White sands, clear waters, lush green palms trees, ice cold beer and sunshine for days… All islands in the Caribbean are pretty much alike right? Wrong! From volcanoes to steep hills, desert-like limestone expanses and dense tropical forests, there is a surprising amount of diversity within the Caribbean (not to mention that some islands speak Spanish, while others speak French, English or Dutch). Although you may be familiar with the more popular places like Jamaica, Barbados, Bermuda or the Bahamas, there are plenty of other, lesser-known destinations just waiting to be discovered. The best part about taking a trip to the Caribbean is that it’s actually quite easy to plan day trips and hop from one island to the next. Here’s how:
Where to start: Antigua
This petite island nation might only be 100 sq miles, but Antigua boasts 365 beaches, one for every day of the week as the locals like to say. Once an ancient volcano and now a totally flat coral-based landmass with the exception of one mountain, Mount Obama (the name pre-dates the President), this West Indies atoll is known for its meandering coastline and spectacular hidden islets and beaches. Also notorious as a legendary place for navy fleets (and pirate ships) to seek shelter and refuge, Antigua is now one of the Caribbean’s most sought-after vacation destinations. With a pristine coral reef surrounding the island, scuba divers and snorkelers from all over the world come to seek out its rich and diverse underwater world. If you can tear yourself away from this idyllic setting, some islands worth checking out for day trips or short jaunts are Barbuda, St. Kitts and Montserrat.
Antigua to Barbuda
The Caribbean nation of Antigua is actually made up of two islands – Antigua and its sister island, Barbuda. One of the few islands left in the Caribbean that feels practically deserted, it’s the perfect day trip for those looking to really take a break from it all. With seemingly endless white and pink sand beaches that you can practically call your own, an abundance of old shipwrecks and reefs to explore underwater and the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, this quiet, peaceful place is only home to a handful of residents, luxurious hotels, guest houses and resorts. There are two ways to get to Barbuda from Antigua, a 20-minute flight that leaves twice daily, or by sea on the Barbuda Express, which takes 90 minutes and is timed to allow you to leave in the morning and be back at your villa by dinnertime.
Antigua to St. Kitts
The larger of the two islands that make up the nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, this incredibly striking Caribbean island is all about mountains, rainforests, and beaches. It has a loose, laid-back vibe that makes this tropical paradise practically irresistible. With a mix of resort-level relaxation, white, gray and black sand beaches, beatific nature, rich history and a surprisingly boisterous party scene, there is no shortage of actives to seek out, both during the day and night, so the main question is just how long you want to stay. To get to St. Kitts, there are several daily flights on the Caribbean airline Liat that take about 30-minutes.
Antigua to Montserrat
Whether you hop on a short 20-minute flight or relax on a 2-hour ferry ride, you won’t regret visiting one of the Caribbean’s best kept secrets: the island of Montserrat. If you haven’t heard of this 39-square mile British Overseas Territory (with 25 miles of coastline), it’s probably because in 1995 the once dormant Soufrière Hills volcano erupted and destroyed the capital city, Plymouth, and now there is a strict exclusion zone for half of the island. Today, it’s the most studied volcano in the world and Montserrat is regarded as a ‘Modern Day Pompeii’ in the Caribbean. But fear not! The northern part of this island is safe and provides stunning volcanic views, incredible black sand beaches, serene surroundings and a lack of commercialism or crime that is practically non-existent elsewhere in the Caribbean these days.
Where to stay in Antigua