Words: Sheona Mountford
For many, the Caribbean promises a dream escape with immaculate beaches and extraordinary nature reserves. There is an array of stunning islands to visit across the Caribbean with different draws for a variety of travellers. However, if you are looking for a trip free of all-inclusive resorts and swarms of tourists, there are islands offering tranquil solitude in the most picturesque region of the world.
Here are our favourite five islands for those looking for quiet beaches, authentic island food and unrivalled natural wonders.
Culebra is a Puerto Rican municipality that is the definition of an unspoilt Caribbean escape. Sparsely populated, the island is largely undeveloped, with a quarter of the island protected under the Culebra national wildlife reserve. As a result, you can find a variety of preserved natural habitats, from lagoons, dry forests and coral reefs.
Additionally, the clear turquoise waters surrounding the island make it the perfect snorkelling destination and the mesmerising coral reefs are not to be missed. Or if you are looking for relaxation, Culebra is home to Flamenco Beach, considered one of the best in the world.
Photos: New York Times
Part of the Lesser Antilles volcanic arc, Martinique is an island still under French control. This means you will see a lot of supermarkets and produce available in France, with the official currency being the Euro. However, more than translating France into the Caribbean scenery, Martinique also has a strong West Indian identity.
Aside from the white beaches with the domineering Mount Pelée volcano overlooking the island, another unique aspect of Martinique is its food. Whilst you are there try the local Creole cuisine, in particular the island's national dish Féroce d'Avocat which combines avocado, salt cod and cassava flour to create a delicious appetiser.
The little sister to the island, Trinidad, Tobago boasts a pristine coastline that takes you away from the hectic tourist resorts. Tobago is situated in the West Indies, and this once British colony has been an independent republic since 1976. A natural beauty spot we recommend visiting is Argylle Falls, a nature reserve with a spectacular waterfall cascading down three separate falls dropping more than 175 feet.
Alternatively, if you crave a beach day, Tobago is home to the exquisite Pirate's Bay. Here you can snorkel undisturbed by other tourists or chill with a day of fishing at this unspoilt beach. To get to Pirate's Bay you make your way through lush green forests and a long flight of steps, a journey that will transport you straight into an adventure novel.
Anguilla prides itself on its unspoilt geography and lack of tourism. Far from the typical vacation, Anguilla prides itself on tailoring unique experiences for visitors, including moonlight kayaking. Another iconic attraction is the light pink sands of the Shoal Bay beach adjacent to striking blue waters.
And the best part? There are no all-inclusive experiences or resorts on the island assuring complete tranquillity. Anguilla provides incredible experiences that cannot be missed, from the fantastical Bananaquit birds on Prickly Pear Island, to the live music and food at Scilly Cay to give you a true flavour of the Caribbean. Regardless of your interests, there are plenty of reasons to book your stay in Anguilla.
You may have heard of Montserrat due to the volcanic eruption in 1995. It has taken a long time for the island to recover with its population dissipating due to the disaster, but tourism is slowly starting to return to the island.
If you are a wildlife lover Montserrat is a must visit. The island is home to rare and endangered animals that UK Institutions such as the Royal Botanic Gardens have worked with the island to help preserve. These include the Montserrat Oriole, an endangered wild bird whose males are identified by the yellow plumage of their chests. You can also catch a glimpse of the 'Mountain chicken' or Giant Ditch Frog one of the rarest species of frog in the world.
Photos: New York Times