Soft white sand, crystal-clear water, perfect weather... it's not hard to see why every year millions of visitors flock to the islands of the Caribbean. It ticks all the boxes of a perfect tropical holiday. Here is the scoop on just some of the beautiful destinations of which dreams and desktop wallpapers are made.
Anguilla is one of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, which is in the eastern part of the Caribbean Sea. This stunning island has managed to remain unscathed by mass tourism so it's a fabulous choice if you're looking for a quiet tropical paradise. Privacy, luxury and picture-perfect beaches - what more could you ask for?
Spend lazy days sunbathing and swimming at beautiful beaches like Shoal Bay and Maundays Bay, snorkel at the stunning coral reefs, or enjoy the view from above in a glass-bottomed boat. Visit the 1785 Wallblake Plantation House and browse around the Heritage Collection Museum. The Anguilla Tourist Board offers 3, 5 and 7 day sample itineraries to keep you busy. The island may only be 35 sq. miles, but there is plenty to do.
The Dominican Republic may be a better choice if you're looking for something more affordable than the opulence of Anguilla. The large island of Hispaniola is part of the Greater Antilles in the central Caribbean, and is divided into the Dominican Republic in the eastern part of the island, and Haiti in the west. The diverse landscape of tropical forests, mountain ranges and mangrove swamps makes the Dominican Republic a popular destination for tourists looking for a bit of adventure.
Although most tourists flock to the beautiful beaches around Puerto Plata and Punta Cana or Playa Rincón, there is more to do than just sunbathing and swimming. The beaches on the northern part of the country are ideal for wind surfing, kite boarding and sailing. The clear, calm water is also perfect for snorkelling. Kids will love the Dolphin Explorer program at Punta Cana, where you can swim with dolphins, play with seals and snorkel with stingrays and sharks. When you're not in the water, or on the beach, enjoy a round of golf at the stunning Punta Essspada Golf Course, explore the Colonial architecture of capital city Santo Domingo, or visit the Damajaqua Cascades (27 Waterfalls). You'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to holiday experiences in the Dominican Republic.
Just 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela lies the island of Aruba. It's an autonomous dependency of the Netherlands, and Dutch influence can be seen not only in the culture but also in the architecture of capital city Oranjestad. Like other Caribbean islands, Aruba has its fair share of breathtakingly beautiful beaches and although it enjoys the Caribbean's fabulous tropical climate, it's outside of the hurricane belt, making it a great holiday destination throughout the year.
Popular beaches on the island include Eagle Beach, Palm Beach, Baby Beach and Rodgers Beach, which all have calm shallow water, ideal for those travelling with small children. When you're not soaking up the sun, head up Hooiberg (Haystack Mountain) on a clear day and enjoy the magnificent views of the island. Follow the trail to California Lighthouse on the northernmost tip of the island for more spectacular views.
The Cayman Islands are a group of islands to the south of Cuba, surrounded by stunning coral reefs and crystal-clear water. The largest of the three islands is Grand Cayman where you'll find the cosmopolitan capital George Town. The smaller islands are Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, which are a quieter option for those who want the picture-postcard feel without masses of tourists.
No trip to the Cayman Islands would be complete without lazing on the famous Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman, or swimming with the stingrays offshore at Stingray City. The island's capital city George Town has exciting nightlife and don't forget to enjoy some duty-free shopping while you're there. If you're up for a little adventure you can explore the rugged limestone landscape of Cayman Brac, where you'll find a 180-acre parrot reserve. If you're looking for sun-drenched solitude then the tiny island of Little Cayman with its soft white-sand beaches is the perfect place for a Caribbean holiday. It's also a great option for scuba divers and snorkellers thanks to the diverse marine life around the island.
Turks and Caicos
If you're looking for world-class restaurants and spas, unspoilt beaches and friendly locals then look no further than Turks and Caicos. The British Overseas Territory is comprised of two groups of islands, and is one of the few Caribbean destinations that have managed for the most part to fly under the tourist radar.
Stretch out on the snow-white sand of Grace Bay Beach, visit the fascinating Provo Conch Farm, take a catamaran cruise, go scuba diving or snorkelling in the crystal-clear waters, join a stingray safari, go bird watching on North Caicos, or enjoy some deep-sea fishing. If you're feeling very adventurous you can even go parasailing. With so many things to do there is something for the whole family.
US Virgin Islands
The laidback atmosphere, picturesque coves and colourful buildings make the US Virgin Islands something special. Made up of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, and several smaller islands, the USVI offer a myriad of activities, good West Indian food, and sublime beaches. It's a little slice of paradise which is located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.
If you're looking for beautiful beaches, some of the most popular spots are Trunk Bay, Maho Beach and Scott Beach on St. John, Lindquist Beach and Magen's Bay on St. Thomas, and Sandy Point on St. Croix. When you're not sunbathing, snorkelling or kayaking, you can visit attractions like the Coral World Ocean Park and Blackbeard's Castle on St. Thomas, Fort Christiansvaern and the Cruzan Rum Factory on St. Croix, or hike the picturesque Reef Bay Trail on St. John.