No man is an island … but with a bit of research and planning, you can find an island with a ratio that comes close. There are Caribbean islands that still exist well off the beaten path of tourism, promising unspoiled peace, thrilling discovery and authentic moments to claim (almost) all to yourself. Here’s a curation of our favorite hidden-gem hideaways for your consideration, whether it’s a day trip or a chance to drop off the map for a few weeks at a time.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Seemingly floating 13 miles off the Cancun coast is Isla Mujeres, an idyllic, tiny island chock full of history, adventure and vacay potential. The Mayans used the isle as a sanctuary for the goddess Ixchel, while pirates treasured it as a sanctuary for their stolen bounty; today, you’ll adore it likely for its unblemished beaches — Playa Norte more than earns the crown of most popular beach due to its perfect white sand and glass-like waters. Or maybe you’re an art aficionado, in which case a swim through the one-of-akind underwater sculpture garden is probably at the top of your bucket list. Then there’s the mural-lined streets that house plenty of authentic eats and quaint boutiques to consider. More likely than not, no matter where you are on the island, your eyes will wander out to sea … the promise of deep-sea fishing, or swimming with whale sharks, or snorkeling the thriving coral reefs is simply too tantalizing to pass by.

Canouan, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines

The country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is an archipelago — meaning they themselves are just a series of small, hidden-gem islands. Nestled within this grouping is Canouan; an isle that’s fishhook in shape, 3.5 miles in length and sports a population of maybe 1,200 residents on a crowded day. Tortoises easily outnumber people. It’s ultra-low key, the textbook example of a destination being for those “in the know” — it’s often joked that it’s where billionaires go to escape millionaires. All that being said, it’s also home to some of the best snorkeling in the world. There’s nothing but calm water thanks to the mile-long protective barrier reef on the Atlantic side, and both Grand Bay Beach and South Glossy Beach provide the chance to float with abundant marine life among the curious brain coral: Parrotfish, surgeonfish, snappers, moray eels and eagle rays are all in the mix to make a cameo during your swim.

Saba, The Netherlands

Saba is a Dutch-owned, tiny volcanic island, a mere 12-minute plane ride away from Saint Maarten. It doesn’t have any beaches (except for the aptly named “Disappearing Beach” found at Wells Bay from June to October) … and yet it more than earns its moniker as the “Unspoiled Queen” of the Caribbean. What it does have is the promise of adventure: This is a hiker’s paradise. The isle is threaded with the sort of trails you’ve only dreamed of exploring — trails through lush rainforests, trails up to scenic lookout points or cloud-capped summits and trails through every other facet of the island’s landscape. Every bend in the path introduces a new game of I Spy; mangos, bananas and other tropical fruit will hang overhead while some 60 species of bird flit through the foliage. This is both an easy day trip and a world away from wherever you started in the morning.

Barbuda, Antigua and Barbuda

Everyone knows Antigua, but its full name is actually “Antigua and Barbuda;” Barbuda is the often-forgotten other half. Their loss being dropped from the conversational name is your gain, as this island offers everything you could hope from its twin (with less of a crowd): Pink-sand beaches as soft as a pillow, scenic sailings around the coastline, subterranean caves and historic ruins and coral reefs that all beget goosebumps and awe. If there’s one can’t-miss of Barbuda, it’s the Frigate Bird Sanctuary. Located in the heart of Codrington Lagoon National Park and only accessible via boat tour, the Frigate Bird Sanctuary is one of the world’s largest colonies of frigate birds. They’re lovable weirdos. Snow-white as chicks yet jetblack as adults, the males sport a crimson throat pouch that they can inflate to a comical proportion. There are a couple thousand roosting among the scrubby mangroves — it’s hard not to become a birder while traversing it.

Caye Caulker, Belize

Just a short 4-mile ferry ride from Belize is Caye Caulker, “island vibes” made manifest. This slice of land (it’s only a mile across and 5 miles long) is seriously chill — the primary mode of transportation is golf cart or bicycle. The streets are sand. Reggae flows through the town in constant harmony with the sea breeze. The island’s motto? “Go slow.” Scuba divers, snorkelers, windsurfers, anglers and aspiring beach bums will all find paradise in this former-fishingtown-turned beach-party. The nearby Belize barrier reef is a prime spot for diving, while fishers can either charter a small boat or post up on the shore for some world-class fly fishing. You can bring whatever you catch to any bar or restaurant, and they’ll cook it for you! You’ll quickly learn the beating heart of the Caye Caulker’s social scene is the Split — a 20-foot channel splitting the isle in two. Visitors and locals alike congregate on its sandy shores to soak up the sun, sip a strong drink and take refreshing dips in the cool, blue water.

The Split encapsulates the paradox of paradise: With so many possibilities, the best choice is often kicking back and doing (almost) nothing. The ideal way to experience any of the islands above (or a tiny island you found yourself) is to have a resort on a major island serve as your home base, and then visit these islands as unforgettable daytrips. That’s where our agents enter the picture — they can help you find that base (perhaps an all-inclusive resort?), plan your daytrips and more.

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