Travel Destinations

10 Caribbean Islands You May Not Have Heard Of


Jamaica is synonymous with jerk. St. Thomas tops the cruise ship stops. Even the little Grenadine island of Mustique has made headlines as a second home for the rich and famous, from the UK’s Princess Margaret to Mick Jagger, Tommy Hilfiger and Bryan Adams. However, with some 7,000 islands, islets and cays making up the 2,000-mile-long Caribbean, you find a treasure trove of off-the- beaten-track destinations that may not ring a bell but are definitely ready for a visit.

Culebra - Flamenco Beach - Credit Dean Barnes
Culebra - Flamenco Beach - Credit Dean Barnes


Dance to the sound of the surf on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Flamenco Beach, a 1.5-mile crescent of white sand on the 11-square-mile island’s Northshore is a spectacular work of natural art. The shallow reef- protected bay is ideal for swimming, the tree- lined shore hosts tent camping and the adjacent Culebra National Wildlife Refuge is a seabird lover’s paradise. One funky quirk is the old rusting Sherman tanks. Culebra, like its sibling island of Vieques, was once used for weapons testing by the U.S. Navy. The one town, Dewey, is folksy friendly with guest houses, and bars and restaurants that come alive with music after sunset. It’s a 10-minute flight or 45-minute ferry from Puerto Rico’s mainland town of Fajardo.


Called the “fourth” U.S. Virgin Island, after St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John, this three-fourths of a square mile isle became an official Virgin in 1996 when the U.S. government transferred it to territorial control. Take a 10-minute ferry ride to Phillips Landing where a short walk or drive in a rental golf cart over the hill ends at the arc-shaped Honeymoon Beach. A swim and lunch at Heidi’s Honeymoon Grill or Dinghy’s Beach Bar make it a memorable day trip from St. Thomas. The sunset here is spectacular and featured in a scene with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. History buffs can venture farther afield in this residential community to see the ruins of World War II-built Fort Segarra.

Anegada BVI by Caribbean Travel Organization


Conch out on this 15-square-mile sandbar-like isle. Nicknamed the “drowned island,” this farthest east of the British Virgin Islands is an hour’s ferry ride or 15-minute flight from the territory’s main hub in Tortola. From here, there’s nothing across the Atlantic Ocean until the Cape Verde Islands and Africa beyond. Top to-dos are strolling miles of white sand beaches and snorkeling or scuba diving on marine life-filled Horseshoe Reef, the fourth largest barrier reef in the world. Conch Island sits on the reef at the island’s far end. Eons of fishermen cleaning conch and discarding the shells have created this manmade octopus-shaped atoll with ocean-filled pools between the tenacles of shells. Conch and lobster star on the menus of Anegada’s handful of beachfront bars and restaurants. Try stewed conch, conch ceviche and conch fritters.


Experience the thrill of the Quill on this Netherlands Antilles island that sits northwest of St. Kitts-Nevis and southeast of Saba. The Quill, a dormant volcano nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, is the second-highest mountain in the Netherlands and towers over this 12-square-mile island called Statia for short. Explore several hiking trails, with the most popular being the 2.8-mile round-trip Quill Trail to the crater’s rim. From here, follow the Panorama Point Trail for a picture postcard view. Or take the steep step-marked Crater Trail into the cone and experience the lush rainforest. Trail maps are available from the St. Eustatius Tourism Development Foundation. Black sand beaches, historic ruins and forts, and quaint lodgings and restaurants make for a delightful stay.


Celebrities and celebrated sea birds are among Antigua’s sister island’s claims to fame. The UK’s Princess Diana vacationed at the exclusive K-Club in the ‘90s, and today actor Robert Di Niro, with Australian billionaire James Packer, is bringing the hurricane-hit property back to life as Nobu Barbuda. The upscale resort sits on the pink-white sands of the renamed Princess Diana Beach. North in the Codrington Lagoon is the largest colony of frigate birds in the Western Hemisphere. Numbers reach nearly 100,000, and it’s a magnificent sight to these three-foot-tall birds, especially the males with their bright red gullets, while on a guided boat tour. It’s a 30-minute flight in a seven-seater plane to the small airstrip on Barbuda, or 90-minutes one-way by ferry.

