Canadians love the Caribbean. Why? Plenty of reasons. Beaches, sunshine and water sports head the list. But the crackling mix of cultures makes for great festivals, wonderful food and a special Caribbean ambience that brings Canadians back again and again. Here is a snapshot of each island, and our list of Candian’s Caribbean favourites.
Anguilla Tourist BoardAnguilla
The most northerly island of the Leeward Islands, Anguilla boasts friendly, welcoming people, and warm, cobalt waters great for snorkelling, swimming and sailing. Anguilla boasts more than 100 restaurants and an array of charming accommodations that includes over 150 villas to rent. Accessible via St. Martin by air (seven minutes) or ferry (20 minutes).
Top Attraction: Endless white powdery sand beaches and calm turquoise waters.
What’s New: Greg Norman championship golf course managed by Cap Jaluca; island-wide prix fixe dining program through December.
Info: 1-866-348-7447, www.anguilla-vacation.com
Antigua & Barbuda Dept Tourism & TradeAntigua & Barbuda
Antigua is the sunniest of the Eastern Caribbean Islands with near-constant trade winds that highlight Sailing Week, one of the world’s foremost maritime events. It is the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands and includes Barbuda and Redonda, an uninhabited island nature preserve. Barbuda remains undeveloped and boasts pristine white and pink sand beaches, Frigate bird colony, shipwrecks and beautiful reefs.
Top Attraction: Antigua Rainforest Canopy Tour with suspension bridges, zip lines and swings, and a controlled parachute jump.
What’s New: Wadadli Animal Nature Park; new properties like Sugar Ridge Antigua; Nonsuch Bay Resort; and Jumby Bay, a Rosewood Resort.
Info: 1-800-547-3055, www.antigua-barbuda.org
Aruba Tourism AuthorityAruba
Aruba claims near-perfect weather (there hasn’t been a hurricane in more than 100 years); natural wonders like Arikok National Park, the Casibari and Ayo rock formations and Indian caves; historic sites like Bushiribana gold mill, Aruba Aloe Factory and Alto Vista Chapel; and museums like the Archaeology Museum and Historical Museum.
Top Attraction: Arikok National Park offers a wide variety of biking, walking and hiking trails; impressive cave and rock formations; and historical and cultural sites.
What’s New: Aruba’s National Archeological Museum; Visitors’ Centre at Arikok National Park; three new shopping areas – Paseo Herencia, Palm Beach Plaza, South Beach Centre.
Info: (305) 445-9619, www.Aruba.com
Bahamas Tourist OfficeBahamas
Visitors revel in a variety of water activities equalled by the variety of fun on land. Paradise and Grand Bahama Islands are the main islands, but the hidden gems of The Outer Islands beckon to the more adventurous traveller. Check out the “People-to-People Experience”, where visitors spend time with locals.
Top Attraction: Pirates of Nassau, an interactive museum, pub and gift shop, depicts the Bahamas’ storied past as home to the world’s most famous pirates.
Info: 1- 800-667-3777, www.bahamas.com
Barbados Tourism AuthorityBarbados
Barbados’ friendliness and reputation for safety, along with 3,000 hours of sunshine annually, draw plenty of repeat visitors. The island boasts a unique blend of West African and Caribbean culture with an elegant British heritage. The birthplace of the grapefruit, it is its rum that originally put Barbados on the map.
Top Attraction: Harrison’s Caves are considered among the finest cave complexes in the world. A tram runs through subterranean stream passages.
What's New: Upgrades to many island properties including Little Arches Hotel, Peach & Quiet Hotel, Tamarind Cove Hotel, Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Silver Sands Resort and Sugar Cane Cub & Spa.
Info: (416) 214-9880/1-800-268 9122, www.visitbarbados.org
Bermuda Dept of TourismBermuda
In addition to its idyllic setting, Bermuda’s colourful festivals and a British gentility (it’s the oldest British colony) make it a top year-round destination. Discover a thriving culture, a rich history (Shakespeare’s The Tempest was inspired by local shipwrecks) and an abundance of activities (the most golf courses per square mile in the world).
Top Attraction: Segway tours of St. George and the Royal Naval Dockyard.
Info: 1-800-Bermuda, www.bermudatourism.com
BVI Tourism BoardBritish Virgin Islands
Sixty islands, tranquil beaches, outstanding diving and sailing conditions beyond compare have earned the BVI a reputation for natural Caribbean charm and and hassle-free hospitality. Attractions include: Sage Mountain rainforest on Tortola; Coppermines on Virgin Gorda; the famous wreck of the Rhone, rum distilleries; Gorda Peak; and grilled Anegada lobster.
