For people living on the east coast of the United States and Europe, the Caribbean islands are a year round holiday playground – tropical beaches, great resort hotels and lots to time to relax and enjoy the tropical sun, beaches, reefs, sailing, diving, snorkelling swimming, spas, cocktails, food, markets, history and nightlife.
Summer (June, July, August) are the hottest months, but most hotels will be air-conditioned so there is always a place to cool down.
In winter, the tropical hot climate in the Caribbean is also a big attraction too for those 'snowbirds' wanting to escape the snows and cold in the north in New York, Chicago and Canada and head south to a tropical island paradise.
These slightly cooler (but still hot) winter months in the Caribbean are the most popular months - roughly December and the Christmas/New Year period until around April and Easter. The second half of the year is Hurricane season, with most but not all hurricanes arriving between June and November. While there have certainly been highly destructive hurricanes, the islands, hotels and people are experienced in coping with the winds and rain that come with hurricanes too.
If you travel in the high season and around holiday periods, you will mostly pay more than in the off season. In the off-season there will be less people on the beaches and it will be quieter in restaurants and in shops.
The Caribbean is not a single destination and while cruise ships will berth at a cruise terminal on a number of islands, you won't visit all the islands. Nor is it likely that you will fly into one island and then visit multiple other ones. In most cases you should choose an island destination based on the time you have available, your interests and cost.
A good way to choose an island is to base your choice based on the language being spoken – be that French, Spanish, Dutch or English. The language also reflects the culture – so if you're looking for a real French experience, head to an island where the main language is French. Similarly if you are looking for a Dutch, English or Spanish experience.
The Bahamas are the closest islands to the United States eastwards off the coast of Florida.
From Miami in Florida you have a flight time to Nassau (The main city in Bahamas) of about 35 minutes or 2 ½ hours from New York while Cuba is about 40 minutes from Miami and 4 hour's flying time from New York.
To give you an idea of flight times - if you are heading to one of the smaller islands, most likely you will fly into San Juan in Puerto Rico, to Antigua or to one of the other big airports and then take a smaller plane flight to your island and then possibly a car or boat ride as well – all of which takes time out of your holiday, particularly if there is waiting time in an airport between the connecting flights. Getting a direct flight is the ideal, but not always possible. A whole day travelling to get to your proposed holiday destination and a whole day to get back, takes 2 days out of your holiday, so in planning your holiday also check out the time it takes to get there too.
Remember also that many of the islands are countries in their own right, so make sure you allow sufficient time to secure a Visa if one is needed and also carry a passport as identification.
Many of the island countries are poor with an average yearly income per person of less than
US$ 10,000, so there are places where poverty is also accompanied by crime too. As with all travel you should always be aware of your surroundings and take care not to make yourself an obvious target with your wallet hanging out your back pocket, having lots of gold jewellery on display or a handbag ready to be snatched by a person on a motorbike.
If planning to go hiking and even if you're not, it is advisable to bring a Mosquito repellent. Mosquitoes can carry Malaria, Dengue and also the Zika Virus. It is worth buying Travel Insurance just in case. Also bring a phone charger/adapter and Electrical conversion plugs for use here. In most cases you can buy these at an airport.
Check out the other pages on the different islands to find more information about them. Also see the guide to choosing the right island for your vacation and travel to the Caribbean.
You're sure to have a great time here in the Caribbean.