The Most and Least Visited Caribbean Destinations

See recent posts by Laura Ratliff

Despite the devastating hurricanes that rocked many of the Caribbean’s most gorgeous islands in 2017, the region saw 26 million tourist arrivals -- a 2.7 percent increase from 2016. And luckily, 2018 proves to be even better for these stunning locations. That means you might face some incredibly crowded beaches. To help you plan your trip and find a little peace (or a bustling stretch of sand), we’ve used data from the World Tourism Organization to round up the most- and least-visited Caribbean destinations.

The Most-Visited Destinations

1. Dominican Republic, 6.2 million

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic/Oyster

The Dominican Republic saw some of the strongest growth in 2017, drawing more than six million visitors. And 2019 will prove to be another big year for tourism, especially with large resort openings like the Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda, situated along the previously isolated north shore. As the second-largest country in the Caribbean, the D.R. is known for its golfing, stunning resorts, and palm-tree-lined beaches.

Dominican Republic Hotel Pick: Majestic Colonial Punta Cana

The Majestic Colonial Punta Cana is one of three upscale all-inclusive sister properties on a beautiful stretch of Bavaro Beach. The 658 suites are attractive with marble floors, jetted tubs, and some ocean views. Upgrades to swim-up suites are available. The dedicated animation staff keeps the energy upbeat at twice-weekly foam parties. A 1,300 foot lazy river-style pool meanders down the center of the property and there are always available sun loungers here.

2. Cuba, 3.9 million

Havana, Cuba/Oyster

Although still foreign to many Americans, Cuba has been a tourist hot spot for years. Popular among Canadians and Europeans, the country has tons to offer its visitors, from vintage cars to breathtaking colonial architecture. Traveling to this unique destination can still be difficult for Americans, but you can go provided you visit under one of the United State’s 12 approved reasons for travel.

Cuba Hotel Pick: Melia Habana

The upscale, 397-room Melia Habana has a firm place as one of the top handful of hotels in Havana, along with the Parque Central, Melia Cohiba, and Hotel Nacional. Its huge outdoor pool is the largest of any city hotel, many of the spacious, clean rooms have sea views, the 24-hour lobby bar is vast and elegant, and there are multiple restaurants, from a 24-hour cafeteria to a buffet to a formal Asian a la carte.

3. Puerto Rico, 3.9 million

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico/Oyster

Puerto Rico’s warm weather and white-sand beaches keep it ranked as one of the Caribbean’s top travel destinations — and rightfully so. Easy to reach from the U.S., Puerto Rico is also relatively inexpensive for visitors and friendly to English-speaking travelers. And while the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, many of its resorts have re-opened and, as we reported back in August, the destination is encouraging the return of tourism.

Puerto Rico Hotel Pick: Condado Vanderbilt Hotel

The Condado Vanderbilt Hotel is a four-and-a-half-pearl hotel located in San Juan’s vibrant Condado district, directly accessible to the beach. The hotel’s 319 guest rooms are timelessly attractive, with dark-wood furniture and stone-topped bathroom vanities. Early 20th-century antiques are ubiquitous throughout, and the hotel plays up its historic setting with handsome restaurants and lounges that exude a turn-of-the-century ambience.

4. Jamaica, 2.4 million

Port Antonio, Jamaica/Oyster

If you’re searching for a warm beach in the middle of February, look no further than Jamaica. With temperatures in the 80s and 90s year-round, snowbirds flock to this island during peak season, which runs from December through April. Loaded with all-inclusive resorts, Jamaica offers excellent food, beaches, and plenty of water sports to keep active tourists engaged. Note that the U.S. State Department has issued several travel warnings relating to ongoing crime and violence in the country.

Jamaica Hotel Pick: The Caves

With its upscale boutique vibe, and dramatic cliffside setting, The Caves is considered one of Jamaica’s most romantic escapes. The 12 unique, private cottages and suites at this upscale all-inclusive property unfold along lush garden paths and dramatic seaside cliffs carved with steep stairways down to the water and into incredible grottos. There’s a clifftop bar, a grotto bar, and private candlelit cave dining on offer.

