Rosheda Stephenson is a lifestyle writer who writes extensively on beauty and travel to the Caribbean and North America.
The Caribbean islands are many things to many people. Whether your dream vacation consists of all night parties, wholesome family fun, history and culture or luxurious tropical beaches, you will find in the Caribbean an island perfect for you. Shared history and geography give the islands similar customs and the undeniable tropical beauty visitors have come to expect from the region. Yet, each island has its own unique personality that will appeal to different types of visitors. Added to this is the region’s proximity to the U.S and Canada. As this map shows, the Caribbean is literally in America's backyard.
Map of the Caribbean Islands
The happy result is that if the Caribbean is your destination you can easily be on vacation in a few hours. In fact, a flight from Florida to many of the more popular islands- Jamaica, the Bahamas, Grand Cayman- will take an hour! Now all you have to do is choose an island. And that is where this guide comes in. All the islands in this guide are English speaking, and are organized according to their offerings. And if you are short on time, there's a handy list immediately below that you can use to click straight through to the section that interests you.
- 1. Best Caribbean Islands for Partying and Nightlife
- 2. For Soaking in History and Culture
- 3. Best Caribbean Islands for Families
- 4. Best Caribbean Islands for Gorgeous Beaches
- 5. For High End Luxury
Best Caribbean Islands for Partying and Nightlife
Your sky diving partner is as equally likely to be local as she is to be a tourist in Aruba. And while we are at it, don’t even worry about a rainstorm or a hurricane on your sky diving adventure. The island’s strong economy and perfect weather-even for the Caribbean- gives it the reputation of one Happy Island. And this isn’t just marketing jargon.
After living in and travelling to many Caribbean Islands, I can say that Aruba is simply one of the happiest island one can visit in the Caribbean. The strong economy gives the locals a high standard of living so much of the soliciting and petty crime of other Caribbean Islands are absent here. Instead the island delivers happy locals who genuinely want to socialize and share their island. There is also no worry about hurricanes or unpredictable rainy days as it lays just outside the Hurricane Belt in the southernmost end of the Caribbean.
Perfect weather and genuinely pleasant locals are just the beginning. Aruba is home to a dramatic landscape that is a nature lover’s dream come true, an award winning expanse of sand and sea (according to this Conde Nast Survey), and good watersports options for adventurers. Partiers will especially find much to love on the fun loving island.
There are the twelve casinos that have earned the island the moniker, Las Vegas of the Caribbean. Or, if one wants the nightlife minus the empty pockets, there are the many party spots in the capital city of Oranjestad or along Palm Beach. Then there are the more local options like Carnival (a month long party in the finest Caribbean tradition), countless local festivals and a rowdy party hopping practice known as Paranda. And of course, on top of the list of things partiers will love about Aruba is the feeling of safety the island inspires. If you are into the nightlife, here are some of Aruba's best partying.
Aruba’s Best Partying
Paranda or Party Buses
You could describe Paranda with many words: bar crawl, pub crawl, party on wheels, unpredictable night out with a bunch of strangers... The list could go on, but until you experience it there are no words to describe the party buses on Aruba.
Paranda is the local practice of a group of people coming together in one big bus to hop from party to party. The local practice got adapted for visitors and now any visitor can book their own paranda. After booking, the party bus picks you up from your hotel and plunges you into the midst of a bunch of strangers already enjoying the party on wheels. The party bus itself is open air and led by a party host who spins the tunes and ensures the party on wheels continues until the first stop. Depending on what paranda you book, you may start out with a champagne toast on the beach or with loud karaoke onboard. The bus then goes to the first stop which is usually a local bar outside the touristy area. After the first stop, the party just keeps going on and on until you have made it to 3 or 4 bars or stopped at a casino to perform some karaoke on stage.
Carnival or Carnaval depending on which island you visit is the Caribbean’s way of letting it all out and reveling for months at a time. Picture Mardi Gras and you will have a good idea of what the main Carnival parties are like. Colorful floats, flashy costumes, live music, drummers, steel bands, dancing and cultural shows are all part of the celebration.
In Aruba Carnival starts in late February and continues for 6 weeks. Each day of Carnival sees parties, singing competitions, dancing and live entertainment. All of these are fun and if you visit during Carnival try to see one of the competitions, however it is the parades that always steal the show. The pulsating parades are fests of music, dancing and costumes. There is a pajama parade, one for kids in costumes and the main one which is the one to be at if you want to see an authentic Caribbean party. Here is a peek at the main parade:
Partying in the Caribbean Island of Aruba
'Must' Things to do in Aruba
See a Caribbean Desert
I know. Desert and Caribbean do not belong in the same sentence. The Caribbean is definitely more beachy haven and lush rainforest than stark, dry desert. However Aruba and the rest of the ABC Islands lie in a region that sees little rain (a side effect of laying outside the Hurricane Belt), has little humidity and a nice dry wind. The result is that the islands have a curios juxtaposition of tropical beaches and arid, desert land. In Aruba the gorgeous beaches and tropical feel is concentrated in the western section of the island, but venture to the northern and interior parts of Aruba and it feels like you are in a different country. Sandy desert land complete with cactus, desert creatures like rattlesnakes and iguanas and huge rocks suddenly transform the landscape.
One cannot visit and not try to see this part of Aruba at least once. Some attractions to consider on the desert side of Aruba include gorgeous natural pools, old caves with Indian carving and the old gold mining sites like the old Bushiribana Gold Mine pictured below. For those into adventure, there are many ATV outfits that offer guided tours of the rugged landscape.
See Donkeys at The Sanctuary
There aren’t many places where you can see the humble donkey anymore. If you are in Aruba and would like something different to do, why not go see the creatures at this haven. The Donkey Sanctuary offers close up interaction with the creatures and short educational talks that highlight the history of Aruba’s donkeys and the necessity for a sanctuary.
Lay on Palm Beach
With its recent appearance on Conde Nast's and TripAdvisor's Lists of Best Beaches in The World (2018 Lists), this pretty beach is sure to attract even more visitors in the coming years. One can easily see why the beach is considered among the world’s best. Calm water a vivid shade of blue-green and powder white sand dotted with beach huts, restaurants, bars and colorful umbrellas sit right across the road from many of the island’s hotels. The beach itself is a clean, wide expanse that is home to watersports and tennis matches during the week. Simply put, Palm beach with its perfect waves, good amenities and perfect weather is the epitome of the perfect Caribbean beach.