The Caribbean – dream of every traveler. Turquoise sea, endless beaches, casual beach bars – who would not like to go there? As the largest German-language travel blog for the Caribbean, I give you here an overview of which islands you must visit, where there are the most beautiful beaches and which insider tips you should not miss under any circumstances. With over 20 islands visited (u.a. Antigua, Barbados Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, San Juan, Curacao) as well as more than 5 years of residence in the Caribbean (Grenada and Dominican Republic) I can help you to realize your dream of a Caribbean vacation. There is not only information on this page, but also many further travel reports, hotel ratings, tips and best-of articles. All in all, there are already more than 175 blogposts about the Caribbean on my travel blog My Travelworld. So come with us into this great world and let the virtual sun shine on your belly already once.
Content of this travel article
- The Caribbean – an overview
- Arrival in the Caribbean
- Ferry connections within the Caribbean
- Flight connections within the Caribbean
- Beach vacations in the Caribbean
- Round trip in the Caribbean
- Island hopping in the Caribbean
- Backpacking in the Caribbean
- Tips, hints and further information
The Caribbean – an overview
Next to the South Seas, the Caribbean is probably the dream of every vacationer. As already indicated, postcard motives, lonely beaches and delicious cocktails without end are waiting here. As a Caribbean expert with more than 5 years of life in the Caribbean and over 20 islands visited, I can tell you: this picture is absolutely true.
But what is the Caribbean at all? I do not want to orientate myself so much on official definitions, because there are different opinions, for example, whether the east coast of Central America belongs to it, to which region one counts the 3 Guyanas (Suriname, Guyana and French Guyana) and whether one orients oneself rather on geographical or cultural points of view?
I do not want to dwell too much on these borderline cases. In the context of the Caribbean, this is only about the Caribbean islands, which are located in the middle of the Caribbean Sea between North and South America – and there are several of them, about 7000 in number. The islands at the east coast of Central America I leave out for the time being, since I could collect no own experiences about this yet.
However, if you want to know more about the Caribbean, there are some geographic terms that are just as important as the white beaches. I would like to briefly list these groupings here:
The best known subdivision in the German-speaking world is probably that between the Greater and Lesser Antilles.
Greater Antilles: Summary of the northern Caribbean, consisting of the "big islands" Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti/Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the small Cayman Islands
Lesser Antilles: All islands and states of the eastern and southern Caribbean (Virgin Islands, St. Maarten and surrounding islands, St. Kitts& Nevis, Antigua& Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao + possibly. Isla Margarita)
The Lesser Antilles in turn are divided into two groups
Leeward Islands, which include all the above mentioned islands from Puerto Rico to Dominica and the
Windward Islands, which are located south of them and reach from Martinique to Trinidad and Tobago. Separate from it are mostly still the
ABC islands which consist of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
Last but not least in connection with the Caribbean also the West Indies often mentioned. While the official term covers the entire Caribbean region, i.e. also the Turks and Caicos, which belong to the Lucayan Islands, as well as Bahamas in the Northern Caribbean, the term of the West Indies used today refers i.d.R. only to the former British colonies, the so-called
British West Indies: u.a. Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua& Barbuda, Trinidad un Tobago etc.
Beyond that there are still the (predominantly historically used) designations of the
French West Indies (Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Martin)
Dutch West Indies (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius)
Danish West Indies (St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix).
Journey to the Caribbean
But enough of the terminology, now it’s time to start planning your trip with tips, recommendations and experiences for your vacation in the Caribbean.
Almost all smaller and larger islands are accessible via international transatlantic flights. While the former British colonies like Antigua, Grenada or St. Lucia mainly offer direct flights from England (British Airways, Virgin Atlantic), Martinique and Guadeloupe are very well connected with France (Air France, Air Caraibes) and the ABC islands are best connected with the Netherlands (KLM, Arkefly). For the islands of the second row, for example Puerto Rico, Barbados or Tobago, Condor is an excellent alternative, which is the first address for the entire Caribbean with its more than 10 destinations with direct flights. For the two big islands of the Caribbean, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, there are almost inexhaustible alternatives of airlines and connections.
