It's a problem nobody really minds having, but picking a Caribbean island for your vacation can be tough. The dozens of islands scattered throughout the Caribbean Sea offer diverse experiences for visitors; from diving to fine dining, or just lying on the beach all day. Here are a few tips to make sure that you find what you are looking for on your next Caribbean getaway.
You Just Want to Get Away
You can get to Bermuda from a number of East Coast cities, including New York, in just a few hours. Though not technically in the Caribbean (the island is in the Atlantic Ocean), Bermuda is often lumped in with other Caribbean islands, and offers visitors many of the same experiences. You'll find crystal-clear waters and swaying palm trees, with the added bonus of pink sand beaches and round-trip fares on JetBlue that cost under $350. If you plan to spend three nights or more on the islands, you can take advantage of Bermuda Tourism's So Much More offer, which includes a $200 resort credit at participating hotels.
You Don't Have a Passport
Fortunately for Americans, traveling to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands doesn't require a passport or an enormous departure from the comforts of home. In Puerto Rico, you can mix up lazy days on the beach with with the cultural attractions of Old San Juan and the historic forts. In the USVI, you can choose from the lush, green St. John; the off-the-beaten path St. Croix, or the big resorts of more commercialized St. Thomas. The USVI department of tourism is running its own promotion right now, offering savings of $500 on a stay of five nights or more.
You're a Nature Lover
Known as "the Nature Isle," Dominica boasts pristine rainforests, valleys, and waterfalls. Opportunities for hikers abound, including treks though the mountainous 17,000-acre Morne Trois Pitons National Park, and a day-long hike to Boiling Lake, which culminates in one of the world's largest hot springs. Something you won't find much of in Dominica, however, is pretty beaches. So this destination is more for active types, rather than those who'd rather stretch out on the beach.
You Want a Low-Key Escape
You can't get much more laid back than Jamaica. In Negril, on the west coast, you can spend your days blissed out on the soft sand and in the gentle waters of Seven Mile Beach before heading to a bar for a Dirty Banana in the evening. Of course, there's plenty of activities on offer too (scuba diving, cruising, banana plantation tours), but you'll be excused for just taking it easy.
You're a Francophile
The most Gallic of the Caribbean islands, Martinique, is an enticing blend of French and Caribbean culture. As well as the typically Caribbean beaches, waterfalls, and rainforests, you can indulge in the more sophisticated pleasures of shopping and gourmet dining in the capital, Fort-de-France.
You're Looking for Luxury
St. Lucia offers lush mountain scenery, an interior thick with rainforest, and wide white-sand beaches, but if you just want to spoil yourself in a beautiful hotel, there's plenty of that too. Jade Mountain is set within a 600-acre estate with two soft-sand beaches and room categories that include infinity pool sanctuaries. Viceroy's Sugar Beach resort offers secluded hideaways in its freestanding villas, and is set on a white-sand beach.
You Want to go Diving
Divers are spoiled for choice in the Caribbean. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, you can dive into challenging the Bat Cave, the Japanese garden, and three shipwrecks. The pristine reefs around Bonaire are accessible for less experienced divers; the British Virgin Islands are home to the 1867 wreck of the HMS Rhone, and Grenada is home to the world's first underwater sculpture park.
You Want to Party
With a strong love of music and color, the party never really ends in Trinidad and Tobago. At Carnival time, however, the islands explode with festivities and two days of music, parades, and masquerade parties. If you want to join one of the biggest carnival celebrations in the world, though, you had better make your flight and accommodation bookings well in advance: next year's dates are February 16-17.
For nightlife, St. Maarten, with its casinos, clubs, beach bars, and fine dining, is another good bet. Casino Royale is the island's largest casino and has 21 gaming tables and 410 slot machines.
You Want to Travel in Summer
The lucky "A.B.C." islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao) all lie outside of the hurricane belt and virtually guarantee a storm-free vacation at any time of the year. Trinidad and Tobago, and Grenada also lie outside of the belt but have experienced destructive storms in the past, including 2004's Hurricane Ivan. For the rest of the region, hurricane season runs from June through September and, while you're more likely to find a bargain during those months, you may end up spending a couple of days watching the rain from your hotel room.