For many, the Caribbean evokes images of immaculate white-sand beaches, swaying palm trees, colorful coral reefs, and thick rainforests. Understandably, the Caribbean’s natural beauty hasn’t gone unnoticed, and in some cases, this has led to overdevelopment, overcrowding, and environmental degradation. If you’re in search of pristine landscapes, worry not, as there are plenty of islands that retain their beauty through conservation efforts and isolation. To make things easy, we’ve compiled a list of the Caribbean’s most unspoiled islands and shared how best to experience their natural beauty.
Editor's Note: Many Caribbean countries currently have travel restrictions related to the pandemic. Be sure to check current travel rules and regulations before planning a visit.
Commonly referred to as the “nature island,” Dominica’s ecological assets are its greatest draw for visitors. Annual tourist arrivals total in the tens of thousands, even before the damage brought by Hurricane Maria in 2017. This means you won’t have to vie for space along Dominica’s mountain trails and sandy coast. Additionally, tourism is critical to supporting the island’s recovery efforts. Boiling Lake is arguably Dominica’s most striking natural feature. The 200-foot-wide lake can be reached by a four-mile trail from Titou Gorge, a gorgeous swimming hole and waterfall set between two steep rock faces. If the six-hour round-trip trek to Boiling Lake isn’t your cup of tea, the trails to Middleham Falls or Trafalgar Falls are brief and take in lush jungle scenery on the way. For ultimate relaxation, stop by the hillside village of Wotten Waven to dip in the natural hot sulfur springs. Dominica’s beaches, which include crescent-shaped Batibou Beach and Champagne Beach, never fail to impress either. The latter is known for its offshore snorkeling, where geothermal vents heat the surrounding coral reef and seafloor.
Located just 18 miles off Puerto Rico’s eastern coast, Culebra’s stunning beaches and lush scenery feel far removed. Aside from the main town of Culebra and its adjacent airport, much of the island is largely undeveloped. Nearly a quarter of the island is protected within the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge, preserving the habitat for sea turtles and seabirds. For visitors, the century-old nature reserve provides hiking trails and immaculate beaches to discover. For seclusion, hike the roughly mile-long trail to Playa Tamarindo. Meanwhile, iconic Playa Flamenco draws the most crowds with its rusting, graffiti-covered tank parked at the edge of the crystal-clear sea. To explore Culebra’s undersea wonders, Playa Carlos Rosario’s barrier reef is easily reached from the shore. Like neighboring Vieques, bioluminescent organisms inhabit sections of Culebra’s shallow waters.
The smaller of the two islands comprising St. Kitts and Nevis, Nevis is far less trafficked than its sister island, meaning that its beaches and jungle-clad terrain are ripe for exploring. At nearly 3,200 feet tall, Nevis Peak is virtually visible from anywhere on the island. Ascending to the summit demands a four- to five-hour hike round-trip, but the effort is rewarded with views of neighboring Montserrat. The forest-covered hillsides are home to an array of bird species, including several types of hummingbirds. Nevis also possesses several pristine white-sand beaches, with Lovers Beach offering the most secluded, natural setting to enjoy the bright blue Caribbean. While traveling the coastal road, keep an eye out for blue and green signs marking historical and natural sites along the Nevis Heritage Trail, such as former sugar plantations, mangrove forests, and churches.
Our Top Pick for a Nevis Hotel: Nisbet Plantation Beach Club
The historic Nisbet Plantation Beach Club affords its guests a tranquil, beachfront setting on Nevis’s northern shores. Additionally, the cottage-style rooms grant considerable privacy.
The British Overseas Territory of Montserrat was a popular getaway for well-heeled travelers before the Soufrière Hills volcano, which was believed to be dormant, erupted in 1995. Following the volcano’s devastating impact, two-thirds of Montserrat’s population fled the island. The southern portion of the island has been deemed uninhabitable due to ongoing volcanic activity. Today, Montserrat’s population has risen to 5,000 and nature-based tourism is reemerging on the island’s northern half. The Montserrat Volcano Observatory, which monitors Soufrière’s volcanic activity, features an interpretation center and clear views of the volcano from a safe distance. The island’s forested interior is crisscrossed by nine main nature trails. The Oriole Walkway Trail grants panoramic views of the island from Lawyers Mountain, while the Rendezvous Beach Trail connects to the secluded white-sand beach on the northwest coast. For more insight into the volcanic destruction, trips into the southern exclusion zone can be arranged to tour the abandoned capital, Plymouth, with local guides.
