The Top Emerging Caribbean Islands, According to Travel Agents
From the Bahamas to Jamaica, there are a lot of well-known and well-booked Caribbean destinations.
But what about the ones that still have massive growth potential?
Several Caribbean specialists recently shared the islands that, while they may not be totally unknown, are seeing a robust increase in inquiries.
“I am getting a lot more southern Caribbean bookings in Antigua, St. Lucia and Grenada,” said Kacie Walls of Traevlista Travels. “Mostly, because I have been there and am posting about the islands. My latests clients that just traveled to Grenada have never heard of it until I recommend it.”
And the results?
“They texted me from the resort,” she said, “because they loved the island so much that they wanted to rebook while still there.”
Bonaire has always been known primarily as a diver’s paradise, but in recent years that has changed considerably.
“For years, Bonaire has been considered a destination mainly just for divers,” said Caroline Fridley, the founder and CEO of Five Star Nomad Travel. “But lately, more people are discovering the charms the island can offer above the reef as well. There’s a large and spectacular national park, a donkey sanctuary, thousands of flamingos, a small but colorful downtown.”
And it’s still offers all the joys for the client who simply wants to relax (including the upcoming Bonaire Rum Week in June).
“There are more than 20 beaches,” said Fridley. “There’s one here for any taste, whether you are looking for a family-friendly beach club where you can watch hundreds of kite surfers, a smaller cove where you may be the only person in sight as you picnic in the shade of a waterfront cave, a resort beach with full service and plenty of comfy loungers and hammocks – even an uninhabited island easily reachable by a regularly scheduled water taxi.”
But the watersports shouldn’t be ignored entirely, she said.
“And of course, the snorkeling is top-tier,” said Fridley. “I recommend staying at the Harbour Village Beach Club, the most upscale resort on the island, which is set on a gorgeous stretch of sand and features a gourmet restaurant where you can even dine over the ocean. Pro-tip: renting a car is a must here to really explore and enjoy the island.”
“Roatan, Honduras is one of my favorite emerging Caribbean destination to recommend to family travelers,” said Lee Friedman, founder and advisor of Mango Tree Travel, an affiliate of Jetset World Travel. “While Roatan has been known as a hot spot for scuba divers and cruise ship day-trippers, it’s gaining popularity among other travelers seeking an off-the-beaten path and less developed Caribbean experience, including families.”
So, what are the other incentives for visiting this destination?
“It’s affordable, easy to navigate, and families love the stunning and calm West Bay Beach – not to mention all the different animal encounters and excursions available on the island,” said Friedman. “We love sending families to the small, boutique hotel XBalanque Resort, which has spacious suites and a top location between the village of West End and West Bay Beach.” This year, the island is welcoming its first-ever international branded resort: the new Kimpton Grand Roatan.
“We’ve been sending lots of families to Curacao, one of the lesser known ABC islands for U.S. family travelers,” said Friedman, founder and advisor of Mango Tree Travel, an affiliate of Jetset World Travel. “Aruba has long been on the radar of American travelers, with neighboring Curacao is getting more European tourists.”
And convenience has been Curacao’s biggest selling point, said Friedman.
“But with direct flights from New York and lots of amazing family-friendly properties, American families are intrigued by Curacao, especially those who like a more European and less-touristy experience.
“Plus, with a huge range of accommodation options – from the ultra luxe Boase Luxury Resort to small boutique hotels with family suites like Scuba Lodge and Villa Tokara — there’s a hotel for every taste and budget,” Friedman said. “Our families love the multi-bedroom, beachfront suites at Avila Beach Hotel, which has some of the island’s best beach snorkeling right off its shores.”
Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, Dominica is for the savvy Caribbean traveler who doesn’t need a beach to have a good time. It has no beaches.
“It would be for the traveler who has been and done the beach destinations,” said Susan Peavey of Susan Peavey Travel, Inc. “They are looking to relax with the outside more eco-friendly, back to nature. A place to totally shut down and enjoy the surroundings.”
Aurelio Giordano of Ace World Travel said Dominica is the ideal for for travelers looking to avoid massive groups of tourists.
“It’s what the Caribbean was before it became the Caribbean of mega-resorts and high traffic tourism,” he said. “A great combination of gorgeous beaches, plush landscape and ecotourism you’ll find in places like Costa Rica and Saint Lucia, with French and English influences from its past occupation, encompassed with the chill island vibe we all know and love of the Caribbean.”