Irresistible beaches, breath-taking landscapes, and a cornucopia of vibrant cultures continue to woo 30+ million visitors to the Caribbean year after year. From luxury getaways to affordable adventure trips and festivals, each Caribbean destination offers travelers its own unique culture and appeal. Here are the top 10 most visited Caribbean islands which account for nearly 80% of visitors to the Caribbean region. As 2020 was a most unusual year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the list with most popular Caribbean islands is actually ranked using 2019 data but 2020 data is also provided.
Stay-Over Tourists: Year 2020: 2,405,315 / Year 2019: 6,446,036
The Dominican Republic is the most visited island in the Caribbean. With its seemingly endless white-sand beaches, the Dominican Republic is a popular getaway for tourists in search of an idyllic vacation, plenty of outdoor adventure, and a tinge of colonial history. From its jaw-dropping cliffs to peaceful mangrove lagoons, it’s easy to fall in love with the DR’s natural beauty and rich Spanish heritage. Bountiful palm trees complement the turquoise waters of popular Punta Cana to create the perfect postcard from this tropical destination. Outside of Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic offers an abundance of aquamarine adventures at Bahía de las Águilas and the Samaná Peninsula.
Dominican Republic: Beach Day at Hard Rock Hotel Casino Resort Punta Photo Credit: Dominican Republic Tourist Board.
Stay-Over Tourists: Year 2020: 1,085,920 / Year 2019: 4,275,558
Tourists from around the world are drawn to the mystique of Cuba, an island that boasts a pristine coastline, an abundance of parks, and several UNESCO natural reserves. Cuba offers up an eclectic blend of old-world charm in its neoclassical and baroque architecture, mixed with post-modernist styles and natural landscapes. The capital city of Havana is well known for its lively entertainment featuring jazz and Latin music and dance, and copious amounts of rum-flavored drinks. Also with plenty of vintage American cars, Cuba the second most popular Caribbean island also has plenty of museums and art galleries that offer a window into the country’s rich history and culture.
Cuba: Palacio de Valle. Photo Credit: © Cuba Tourist Board.
Stay-Over Tourists: Year 2020: 880,404 / Year 2019: 2,680,920
From Negril’s Seven Mile Beach in the west to breath-taking waterfalls in the east, Jamaica is well known as the playground of the Caribbean. With more than 170 attractions spread out over the island, there’s literally something for people of all ages to enjoy. Stroll the beaches of Montego Bay by day and dance to the latest reggae music at one of the city’s nightclubs. In Kingston, explore the life and work of the legendary Bob Marley at his namesake museum and have lunch at Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records. Take a thrilling bobsled ride through the forest and go swimming with dolphins in the resort town of Ocho Rios.
Jamaica: Stunning views from Firefly Ocho Rios. ©Jamaica Tourist Board.
Stay-Over Tourists: Year 2020: 445,879 / Year 2019: 1,804,184
The beautiful island chain of The Bahamas is a haven for relaxation and its sun-drenched beaches are among the world’s best. With its serene, laidback atmosphere, pristine waters, and rich, vibrant culture, The Bahamas is perfect for a quick weekend getaway or an extended tropical vacation. Take a trip to Exumas to see the swimming pigs and explore other islands between sips of Bahama Mama, one of many rum-based cocktails on the island. Be sure to try the famous conch salad and craft beer from the Pirate Republic Brewery.
Bahamas: Exuma – Swimming with Pigs. Photo Credit: © Bahamas Tourist Board.
Stay-Over Tourists: Year 2020: 678,854 / Year 2019: 1,610,292
There is much to be enjoyed in Puerto Rico, an island with old Spanish charm and modern attractions and accommodations. Puerto Rico is home to the El Yunque Rainforest, the only tropical rainforest in the United States, as well as Casa Bacardi, the world’s largest rum distillery where the piña colada was invented. Its blissful beaches, 23 golf courses, and captivating culture attract scores of visitors to Puerto Rico every year. The island’s breath-taking beauty includes three of only seven bioluminescent bays in the world.