5. Bahamas, 1.5 million

Beach at Hotel Riu Palace Paradise Island/Oyster

It’s easy to understand why more than one million people visited the Bahamas in 2017. Composed of more than 700 islands, the country has plenty to keep travelers occupied, from world-class scuba diving and deep-sea fishing to championship golf courses and legal gambling. And of course, classic Bahamian fare like grilled conch is reason enough to visit.

Bahamas Hotel Pick: Hotel Riu Palace Paradise Island

The upscale Hotel Riu Palace Paradise Island, located next door to mega-resort Atlantis, is one of the few all-inclusive resorts in the Bahamas. The buffet spreads change often, and four a la carte options — steakhouse, Japanese, gourmet, and fusion — help stave off all-inclusive monotony. All beverages, nightly entertainment, and use of a sauna are also covered.

The Least-Visited Destinations

1. Montserrat, 8,000

Montserrat; size4riggerboots/Flickr
Montserrat; size4riggerboots/Flickr

Montserrat is part of the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands and is home to just 5,000 people. Largely abandoned after a volcanic eruption in 1995, the small island has seen a resurgence lately, both in population and tourism. While it’s not loaded with all-inclusives or white-sand beaches like some other Caribbean destinations, adventurous visitors will discover rainforests filled with rare flora and fauna, black-sand beaches, and shoreline caves here.

2. Anguilla, 68,000

Beach at Zemi Beach House, Resort & Spa/Oyster
Beach at Zemi Beach House, Resort & Spa/Oyster

Often confused with Antigua, its neighbor to the east, Anguilla is a small secluded island in the British West Indies that’s seen a remarkable influx of luxury hotel development in the past few years. The island was severely damaged by Hurricane Irma in the fall of 2017, but today, Anguilla has largely bounced back. Stay at the modern Zemi Beach House, which features villas with private plunge pools.

Anguilla Hotel Pick: Zemi Beach House, Hotel & Spa

Zemi Beach House Resort and Spa is a four-and-a-half-pearl resort on Anguilla’s gorgeous Shoal Bay. Zemi’s two sleek infinity pools include an adult-only option with a 60-foot lap lane and an oceanfront family pool. The sandy beach is lined with loungers and free water sports, and sea turtles use it as a breeding ground at certain times of year.

3. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 76,000

St. Vincent and the Grenadines; ctsnow/Flickr
St. Vincent and the Grenadines; ctsnow/Flickr

A paradise for sailors, St. Vincent and the Grenadines consists of the main island, St. Vincent, surrounded by a handful of smaller islands. Some, like Bequia and Admiralty Bay, are well-known for sailing competitions and luxury yachts that visit each year. Long a playground for the rich and famous, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is home to some of the world’s most exclusive places to stay, like Petit St. Vincent, a private island resort with just 22 rooms.

4. Dominica, 79,000

Batibou Beach, Dominica; Matthias Ripp/Flickr
Batibou Beach, Dominica; Matthias Ripp/Flickr

Dominica was devastated by Hurricane Maria and is still recovering, but the tiny island nation still welcomes some eco-minded tourists each year. Called “the Nature Island,” Dominica is largely appealing to visitors looking to dive, snorkel, or hike. With an active volcano at its center, the island is home to the 115-mile Waitukubuli National Trail. (For those seeking a bit of Caribbean luxury, it’s also home to Secret Bay, a chic resort. Anichi Resort, an Autograph Collection property, will open in late 2019.)

5. St. Kitts and Nevis: 114,000

Beach at Four Seasons Resort Nevis/Oyster
Beach at Four Seasons Resort Nevis/Oyster

For as small as it is, St. Kitts and Nevis has a remarkable collection of luxury hotels and inns, many of which are set within the ruins of old sugar plantations. (Family-run Ottley’s Plantation Inn is a favorite.) In addition to scenic beaches like Frigate Bay, the country is filled with abundant hiking trails.

St. Kitts and Nevis Hotel Pick: Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies

This Four Seasons sits on a large, attractive beach on the small island of Nevis. The gorgeous rooms here may be the highlight; the updated decor has a Ralph Lauren-like look, with a blue-and-yellow scheme accented by pops of color and dark wood furniture; the massive bathrooms feature separate showers and tubs. Plus, almost all rooms have beautiful views, of either mountains or the ocean.

Data courtesy of the United Nations World Tourism Organization 2018 Tourism Highlights.

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