More and more people are asking which Caribbean islands are the safest to visit. Get a quick overview of where’s safe – and where’s not – with this guide.
Its tourist-brochure image depicts idyllic days spent at the beach, but bad press has colored the perception of the Caribbean for years. In fact, more and more people are asking which Caribbean islands are safest? We’ve done the research to help answer some commonly-asked questions…
Does the Caribbean have a high crime rate?
While the Caribbean is generally a very safe destination, high-profile incidents can quickly leave travelers wondering what lurks beneath its sun-and-fun veneer. According to research though, the fear of crime in the Caribbean is generally overblown.
Statistics show that violent crime rarely touches the 28 million or so tourists who visit the Caribbean every year. And reports of violence are mainly confined to inner-city areas which see few tourists. Like many vacation destinations, petty street crime does occur, and valuables left unattended at beaches, in rental cars or in hotel rooms are vulnerable to theft.
To avoid becoming the victim of crime, the US Department of State recommends taking common sense precautions whilst on vacation in the Caribbean. These include traveling in large groups, staying in well-lit tourist-friendly areas, and not traveling with large amounts of cash or flashy jewellery.
Should I be worried about hurricanes?
You’d have to have had your head in the sand if you didn’t hear about recent hurricanes affecting the Caribbean. And it’s no secret that the region is prone to rain and storms – but that doesn’t make it unsafe to visit.
Bad weather in the Caribbean is typically confined to hurricane season which lasts from June to November. But the risk of storms generally peaks in an even smaller window, roughly from August through October. Statistically speaking, even if you travel at this time of year, the odds are excellent that you’ll enjoy a hurricane-free vacation. But of course it pays to take precautions and be aware that there are some risks.
Don’t want to chance it? Then consider booking your vacation outside of hurricane season. If you’re happy to travel during hurricane season then you’ll make excellent savings on flights and accommodation, compared with peak periods. Just make sure you get a comprehensive travel insurance policy to cover you if the weather prevents you from travelling. Also check out the hurricane forecast before travelling.
Are there any health risks?
Wherever you go in the world there’s always the risk of getting sick while you’re abroad. Fortunately, few people experience serious health problems when traveling to the Caribbean.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends being up-to-date on all routine vaccinations before embarking on a Caribbean vacation. It’s also recommended that you seek advice from your doctor at least 8 weeks before you’re due to travel in case you need any new vaccinations.
If you do get sick when you’re away, don’t panic. The healthcare facilities in the Caribbean destinations we offer vacation homes in are excellent. To be on the safe side though, double check that your travel insurance includes a good level of health cover.
Which Caribbean islands are safest?
There is no ‘safest’ Caribbean island, but research shows that some destinations do have higher crime rates than others.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to look for updated government-issued advisories before booking a vacation, and to follow standard safety precautions when in unfamiliar surroundings, especially at night.
There are other things to consider too, like whether or not your resort is gated, whether the beaches are child-friendly, and what kinds of activities are on offer. For instance, St. Lucia has a low rate of crime, but if you’re planning on hiking through the forest and climbing the Pitons it may be better to leave the kids at home.
The safest Caribbean islands for families tend to be those that have the best beaches, the calmest seas and the most child-friendly activities and amenities.
So, what are the safest Caribbean islands for families?
Turks and Caicos
This British Overseas Territory is comprised of 40 islands and cays – only a handful of which are inhabited by the 30,000 or so local residents. This number is a stark contrast to the half a million tourists who arrive by plane each year and the 650,000 cruise ship tourists who visit the Grand Turk cruise port annually. It should come as no surprise then that protecting the tourist industry is a major government priority.
The Turks and Caicos are some of the safest Caribbean islands for families due to their soft sandy beaches, gentle seas and warm year-round temperatures. The region’s rainfall level is low compared to some of its counterparts, and hurricanes are few and far between.
The main island Providenciales is home to the 12-mile-long Grace Bay Beach which tops polls as one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. ‘Provo’ also has great shops and restaurants, plus a good selection of family friendly resorts to choose from.
The US State Department reports that overall crime rates for the region are relatively low and any crimes that do occur typically involve petty theft, so be sure not to leave your valuables unattended.
Where to stay in Turks and Caicos
Considered one of the safest Caribbean islands for families, Barbados is an independent British Commonwealth nation and welcomes around 1 million visitors each year. The tourism industry is a huge part of the island’s economy, and the locals are said to be some of the friendliest in the entire Caribbean.
There are dozens of family friendly beaches along the west coast boasting miles and miles of white powdery sand and pristine turquoise waters. Beyond the beach, the island offers an array of delights including delicious cuisine, a fantastic line-up of activities, and a lush interior dotted with picturesque gardens.
According to the US State Department, Barbados is generally a safe place to travel but there are certain things to be aware of. It’s illegal to wear any kind of camouflaged clothing in Barbados, for example – and they take this rule very seriously.
