The Easiest Ways to Go Island-Hopping in the Caribbean

The Queen Emma Bridge is a pontoon bridge across St. Anna Bay in Curaçao. It connects the Punda and Otrobanda quarters of the capital city, Willemstad. The bridge is hinged and opens regularly to enable the passage of oceangoing vessels.

The Caribbean is a close-knit hub of islands that makes the region perfect for island hopping. Many of the most popular tourist destinations are in close proximity to each other and thus, a vacation in the Caribbean can easily turn into a multi-island trip. Here are the easiest ways to go small island-hopping in the Caribbean.

Staring Points for Island-Hopping

The island of St Martin is the perfect place to start exploring the eastern side of the Caribbean. St Martin (St Maarten) is divided roughly 60/40 between the French Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands and offer visitors a two-nation vacation. The Dutch side of the island is known as the party side, as it is host of the Heineken Regatta, a four-day sailing race with concerts and other festivities. On the other side of the island, in true French fashion, you can discover quaint restaurants, designer boutiques and nude beaches. Its location makes the islands of Anguilla, St Barts (a popular celebrity vacation island) and Saba easily accessible.

Puerto Rico is one of the jewels of the Caribbean. The island is known for its cuisine – a mixture of Spanish, African, and Taino – plus its strong rum and impressive architecture. You can get pretty much anywhere in the Caribbean from San Juan (thanks to regional carriers such as Cape Air and Seaborne), and a number of islands are even closer by ferry and plane, such as Culebra, Vieques, British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands. The Dominican Republic is also only a very short flight away, to the left of the island.

You can do all the island-hopping you want in the Guadeloupe Islands and stay within the same territory. That’s because this beautiful archipelago has five islands within easy reach by ferry and air from the main island of Grande Terre/Basseterre, each with its own character and flavour, from tiny Terre-de-Haut to beach paradise Marie Galante. From Guadeloupe, you can easily access the islands Dominica, Martinique and St Lucia below and Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda above.

The so-called ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao sit at the western edge of the Leeward Antilles chain. Aruba is a popular tourist destination with several big-name beach resorts. Bonaire is best known in scuba-diving circles for its spectacular undersea life. Curacao charms with its Dutch-influenced architecture. These three are neighbouring islands that, together, provide the complete Caribbean experience.

How To Travel

Three options are available for island-hopping in the Caribbean. The first is to take advantage of the numerous ferries and boat trips that travel between the islands. The second option is one of the most popular routes – a Caribbean cruise. While catching a flight would be the last resort (and possibly the most expensive), this option is great for traveling to islands with a great distance between them.

Safety Tips

All major Caribbean islands have excellent mobile coverage so be sure to always have a fully charged cellphone, as well as a backup. For those islands with a very small population, such as Culebra and Vieques near Puerto Rico, a portable radio might come in handy. Sunscreen, mosquito repellant and bottled water should always be in your luggage. Be sure to also check the weather before you book your trip, especially during the hurricane season from June to November. Look out for health advisories as well.

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