Connections via the U.S. can also be an alternative, but due to the time involved, should only be booked if the savings are large enough. For connections with Air France via Paris or British Airways via London, it should also be noted that, depending on the departure airport and flight destination, the airport in Paris (Charles-de-Gaulle> Orly) or. London (Heathrow> Gatwick) must be changed.
A good price for a roundtrip flight to the Caribbean is around 700-800 Euro. The Dominican Republic is usually a little cheaper, as well as the other islands with special promotions of the airlines. The cheapest are often Tuifly Belgium (formerly JetairFly), XL Airways France and partly also Eurowings.
Ferry connections within the Caribbean
As easy as it is to travel to the Caribbean, as difficult it is sometimes to get around in it. A continuous island hopping from north to south over all islands "for a 10er" exists unfortunately only in the boldest dreams. There are only ferry connections between some islands and intra-Caribbean flights are very expensive.
Nevertheless, I would like to give you here a small overview of the available flights and ferries in the Caribbean.
Let’s start with the ferries. Most ferries exist between island groups of 3-4 islands, then there is always a gap between them. These groupings are usually historical or cultural in nature. The most helpful and well-known ferry connections:
Bahamas: due to the countless islands there are also numerous regular ferries in the archipelago of the Bahamas. The Bahamas is also internationally accessible by ferry and has a connection to the USA (Florida).
Dominican Republic – Puerto Rico: there is an international ferry connection between these two countries. However, this is usually only slightly cheaper than a flight, so that the crossing with the ferry from Santo Domingo to San Juan, which currently runs three times a week, is hardly worth it. Finally, on Puerto Rico itself there are domestic ferries to Vieques and Culebra.
Virgin Islands: the Virgin Islands are probably one of the best areas to start island hopping by ferry. Most of the islands, both the British Virgin Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are interconnected by fast ferries several times a day.
St. Maarten and surrounding islands: St. Maarten is the starting point of ferries to as many as three different surrounding islands: St. Barth, Anguilla and Saba. However, especially in the case of St. Barth and Saba also check the airfares, which are not necessarily much more expensive and offer spectacular flying experiences.
Guadeloupe – Dominica – Martinique – St. Lucia: This 4-way combo is one of the most exciting combinations to do an island hopping trip in the Caribbean by ferry. The 4 islands are more or less all the same size, offer exciting discoveries and all have a different character. From Guadeloupe you can also reach the Ile des Saintes and Marie Galante by ferry.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines: The unique island chain of the Grenadines is also connected by ferry. From St. Vincent: You can combine the islands Mustique, Bequia, Canouan, Mayreau and Union Island with different ferries – all small Caribbean paradises on their own.
Grenada: Grenada can also offer a ferry service. With Osprey it goes from St. George’s to the absolutely idyllic Carriacou as well as to the remote Petit Martinique. The islands are also an ideal starting point for tours to the Tobago Cays.
Trinidad and Tobago: Last but not least these two islands also have a common ferry connection. However, since the inter-island flight, with its roughly 24 daily connections, is subsidized by the government and costs only $24, it is definitely advisable to choose this over the ferry.
Of course there are also other ferries to smaller islands, which are not mentioned here.
Air connections within the Caribbean
Between all the archipelagos, where there is no ferry, then only the airplane helps further. Due to the horrendous taxes of the individual island states are very expensive. An average one-way flight between two islands in different states usually costs around $50 to $100 one-way + $50 to $80 in taxes. Connecting flights are correspondingly more expensive. Especially the airport and departure taxes make the tickets very expensive and thus an island hopping in the Caribbean via airplane a quite cost-intensive affair.
Nevertheless, sometimes there is no way around the island planes. Of course there are almost countless small airlines in the Caribbean. For this reason, I would like to mention here at least the most important ones for your travel planning:
Northwest Caribbean – Inter Caribbean Airways: who in Turks& Caicos, you can hardly avoid Inter Caribbean Airways. Originally this was the national carrier of the small British overseas territory, but meanwhile the airline has an attractive flight network between the Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, further islands and of course Turks& Caicos.
