So if you’re looking for an island getaway without the crowds, you’ll want to consider these secret Caribbean islands.
Note: This story is based off pre-pandemic 2019 tourism data from the 2020 UNWTO Tourism statistical annex, international tourism arrivals as a standard of measurement.
Montserrat: 10,000 Visitors
Nicknamed the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean for both its lush tropical forests and its ties to Ireland, Montserrat is one of the smallest islands in the Caribbean. On arrival, you’ll receive a shamrock-shaped passport stamp, and you’ll notice that the country’s flag and national costume are the same green, orange, and white as Ireland.
Montserrat measures about 10 miles long and 7 miles wide, and is home to about 5,000 inhabitants. Montserrat’s population and tourism industry was severely impacted by a major eruption of the previously dormant Soufriere Hills volcano in 1995, which displaced many residents and decimated parts of the island. Now, the active volcano draws in tourists looking to safely see a volcano from afar.
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Anguilla: 95,000 Visitors
Anguilla has 33 white sand beaches, year-round water temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and world-class snorkeling. What it doesn’t have are crowds: the secret isn’t out yet about this stunning Caribbean island.
Anguilla is the northernmost of the Leeward Islands, and is located about 150 miles east of Puerto Rico, so it’s fairly easy to get a connecting flight from the U.S. through San Juan. You can also reach Anguilla by ferry from one of the nearby islands, or via air from St. Maarten and Antigua.
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St. Vincent and Grenadines: 85,000 Visitors
St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ visitors are spread out over the 33 islands that comprise the country. St. Vincent is the largest island, while the Grenadines account for the remaining 32 islands, some of which are uninhabited. It’s easy to ferry hop here between white sand beaches, volcanoes, and rainforests.
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St. Kitts and Nevis: 120,000
Two unique islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, make up this country that was once known as the gateway to the Caribbean. St. Kitts is the larger of the two, and offers lively nightlife, plenty of lodging options, and local culture. Nevis is smaller and quieter, and has a distinctive volcanic mountain that dominates the landscape.
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Antigua and Barbuda: 301,000 Visitors
Located in the West Indies between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, the country of Antigua and Barbuda is made up of the two eponymous islands plus a number of smaller islands. Abundant coral reefs and shipwrecks make it a world-class diving and snorkeling destination.
Barbuda was hit particularly hard by two hurricanes in 2017, but is beginning to make a comeback.
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British Virgin Islands: 302,000
With over 50 islands, you’re sure to find one that’s perfect for you in the British Virgin Islands, or BVI. Tortola is the main island and home to the capital city, Road Town. There are three other larger islands (Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke), plus a number of uninhabited islands that you can sneak away to. Although the BVI is a territory of Great Britain, these islands are definitely more Caribbean than European, with warm weather and a laid-back vibe.
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St. Lucia: 424,000
Mango-shaped St. Lucia is just 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, but the island’s slow and winding roads can make getting between the north and south a half-day journey. The north and south of St. Lucia offer two completely different experiences. In the north, Rodney Bay has Pigeon Island National park to explore, lively bars and nightlife, and the hopping Friday Night Fish Fry. In the south, you’ll find the iconic Pitons that have made St. Lucia famous, along with some of the country’s best beaches.
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Trinidad and Tobago: 389,000
Trinidad and Tobago is the Caribbean’s southernmost country, but it’s worth the longer flight to get here. The two islands of Trinidad and Tobago are about 50 miles apart—you can easily take an inexpensive ferry or a quick flight between the two.
Trinidad’s Carnival is one of the biggest in the world. Held in the days before Ash Wednesday, this yearly festival starts at 4 am on Monday and doesn’t stop until Wednesday. Visitors can even join in the fun by buying a costume from one of the Carnival bands and joining in the parade for a true local experience.
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Curaçao: 464,000 Visitors
Curaçao is one of the lucky Caribbean islands in the ABC group (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao), which are hit less often by hurricanes. So Curacao can be a great destination to consider if you’re traveling during hurricane season.
Curaçao stands out from the rest of the Caribbean in more ways than just weather—it’s been part of the Netherlands since it was colonized in the 1600s, and the European influence is strong today, showing up in everything from the cuisine to the architecture.
Check Prices for Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino in Willemstad
Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world.
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