“Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination” wrote another Nobel Prize-winning author, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, and it’s no leap of the imagination to see why. An exuberant blaze of primary colours not so much catches as bludgeons the eye, crystalline white beaches framed by azure waters assail the senses and everywhere, the pervading scent of Butterfly Jasmine, coconut and rum (sometimes with a side-order of salt fish) is wafted on the warm, softly stirring air. Perhaps that’s why it’s a destination of choice for paradise-seekers and adventure-hunters everywhere.

Set east of Central America in the Caribbean Sea, a vast array of over 7000 islands - with fewer than 10% being inhabited - makes up the Caribbean region. But despite the relatively low population, it has a rich, varied (and often blood soaked) history. And yes, of course the ‘pirates of the Caribbean’ had their part to play.

During the golden, musket-toting days of buccaneering in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Caribbean became the ideal hideout for such notoriously swashbuckling freebooters as Blackbeard (rather less excitingly christened Edward Teach), Calico Jack (aka John Rackham) and Henry Morgan (later immortalised by Captain Morgan rum), all hell-bent on relieving the ships trading between the Americas and Europe of their valuable cargo. Many Caribbean islands still play up this piratical heritage, and you’ll find the Jolly Roger theme everywhere, from pubs to posters to party boats.

Paradise for those who like to sit and sip a local rum cocktail and take in the glorious beach sunset whilst feasting on freshly-caught barbecued spiny lobster, the Caribbean is also perfect for the active traveller

Hiking here takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. Head to nature reserves, tropical areas or old plantations to catch a glimpse of native wildlife like the green tail monkey, Caribbean fruit bat or purple-throated Carib. Golfers will be in heaven with a wide range of extraordinary courses to choose from. And of course, being an island region, sailing and water sports are almost mandatory. Cruise the different islands, check out the marine life with some scuba diving or snorkelling or indulge in some serious surf in the crystal clear waters.

In the Caribbean, there’s no reason not to have and do it all. Just pour a piña colada and get ready to leave the humdrum behind…


People


Getting to know the history and heritage of the Caribbean goes a long way towards understanding its culture and its people. Each of the islands has a distinct cultural identity (Trinidad, for example, calls itself the "Rainbow Island" because the inhabitants come from 40 different origins) moulded by early European colonialists, aboriginal Indian tribes and the African slave trade and today, the people of the Caribbean are a harmonic mix of these ethnic groups. Nearly all the inhabitants speak English (with differing dialects) and different currencies are used throughout the Caribbean, with most being linked to the US Dollar.

The Caribbean lifestyle is unquestionably a product of its history and of its exotic, tropical setting. The architecture, music, attitudes and local customs have all been influenced by the physical landscape, and the benevolent climate of the region and the islanders are among the friendliest and most fun-loving people on the planet. They have discovered what life’s all about: to have fun, no matter what. This relaxed, laid-back, "No problem," "Don't worry, be happy" approach permeates everywhere - just watch the locals laugh, talk, joke, and interact with each other.


Places


So many islands, so little time…
With over 7,000 islands making up the Caribbean area, you’ll be spoiled for choice as to where to go. So to get you on board with the area, here are our 6 favourite destinations:


Cuba

Radiating old-school cool and trapped in a time-warp (check out the thousands of 1940s and 1950s American cars on the roads), Cuba is a country of eccentric, eclectic and exotic allure. In the towns, grandiose squares and meandering cobbled streets sit cheek by jowl with dilapidated mansions. In the interior, fertile forests and fetid, crocodile-infested swamps are set before a background of soaring, sky-piercing mountains. And on the north west coast, stunning white-sand beaches dot the coastline and provide the perfect playground for sailing, snorkelling, scuba diving and windsurfing.
Check what you do in Cuba here...


Grenada

From the picturesque harbour of St George and the long Grande Anse beach to the remote northern village of Sauteurs, Grenada is a social place. Often referred to as the ‘Spice Island’, it could equally well be known as the ’Steel Island’ as the sound of steel drums regularly booms out accompanied by dancing and liberal slugs of local rum as another impromptu party gets going. For those who are sporty rather than party people, the kayaking, kitesurfing, sailing and paddle-boarding will quench your thirst for the wet, wild and active.
Check our selections of private cruises in Grenada...


Grenadines

A string of 32 islands and cays makes up the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And whilst St, Vincent is one of the quietest, least tourist-filled islands in the Caribbean, the magical Grenadines will enchant you with fascinating inns, pristine white-sand beaches, superb sailing waters, and a laid-back, get-away-from-it-all ambience. For the most adventurous, a kayaking and diving trip to the Bat Cave at Buccament Bay is a must, whilst other activities on offer include Hobie Cat sailing, windsurfing and snorkelling.
Enjoy the grenadines on our private yacht charters


Martinique

One of the Caribbean’s most captivating and cosmopolitan destinations, the French island of Martinique is adored by visitors for its cuisine, music and panache as well as the glittering white-sand beaches, verdant rain forests and resident Mont Pelée volcano. A dazzling selection of truly excellent restaurants make Martinique a favourite for foodies, whilst water babies will love the diving, fishing, kitesurfing and sailing.
Explore stunning beaches and pristine nature with a private cruise in martinique


St. Martin-Sint Maarten

Divided into two nations (and the world’s smallest area to be so), this half-French, half-Dutch island's intriguing mix incorporates a richly diverse African heritage together with 120 different nationalities speaking over 80 languages. Unsurprisingly, this unique blend gives rise to some of the finest cuisine and fascinating culture in the Caribbean. Equally unsurprising is that the spectacular physical landscape also gives rise to excellent adventures like hiking and treetop ziplining, whilst the stunning coastline offers some of the best jet-skiing, snorkelling and diving in the region.


