Travel Guide to Caribbean for First Timers ~ What to Know

Travel Guide to Caribbean – Consisting of the Caribbean Sea and its islands, this area is one of the most sought-after tourist destinations on the planet. This has to do with its beautiful waters, amazing weather and overall natural beauty. It’s a great vacation spot for couples, families, adventurers, and solo travelers.

There is also a healthy component of human warmth and cultural richness that go into the world’s love for the Caribbean. As a result, every year, tens of thousands of people gear up to go there for vacation for the first time.

If you are one of them, you might wonder about which islands to visit. Of course, it’s a complex, unique region of the world, and that can be confusing for first-timers. Do not worry, though!

In this travel guide, I will tell you all you need to know to make your first trip to the Caribbean. You’ll learn the best Caribbean island to visit, the best time to go, where to go, the friendliest Caribbean island, the safest island, what languages they speak, and more. 

Note: Taking a Caribbean cruise is one way to visit many different islands easily. This is especially helpful when going on a family vacation. You won’t get to spend a lot of time in any one place but you’ll get a feel for the different places. You’ll also learn a lot about the islands by seeing the activities they advertise. Depending on what you choose, you can enjoy time on the beach, doing local excursions, time in downtown areas, and excursions in nature. 

You’ll get a sense of the activities on each island. Then for your next vacation, you can choose the places you want to return to.

What languages do they speak in the Caribbean

Natives and people living in the Caribbean speak many different languages. Spanish is the most common overall. You’ll hear European languages such as English, French, and Dutch as well. Creole languages are also common. Many cater to American tourists and speak English. 

Transportation

If you do not wish to rent a car, many hotels have shuttle services. Most islands have a decent bus system as well. There are also private taxis. If you are staying in the Lower Antilles, there is a local ferry system making it convenient to visit multiple islands. 

Where is the Caribbean

Located in the western hemisphere and considered part of North America, the Caribbean is a region spanning just over one million miles. It includes islands in the Caribbean Sea as well as nearby coasts. The closest state is Florida.

The Caribbean islands are southeast of the Gulf of Mexico, north of South America, and east of Central America.

Places to visit

You have many countries and islands to choose from. Some of the most popular to visit, especially those going for the first time, are: 

  • Aruba
  • Grand Cayman
  • British Virgin Islands
  • US Virgin Islands (I visited St John and St Croix; not St Thomas)
  • Dominica also called Dominique
  • Jamaica
  • St Barts
  • Curacao
  • St Lucia
  • Antigua and Barbuda (one independent nation)
  • Barbados
  • Grenada
  • Turks and Caicos

Much will depend on what you want to do while you are there. If you are looking for stunning, white sand beaches, you will have many islands to choose from. Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman as well as the stunning beaches in Antigua come to mind.

However, if you would enjoy lush rainforests, waterfalls, and hiking trails, you’ll want to consider Dominique and Jamaica. If you are seeking more seclusion and a luxury resort, you’ll want to consider St. Barts.

Also, the Bahamas are part of the Atlantic Ocean, and not the Caribbean Sea. Technically, they are not part of the Caribbean Islands. They are an independent country.

What is the Caribbean famous for

This area is renowned for it’s different topography and glorious nature. The scenery abounds.

You’ll have so many natural things to explore, including tropical forests, mountains, waterfalls, volcanoes, valleys, and plantations. Some areas are more famous for their beautiful beaches and water activities.

Best time to visit Caribbean

First things first: What is the best time of year to go to the Caribbean? It’s important to take into account the following aspects:

Weather

This area is known for its fantastic weather during the majority of the year. However, the best weather in the region takes place from December through to April.

During these months, the weather is pleasantly dry and warm during the day. However, during the night, it cools down enough to facilitate a good night’s sleep.

During summer and autumn, the weather in the Caribbean tends to get warmer and more humid, even featuring a few quick downpours now and then. Constant rain, however, is not that common. You will still be able to enjoy the day.

Be advised that, from June to November, it’s the official hurricane season in the Caribbean, with September and October being the months with the most danger of a major storm happening.

Travel Costs to Caribbean

Since it’s the period of time with the most pleasant weather, December to late April is peak season in the Caribbean. As a result, it’s also the most expensive season.

As a rule of thumb, during this period, hotels and villas increase their price rate by 20 – 50%. What is more, flights during this season tend to be aggressively high.

Crowds

When it comes to crowds, hotels and villas tend to be at their worst during the winter months. Without a doubt, the winter dates that are closest to the holidays tend to attract tourists to the region in impressively large numbers.

