Discover the Caribbean, our January destination of the month

Magens Bay in St Thomas, one of the US Virgin Islands, (photo by Jo Ann Snover)
Magens Bay in St Thomas, one of the US Virgin Islands

Dreaming of winter sun? As many travellers will be planning (or just dreaming of) a cruise holiday for the new year, we're taking a look at the azure waters and warm sandy beaches of the Caribbean. During January, we'll be covering where to go and the best beaches, discussing cruise planning with expert Douglas Ward, and diving into the islands' varied culture, from creole to cricket!


The Caribbean arc

The tropical islands of the Caribbean arc down from the southern Florida coast to Venezuela like a jewelled necklace, often within sight of one another. Embracing the vast Caribbean basin on its western shores are Mexico and the Central American countries and between them all they offer sandy beaches, turquoise and blue waters, coral reefs, bougainvillea, rainforests, exotic fruits, glowing sunshine, vibrant music, vivid history and friendly, laid-back people.


From the Cayman Trench to the peaks of the Dominican Republic

The islands of the Caribbean are, physically and culturally, places of distinct difference. From the Greater to the Lesser Antilles, each country has its own character and atmosphere shaped by its history and the variety of its people.

Here the topography reveals nature at work, from the lush rainforests of Dominica, St Lucia and the other Windward Islands, where rain falls freely, to the limestone caves and thorny scrubland on arid Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The mountainous Greater Antilles reach for the sky at Pico Duarte in the Dominican Republic, the highest peak in the Caribbean, while underwater the deepest known point is the seemingly bottomless Cayman Trench.

You are likely to hear French, Dutch, Spanish and English, as well as infinite combinations of creole and patois. A Latin flavour awaits visitors to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, formerly part of the Spanish empire and now leaders in music, rhythm and dance. French-African culture prevails in Martinique and Guadeloupe, but chic St-Barthélemy is the French Riviera transplanted to the tropics. The British influence is unavoidable in Barbados, where a statue of Admiral Nelson still stands in Bridgetown. There is even Irish heritage present on Montserrat.

Further south you can explore Grenada, the Spice Island, known for its aromatic nutmeg, organic cocoa and lush vegetation, and Trinidad, a land famous for its special brand of bacchanalia – Carnival. This island combines a big-city attitude with a serene pastoral landscape, abundant wildlife and, as elsewhere in the tropical region, a seamless mix of diverse cultures.


Find out more

If you would like to discover more about the Caribbean in general or cruising in particular, take a look at our selection of travel guides:

Insight Guides Caribbean Cruising

Insight Guides Caribbean Lesser Antilles

Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships 2013


This January we're exploring the tropical islands of the Caribbean as our destination of the month. For more updates keep following the Insight blog, or check us out on Twitter @InsightGuides or on our Insight Facebook page, or why not look at some lovely travel photography on Pinterest