Think sun-kissed beaches, colorful birds, tropical fun with amazing culture, delectable cuisine, delicious drinks along with groovy music and you will find yourself thinking about the Caribbean.

Located in the Caribbean Sea, this region consists of a large number of islands, each with their own charm and flavor. Jamaica is known for its hip culture while Aruba is famous for its mesmerizing beaches along with world-class malls and resorts. The Cayman Islands are not just known for being a tax haven; but also a haven for tourists. Dominica's peaks and valleys welcome explorers and lovers alike.

Each one of the Caribbean Islands is a jewel in its own right, so compiling only 10 of them is a difficult task. But the following should definitely be on your list if you are looking for a Caribbean getaway.

1. St. Lucia

Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia — a small and lush tropical island that is still relatively unknown

St. Lucia is the romantic paradise you have always envisioned yourself to be in. Imagine waking up to an orange sunrise on a dazzling white beach. Yes, that place exists and it’s called, St. Lucia. It’s a place where you can spend the night counting the stars as you renew your vows with your loved one. If you like spending time by yourself, don't worry. St. Lucia has plenty of options for you as well. Gros Islet's evening jump-up is one of the best dance parties in the Caribbean region.

The St. Lucia Jazz Festival features some of the best talents and is held around spring time. Nature lovers can test their limits at the Chassin rainforest or the Pitons volcanic plugs. St. Lucia refuses to be boxed into a stereotypical Caribbean vacation, and thus provides something for everybody.

2. Barbados

Barbados

Barbados — considered as the ‘Little England’ of the Caribbean.

Men in cotton trousers, women in dresses, afternoon tea and a love for horse racing- no you are not in England. But the warm sun and the breathtaking tropical views will welcome you to the curious colonial flavor of Barbados, an island nation that is very much like England, but with better weather. The Island got independence in 1966 but the influence of the British is still quite evident, especially in the form of government as well as popular sports like polo and cricket. Barbados is known to produce some of the finest and the strongest rum in the world and Mount Gay Rum that is produced by Mount Gay Distilleries is the oldest surviving brands of rum. They also offer tours of their distillery to visitors, which is a must for anyone who appreciates alcohol.

You can also sway to the beats of Calypso music at an evening party. If you are an art lover, you will never tire of surveying the island's beautiful colonial architecture. Surfers will love to explore the Soup Bowl waters of the isolated eastern coast. And of course, the green waters, lush landscape and sugarcane fields ensure that Barbados is on the checklist of every beach lover.

3. Grenada

Walk into an oil painting of red, yellow and green colors as you step out of St. George's Harbor, considered by many to be the most beautiful harbor in the Caribbean. Listen to the soft murmurs of cerulean waves as they lap up Grand Anse's sands. Once governed by France, Grenada is now a Commonwealth of the UK and portrays a colorful combination of British, French, Caribbean and African cultures.

The River Antoine Rum Distillery's 150-proof rum will change the way you look at alcohol and you may even be tempted to take some home. The spice plantations of the island are abound in vanilla and nutmeg, while Market Square offers tourists hand-crafted souvenirs, fresh produce and packed spices.

4. Bahamas

Bahamas

Bahamas has more than 700 islands that offer fun and adventure to visitors

With its white shores, scuba diving, duty free shops, excursions, it is no surprise to see why the Bahamas are the most sought after islands in the Caribbean. With about 700 islands in total, it might be a little difficult to plan your vacation. However, tourists generally flock to the most popular of these, namely, Nassau in the New Providence Islands.

The second most popular island in the Bahamas is Great Bahama, home to beautiful gardens such as the Garden of the Groves as well as underwater limestone caves. Those who prefer solitude should head to the Outer Islands from Nassau. It is much easier to go off the grid from here. While in the Bahamas, don't forget to enjoy the local fare; johnnycakes, deep-fried conch fritters, and the Bahamian lobster.

5. Aruba

Eagle Beach, Aruba

Eagle Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Aruba

With its pristine white beaches, aquamarine waters and breezy weather, Aruba is one of the most popular beaches in the Caribbean. Own a piece of shade at your nearest divi-divi tree or head out to the many scuba diving hotspots in the area.

The island's underwater visibility makes it a diver's dream. Check out the shipwrecks or study its hidden coral jewels while you are down in the water. Don't forget to taste some delicious Dutch cheese at the south of the island. Aruba is one of the few Caribbean islands that lie outside the Hurricane Belt. This makes it an affordable summer destination, especially for families.

6. Curaçao

Brightly painted Dutch buildings, cerulean waters lapping up picture perfect bays and a beautiful desert landscape- Curaçao is the definition of diversity. A day here is time stopped in an Old World European city. Explorers and nature lovers will have a gala time witnessing the majestic historic settlements and rugged landscapes. Protected reefs provide great shelters for snorkeling and scuba diving.

The gentle trade winds also keep temperatures comfortable all year round, making it an affordable family destination. Curaçao falls outside the Hurricane Belt and remains warm and sunny year round. A summertime trip here can save you almost 50% on flights and hotels as compared to other places in the Caribbean.

7. Jamaica

Jamaica

Jamaica features long white beaches surrounded by clear blue waters

A list of the top Caribbean Islands is incomplete without a mention of Jamaica. Known as the birthplace of the Rastafari Movement, reggae music and James Bond, Jamaica offers a lot more than just sun and the sand as one would expect from an island in the Caribbean

Westernmost Negril is popular for its picturesque beaches and world-class accommodation while golfers prefer Montego Bay thanks to its golf resorts. But it is the secluded north-eastern area of Port Antonio that appeals the most to surfers (Boston Bay Beach), hikers (Blue Mountains) and for rafting (along the river Rio Grande).

8. Caymans

A lot can be said about wealth being stashed in Caymans. But no one can question the indescribable natural wealth stashed in this archipelago of three islands. One look at its gorgeous barrier reefs, the crescent shaped Seven Mile Beach and conch fritters at Captain's Table and it is evident why.

The 200-year old Mastic Trail takes nature lovers through a two million year old woodland and native mangrove swamp where they are surrounded by colorful flora. Stingray City, on the other hand, allows travelers to feed and interact with Atlantic Southern Stingrays thus increasing awareness about this endangered species. Little Cayman and Cayman Brac offer vacationers some of the best solitary hideouts.

9. Dominica

Dominica

Enjoy authentic Caribbean experience at Dominica

Known as the Caribbean's best kept secret, Dominica offers an array of lush tropical forests, towering mountains and twisting rivers. Unlike other Caribbean hotspots, this island does not boast of any resort chain. The traveler is thus left to enjoy an authentic Caribbean experience with budget hotels, downtown dining spots and more.

Dominica's home-brewed German-styled Kubuli Beer is a must while you are on this island. Don't forget to also try authentic affordable crab backs, goat water, fried conch and plantains, and tee-tee-ree, which are small juvenile fishes, from Roseau.

10. St. Martin

St. Martin

St. Martin is the perfect place to enjoy a beach party

How would you like to visit two countries for the price of one? St. Martin is a dually governed island, with its north side controlled by the French government while 16 square miles of the south is a part of the Netherlands Antilles and is governed by the Dutch. They call that area Sint Maarten.

The northern part of the island boasts of party beaches, restaurants, and the fabled French vivre et laisser vivre philosophy. The southern part is a cosmopolitan blend of bars, clubs and casinos. French is the official language on the northern side while Dutch is the official language on the southern side, but don't worry, both sides speak English.

Related: Seven Best Places To Visit During A Caribean Holiday | Caribean Islands Political Map


Image credits: Todd NevilleKonstantin Krismer

Published On: Tuesday, April 7th, 2015