An explosion of color, fringed by beaches and soaked in rum – the Caribbean is a joyous riot of islands beckoning paradise-hunters. Rocked by music, rolled by change, lapped by turquoise waters, blown by hurricanes – the Caribbean is constantly on the move. It’s a lively and intoxicating profusion of people and places spread over 7000 islands (fewer than 10% are inhabited). But, for all they share, there’s also much that makes them different. Forming a huge swath around the Caribbean Sea, the namesake islands contradict in ways big and small. Can there be a greater contrast than between bustling Barbados and its neighbor, the seemingly unchanged-since-colonial-times St Vincent? Or between booming British-oriented St Kitts and its sleepy, Dutch-affiliated neighbor Sint Eustatius, just across a narrow channel?
Natural state of bliss
Azure seas, white beaches, green forests so vivid they actually hurt the eyes – there is nothing subtle about the landscapes of the Caribbean. Swim below the waters for a color chart of darting fish and corals. Feel the sand between your toes at any one of a thousand picture-perfect beaches. Hike into emerald wilderness and spot the accents of red orchids and yellow parrots. Outdoor adventure enthusiasts make a beeline for unspoilt islands such as nature-lovers’ Dominica and St Lucia’s iconic lush Piton mountains, which send out a siren call to climbers.
Life in technicolor
All the colors are infectious. Like birds shedding dull adolescent plumage, visitors leave their wardrobes of gray and black behind when they step off the plane and don the Caribbean palette. Wander along the sand and stop at the paint-factory explosion that is a beach bar, from the garish decor to the rum punch in your glass. Even the food is colorful, with rainbows of produce brightening up the local markets. You’ll also see every hue at intense, costume-filled festivities like Carnival, celebrated throughout the region but particularly in Trinidad. Glorious crumbling Cuba and vodou-loving Haiti top the wish lists for travelers seeking unique cultural experiences and Unesco heritage havens.
Choose your own adventure
You can find any kind of island adventure here. With so many islands, beaches, cultures, flavors and waves to choose from, how could this not be vacation paradise? Doing nothing on the sand, partying at a resort, exploring a new community, hopping between islands, discovering wonders under the water or catching a perfect wave above, reveling in a centuries-old culture, and finding your inner pirate… Anything is possible in the Caribbean.