Northern Caribbean – Seaborne Airlines& Winair: These two airlines are definitely the top dogs in the Northern Caribbean. While Seaborne Airlines flies mainly from Puerto Rico to the Virgin Islands as well as St. Kitts, the Caribbean offers spectacular views. Serving Maarten and all the surrounding islands, Winair is available from St. Maarten itself from active and serves many islands between Puerto Rico and Dominica.
French Caribbean – Air Caraibes and Air Antilles Express: If you are traveling between Guadeloupe, Martinique, Haiti and French Guyana, you can’t avoid Air Caribes and Air Antilles Express. Both have similar route networks and also connect the former French colonies with other islands and countries.
Lesser Antilles – Liat: Even though Liat is often called "Leaving the Island at AnyTime" because of its delays, this airline is based out of the entire islands of the Lesser Antilles between St. Maarten and Trinidad and Tobago (with the exception of Guadeloupe and Martinique) and the most important means of transportation within the Caribbean. An indication for this are also the 56 flights I did with Liat – some of them you can read in the flight reports I, II, III and IV.
After all, the flights are expensive, but often offer an impressive flying experience as well. On the one hand, most flights are made with small to medium propeller planes, which are rarely seen in Europe. The flight from Grenada to Carriacou, for example, takes place in an 8-seater Twin Otter and between St. Croix and St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands you can fly with a seaplane.
On the other hand, there are always spectacular views to be had, especially on the intra-Caribbean flights. Since the small planes do not fly so high and the scenery with the many small islands in the turquoise water is more than photogenic, you hardly have time on most flights not to look out of the window for a few minutes. You can find some such great views for example in my flight report Liat IV, where I crossed almost the complete Lesser Antilles.
Beach vacation in the Caribbean
Let’s take a look at the different types of vacation in the Caribbean. The most popular type is certainly the classic beach or seaside vacation. 10 hours of flying, transfer to the hotel and then 1 or 2 weeks of sunbathing, tanning and drinking tropical cocktails. Even if this is absolutely not for me and I would be bored after only 2 days, I can of course understand it, especially since the Caribbean offers the best conditions for it.
On the surface, you could say that it doesn’t matter which island you fly to, because whether you’re lounging on beach A, B or C is really the same thing, especially if you’re mainly staying in a hotel.
Well, there are a few possibilities of differentiation. If you are looking for an attractive price-performance ratio, Cuba or the Dominican Republic will be hard to pass by. Although quality tourism has become more popular in recent years, there is still no way around these countries in the Caribbean for the price-conscious traveler.
If you are looking for secluded beaches, you are spoiled for choice, because the Caribbean is teeming with them. It is important that there are as few resorts as possible, or if so, only smaller ones. Here I would recommend Antigua and St. Throwing Lucia into the Ring, both of which have numerous beaches but a manageable number of hotels. Also the Grand Anse Beach on Grenada is an absolute dream and usually not frequented at all.
If you just want to take a Caribbean vacation on a beautiful beach, you’ll be spoiled for choice, as nearly all the islands offer incredibly great stretches. Only Dominica, Saba, Trinidad and St. Vincent are not recommended for a classic beach vacation, because there are mostly only pebble, stone or rocky beaches.
If you want to garnish your beach vacation in the Caribbean with exciting excursions and get to know the country, I can recommend the Dominican Republic, the French islands Guadeloupe and Martinique, Grenada, Tobago (incl. the Caribbean) and the Caribbean Islands. Trinidad as an excursion option) as well as certainly Cuba and Jamaica (neither of which I have yet visited) recommend.
By the way, if you want to know more about trips, tours and excursions in the Caribbean, just check my archives.
More impressions of the beaches of the Caribbean can also be found in my separately published beach blogposts:
– 106 Beaches of the Lesser Antilles
– The top 10 beaches in Grenada
– The most beautiful beaches on Samana
If you ask me for the most beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, I would spontaneously name Bottom Bay Beach and the neighboring Cave Bay Beach on Barbados, Grand Anse Beach on Grenada, Playa Las Canas on Samana in the Dominican Republic as well as the beach at BahIa de las aguilas in the same country and last but not least Darkwood Beach on Antigua.
Round trip in the Caribbean
Even if for many people the islands of the Greater and Lesser Antilles are inseparable from beaches and beach vacations, there are also great opportunities for exciting round trips in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic and Cuba are the first to mention, but Guadeloupe, Jamaica and Puerto Rico also offer great opportunities.