The tiny Dutch island of Saba is just five square miles, but it makes every inch count in terms of remarkable natural beauty. For a Caribbean island, Saba is considerably lacking beaches, as massive Mount Scenery rises from the sea to 2,910 feet, making it the Netherlands’ highest elevation point. This harsh volcanic topography has helped protect Saba’s raw mountain scenery from cruise ship traffic and large hotel developers. Departing from the village of Windwardside, the Mount Scenery Trail climbs more than 1,000 steps through mahogany forest and lush greenery to the summit. Saba’s geothermal activity has formed surreal submarine landscapes that have protective status within Saba National Marine Park. At the Eye of the Needle, divers can witness a pinnacle rock formation, vibrant coral, reef sharks, and humpback whales during the winter and early spring. Closer to the surface, snorkelers can appreciate the reefs off Wells Bay and a number of caves around the island. Although beaches aren’t Saba’s main draw, there is a man-made stretch of sand along Cove Bay and another sliver that emerges at Wells Bay during low tide.
Although considerably smaller than Trinidad, Tobago’s coastline and beaches are more pristine on the whole. Tobago’s most popular beach, Pigeon Point, occupies the rounded tip of a peninsula. Beach bars and water sports abound along the golden sand, as do crowds during the high season. For more isolation and ideal offshore snorkeling conditions, the tranquil waters of Pirate’s Bay are a mere ten-minute jaunt from downtown Charlotteville. Englishman’s Bay is equally picturesque, with its surrounding jungle and half-moon beach, but it includes a laid-back beach bar and some lounge chairs. Little Tobago, a small islet off the island’s eastern shore, is not to be missed either. Glass-bottom boat tours bring visitors to snorkel the nearby Angel Reef and spot seabird species. Heading inland, the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve doesn’t disappoint with several overlooks and trailheads off the Roxborough-Parlatuvier Road, which connects the island’s northern and southern coasts. In the hills above Roxborough, Argyle Waterfall cascades over three separate falls, dropping more than 175 feet.
Our Top Pick for a Tobago Hotel: Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort
Situated on the calm waters of Stonehaven Bay, Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort helps guests relax with its swim-up bar, all-inclusive packages, and easily accessible beach.
With more than 30 beaches lining its sheltered bays and coastline, this British Overseas Territory is an idyllic paradise. The most famous of Anguilla’s beaches, Shoal Bay, spans two miles and features sparkling pink sand between calm waters and unpretentious beach bars. Masks and fins can be rented to leisurely snorkel the offshore reefs. As its name suggests, small Sandy Island is strewn with powdery white sand amid swaying palms. What’s more, the surrounding coral reefs are teeming with sea turtles and a wealth of fish species. Aside from the stunning beaches, Anguilla’s craggy limestone coast features numerous caves, too. On the north side, Fountain Cavern houses stalagmites, religious artifacts, and nearly millennia-old petroglyphs above its freshwater pools.
Our Top Pick for an Anguilla Hotel: Zemi Beach House, Hotel & Spa
Situated on a beautiful white-sand beach, the boutique Zemi Beach House, Hotel & Spa enjoys a removed setting on Shoal Bay.
8. Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Between the 33 islands that make up St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Bequia is arguably its most unspoiled. Bequia’s beaches are its top asset, starting with Princess Margaret Beach, a stretch of gold sand encircled by thick vegetation. Follow the coastal Belmont Boardwalk from Port Elizabeth for the most scenic approach to this stunning section of coastline. Further down the coast, another superb beach awaits at Lower Bay. Beyond the beaches, Bequia’s interior has a few hiking trails (primarily to Mount Pleasant and Mount Peggy for vistas out to the sea) as well as a turtle sanctuary on the less developed northeastern coast. Taking in Bequia’s beauty from a historic schooner is another must — the Friendship Rose offers tours of the Grenadines. Bequia is located just south of St. Vincent and can be reached by a one-hour ferry ride or flight from Barbados.
9. Terre-de-Haut, Guadeloupe
Part of the Îles des Saintes archipelago within French Guadeloupe, Terre-de-Haut packs stunning beaches and pleasant hikes in just over two square miles of land area. If isolation is what you’re after, check out Anse Crawen, a quiet, clothing-optional stretch of sand on the island’s southwestern tip. For prime swimming conditions, Plage de Pompierre has calm, clear water, thanks to an offshore island and barrier reef. Don’t mind the herd of goats who also appreciate lazing in the shade on the golden sand. Another scenic spot awaits at Pain de Sucre, where swimmers can enjoy the sheltered cove below a towering basalt cliff. If you can manage to pull yourself away from Terre-de-Haut’s beaches, hiking Le Chameau’s 1,000-foot summit promises panoramic views, while a less-trafficked trailhead leads to the island’s northern tip, Pointe Zozio.
You’ll Also Like:
- The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Where to Go in the Caribbean
- 10 Things You Never Knew About the Caribbean
- 5 Popular Caribbean Destinations and Where to Go Instead
All products are independently selected by our writers and editors. If you buy something through our links, Oyster may earn an affiliate commission.