Your expectations for the perfect Caribbean getaway can fade fast without proper research and planning. Many islands boast the stereotypical ocean breezes, warm white sand and crystal clear water of postcard lore, but others have limited activities away from the resorts, and beaches that are too jam-packed to enjoy during the busy Spring Break season. Let our research help you pick the best and most affordable Caribbean vacation for any time.
St. Kitts & Nevis
Why go: St. Kitts proves that it’s not only college kids that like fun in the sun come spring. Just look at the “mature” partiers enjoying the sands ofOualie or wiling a few hours away in Mr. X’s Shiggidy Shack on Frigate Bay. When you want to get away from it all, just hop a quick ferry to the quieter, more-secluded island of Nevis.
Why go: The surfers have vacated the Soup Bowl waters of Bathsheba Beach (along with the rest of the island) and left a bunch of discounted hotel rooms in their wake. And bonus: Very few co-eds travel this far south for a Spring Break vacation, so you won’t have to rally for a shaded spot along the popular Bottom Bay.
St. Martin – St. Maarten
Why go: You’ll find first-class beaches, plenty of activity and excellent nightlife and shopping opportunities on St. Martin-St. Maarten, not to mention a terrific assortment of hotel options, based on your budget. This is also a great island for eating; consider having lunch at one of the lolos, or open-air eateries, located along the shore.
Why go: One of the most scenic destinations in the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands are also premiere diving sites. Eden Rock on Grand Cayman and the Captain Keith Tibbetts Wreck of Cayman Brac are particular favorites, and they shouldn’t be too challenging for beginning or intermediate divers. Best of all; this archipelago features some of the best hotel deals in the Caribbean, so you can enjoy the white beaches and clear waters for less than some of the more well-known isles.
Why go: These well-liked islands transform into Spring Break nerve centers each year, so it’s best you avoid them if you don’t like crowds. Still, the Bahamas are unparalleled when it comes to flight deals and discounted room rates.
U.S. Virgin Islands
Why go: Fine beaches, excellent nightlife and possibly the best foodie scene in the Caribbean, Martinique also boasts some of the best botanical gardens for nature lovers. All it really lacks is good word of mouth.
Why go: Aruba has beautiful beaches, lively clubs and adventurous activities (rent an ATV for off-terrain fun in Arikok National Park or for drives near the California Lighthouse). Divers claim this island is one of the best spots for offshore activities in the Caribbean, plus it’s a safe destination for families. Lodging in Aruba can be expensive, so plan ahead.
Why go: Jamaica has long been a go-to destination for a lively intro into Caribbean culture and plenty of adventure activities, not to mention some of the best flight and hotel rates of the region. There are also plenty of all-inclusive resorts to appeal to honeymooners or young families and great adrenaline-racing activities like hiking in the Blue Mountains or climbing upDunn’s River Falls. Still, the vast difference in how tourists and residents experience Jamaica is alarming, much more than almost any other destination on this list.
Turks & Caicos
Why go: With its easy accessibility from the U.S. and fantastic deals to visit at many times of year, this island offers excellent options for adventure travelers as well as those who love history. Puerto Rico’s size guarantees plentiful beaches (secluded and romantic on Vieques or social and family friendly near Greater San Juan), plus the area near the cruise harbor is particularly popular with night owls.
Why go: It’s regatta season for these posh islands. So if you have the time — and the dime — consider making a trek here for the festivities. But if you’re not into sailing you might want to skip the BVI for a cheaper tropical getaway this spring.
Why go: Those vacation planners looking for a slightly more authentic Dominican Republic experience will like Puerto Plata better than resort-laden Punta Cana. Plus, you’re just a stone‘s throw away from one of the best kite-surfing areas in Cabarete. But hotel prices fluctuate wildly here, so start hunting for hotels early.
Why go: A little island that few people have ventured to, Dominica is perfect for the ecotourist. You can spend a few days exploring the waterfalls and nature trails of Morne Trois Pitons National Park, and for a good price — in spring, the nightly hotel rates start below $100 a night. But Dominica has very little of what vacationers associate with a stereotypical Caribbean getaway: Beautiful beaches, ideal swimming conditions and abundant water sports activities.
Why go: You’re practically guaranteed an excellent flight and hotel rate in Punta Cana, but we can’t promise cultural authenticity — this Dominican Republic city is all about tourist comfort. And at this time of year, it’s also all about the Spring Break vacationer — plan a visit for after late March if you’re older than age 25.