Top Attraction: The Wreck of the Rhone, the most famous dive site in the Caribbean.
What's New: The Baths, on Virgin Gorda offer an other-worldly seascape where gigantic boulders are scattered about the beach and in the water.
Info: 1-800-835-8530, www.bvitourism.com
Cayman Islands Dept of TourismCayman Islands
Enjoying a reputation as one of the Caribbean’s premier dining destinations (more than 150 restaurants), the Cayman Islands also boast beautiful beaches, more than 250 dive sites, golf, nature trails, and plenty of watersports. The three islands – Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman lie 770 kilometres south of Miami.
Top Attraction: Black Pearl Skate and Surf Park boasts one of the largest skateboard parks in the world, plus a Waveloch Surf Machine.
What's New: WestJet begins scheduled direct service from Toronto to Grand Cayman in November. New attractions include Cayman Motor Museum and Camana Bay.
Info: (416) 485-1550/1-800-263-5805, www.caymanislands.ky
Cuba Tourist BoardCuba
The largest and most populous Caribbean island, Cuba’s main attraction is its vibrant culture. Historic sites, cultural and arts traditions span pre-Columbian, Spanish colonial and modern eras. Havana boasts nightclubs, stage shows, festivals, museums and galleries. And then there are the beaches and resorts that range from all inclusive to luxury.
Top Attraction: Old Havana, a World Heritage Site.
Info: (416) 362-0700 / 1-866-404-2822, www.gocuba.ca
Curacao Tourist BoardCuracao
Thirty-eight beaches and 55 nationalities are the hallmark of the Curacao experience. And world-class diving and beaches, ruggedly beautiful landscape and wide open spaces let you choose your own adventure. Willemstad is home to the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere, Maritime Museum and the Kura Hulanda museum of the slave trade.
Top Attraction: Colourful Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What’s New: Hyatt Regency Curacao Golf Resort, Spa and Marina opened in April with the island’s only 18-hole golf course.
Info: 1-800-3-CURACAO, www.curacao.com
Min.Tourism Dominican RepublicDominican Republic
Beautiful beaches, resorts on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, 16 national parks, lush forests, beautiful valleys – the Dominican Republic is a Caribbean paradise. Throw in world-class whitewater rafting on the Rio Yaque; world-class kite-boarding and wind-surfing at Cabarete; and world-class golf on more than 20 courses.
Top Attraction: Santo Domingo, the oldest surviving European settlement in the Americas.
What's New: Hard Rock International Luxury All-Inclusive opened in July; renovations at Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach; tours of Tabacalera de Garcia Cigar Factory.
Info: 1-888-494-5050, www.GoDominicanRepublic.com
Grenada Board of TourismGrenada
Grenada bills itself as The Spice of the Caribbean, with good reason. Cinnamon, allspice, cocoa and nutmeg scent the air of the three-island country. Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique offer beaches, sailing, hiking and 300 years of history and culture. It is also an eco-conscious destination, protecting the nesting habitats of the leatherback turtle.
Top Attraction: From May to September, nearly 586 leatherback turtles trudge on to Levera Beach to lay their eggs.
What's New: New developments include Barcolet Bay Resort & Spa (open 2010); The Point (open November); Levera Resort (open 2011).
Info: (416) 595-1339, www.grenadagrenadines.com
Jamaica Tourist BoardJamaica
Reggae, rum, jerk and coffee. Jamaica is all of these. It is also the Caribbean’s third-largest island with six tourist regions – Montego Bay, Negril, Mandeville and the South Coast, Kingston, Port Antonio and Ocho Rios – each with its own character. It is amazing beaches, lush forests, rushing waterfalls, diverse culture, diving, hiking and plenty of resorts.
Top Attraction: Much photographed Dunn’s River Falls.
What's New: The recent opening of Secrets Resorts & Spas in Montego Bay and side-by-side Secrets St. James and Secrets Wild Orchid.
Info: (416) 482-7850/1-800-465-2624, www.visitjamaica.com
Nevis Tourism AuthorityNevis
Discover an authentic Caribbean experience on this small, off the beaten path island. Lying south of Puerto Rico and west of Antigua, Nevis boasts clear offshore waters that delight divers, a stunning view from the top of Nevis Peak and the charm and tranquility of bygone days.
Top Attraction: Sunshine’s Beach Bar & Grill, for Sunshine's famous Killer Bee.
