As I write this, it’s February, barely above freezing in North Dakota, the sun is shining, snow is melting, and I’ve finally dug out and am wearing my shorts. Am I crazy? Probably.
Winter can seem to drag on forever, especially in the frozen north where temperatures drop below freezing for most of the season. Cold hands, numb noses, and waking up early to defrost our cars have many of us counting down the days to warmer weather.
But what if you could take a break from winter? Sometimes all you need is a healthy dose of vitamin sea to power through those cold, dark days.
The Caribbean is only a relatively short flight from the US. Many of the islands are, at most, four hours away and are home to some of the best all-inclusive luxury resorts and destinations making it the perfect destination for a warm winter getaway.
Jamaica is the fourth largest island in the Caribbean and features over 30 smaller islands and islets lining its shores. Due to the geology of the seafloor, the island has shallower coastal waters and a rich biodiversity below the surface making it a great destination for activities such as snorkeling and diving.
The people of Jamaica are known worldwide for their reggae music and unique culture. They often have a laid back lifestyle and if you’re looking to slow down in a place with a chilled vibe, this is the place for you.
Must See Places in Jamaica:
- Floyd’s Pelican Bar
- Natural Hot Springs
- Bioluminescent beaches
Jamaican Must try foods:
- Jerk Chicken
- Rice and Peas
- Ackee and Saltfish
Did you know that Barbados isn’t technically a part of the Caribbean? The island is actually about 100 miles east into the Atlantic Ocean.
Barbados was a part of the British Empire for over three hundred years. As such, the trident on their flag, known as the broken trident, represents breaking away from the British monarchy and government. The three points also represent the principles of democracy, government for, of, and by the people. The yellow on the flag represents the sand and the blue represents the surrounding seas, both of which dominate the island.
The island is also home to the world’s oldest rum distillery. From the early 1700s Mount Gay has been distilling the good stuff for pirates and law-abiding citizens alike.
Fun Facts about Barbados:
- The size of the island means that you could drive around the outside of the island in only an hour
- The land that makes up the country is 80% coral limestone
- The island is located just outside the hurricane belt
The Bahamas are a chain of islands in the Caribbean southeast of Florida and are very popular with residents of the east coast. Being just over an hours’ flight from Florida, it’s no surprise that 85% of the tourists to the islands are American.
Officially, The Bahamas has 29 islands, though they also have 661 cays (pronounced ‘keys’) and 2387 rocks (really tiny land masses). Many of the islands and land masses are barely above sea level, the exception bring Cat Island, home to Mt Alvernia. At 207 feet above sea level, this is the highest point in the country.
Due to their location in the Caribbean, the Bahamas are frequently battered by hurricanes during hurricane season. The silver lining to this storm cloud however is they know how to build to withstand the cataclysmic winds associated with the storms when they do pass through the islands.
Fun Facts about the Bahamas:
- The islands were a huge pirate hot spot in the 17th and 18th centuries and have a rich heritage as a result
- Eluthra has one of the few pink sand beaches in the world
- Some of the sand bars in the Exumas allow you to walk from island to island rather than taking a boat
- The Exumas is also home to the famous swimming pigs
Turks and Caicos
While the larger destinations such as Jamaica and the Bahamas get a lot of tourist attention, Turks and Caicos and other smaller destinations have their own charm that brings over one million tourists to their shores annually.
The chain that makes up Turks and Caicos has seven main islands and about 40 smaller islands, islets, and uninhabited cays. The two main islands, however, are Grand Turk and Providenciales where the majority of resorts and hotels are.
The islands derived their names from pirates that often used them as a base of operations. Turk was a common name for a pirate at the time. The name Caicos comes from the Taino (natives to the islands) term “Cayo Hico” which means archipelago or island chain. When maps of the region were first made in the 1500s, the two names were used in combination to serve as a warning to sailors.
Must do activities in the Turks and Caicos:
- Dive some of the best wall dive sites where the depth drops from 30-50 feet to over 7,000 feet
- Kayak or paddleboard the extensive mangrove channels and lagoons
- Explore the impressive Karst caves across the islands
Antigua rose from the sea about 30 million years ago from a volcano in the Caribbean. Geologically speaking, the landmass is relatively young. Barbuda became separated from Antigua around 10,000 years ago when global sea levels rose dramatically. Now, about 28 miles of sea separate the two.
The islands renamed their highest point, Mt Obama, in 2009 in honor of the then president of the United States. Despite this, Obama has never set foot on the island yet.
Antigua and Barbuda gained their independence and became part of the commonwealth of Great Britain in 1981.
Must do things in Antigua:
- Devils Bridge for a glimpse into the geologic history
- Shirley Heights Lookout for spectacular views
- Carlisle Bay Beach for amazing snorkeling
- Stingray City for snorkeling with stingrays and other tropical fish
Not to be confused with Granada, Spain, this southernmost nation in the Caribbean archipelago is known as the spice island. Walking around, you can physically smell the spices drifting through the air.
Grenada has three main islands and 20 smaller inhabited islands. Geologically speaking, the island is known as a rocky with two main volcanoes still active. One of them with the fun name of ‘Kick ‘em Jenny’ is located just offshore.
Before they became an independent state, they were subject to both British and French rule before the British ultimately took control of the island during the Seven Years War without a shot ever being fired. During the 1960s Grenada gained autonomy from Britain but still remains apart of the Commonwealth.
A Marxist coup took over the nation in the 1970s and the US Military invaded during the 1980s to overthrow the Marxist government and restore democracy.
Must See Places in Grenada:
- Market Square
- A rainforest trek to the Seven Sisters waterfalls
- Fort Matthew, a former battleground turned insane asylum
- River Antoine Rum Distillery still produces rum the same way the did in the 1800s
- The underwater sculpture park (you don’t need to be dive certified to visit!)
St Lucia was originally known as ‘Louanalao’ (Island of the Iguanas) by the Arawak in 200AD. When the Carib came to the island in 800AD it became known as ‘Hewanorra.’
The volcanic nature of the island makes it more mountainous than others in the Caribbean. Mt Gimie is the highest point on the island with an elevation of over 3,000 feet.
Must do things on St Lucia
- Explore the archeological sites from Arawak time
- Take an ATV tour or zipline through the rainforest
- Book a kitesurfing adventure
- Charter a sailboat or a yacht for a sunset cruise
Try a Warm Winter Getaway in the Caribbean
From history to natural wonders, world-class dive sites to world-renown beaches, the Caribbean has something for everyone.
What are you waiting for? Book that flight and treat yourself to a stay at an all-inclusive resort!
Many thanks to Beaches for sponsoring this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Which island would you visit?
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