U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands — St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix — may well proudly fly the Stars and Stripes, but this small enclave is, in reality, a rum-infused mix of the foreign and familiar that offers something for every visitor to enjoy. The diverse history, ridiculously beautiful beaches, many activities, good food and West Indian culture are the living, breathing embodiment of everything tropical. Get ready for throbbing reggae rhythms, curried goat crooning with spice and silky, deep-fried yucca as well as superb fly boarding, diving, snorkelling and, uniquely, the chance to observe marine life on an motorised underwater scooter.


Pleasures


Much more than just beautiful beaches and glitzy resorts, the Caribbean is also a fabulous shopping destination. Whether you’re looking for rum or a piece of art, a T-shirt or handmade silver jewellery, it’s a veritable cornucopia of bargains. Try Barbados for wafer-thin English bone china, St. Martin for fine crystal and imported French goods and St. Croix for one-of-a-kind boutiques. Make sure you visit the local markets wherever you are, especially St. George’s Market in Grenada and the Bordeaux market in St. Thomas.

And, when the clock strikes ten, instead of retiring to bed as much of the Caribbean does, seek out the nightlife hot spots - now is when the party’s just getting started. Port of Spain,Trinidad plays host to a collection of buzzing nightspots (especially in St. James), whilst Gloucester Avenue in Jamaica’s Montage Bay is also justly known as the ‘hip strip’. Sint Maarten has some seriously good bars, and, in addition, a few casinos where you can either bet your shirt or watch the showgirls take theirs off.

The food here is magnificent - the sea and the terrain combining to form one giant fresh fish, fruit and vegetable market. Caribbean cuisine is influenced by Chinese, Indian, Dutch, French, Spanish, British, and Amerindian food, with different islands also developing their own distinct dishes. And, while spicy, it’s one of the healthier options among culinary traditions - chock full of yams, yucca, beans, corn, chile peppers, potatoes and tomatoes. Salt fish (generally salted codfish) is a regional speciality, usually served in a salad or stew, with one famous rendition being Jamaica’s irresistibly savoury ackee and saltfish. Lobster, sea turtle, shrimp, crab, and sea urchins are also specialities on the islands and make star appearances in intensely exotic, spicy dishes like Antillean crab pilaf and curried coconut shrimp. Meat, most commonly chicken and beef, is marinaded, rubbed with jerk spices or seasoned with local ingredients like wild cinnamon, tamarind, pimento leaf (like a spicy bay leaf), pepper elder (a hillside vine with an incomparable flavour) and cayenne-like bird peppers and cooked to a spicy, crunchy moistness over hulks of smoking logs.

Those with a sweet tooth will rejoice to know that desserts are also an integral part of the Caribbean culinary experience, being incorporated into almost every meal. Sugar cane is one of the area's chief products, so there’s always an abundance of cakes, pies, and dumplings (in Caribbean restaurants, check out the emphasis they put on their desserts; in their culture, dessert is just as important as the main course).

And let’s not forget the rum. White, gold or dark, Caribbean rums go hand in hand with old tales of pirates and plantations and new ones of indulgence and the celebration of life on a sun drenched beach. With every island making their own (sometimes even as bush rums served in a local roadside bar), blending different kinds, and using vanilla, orange, tobacco and various spices to bring out flavours, the choices (and potential hangovers) are endless.


Do


Exercise extreme caution when driving. ‘Crazy driving’ is not uncommon and each corner could be an accident waiting to happen.
Cover up when visiting town centres, restaurants, shopping malls or churches.
Slap on some sunscreen. No matter how badly you want a tan.
Say ‘Good morning’, ‘Good afternoon’, or ‘Good evening’ at the appropriate time of day before asking an islander a question. It’s considered extremely rude not to do so.
Try the different local delicacies, especially if you’re going island-hopping.


Don’t


Overdo it. Sun and rum can end up being a disastrous combination. It’s not called ‘punch’ for nothing!
Touch plants you know nothing about. Some native plants can induce severe itching and painful inflammation.
Carry your valuables in plain sight.
Wear camouflage clothing. A number of islands (Barbados, St. Vincent, Jamaica and St. Lucia) have banned the wearing of camouflage by non-members of their military.
Be shy about haggling with beach merchants and at local markets. Frankly, the visitor who pays full price is looked on as a bumpkin.


Best time to go


The weather in the Caribbean is generally best (low humidity and cool evenings) from December through to April. Summer and autumn can be quite sticky, having higher humidity and rainfall, with showers and short, heavy downpours being common. Please note that June to November is also the official hurricane season however, even in these months, the odds are slim. But whenever you plan to go, chances are that there will be unique events and festivals going on somewhere in this gloriously fascinating region.


Best way to go


It goes without saying that the best way to explore over 7,000 islands is by boat.
Set sail from and anchor in the bigger islands - local produce is cheap and plentiful, meaning that provisioning is easy. Spend as long as you like exploring, then set sail to your next destination. Take your time drinking in the beauties of the coastline and the delicious local rum, then decide where to go next. Wherever it is, in true Caribbean fashion, no worries. Your boat can take you to any island you wish, meaning your trip is completely customisable.
Your boat’s customisable too…just choose from any of the beautifully equipped vessels.
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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Kitesurf
Snorkeling
Sailing
Diving
Cruising