One Major Mistake To Avoid When Planning Your Caribbean Vacation

Caribbean islands are often jumbled together and given the same collective descriptions: "Crystal clear waters," "paradise," "beach getaways," "tropical oasis," and so on, are just a few of the terms used to describe Caribbean nations interchangeably. Not that there's anything wrong with a tropical oasis, crystal clear waters, or paradise, for that matter, but the generic way Caribbean islands are discussed leaves out key factors and distinct details of what makes each island unique.

It's a foul move to assume that all Caribbean islands are the same. The mountains of Saint Lucia could never compete with bare and overall flat Anguilla (which results in ultra-white beaches). The street food of Port of Spain is a gastronomical world away from the same-ingredients-recycled cuisine that most travelers experience at all-inclusive resorts. Swimming with the pigs is one way to see animals in the Bahamas, but scuba diving in Bonaire is a whole other way to swim alongside sharks and turtles. In short, each Caribbean island is different, and there's an island for every type of traveler.

Mountains, waterfalls, and hot springs: These islands are natural phenomena

Travelers might assume the Caribbean as a whole is filled with natural phenomena, but some are just more natural standouts than others. At the top of that list is Saint Lucia. Saint Lucia is frequently referred to as the most beautiful Caribbean island for a reason. The jarring Pitons are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and create a picturesque landscape to take in while on the island. Saint Lucia is also home to natural sulfur springs, which visitors and locals can bathe in. Rumor is you'll look and feel 12 years younger after a quick mud bath. It doesn't hurt that Saint Lucia is home to romantic hotels and resorts, like Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort, where many villas have a private pool overlooking the island.

Dominica is another island to start planning for if you're looking for jaw-dropping nature. This should come as no surprise since it is commonly referred to as "The Nature Island." Home to several waterfalls, like Trafalgar Twin Falls, serene swimming holes like Jack Sparrow's Titou Gorge (where part of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" was filmed), and the notable hot springs in Wotten Waven, Dominica is an off-the-beaten-path destination that delivers 10/10 natural beauty. To ensure you have the best experience, choose a luxury resort such as Intercontinental Dominica Cabrits Resort & Spa for the ultimate treat-yourself getaway.

All Caribbean islands have beaches, but which are the best?

Travelers mistakenly assume that because the Caribbean islands are, well, islands, the beaches are equally beautiful across the board. But some are not the ideal image of what we envision when we think of the Caribbean, aka the pristine blue waters and white sands. There are two islands, however, whose beaches one-up all the others. Antigua & Barbuda is a great beach destination. So much so that the island nation has 365 beaches, or as they so cleverly say, one beach per day of the year. Some of the best beaches in Antigua & Barbuda are Half Moon Bay, Dickenson Bay, Hawksbill Bay, Ffryes Beach, and Long Bay Beach.

Anguilla is one of the flattest Caribbean islands, resulting in uber-white sand and shallow blue waters. So, while those cliche images you imagine when thinking of the Caribbean cannot be found in many of the islands, they definitely can be found in Anguilla. The most popular beaches in Anguilla are Shoal Bay, Meads Bay, and Rendezvous Bay Beach.

When you need to get away from it all

Sure, the Caribbean islands are all technically remote, but nations like the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas each see millions of tourists a year. So, if you're looking for a quiet respite in an unspoiled location, not every island can meet that match. Some, though, are simply more difficult to get to, and, therefore, less overcrowded with tourists, and relatively unspoiled.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a fantastic choice for a secluded vacation. Bequia is the second largest island in the nation, and is only 7 square miles, so you can imagine just how remote and pristine this hidden gem is. It is best reached by ferry from St. Vincent, which takes about one hour to get to. The best place to stay is at Bequia Beach Hotel, a five-star resort with all of the amenities your heart could desire.

Saint Barthélemy, which is shortened to St. Barth in French and St. Barts in English, is a pristine, luxurious island that certainly feels exclusive. Home to some seriously expensive yachts and some of the most over-the-top resorts in the Caribbean, fewer places in the world feel as private and indulgent as a vacation here. Head to Rosewood Le Guanahani or Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf for the ultimate opulent experience.

Darling it's better down where it's wetter

Animals live all around the globe, so naturally, they can be found on every Caribbean island. However, don't assume your Caribbean getaway will include up close and personal experiences with animals unless you head to particular destinations that cater to it. For starters, you might not think of pigs when you think of warm beaches on the sea, but Pig Beach in Exuma, Bahamas offers a one-of-a-kind swimming experience

If hanging with pigs isn't your thing, how do flamingoes sound? Flamingo Beach in Aruba is a great place to hang out with these pink beauties. The beach is on a private island owned by Renaissance Wind Creek Aruba Resort, so guests of the hotel have exclusive access. However, you don't have to be a guest of the hotel to hang with these beauties, and can pay a one-time day pass fee of $125.

The most obvious type of wildlife one might associate the Caribbean with are undersea critters. While all Caribbean islands do offer snorkeling and scuba diving, there's little arguing that the Bonaire, one of the most underrated Caribbean islands, is the absolute best. Well-known for having liveaboards, Bonaire is a diver's playground with protected parrotfish, seven species of turtles, plenty of seahorses, frogfish, and even night diving with tarpons.

For the best food and experiencing local life

Last but certainly not least, Caribbean culture is often overlooked due to spending too much time at an all-inclusive resort and not enough out exploring local life. While there's no doubt that Caribbean islanders are proud of their heritage, some nations are just more of a standout from a tourist perspective.

At the top of that list is Barbados. Home to Rihanna, who frequently publicly expresses her pride and joy in coming from Barbados, tourists can visit the pop star's home on a street that has been renamed Rihanna Drive. Barbados claims to be the birthplace of rum, and they celebrate each year with the Barbados Rum & Food Festival.

You've likely listened to Bob Marley before, and therefore, you likely know he hails from Jamaica. Jamaicans take great pride in their culture, and as soon as you land in this paradise, the smiles will become infectious. The island is the epitome of laid-back life and a Caribbean destination everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime

Trinidad and Tobago offers some of the best street food in the Caribbean. While every island has its own version of Carnival, there's something to be said for celebrating it in Trinidad and Tobago's two-day festival, thanks to the wild street parties and colorful outfits.