s Beach to Newcastle Beach -- or for a longer excursion, book a catamaran cruise that will take you to various snorkeling sites and secluded beaches.
Ashley Bess is an editor turned freelancer writer who describes herself as short, opinionated, recently repatriated, lover of gin and travel and with a head full of useless song lyrics and movie quotes.