Marie Galante - Credit Aurelien Brusini
Marie Galante - Credit Aurelien Brusini


It’s a sweet treat to visit this 60-square-mile island, owned by France and located 15 miles southeast of Guadeloupe. For one, the name itself “La galette” means pancake, due to the land’s flat terrain and circular shape. Secondly, instead of hiring a taxi, take an ox cart ride to the beach. Like yesteryear, these continue to transport cut cane stalks today. A mile from the town of Grand Bourg is the two-century-old castle-like Château Murat, where a museum shows the history of sugar and rum. Third, sample this sugar in a spirited Ti Punch, preferably at sunset on the porch at Chez Henri’s in Saint-Louis. A hydrofoil ferry makes the trip in 50 minutes from Guadeloupe, while a puddle-jumper flight is only 15 minutes. Brush up on your French before visiting.


Nature and nurture combine on this three-square-mile island, which is part of St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Residents, who not long ago were outnumbered by the turtles that gave the island its ancient Amerindian name, only received residential electricity and running water in the early 1990s. Now, with the recent opening of the five-star Mandarin Oriental Canouan, with its private jet strip, mega-million-dollar marina, and butler-equipped luxury villas and suites, it is billionaires who may soon exceed the island’s shelled critter population. Go natural for a swim off Charlestown Bay Beach or get nurtured with signature spa treatments at the Mandarin.

La Desirade
La Desirade by Aurelien Brusini


Have a whale of a time in this three-in-one French archipelago 15 miles east of Guadeloupe. Full-day sightseeing trips launch from Port de la Désirade en route to the uninhabited duo of Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas 10 miles south. These are part of the Petite Terre Islands National Nature Reserve. Humpback whales swim from February to May, and sperm whales are year-round. Back on La Désirade, white sand beaches rimmed by coral reefs create great snorkeling. Fifi Beach is a don’t-miss with its palm-lined shore equipped with picnic tables and nearby sea-filled lagoon. The only way to get here is a 45-minute ferry ride from the town of Saint- François, Guadeloupe. Parler français is a plus!


Relive a Swiss Family Robinson fantasy on Trinidad’s sister island. Situated 19 miles to the east, which translates to 25 minutes by plane or 3 hours by ferry from Trinidad’s capital of Port of Spain, Tobago is where Disney filmed its 1960s shipwrecked family classic. Visit Pigeon Point Beach, with its iconic thatch-roofed jetty and nearby glass bottom boat tours, to see where the Robinson’s two sons, Fritz and Ernst, filmed raft scenes. Inland, waterfall storylines were shot at the Craig Hall Waterfall, where today concrete steps lead to seats with a full view of the falls. Richmond Bay, to the east, served as the movie’s main set. The beach remains, but the west coast’s white sands in Englishman’s Bay, Castara, and Parlatuvier are better for swimming and Swiss Family daydreaming.

Carriacou by Grenada Tourism Authority


Beaches and boats are big draws to Grenada’s 13-square-mile sister, located 90 minutes by ferry or 20 minutes by air to the north. Anse La Roche is an idyllic stretch of soft sand protected by cliffs that offers a secluded beauty both for people and the sea turtles that nest here. Water taxis leave from Hillsborough to Sandy Island, where the reef off the beach is a snorkeler’s dream. The Carriacou Regatta Festival happens in early August, featuring hand-crafted Carriacou sloops, which were cargo workhorses of an earlier era and range from 30’ to 40’-plus in length with a half dozen crew to race. Onshore, locals and visitors alike can participate in the festival’s donkey racing, greasy pole competitions, and beach parties complete with food and drink.

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