In particular, Christmas, New Year and Easter seem to inspire tourists from all over the globe to flock to these islands.

On the other hand, September and October are the slowest months in the region. So if you don’t want to be part of a crowd, consider these months. As a matter of fact, many hotels, restaurants and bars close during this short period of time.

Where Should You Go in the Caribbean?

Now that you have a better idea of when to go to the Caribbean, it’s time to decide exactly where. This decision can be difficult seeing as there are so many beautiful and cheap islands to choose from. Consider these options to make the right choice for your particular needs:

The Caribbean Islands

Before going any further, it is important that we talk about the cluster of islands that make the Caribbean region. We review some of the most important and popular ones:

Anguilla

Having some of the best beaches, traveling to Anguilla is a great destination for relaxation-seekers. Its 33 islands also feature some of the best hotels in the entire region, as well as a plethora of bars and restaurants.

For those reasons, Anguilla can be a great option for first-time Caribbean goers looking for escapism and relaxation.

Cayman Islands

Undoubtedly, Cayman Islands is the favorite destination of adventure lovers. The region features a great deal in terms of watersports. Scuba diving being one of the most popular.

At the same time, though, Cayman Islands makes for a great family vacation destination.

Jamaica

You have likely heard about Jamaica. Featuring a colorful and lively culture as well as a beautiful geography, Jamaica is one of the top tourist destinations in the entire region.

Apart from beautiful hotels and villas, the island country offers a great deal in terms of cultural locations where you can appreciate music, art, gastronomy and a lot more.

As if that was not enough, Jamaica has a vast number of museums and historic locations where you can learn more about it and its people.

Puerto Rico

Being a US commonwealth, Puerto Rico is one of the most popular destinations for American tourists. Having a healthy mixture of Hispanic and North-American culture, Puerto Rico is familiar enough to be cozy without ever becoming boring.

On this island, there are plenty of activities for tourists of all tastes and inclinations. There is a great number of options when it comes to beautiful beaches to relax and enjoy.

However, if you are more adventurous, you can also visit one of the beaches in Puerto Rico that offer watersports, sky lining and other adventurous activities.

Additionally, the island has a very strong urban center filled with bars, restaurants, shopping malls and so on.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas aren’t part of the Caribbean, but many people consider a trip here when considering a trip to the Caribbean. This is especially the case because these islands are just east of Florida, making it an easier flight when visiting from the United States. 

These islands are a great destination for first-timers. Without a doubt, the place stands out visually due to its powder-soft, limestone-white sands, gigantic palm trees and clear blue skies. Being particularly large, the Bahamas offers a lot in terms of secluded, private locations. Nassau is the capital.

Tourist Attractions and Excursions

Many small and medium-sized islands have special tourist attractions to offer. Without a doubt, this can be a big selling point, particularly for adventure and excitement lovers. Among the most popular are the following:

Travel Wear Ideas to Keep in Mind
Travel Wear Ideas to Keep in Mind

Scuba diving

The Caribbean is famous for its crystalline waters and exuberant aquatic life. For that reason, many islands in the region offer scuba diving as one of their main attractions.

Without a doubt, however, the area surrounding Cozumel is the best one for diving due to its sheer depth and incredible beauty.

Snorkeling

With white beaches and turquoise waters, another favorite activity is snorkeling. This is an economical activity as well because you can do it without lessons or a tour guide. 

If you want you can rent a mask and snorkel while there, but it make it even more affordable, buy the mask and snorkel at home and bring it with you. Bring fins if you have them as well. You’ll discover the underwater pristine beauty of marine life, including coral reefs and colorful fish.

You’ll find many areas you can enjoy snorkeling, and it’s free if you bring your equipment.

Submarine rides

If seeing the depths of the ocean sounds good to you, going on a submarine ride can be another fantastic option. Various islands in the region offer this experience.

However, the underwater locations in the capital city of Oranjestad, Aruba are, hands down, the best and most beautiful ones in the entire region. 

There, you can go down as far as 45 meters below sea level, where you can find the most amazing coral reefs, a wide range of underwater animals and even some antique shipwrecks.

Tropical forests

Upon hearing the word Caribbean, most people think about beaches and the open ocean. However, most islands in the region have luscious tropical forests as well. These inland rainforests are brimming with vegetation and fauna of incredible varieties.

By most accounts, one of the best rainforests in the region is on the island of Roatan, Honduras. If you go there, make sure to check out the stunning Carambola Botanical Gardens, a place where you can see a multitude of exotic plants. If seeing animals is more your thing, check out the Gumbalimba Preservation Park in Honduras.