Info: 1-866-55-NEVIS, www.nevisisland.com
Puerto Rico Tourism CompanyPuerto Rico
Puerto Rico offers up a diverse collection of attractions, breathtaking beaches and amazing scenery. Stay in a paradore (local inn) and dine at a Mesone (local restaurant) to discover the real Puerto Rico. San Juan, the capital, honours its colonial past in Spanish fortresses, cobblestone streets and historic sites like the El Morro Fort.
Top Attraction: Old San Juan, the only walled city in the Caribbean and one of the oldest.
Info: (416) 368-2680/1-800-667-0394, www.seepuertorico.com
Roger Brisbane, Brisbane ProductionsSt. Kitts
Tours are tops in St. Kitts. They take in lava formations, tropical forests, lagoons, cruising and an historic sugar train, the only scenic passenger train in the Caribbean. Spotted by Columbus in 1493, the island’s heritage is traced to the arrival of the British in 1623 and the arrival of the sugar trade.
Top Attraction: Brimstone Hill Fortress, built by slave labour during the sugar trade era.
What's New: Bungalows at Turtle Beach in Christophe Harbour; Sky Safari St. Kitts, Ziplining Tours; Beaumont Park horse-and greyhound-racing facility.
Info: (416) 368-6707/1-888-395-4887, www.stkittstourism.kn
St Lucia Tourist BoardSt. Lucia
St. Lucia boasts lush and dramatic scenery, like the famous Pitons (twin volcanic peaks and the region’s only drive-in volcano) and a vast rainforest interior, complemented by spectacular waterfalls, breathtaking views and friendly locals. Renowned romance destination, but families are welcome, too with adventures, water parks and kids-only amenities.
Top Attraction: Repeatedly named the Best Wedding & Honeymoon Destination by the World Travel Awards year.
Info: 1-800-869-0377, www.stlucianow.ca
St Maarten Tourist BureauSt. Maarten
St. Maarten is an island with a split personality – French to the north and Dutch to the south. Along with plenty of historic sites, St. Maarten boasts 36 beaches, great water and wind sports, 12 casinos and more than 300 restaurants that dish up a worldwide range of cuisines.
Top Attraction: 12 Metre Challenge (Americas Cup Yacht Racing).
Info: 1-800-786-2278, www.vacationstmaarten.com
St Vincent & The Grenadines Tourist OfficeSt. Vincent & The Grenadines
A top destination for international sailors, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, a collection of 32 islands, also offers spectacular diving, an active volcano, British heritage, and of course, beaches. Kingstown features the oldest botanical gardens in the Caribbean and an interpretive display on the Carib culture. Bequia preserves its whaling heritage and showcases the talents of local model shipbuilders.
Top Attraction: Tobago Cays one of the best snorkelling and diving areas in the world.
What’s New: Buccament Bay Beach Resort, the first 5-star property on St. Vincent.
Info: (416) 630-9292, www.discoversvg.com
Trinidad & Tobago Tourism Develop CoTrinidad & Tobago
Lively Trinidad boasts a bustling capital city, Port of Spain, with galleries, restaurants and museums; gorgeous beaches along the north shore; and lush interior forests. Serene Tobago has quiet beaches on it’s north coast while its eastern side is home to the oldest protected forest in the Western Hemisphere.
Top Attraction: The excitement, fun and drama of making mas in Trinidad and Tobago at Carnival.
Info: (212) 529 8484, www.gotrinidadandtobago.com
Turks & Caicos Tourist BoardTurks & Caicos
Turks & Caicos is the place for miles and miles of uncrowded beaches, blue waters, legendary snorkeling, diving and fishing and a relaxed atmosphere. Providenciales is the main tourist centre; and Grand Turk, where cruise ships dock, and Salt Cay offer a look at history and Bermudian architecture.
Top Attraction: The turquoise waters with ample opportunities for snorkelling and scuba diving.
What’s New: Theme nights at local restaurants, festivals like Conch Festival and Gourmet Safari in November and Maskanoo Festival in December.
Info: 1-866-413-TURK (8875), www.turksandcaicostourism.com
USVI Dept TourismUS Virgin Islands
St. Croix is one of the few places where you can dive a reef, a wall, a wreck and a pier in one day. St. Thomas is the best known, with its cruise ship terminal and fabulous shopping in Charlotte Amalie, while St. John, the smallest, sits within the Virgin Islands National Park.
Top Attraction: Estate Whim Plantation on St. Croix relives the days when sugar and rum shaped the island’s life and land.
What's New: Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa is now an all-inclusive; Westin St. John Resort & Villas has converted 186 hotel rooms to 94 villas; Pond Bay Club, St. John has opened.
Info: 1-800-372-USVI, www.VisitUSVI.com