With over 28 nations to choose between, it helps to know what kind of Caribbean trip you’re after. Not to fear, Richard Mellor has the lowdown on an island to suit every kind of traveller.
If you want nothing more than to laze in heaven, try French-owned Guadeloupe, which pairs world-class resorts with exceptional strips of white powder beaches.
Dinky Anguilla’s coves are less explored while lush St Lucia offers greater luxury with beaches straight out of the holiday textbook.
For water-sports lovers
If diving’s your game, Curacao’s the answer. This mellow, Dutch-influenced isle pairs a Marine Park with several wrecks.
Tiny Bonaire’s also renowned among scuba communities thanks to its extensive underwater life.
Stingray swimming is possible on Grand Cayman, where tax-evaders and resort-lovers can also fish and snorkel their hearts out. Steady trade winds explain why Aruba is a kite surfing pilgrimage site.
Yachting around all 40 of the British Virgin Islands will fuel any boater’s pirate fantasy.
In between discovering secret cays, be sure to drop anchor on the main island, Tortola, and sweep stylishly into glam restaurants and sunset cocktail parties.
For culture vultures
Havana, Cuba’s bewitching, colonial-era capital, offers many a legend. Admire Plaza de la Revolución’s giant Che Guevara image, or drink in the favourite haunts of Ernest Hemingway.
Then there’s the country’s exalted jazz scene, best experienced in rooftop rum shacks.
More morbidly, the US Virgin Islands was a prominent slave-trading post in the 1600s, and retains historic sites and ruined sugar plantations for visitors to explore.
For party animals
The twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago are infused with Creloe spirit.
Their renowned nightlife reaches an annual peak just before Ash Wednesday via one of the world’s great Carnivals. Westerners are welcome to try their soca moves, while eccentric costumes, stick-fighting and limbo competitions are all guaranteed.
Puerto Rico’s colonial-era capital also ticks this box. Hispanic-influenced San Juan swaggers with an array of noisy salsa, Latin or rock nightclubs.
Just south of Florida, the 700 islands of the Bahamas hide all-inclusive, family-friendly resorts.
Most famous is The Atlantis, home to its own water park, aquarium and dolphin cay.
For nature lovers
Image via Dominica
Arguably the archipelago’s most unspoiled corner, volcanic Dominica’s interior is a vivid blur of jungles, waterfalls and hiking trails.
For good measure, ‘Nature Island’ also possesses memorable black-sand beaches.
An ex-British colony, bijou Grenada boasts rainforest-clad hills in which hide opossum, armadillos, Mona monkeys and 150 bird species.
Elsewhere, the country discernibly smells of nutmeg, hence its ‘Spice Isle’ moniker.
Image: Street food Jamaica
As much as the Bob Marley myths and Kingston music halls, Jamaica is famed for its charismatic food: jerk chicken, curried goat, ackee and saltfish (cod), fried plantain and classic rice-and-peas.
All of which taste even with a Red Stripe.
Medium-size Barbados has long attracted British budget sunbathers thanks to simple guesthouse and self-catering options.
Similarly popular are all-inclusive Dominican Republic resorts like Punta Cana, thanks to their fondness for amazing deals.
For something less mainstream, consider the split isle of St. Maarten (Dutch) and St. Martin (French), whose Dutch, French and—most palpably—Creole-tinged hotels cost very little.
Image: St Barts
At the opposite end of the wealth spectrum is St. Barthélemy (aka St Barts), a small, celeb-heavy French island which positively oozes money.
The average hotel room price? Over £200 per night, thank you very much.
Image: Turks and Caicos
Scarcely cheaper are Turks and Caicos’s top-notch health and wellness retreats, headlined by beautiful Parrot Cay.
Yoga, Pilates and nutritious menus are the order of the day here, with some guests leaving their leotards on all week.