Sun, sand and sports – the Caribbean’s got it all.
Is it the ultimate holiday destination? If it isn’t, then it comes pretty darn close.
We’ve rounded up what we think are some of the best Caribbean gift experiences in our vast collection, and put them into a helpful guide for anyone planning a dream vacation in the Caribbean and not sure where to go, or what to do while you’re there.
When to go:
The Caribbean is blessed with a gorgeous warm climate year-round, but it still has defined seasons. From December to April the weather tends to be slightly cooler and this is the most popular time to travel – late-November to mid-December you’ll often find that rates are less expensive.
From May to June a lot of Caribbean islands are also quieter, but you can expect the odd downpour now and again. Not that it will take you more than five minutes to dry off afterwards.
Hurricanes are notoriously unpredictable, but the season for them is typically from June to November, with mid-August to mid-September the worst in the Eastern Caribbean.
Also note that there are many carnivals in the Caribbean throughout the year, when the party atmosphere is electric, especially on larger islands like Trinidad and Martinique. Obviously rates are also higher during these periods, and there’s more competition for beds.
Why you should visit:
Sun-drenched sandy beaches, warm turquoise waters filled with colourful fish on coral reefs, amazing food and a vibrant yet chilled island lifestyle – it’s no surprise that for many people, the Caribbean represents the iconic holiday destination.
Always a favourite with couples looking for a romantic getaway or a memorable honeymoon, there are Caribbean islands perfect for sports enthusiasts – think sailing, scuba diving, sport fishing – and adventure lovers.
There’s also many all-inclusive resorts perfectly geared up for families, where the kids can join organised activities all day while their parents enjoy some blissful downtime on the beach.
In short – why wouldn’t you want to travel here?
Where to go:
Barbados – Strong British influences can be found on Barbados, where cricket is the national obsession and many hotels will offer an afternoon tea service. With accommodation suitable for any budget, and beaches suitable for any activity be it windsurfing or catching up on your reading, Barbados is justifiably famous.
Recommended Barbados Gift Experience: Give your holiday a splash of glamour with a luxurious sailing trip around the island in a sleek catamaran. You may even get to snorkel alongside the island’s friendly sea turtles.
Cuba – Expect things to change in Cuba rapidly as relations thaw with the US. If you’ve ever wanted to see the faded glamour of this Communist outpost then the time is now. Landmarks of the Revolution are everywhere, and of course if you’re a cigar aficionado, you’ll be in heaven.
Recommended Cuba Gift Experience: Take a spin through the streets of Havana in a classic American automobile from the 50s – we defy you to find a more stylish sightseeing tour than this.
Aruba – With attractive and tidy beaches, ample big-name resorts, restaurants and activities, Aruba makes it all such a breeze. If you want to take it easy from the moment you step off the plane, this island is a good bet. Aruba also tends to have a drier climate and see fewer hurricanes than other parts of the Caribbean.
Recommended Aruba Gift Experience: The best way to see Aruba’s nightlife is by joining the funky Kukoo Kunuku party bus, with reduced drink prices and a ready-made bunch of friends waiting to meet you.
The Bahamas – There’s around 700 islands and cays in the Bahamas, many of them inhabited. The best-known include Bimini, New Providence, Andros Island and Exuma, with sailing trips one of the most popular activities. The Berry Islands to the northwest offer great sport fishing and diving opportunities.
Recommended Bahamas Gift Experience: Take a dip with the world-famous swimming pigs off Exuma. This boat trip brings you face to face with the cute and curious porkers.
Puerto Rico – Formed by an undersea volcano, Puerto Rico is great for those with wanderlust. If you tire of the stunning white sand beaches, you can head off into the tropical rainforest in search of waterfalls, or dive off the coast to see whales and manatees.
Recommended Puerto Rico Gift Experience: Old San Juan is known as one of the Caribbean’s liveliest cities, and it has a rich heritage in rum production, so why not indulge in a rum-tasting tour with an expert guide?
Cayman Islands – The scuba diving on the pristine coral reefs off the Caymans is world class. There’s a distinctly American feel here that makes the Caymans an unchallenging Caribbean getaway. Expect cosmopolitan restaurants and nightlife, but not many deals for the budget traveller.
Recommended Cayman Islands Gift Experience: Discover Stingray Bay, and a vast, mysterious shipwreck from the 1940s with an amazing Grand Cayman scuba dive.
Turks & Caicos Islands – While there are many prestigious resorts in the Turks & Caicos islands, it’s not as busy as many other parts of the Caribbean, so if you want to escape the crowds while still enjoying beautiful beaches and world-class activities, this is the place. Like the Caymans though, it’s definitely not for the shoestring traveller.
Recommended Turks & Caicos Islands Gift Experience: For a fun day-trip, head out on a luxurious catamaran to explore hidden coves, barbecue on the beach and zip down the slides on the boat’s roof into the warm waters.
Dominican Republic – The DR as it’s commonly known is another Caribbean destination just made for the adventurous at heart. Sure it’s got lively resorts, great food and interesting architecture from the colonial era, but if you’re not afraid to rough it a little, the interior has highlands, rainforest and the Caribbean’s tallest mountain to discover.
Recommended Dominican Republic Gift Experience: Not one for the faint-hearted, this refreshing experience sees you jumping or sliding over 27 waterfalls into natural pools below, with stunning scenery all around.
Even if you’re staying in a resort, escape now and again to sample some of the local food and drink. Caribbean cuisine is diverse, innovative and often, simply delicious. The more developed islands like Barbados and Aruba will have an extensive international cuisine, while others like Jamaica are very distinctive and spicy.
Booking a boat trip lets you see the stunning coastline from afar, and groups of islands such as the Bahamas offer fun island-hopping tours.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn to scuba dive, you’ll rarely find a better place than the Caribbean. Make sure that whoever you book with is fully-accredited for teaching.
People often associate the Caribbean with luxury holidays and while you can certainly find a slice of paradise here, with cocktails brought to you on the beach, infinity pools and inhouse spas, many islands are also suitable for the budget traveller.