In the spirit of Columbus Day, we’re turning the spotlight on one of the regions that captivated the famed Italian explorer during the late 15th century, drawing him back again and again. Scattered across the Caribbean, the islands among this aquamarine sea remain enchanting and stunningly diverse. Port of Spain, pulsating with Creole culture and Carnival celebrations, feels worlds away from orderly and mellow Grand Cayman. Even Bonaire and Aruba – neighboring islands – couldn’t be more different, in both their landscapes and offerings.
The Caribbean – warm air and white sandy beaches – is much more than booming resorts and non-descript beaches. With lesser known destinations in the Caribbean, you can escape the crowds and enjoy an authentic taste of the region while fully embracing a tranquil island getaway. Explore these off-the-beaten-path Caribbean ports and discover a whole new side of this alluring region.
St. George’s, Grenada
Despite Grenada’s alluring beaches, a charming capital and verdant rainforests, the island remains serene and uncrowded. Often referred to as Spice Isle, Grenada is dotted with aromatic spice plantations that provide an enriching portal into the history of the island. St. George’s enchants you with its old handsome buildings, bustling spice markets, historic forts and lovely Carenage harbor. The island brims with secluded coves and beaches, inviting you to stroll, swim or simply soak up the sun. Further inland, you can explore the breathtaking Grand Etang Lake, a cobalt blue lake inside the crater of an extinct volcano. As one of the lushest Caribbean islands, Grenada is covered with picturesque tropical nature trails. Try Seven Sisters Falls or Annadale Falls, shrouded in misty ferns and abundant vegetation. To venture even further off the beaten track, take a ferry from the capital to neighboring Carriacou or Petit Martinique – the even quieter sister isles are sure to make you feel like you’ve truly escaped.
Martinique enchants with good reason. Set amidst volcanic slopes and luxurious stretches of beach, the island blends Caribbean traditions with Gallic culture while its streets are rich with the best cosmopolitan indulgences of the region. This all makes for a very distinct and tempting Caribbean getaway. But the best part about this little French outpost? It still feels dreamy and unspoiled. Despite its sophisticated vibe, Martinique really still operates on island time. Celebrated by Francophiles, the street life exudes unmistakable style, and you’ll have plenty of choices for delicious French and Creole meals. As you wander the colorful lanes, you’ll also notice the proliferation of fine French offerings. Martinique’s natural beauty competes for your attention too, from its white sand beaches and dense tropical rain forests to the peaks of Mont Pelée. Go on a thrilling 4×4 adventure for a taste of La Palourde rainforest, or take a fascinating kayaking trip around one of Martinique’s beautiful islets filled with mangroves.
One of the most intriguing islands of the Caribbean, Bonaire is one of the few Caribbean islands that still maintain that exciting “undiscovered” feel. The “B” of the ABC islands, Bonaire is refreshingly less developed than its neighbors – you won’t find any of the sprawling resorts common on Aruba and Curacao. Instead, you’ll find a quaint and walkable capital, friendly Dutch locals, sublime landscapes with windswept divi divi trees and breathtakingly pristine coral reefs. In fact, Bonaire’s biggest claim to fame is its world-class diving and snorkeling – its entire coastline is protected by the Bonaire National Marine Park – offering stunning coral reef just feet from the shore. Numerous dive sites flourish with vibrant staghorn and soft corals, anemones, sea sponges, parrotfish, angelfish, seahorses and more. For a taste of Bonaire’s wildlife, hike Washington-Slagbaai National Park – it’s brimming with cacti, iguanas and parrots and captivates with its gorgeous panoramas of the island. Go even farther off the beaten path with a day trip to the deserted paradise of Klein Bonaire, a tiny uninhabited island off the west coast.