When it comes to (rental) car tours in the Caribbean, there is no way around the Dominican Republic. The island is as diverse as no other country in this region and offers with mountains of up to 3000 meters, countless waterfalls (incl. the highest waterfall in the Caribbean), tropical vegetation, historic old towns, numerous animal species (flamingos, crocodiles, etc.), and many more.), untouched landscapes, outdoor activities such as rafting, canyoning, mountain biking or paragliding as well as almost all imaginable water sports, everything your heart desires. Accordingly, a round trip through the Dominican Republic can be arranged in many different ways – there are no limits to your imagination. You can get some insights into my previous round trips in the country in my travel reports:
– the southwest of the Dominican Republic
– the northwest of the Dominican Republic
– the central mountain range of the Dominican Republic
– Eco-Tour through the Cordillera Septentrional
– the peninsula of Samana
If you need help with your round trip, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment below.
Cuba, of course, is also ideally suited for a round trip thanks to its size and interesting history. Unfortunately I can’t give you my own experiences here as well as for Jamaica. If you want to drive a rental car in the Lesser Antilles, you should take a closer look at Guadeloupe, which offers optimal conditions for a short trip of 5 to 7 days.
Island hopping in the Caribbean
With regard to Guadeloupe we would be at the next form of travel: island hopping. While Cuba and the Dominican Republic, but also Jamaica and Puerto Rico are destinations that offer enough potential for a two-week vacation, this is not the case with the numerous islands of the Lesser Antilles. If you want to be active on islands like Antigua, Dominica, Barbados, Trinidad or Grenada, you can usually get a good overview in 4 to 5 days.
If one speaks about island hopping, one should have above all the flight and ferry connections mentioned at the beginning in the head, because one combines the islands crosswise, it becomes fast very expensive. The following islands or island groups are predestined to be seen in combination with each other:
Bahamas: Although this is only one country, but of course the approximately 30 inhabited islands offer perfect conditions for island hopping. Especially dream beaches are the order of the day here.
Virgin Islands: The Virgin Islands of the USA and the United Kingdom correspond to the cliche of the Caribbean like no other group of islands. Small green (tropical vegetation) and white (beaches) blobs of color are located on a turquoise carpet (sea), most of them within sight, so you can hop perfectly from island to island not only by ferry or plane, but also by yacht. Due to the high price level in the Virgin Islands, this is not a financial piece of cake.
Guadeloupe – Dominica – Martinique: This triumvirate of two French overseas departments and one rather rugged and, above all, incredibly green island is one of the most popular island hopping destinations in the complete Caribbean, thanks in part to the regular ferry service between the islands. If you stay about 4 days on each island, this perfectly complements a varied and intensive two-week Caribbean vacation.
Grenadines: Similar to the Virgin Islands, the southern Caribbean is also a dreamlike area of mini-islands that line up like a string of pearls in the shimmering blue of the ocean. This is about 30 islands that are located between St. The islands of the United States, Vincent and Grenada and the Tobago Cays offer one of the most beautiful snorkeling areas in the Caribbean. The Grenadines can be visited either by ferry or by yacht.
ABC Islands: Another group of islands that are great for island hopping are the ABC islands: Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Even though they all have a Dutch influence due to their colonial times, all 3 have their own character. Curacao scores with its historic old town Willemstad, Aruba is the no. 1 of the three islands in terms of beaches and Bonaire is one of the top diving spots in the Caribbean.
Backpacking in the Caribbean
Another form of travel is backpacking. Who (among my younger readers) doesn’t dream of traveling the Caribbean with just a backpack, visiting the different islands, sleeping on the beach every now and then and checking out the different beach bars with other backpackers?. Well, backpacking in the Caribbean is possible, but not quite as easy as you might imagine.
Who knows me and regularly reads my travel reports here on my travel blog, knows that I am a big fan of backpacking and rarely spend more money than necessary, because I enjoy traveling and luxury hotels or fancy restaurants are just unnecessary consumption for me. Nevertheless, you have to expect a much higher budget in the Caribbean than for example in Southeast Asia. While there a backpacking trip with 20 USD per day is no problem, you should plan in the Caribbean probably rather around 50 USD.
