Looking for a quiet getaway? At first glance, the Caribbean might not appear to fit the bill. The majority of tourists go to the same handful of islands and island groupings: Aruba, Jamaica, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Barbados, and St. Barts.
Off the beaten path, there are a ton of not-super-touristy islands where you can live out that quintessential Caribbean vacation. If you're planning a trip in the coming weeks or months, be prepared to face inflated prices. Consider these legit ways to earn extra money to help offset your high travel costs.
Providencia Island, Colombia
This cozy island is actually a coral atoll, and the waters surrounding it are called “The Sea of Seven Colors” for their rainbow-hued reefs and green and blue lagoons. The other islands, cays, islets, and reefs in the archipelago are rich in biodiversity and included in the UNESCO-protected Seaflower Biosphere Reserve.
Although part of Colombia, Providencia Island is geographically closer to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It’s unpretentious, and with no direct flights from the mainland, it’s still relatively “undiscovered.”
Vestiges of the past — a 19th-century sugar cane plantation turned museum, windmills, and people traveling via oxcart — mix with wide, golden sand beaches on this tropical island.
Located in the Lesser Antilles of the Eastern Caribbean, Marie-Galante is an overseas department of France. In addition to everything you would expect from a Caribbean island — snorkeling on coral reefs, day trips to surrounding islets — there are rum distilleries and quaint restaurants serving French-Caribbean cuisine.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
This sliver of an island is just off the coast of Cancun and has the same great resorts but without all the chaos. Isla Mujeres has classic Mexican Caribbean white-sand beaches overlooking bright turquoise waters, including Playa Norte, which regularly makes “best of” beach lists for this region.
There is also a sea turtle sanctuary open to visitors, the ruins of a hacienda built by a pirate, and Garrafón Natural Reef Park, which is frequented by whale sharks spring through fall.
Anegada, British Virgin Islands
Anegada is a low-lying coral and limestone island known for its unspoiled white-sand beaches, warm shallow waters, and colorful beach bars.
In the past, the surrounding reefs were a minefield for ships. Today, there are numerous sites where divers can explore their remnants, as well as underwater caves and fish that make their home there.
The salty ponds in the interior of the island host thousands of flamingos, and there are hiking trails and lookouts where you can view these birds.
Canouan, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Lush and volcanic Canouan Island is luxurious but still maintains intimate vibes. The whole island is just a few square miles in size, with a Mandarin Oriental resort, beach-front villas, spas, and a marina filled with yachts.
You can spend your days exploring the sea turtle-filled cays and reefs. Or, perfect your swing on a Jim Fazio-designed 18-hole golf course.
Pro tip: An extravagant vacation to Canouan could earn you a lot of rewards if you’re using one of the best travel credit cards.
San Blas Islands, Panama
If your idea of a Caribbean Island vacation is sleeping in a simple hut with no internet access and eating whatever the fishermen caught that day, this budget-friendly travel place is for you.
The San Blas Islands are located in the Guna Yala indigenous territory of northwest Panama and are part of a 378-island archipelago.
The Gunas have worked hard to protect the islands from mass tourism, and the majority of the islands are uninhabited pockets of white sand, dotted with palm trees and surrounded by warm shallow waters — perfect for island hopping via chartered sailboat or canoe.
Montserrat, British West Indies
Montserrat has been dubbed “The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” both for its dramatic landscape — rolling green hills and soaring cliffs — and the fact that it once had a large portion of residents who originated from Ireland.
The drama doesn’t end there, though. Visitors can take tours to a settlement preserved and buried in ash from a volcanic eruption. There are black sand beaches visited by sea turtles and an interior teeming with bird species.
Corn Islands, Nicaragua
Once merely a backpacker’s haven, these two tiny islands — Big Corn and Little Corn — are a little more boho-chic these days, but still way off the main tourist beat.
Located 43 miles east of mainland Nicaragua, the beaches here are long, sandy, and secluded, with barrier reefs that create calm waters and host tons of marine life. For accommodation, there are both upscale eco-cottages and modest, colorful bungalows.
If you’re looking for a place where you can while away your day in a hammock, Little Corn might be it. At only 1.5 square miles and with no motorized vehicles allowed, the pace here is unhurried and stress-free.
Sometimes the Caribbean gets a bad rap as a generic, touristy destination, causing many travelers to overlook the region. But the Caribbean Sea spreads over 1 million square miles, and within that expanse, there are a lot of hidden gems. You'll need extra money to pay for any trip this year with higher prices on flights and hotels.
When is the least expensive time of year to travel to the Caribbean? Prices tend to be lowest in September and October, but that’s also hurricane season. If you choose to go at this time of year, book your trip with a credit card with travel insurance and stay on your toes.
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