Welcome to my guide on the hottest Caribbean escapes for first time visitors. My name’s Sabrina – I grew up in the South of France and now live in Martinique, in the beautiful Caribbean.
I started traveling when I was young with my family and friends during the holidays. It was only when I spent three months abroad for an internship that I realized how many beautiful places the world had to offer.
When I went back to France my only goal was to travel again! A few years later I got a job opportunity in Saint Lucia and I moved to the Caribbean.
I’m currently working for the tour operator Boutique Travel Experts. My journey with this company began when I met Elena (a worldwide travel expert at Boutique) on her FAM trip to Saint Lucia.
We became friends and she offered me a role as the Caribbean Specialist since I was living in the area and knew a lot about the islands.
With this came the business plan and training. We are currently working on launching Saint Lucia and other islands as new destinations for Boutique Travel Experts.
The idea is to show a sustainable way of traveling, be the ones who have experienced all the activities first before promoting them and be able to advise thoroughly on different aspects of traveling on the islands.
My Travels through the Beautiful Caribbean
I lived in Saint Lucia for over two years, then I moved to Martinique about one year ago. I visited 10 other islands, most of them several times.
From North to South: Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Antigua, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Barbados, Saint Vincent, Grenada and Trinidad & Tobago. I plan to explore new islands this year, such as Anguilla and the Bahamas.
What I like when traveling in the Caribbean is that there are similarities between the islands, but each one has something unique. Barbados is very flat with white sand beaches. Whereas Saint Lucia is famous for its two Pitons, its volcano and beautiful black sand beaches.
Why Saint Lucia has a Special Place in my Heart
There are so many amazing places in the Caribbean that it’s difficult to have a favourite! Saint Lucia has a very special place in my heart since it was this island which made me fall in love with the region. So I would say Anse Mamin, in the town of Soufriere is my favourite place.
It’s a black sand beach, a bit secluded from the hotels nearby. It has the perfect tropical feel to it. This beach is quite far from where I used to live so whenever I went there it was something special, and it brings back many happy memories.
Best Days of My Life at the Tobago Cays
My favorite memory in the Caribbean is when I discovered the Tobago Cays, in the Grenadines. They are a few very small uninhabited islands, in the middle of a marine reserve. With some friends we booked a private day trip from Mayreau, the closest island.
The first stop was Baradal, where we swam with turtles. It was the first time for me and it was a magical moment when I felt like I was in another world!
Then we went to Petit Bateau where we ate a huge meal of barbecued fish and relaxed on the beach. People threw the remains of the lunch in the sea to feed stingrays and small sharks! It was really an incredible experience.
The last stop of the day was Petit Tabac, where a few scenes of the movie Pirates of the Caribbean were shot. This was the most memorable day of my life in the Caribbean. I loved it so much that I went back last year!
The Best Way to Travel the Caribbean
I would not recommend doing a cruise because you don’t have enough time to discover anything apart from the capital cities. We want to promote a different kind of tourism in the area, more sustainable and with more quality to it.
In my opinion, the best way for first time visitors to travel the Caribbean is to choose one island (or two if the boat or flight connections are frequent) and spend at least 4 to 5 days exploring it.
For example, it’s easy to go from Saint Lucia to Martinique by boat. You can experience both the English and French heritage of those islands.
Of course, a tour operator can help you build the perfect itinerary for what you want to do.. They will save you a lot of time on research. Regarding what destination first time visitors to the Caribbean should choose, it depends on what they are looking for.
Best Experiences in the Caribbean for First Time Visitors
The most amazing experience in the Caribbean for first time visitors is to go on a catamaran cruise in the Grenadines.
You’ll not only swim with turtles in the Tobago Cays, but also discover lovely islands such as Mayreau, Union island or Bequia. At Boutique Travel Experts, we can arrange a cruise either from Saint Lucia or Martinique.
Relax with a Mud Bath in Soufriere, Saint Lucia
The second experience is to take a mud bath in Soufriere, Saint Lucia. We don’t take our clients to the most famous baths because they are usually crowded with tourists.
We go to a secluded spot where you apply mud in the river, shower under a waterfall and take a relaxing mineral bath in a natural pool. This is one of my favorite things to do in Saint Lucia. It makes me feel in touch with nature and completely relaxed.
Discover a Beautiful Underwater World
Snorkel or dive and discover the beauty of our marine life comes in at number three! Many islands have great snorkeling or diving spots.
You can easily swim with turtles and stingrays in Martinique and Barbados, on a tour or directly from the beach! Both islands also have beautiful shipwrecks where you can see a wide variety of fish.
Learn about the History of the Caribbean
Another fantastic experience is to visit a plantation and learn about the history of the island that you are visiting.
In Saint Lucia and Grenada you can visit cocoa plantations and learn everything about the culture and processing of the cocoa beans. You can even create your own chocolate bar in a chocolate-making workshop!
Martinique is famous for its rum and there are several distilleries to visit. Some of them like Fondation Clément have even turned into museums. The tours usually end with a rum tasting in their boutiques, so that you can choose which bottle(s) to bring back home!
Sunset Gazing and Cocktail Sipping on the Beach
Finally, first time visitors to the Caribbean need to watch the sunset on the sea while sipping on a cocktail, and take time to enjoy it.
This may be a cliché, but the sunsets are amazing here. Taking the time to appreciate them will help you live in the moment and enjoy your vacation to the fullest!
We like to send our clients to boutique hotels with stunning views on the sea, so they have a front row seat to watch the sunset every day.
The Caribbean’s Colourful People and Culture
The culture can vary from island to island but most of the time Caribbean people are very friendly, helpful and protective. Many times people I didn’t know came up to me to check if I was lost, if I needed a ride, or just to remind me to be careful.
They are proud of their islands and can spontaneously ask you where you are coming from and if you are enjoying your stay here.
When visiting the Caribbean, do not fear chatting with the locals. This is how people from different cultures and different parts of the world can connect. Even a smile or waving your hand can go a long way.
I have formed a few friendships with locals and I see them every time I go back to Saint Lucia!
Tasting the Traditional Caribbean Cuisine
In traditional Caribbean cuisine you will find lots of root vegetables, chicken (stewed, baked, barbecued and fried), fish (grilled or fried), macaroni pie, noodles, soups and appetizers like fish cakes or accras.
I love going to the market to smell the spices (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg) and the various dishes that are being cooked! But my favorite foods are actually all the tropical fruits that you can find year round like papaya, or seasonally like mangoes and avocados.
And of course coconuts in every form!
What you Need to Know Before you Go
Don’t expect all Caribbean islands to look like a postcard. For example, don’t come to Saint Lucia expecting to find white sand beaches, or you’ll be highly disappointed. Do some research beforehand or ask a tour operator for advice. Appreciate the unique beauty of each island.
Be aware of the seasons and the calendar of activities of the islands. The best time to travel to the Caribbean is from January to May since it’s the dry season, but the prices are usually high. May and June are good options too and the prices are a bit lower.
From June to August several islands have their Carnival so it can be a good opportunity to discover this aspect of the Caribbean culture. I would not recommend traveling from August to the end of October since this is usually the peak of hurricane season.
Don’t stay in your resort (as relaxing as it may be) when you come to the Caribbean. Discover the beauty of the island, you will not regret it.
Travel off the beaten path! Using a tour operator can help you avoid the tourist traps and discover amazing places you would never have known.
We build itineraries based on your preferences to make sure you have the best experience possible, so don’t take the risk of missing out on something or being disappointed!
Thanks for reading my guide on the hottest Caribbean escapes for first time visitors. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or would like to book your trip to the Caribbean!