A major factor in determining your budget is how you want to stay overnight or. what type of backpacker you are. To stay cheap in the Caribbean, I think there are four options:
– Camping and staying on the beach (not at all common in the Caribbean and therefore only recommended with a lot of preparation and very limited)
– Couchsurfing (only recommended for those who understand couchsurfing – please don’t use it as a money saving method; but on some islands there are very few couchsurfers anyway)
– Hostels or. cheap guesthouses
– Air BnB
While the first two methods are impractical for the reasons mentioned above, you can of course simply find the cheapest accommodation on each of the islands. However, then you are already at a budget of 50 USD only for the accommodation, because hostels or hostel-like accommodations are only available on some islands, for example in the Dominican Republic, on Guadeloupe, on Puerto Rico or in St. Vincent.
For this reason, it is often worth taking a look at AirBnB (
), because in the meantime a wide range of offers has developed there, with which overnight prices of 20 to 30 USD should be possible on most islands, in the big countries like the Dominican Republic or Cuba even more favorable.
Other costs of living are not cheap either, but can be kept in check with a focus on local and not imported products. With 10 to 15 USD per day you should be able to get by. Public transportation is usually very cheap. You can find some examples in my article about the minibuses in Grenada as well as the bus connections in the Dominican Republic.
For backpacking in the Caribbean I would like to give you some special tips from my own experience:
If you just want to go on a cheap Caribbean vacation with a backpack, I highly recommend the Dominican Republic. There are numerous hostels here, especially in Punta Cana, Santo Domingo, Las Terrenas and Cabarete. Mostly a hostel bed costs around 10 to 15 USD, furthermore the cost of living and transportation is one of the cheapest in the whole Caribbean. The country has enough to offer for a two or three week vacation, see also above in the section of the round trips or in my travel reports I, II, III, IV and V about the Dominican Republic, where you can read some of the highlights.
On St. Vincent there is a great volunteer-run facility, the Richmond Vale Hiking Center. Here you can find cheap accomodation and even exciting tours on the active volcano of La Soufriere. Unfortunately, it is located quite away from the shot, but who has time …
There is also an eco-project on Grenada, but this one is by a local or a local. Zugewanderten. If you like, you can also exchange work for bed here at Crayfish Bay Organic Estate.
If you are looking for hostels in the Lesser Antilles, you can try your luck on Guadeloupe, Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten.
Of course you can also use boats to get around in order to save your travel budget. Either one "hitchhikes" boats (Attention, only for advanced) or one offers here also his hand against a berth. There are possibilities in any case, but due to lack of personal experience I can’t help you here. Once I was lucky enough to meet a yacht owner via Couchsurfing and stay 2 nights on a yacht in the Virgin Islands – an absolute stroke of luck…
Tips, hints and further information
Have you got a good overview? If there are still questions, don’t worry, there are many more information possibilities.
First of all, of course, I would like to give you my own book to the heart lay. It is about the adventure of emigrating and is a good introduction when you visit Grenada and the surrounding islands. You can order it here at Amazon and read a sample (
At Sebastian from Off the Path there is a podcast interview with me (
), which is about island hopping in the Caribbean as well as the special features of the individual islands.
If you are thinking about emigrating to the Caribbean, you can have a look at Janine from Travel the World check out where I did a little interview about living and working in the Caribbean (
On Individualicious I give to Mela an interview about the most exciting insider tips on Grenada (
). However, not all information is up to date, so that you should check some ferries in advance on the Internet or better directly with the providers.
If you are planning a trip to the Caribbean, feel free to contact me as well. As described at the beginning of this article, I have already visited over 20 islands and have been putting together exciting trips for individual travelers in the Caribbean for almost 6 years as part of my work for various tour operators. No matter if you are just looking for a comfortable vacation on the beach, island hopping in the Lesser Antilles or round trips in the Dominican Republic – as an expert for the Caribbean I can surely help you out.
For everything that is still unanswered now, you are welcome to use the comment function here. Maybe you have questions about the culture, the food, the different sights or exciting adventures in the Caribbean – leave me a comment and I will be super happy to add the corresponding info.