Zip lines

Those who are looking for adrenaline-pumping excitement would be remiss not to do ziplining during their visits.

Resort islands such as Labadee, Haiti offer this activity, providing tourists with the opportunity to zip over the most fantastic bodies of crystalline water. St Lucia is also a gorgeous place for ziplining.

Other activities

Whether you are looking for local reggae music and culture, nightlife, restaurants, surfing, beaches, shopping, want to visit a rain forest, and more, you can find it. You can rent boats, go fishing with a guide, go on a 6-person or 8-person catamaran complete with a captain and first mate, or go on one of many tours to see various sites. Many vacationers come to yacht as well.

Cruises

If you want to relax while visiting several locations on one vacation, a cruise is a great idea. Choosing a cruise line is an easy way to explore multiple islands. 

Relatively affordable cruises allow people of all budgets to tour the Caribbean sea, regularly stopping at key locations where scenery and attractions are first and foremost.

We absolutely recommend a Caribbean cruise for your first time visiting. It’s ideal for couples, families, friend groups, and solo travelers to explore different islands in an effortless, no hassle, and safe way.  

All-inclusive deals

People who are on a budget may want to consider making a one-time payment for a vacation with everything included. This is especially nice when you are traveling in groups because the food is included. You won’t have to worry about picking restaurants or who is paying. 

It’s also a great when when going to the Caribbean with kids because they will be able to choose from a variety of foods, including fruits, etc. It will be easier to feed picky eaters as well. 

Depending on the price you are willing to pay, the locations you can choose from vary from comfortable hotel rooms in small islands to very exclusive overwater villas in the seaside seaside. Typically, these deals include a room, meals, drinks, activities, transportation and additional benefits.

Hotels, AirBNB, VRBO

In addition to all-inclusive resorts, there are hotels and motels. You can also stay in a (pay as you go, not all-inclusive) resort. Look on Google maps to see the proximity to activities that interest you. Also consider renting a private condo, townhome, or house through an individual on AirBNB or VRBO. There are cottages too.

While there are glorious beaches, many hotels and rentals have lovely pools as well. 

FAQs 

What is the safest Caribbean island to visit

Many areas rely on tourism, so overall, most of the islands are safe. However, be warned when you leave your belongings in the car when you go to the beach. We had several people tell us this when we visited St Croix. Theft happens everywhere but we were happy that locals took the time to tell us this.

Overall, according to industry experts, the safest islands to visit are Cayman Islands, St Barts, St Marteen / St Martin, Antigua, and the US Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands.

What is the most dangerous Caribbean island

According to sailingeurope.com, the least safe places according to crime rates are Puerto Rico, Tobago, and Trinidad. Other experts list Cuba as an area that might expose you to smaller-type crimes.

Is it safe to travel now

At present, it is safe to travel there now. However, you’ll want to check the protocols in place. When considering what islands are open to US citizens, most have opened to international citizens.

What is the friendliest Caribbean island

Having visited Dominique, Antiqua, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Curacao, Aruba, Barbados, St Marteen, Turks and Caicos, US Virgin Islands (St John’s and Saint Croix), and many others, truly the people there were all friendly, courteous and welcoming. With smiles, they went out of their way to help and to be sure we were having a good time. 

On our many travels to the Caribbean, we found all the people very friendly. Only once, in Martinique, did I experience a bit of rudeness in a cosmetics-type shop from a clerk.

It’s important to note that the areas rely on tourism. Many shop owners are locals. There is an amazing friendly and happy vibe wherever you go. Many locals also work very hard to communicate with English speakers. 

What is the easiest Caribbean island to fly to

Most of the major islands have their own airports so it really depends where you are flying from. If you are flying from New York City or Miami, Florida, there are daily flights to many of the islands. 

 What is the cheapest month to go to the Caribbean

Hurricane season is the cheapest time to go. This includes June through November. It’s their rainy season and not as popular.

What is the cheapest Caribbean island to visit 

According to smartertraveler.com, the cheapest island to visit is Dominican Republic.

Best Caribbean islands for families 

When traveling with children, you’ll want to be sure there is lots to do. Some family favorites include US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, and the Cayman Islands. If you are taking a family cruise, any of the islands will be family-friendly.

Travel Guide for First Time Travelers

As you can see by this travel guide, with the right information at hand, traveling to this region for the first time is not as daunting as it initially sounds.

It’s full of locations to explore, adventures to live and pleasures to experience. Without a doubt, it helps a great deal that the natives of the region tend to be friendly, helpful and kind. Hopefully, this quick guide will help you have a successful stay that you will remember for the rest of your life.  

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