The Caribbean is more than just Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, and the other popular tourist spots you've no doubt heard plenty about. There are many islands that don't get the publicity they deserve. Maybe that's a good thing. These lesser-known getaways offer smaller crowds and unspoiled beaches. Next time you're planning a tropical escape, make sure to consider one of these four underrated Caribbean destinations.
Puerto Rico is an amazing but hardly underappreciated Caribbean island. Most visitors stick to the main island, however, and that's a mistake. Although Vieques is only about eight miles from Puerto Rico, it offers a different, far less touristy experience.
One of the highlights of Vieques is Mosquito Bay, famous for being the world's brightest bioluminescent bay. Take an evening tour or paddle out in a kayak for a visual treat you can only experience in a handful of places around the world.
You shouldn't miss the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, which was originally a training area for the U.S. Navy but now offers visitors the chance to enjoy several beaches, lagoons, and forested areas.
Vieques offers other unique attractions to keep you busy. The Puerto Ferro Lighthouse, built by the Spanish, is the perfect spot to take in unmatched views of the island and snap a few Instagram shots. Also built by the Spanish is the Conde Mirasol Fort, a 19th-century structure that overlooks the Atlantic, now transformed into a museum with artifacts from the island's past.
Although it sounds similar, Dominica has no connection to the Dominican Republic. Dominica is one of the Caribbean's smallest islands, at less than 300 square miles. Don't let the size deter you; this tiny area is filled with breathtaking location after breathtaking location.
Morne Trois Pitons National Park is a 17,000-acre park packed with jungles, rainforests, lakes, and waterfalls. It's also where you'll find Boiling Lake, which is exactly what it sounds like, a lake of boiling water. Another favorite spot in the park is Victoria Waterfall, a secluded spot worth the trek for the turquoise pool and undisturbed surroundings.
After exploring the natural wonders of Morne Trois National Park you might be ready for some sightseeing in Roseau, the capital of Dominica. Roseau reveals the multicultural origins of the island, which has French, English, and West Indian influences. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the Old Market. Visit the Dominica Museum and the attached Dominica Botanical Gardens to get a better understanding of the island's history and natural beauty.
A trip to the Caribbean wouldn't be complete without some underwater activities, and one of the best spots in Dominica is Champagne Reef. This marine reserve is home to an incredible assortment of sea life and vegetation. The reef is also known for its geothermal activity, so you'll see plenty of bubbles rising from the seafloor.
The West Indies island of Nevis is right across the channel from its higher-profile neighbor, St. Kitts. In contrast to St. Kitts, Nevis is seldom-visited by cruise ships and there are no casinos to speak of. It offers a seclusion for those seeking a restful Caribbean experience, and, honestly, isn't that the best kind of Caribbean getaway?
At the Botanical Gardens of Nevis, you can get a taste of Asia as well as the West Indies. This five-acre sanctuary is known for its sculptures of Hindu deities such as Shiva, as well as its magnificent display of native plants. As you ponder the Cambodian dragons and towering statues, you can also appreciate the vast orchid collection, the tropical vine garden, and lily ponds. The restaurant even provides views of the bright sea and St. Kitts.
Alexander Hamilton was born on Nevis, and, if you're in the mood for some history, you can visit the house where he lived, now the Museum of Nevis History.
For those who enjoy hiking, Nevis Peak provides a challenging but scenic jaunt. As parts of the hike are quite steep and slippery, it's recommended that you hire a guide or take a guided tour.
Visiting in the spring? Don't miss the Booby Island Regatta & Sailing Festival, an annual competition between the islands of Nevis and St. Kitts, where you can watch yacht races and sailing events, attend parties, or even participate for a reasonable fee ($75 per yacht).
Anegada, British Virgin Islands, is known for its pristine beaches, coral reefs, and exotic wildlife. It's difficult to find a commercial flight directly to Anegada, so you'll probably have to fly there from St. Thomas or San Juan. If you're seeking a tranquil and unique experience, however, it's well worth the trip. Anegada means "drowned island" and it earned its name because it's only 28 feet above sea level. Its low elevation and surrounding reefs caused many shipwrecks over the centuries. Why not go for a dive and explore a few of them during your stay?
While the geography of Anegada hasn't always been kind to ships, it's ideal for diving and snorkeling. Horseshoe Reef is one of the reasons so many ships met their doom. At the same time, it offers modern travelers incredible diving and snorkeling opportunities. You'll travel among all sorts of tropical fish, sea turtles, and rays. Take a charter tour to find the best spots to explore.
While the Caribbean is full of wildlife, Anegada offers something(s) you won't see on any other island — thousands of flamingos. Flamingo Pond is where you can join these colorful creatures for an afternoon. Be sure to bring binoculars and a camera so you can observe and photograph the flamingos and other seabirds from the raised lookout.
Aside from swimming, diving, and snorkeling, the island is also a fantastic place to kitesurf, whether you're trying it for the first time or you're experienced. There are several hotels, resorts, and kitesurfing schools where you can learn if you're a novice, so consider a lesson at either Anegada Beach Club or Tommy Gaunt Kitesurfing.