Puerto Rico: 16th-century citadel in San Juan named Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Photo Credit: © Puerto Rico Tourist Board.
Stay-Over Tourists: Year 2020: 368,322 / Year 2019: 1,119,000
Visitors to the Dutch enclave of Aruba can enjoy ultimate relaxation on its breath-taking white-sand beaches or embark on thrilling escapades to explore the natural landscape. The coastline offers an abundance of activities for the watersport enthusiast including snorkeling, diving, and windsurfing. There are also many land-based options such as horseback riding and hiking. When you’re done sunbathing at one of its uncrowded beaches, take a dip in the natural pool at the Arikok National Wildlife Park or stroll through the capital, Oranjestad, and gaze at the city’s amazing colonial-era architecture.
Aruba: Family At Butterfly Farm. Photo Credit: © Aruba Tourism Authority.
Stay-Over Tourists: Year 2020: ??? / Year 2019:735,000
The Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, a French overseas region is an archipelago of 5 islands well known for their distinctive Creole culture, cuisine, and celebrations. The main island, Grande-Terre, has a vast limestone plateau fringed with magnificent, white sandy beaches and dozens of wonderful resorts. Head over to Basse-Terre, home to the Guadeloupe National Park where the La Soufrière volcano can be found. Be sure to try Guadeloupe’s delectable creole cuisine which serves up a mouth-watering blend of flavors in dishes like Fricassée de Lambi – Queen Conch stew, and Calalou – a spicy soup of spinach, pork and land crab.
Panoramic landscape view of Terre-de-Haut, Guadeloupe, Les Saintes, Caribbean Sea. Photo Credit: © napa74 via 123RF.com.
Stay-Over Tourists: Year 2020: 159,144 / Year 2019: 712,946
Like most Caribbean islands, Barbados has a tropical climate boasting average temperatures of between 24°C and 29°C making it the perfect winter getaway. Travelers are drawn to the warmth of the island and its people, basking on its white-sand beaches and countless off-road adventures. Discover the natural appeal of the Welchman Hall Gully and Flower Forest or go on an intriguing exploration of Harrison’s Cave. Snorkeling, surfing, diving, and paddleboarding are just some of the activities for adventurous travelers in Barbados.
Barbados: Evening View of capital Bridgetown. Photo Credit: © Barbados Tourism Marketing.
Stay-Over Tourists: Year 2020: 415,749 / Year 2019: 640,887
There’s so much to do in the US Virgin Islands (USVI), from exhilarating adventures to tranquil relaxation and a host of activities in between. Island hopping between St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas is a breeze with regular ferries between the islands. Explore the rich cultural diversity of the islands through mouthwatering local dishes and historic European architecture. When you’re tired of exploring, laze away at the beaches by day, and enjoy the spectacular bioluminescent bays at night. Shopping is also a major attraction of the USVI, thanks to a $1,600 duty-free allowance.
US Virgin Island: Carnival Revelers. Photo Credit: © Gary Felton via US Virgin Island Department of Tourism.
Stay-Over Tourists: Year 2020: 312,298 / Year 2019: 556,268
Martinique rounds out the list of most popular Caribbean islands and its magic can be found in its diverse creole cuisine, influenced by the country’s African, European and Indian heritage. The French island is a nature lover’s paradise with spectacular waterfalls, natural rivers, and magnificent landscapes. Adventure seekers have an abundance of activities to choose from including hiking, horse riding, and bird watching, as well as diving, snorkeling, and kitesurfing. Martinique is also home to a dolphin sanctuary where visitors can enjoy dolphin watching and view several species all year round.
Martinique: View of Saint Pierre Pelee. Photo Credit: © Martinique Tourism Board.
So which of these top ten most visited Caribbean islands have you visited? And more importantly, which of these do you plan to visit next? Beyond their beautiful beaches, each of these most popular Caribbean islands has a wide range of top attractions all just waiting to be explored! Like all Caribbean destinations, they offer up authentic and exciting experiences that go beyond sun, sand, and sea.
Note: Originally published September 10th, 2014, this post was updated on May 18th, 2021.