Looking for a true island getaway in the Caribbean? There’s beach vacations, and then there’s beach vacations on secluded, virtually-unheard-of islands in the Caribbean. While both have their appeal, we prefer the latter for times when you just need to get away from it all.
We’ve put together a list of nine Caribbean islands you’ve never heard of that will make the perfect tropical escape. Go ahead and tag the location on your Instagram posts—your followers will still have no clue where you’ve run off to this time.
Many Caribbean travelers have heard of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but few have heard of tiny Water Island, just a 15-minute ferry ride south of Charlotte Amalie on the south side of St. Thomas. Water Island is sometimes called “the Fourth Virgin,” though it’s much more secluded and quiet than the three main U.S. Virgin Islands.
The population on Water Island averages fewer than 200 residents. Though it’s perfect for a day trip or quick getaway from the crowds of St. Thomas, visitors can also lodge overnight in a private villa or cottage; there are no commercial resorts or hotels. Spending the night in a self-contained cottage at the Virgin Islands Campground is another popular option for adventurous travelers who want a more authentic experience.
When visiting Water Island, you’ll enjoy exploring by golf cart and checking out sites like Phillips’ Landing, Indian camp excavations, picturesque Honeymoon Beach, Sprat Bay Beach and well-preserved ruins. Stop at one of two beachfront restaurants for a quick bite and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings—Water Island is home to birds, iguanas and red-footed tortoises.
Cayo Espanto is a private island resort located three miles off the coast of San Pedro, Belize, with a grand total of seven villas on the entire island. This hidden gem offers guests a vacation in the lap of luxury with unbeatable ocean views and tropical bliss.
On Cayo Espanto, you’ll find private beaches and the world’s second largest barrier-reef system for snorkeling or scuba diving. History buffs will love that there are also five Mayan ruins on nearby mainland Belize.
Plus, each of Cayo Espanto’s villas is equipped with its own private dock, making for easy access to the water and activities like fishing, boating, snorkeling or simply lounging in the sun.
Turneffe Island Resort
Another hidden gem of Belize, Turneffe Island Resort is a private island located 30 miles off the coast. It spans just 14 acres yet packs a load of fun Caribbean activities like fishing, diving and snorkeling. In fact, visitors can even head out on a lionfish hunt to catch their own dinner!
Meals at Turneffe Island Resort are served family-style and open-ocean excursions are taken in groups; visitors to the tiny island tend to arrive as strangers and leave as friends. The island also hosts weekly activities—on Sundays, the resort has a Belizean Night where you can sample traditional fare like coco soup and stewed chicken.
Deep Water Cay
Deep Water Cay is a small island converted into a historic luxury resort on the east coast of Grand Bahama Island. It’s only accessible by boat or private aircraft, making it a top-secret spot for those who desire to truly get away from it all—including celebrities who want a low-key place to relax! Actor Liam Neeson once referred to Deep Water Cay as “as close to Heaven as is safe for sanity;” journalist Tom Brokaw is another raving fan.
Deep Water Cay offers a range of accommodations, from simple cottages to luxury homes. It’s currently celebrating 60 years as a bonefishing destination, making it the oldest bonefishing resort in the Bahamas. The island is known for flats fishing but there’s also diving, tennis, pool and delicious Bahamian cuisine.
Though tiny Saba is a Caribbean island with no beaches, it’s dubbed the “unspoiled queen” for its lush tropical foliage and pure beauty. Visitors love this Dutch Caribbean island for its hiking trails—it sits atop towering 3,000-foot cliffs—and world-class scuba diving.
Saba is also a richly historical destination, with the Saban community dating back to the 1600s and charming 100-year-old cottages dotting the island. Plus, getting to Saba introduces you to one of the most thrilling airport arrivals you’ll ever encounter; Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport has one of the shortest commercial runways in the world and is surrounded by water on three sides.
Scrub Island is a 230-acre British Virgin Island at the east end of Tortola in the Lesser Antilles. It’s composed almost entirely of the Scrub Island Resort Spa & Marina, which opened in July 2010. This luxury resort is a AAA Four-Diamond hotel and sits on a rugged cliffside overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The resort is home to 52 guest accommodations as well as a collection of two, three, four and six-bedroom villas.
Your visit to Scrub Island will be marked by indulgence in the onsite Ixora Spa, lounging on three private beaches and world-class restaurants like the popular Caravela. If you’re arriving by boat, Scrub Island has a 55-slip marina.
Jetset to Cayo Levantado for over-the-top luxury and exclusive treatment. Cayo Levantado—also known as Bacardí Island—is a tiny island located off the coast of the Dominican Republic in Samaná Bay. Why Bacardí Island? A commercial for the famous rum brand was shot there some years ago. The all-inclusive Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado is the only hotel on the island and you’ll need to catch a ferry from the private Bahia Principe dock in Samaná to get there.
Expect an itinerary filled with waterfalls, horseback riding through the jungle and a trip to Los Haitises National Park, which features rich biodiversity and caves marked with native Taino hieroglyphs. In the winter, savvy travelers come to Cayo Levantado in hopes of spotting humpback whales gathering in Samaná Bay.
Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory popular for scuba diving, water sports and relaxing beaches.
“There’s some incredible marine life to be seen here, including massive barrel sponges, eagle rays, nurse sharks, and lots of tropical fish,”
says Valerie Streif of GetMyBoat, the world’s largest boat rental and water experience marketplace. “Visitors can book these water sports excursions as a charter or rent a boat in Montserrat.” There are also options for paddle sports like kayaking.
Montserrat has seen volcanic eruptions in recent history, so most people opt to visit the island as a day trip from Antigua. On Montserrat, you’ll tak in sights of topographical wonder like the volcano, Soufrière Hills, black-sand beaches, cliffs and shoreline caves.
Nevis is the smaller island comprising Saint Kitts & Nevis, at just 36 square miles of pure Caribbean bliss. Named “Oualie,” or “Land of the Beautiful Waters,” by early settlers, today you’ll often hear Nevis called by its nickname, “Queen of the Caribees.” It’s separated from neighboring Saint Kitts by a two-mile channel called The Narrows.
Visitors flock to Nevis for unique attractions like spotting endangered species like Leatherback, Green and Hawksbill turtles during nesting season (April-November); the 12-day Culturama Festival (July-August) featuring parties, food and concerts honoring Nevis tradition; and feasting on some of the island’s 44 varieties of mango.
Take full advantage of Nevis’mango bounty at its only beach resort, privately owned Paradise Beach Nevis. You can forage for mangoes at the resort and even enjoy fresh mango baskets delivered to your room each morning. If you’re a diehard mango fan, plan your visit during July for the Mango & Food Festival—it’s an entire weekend dedicated to mangoes!