Another factor to bear in mind is that some of the island’s smaller roads are not marked clearly except for informal signs at road junctions, so take extra care if you’re driving around.
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Like many of its neighboring islands, Anguilla has experienced a growth spurt over the past few decades as evidenced by the rise of swanky hotels and upscale villa resorts. And while this British Overseas Territory relies on its luxury tourism (the rich and famous frequently travel to Anguilla) it hasn’t lost any of its laid-back charm.
There are miles of soft white-sand beaches all around the coast, as well as innumerable coves that can be reached by boat. You’ll find a seemingly endless array of water activities to enjoy, and away from the beach there are plenty of family friendly restaurants and low-key nightspots.
The US Department of State reports that crime rates in Anguilla are some of the lowest in the Caribbean, but you should take standard precautions nevertheless. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime also listed Anguilla among the safest Caribbean islands.
Places to stay in Anguilla
St. Martin/St. Maarten
The French and Dutch have been neighbors in the Caribbean for centuries, and both countries welcome foreign visitors to the island (they’re able to travel freely between both sides).
The French side (St Martin) is quietly sophisticated with colorful cliffside vistas and some of the tastiest French food you’ll find in the Caribbean. Cross over to the Dutch side and you’ll find the buzzing capital of Philipsburg which has an abundance of shops and nightspots. All around this 37-square-mile island there are white-sand beaches which are great for families. There are also plenty of opportunities for sightseeing and day trips.
The US State Department has no issues or advisories about traveling to St Martin or St Maarten but advises that you should take precautions against petty crime. Similarly, Tripadvisor states that the island is generally a safe place to visit, but as with any tourist destination you should be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Accommodation in St. Martin/St. Maarten
When you consider that it’s the Caribbean’s most exclusive and expensive island, it’s not surprising that St. Barts is one of the safest islands to visit. Pulling in the rich, famous and well-heeled by ferry or by small prop airplane, this French Overseas Territory is home to pristine beaches, swanky marinas, designer shops and luxury spas.
In terms of safety, visitors report that very little crime occurs on the island. In fact, many of the locals leave their houses and cars unlocked. The general advice is to exercise common sense and take basic precautions, including being aware of one’s surroundings, avoiding walking alone after dark, and locking your valuables away in a safe.
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The Virgin Islands
As with St Barts, the British and US Virgin Islands are more upscale than other destinations.Hailed as being some of the safest islands in the Caribbean, these regions are known for their breathtaking beaches, turquoise seas and stunning national parks.
Also world-famous boating destinations, tourists flock to the Virgin Islands from across the globe to make stops between the cruise ports and boating hubs.
Penalties for crime are very severe across the Virgin Islands which has led to crime rates being very low. Even so, it is advised not to wander around on your own at night, and to guard your valuables or to lock them in a safe.
It is also advised to take extra care when driving in the Virgin Islands, as they tend to have steep curvy roads that are often poorly lit at night. The advice is to take care when driving home from a night out, or leave the driving up to an experienced local taxi driver.
Where to stay in the Virgin Islands
Located in the West Indies just a short flight from Florida, Jamaica is the perfect spot for families in search of an easy getaway. This is the land of jaw-dropping beaches, family resorts and a rich reggae-infused culture. Jamaica’s cities bubble with life both day and night, and wherever you stay you’re sure to find music and merry-making nearby.
The best villa resorts for families are on the north coast in popular beach towns like Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Discovery Bay and Runaway Bay. You can stay in the heart of the action close to shops, restaurants, bars and nightspots, or opt for a peaceful spot well away from the crowds.
The flight duration to Jamaica is around 10 hours from London, 4 hours from New York and just 2 hours from Orlando. Once you’re there getting around is easy, especially given that the best roads are those around the tourist resorts. It’s worth bearing in mind that some of the island’s smaller roads are not marked clearly, so take extra care if you’re driving around.
Vacation homes in Jamaica
Increasingly popular for family vacations, this Eastern Caribbean island offers thrilling zip-line tours, exciting island safaris and 365 gorgeous beaches – that’s one for every day of the year. It also has a new airport and some fantastic family friendly resorts.
The Rainforest Zipline Tour will have you flying along the island’s highest trees; you can even stop off and enjoy a drink in the treetop bar. There’s also a children’s museum, a restored sugar plantation and an inflatable water park moored just offshore.
Antigua is not generally considered an island with a high risk factor to visitors, although petty crime rates do increase over carnival, which takes place in July. Visitors are advised not to visit remote beaches after dark, and not to flaunt their wealth or leave valuables visible in a car, house or unattended on the beach.
Places to stay in Antigua
The Dominican Republic
Located on the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic is of one of the most geographically diverse islands in the Caribbean. It has beautiful beaches, soaring mountains and fascinating Spanish architecture to discover.
The capital city is home to gorgeously restored monasteries and quaint cobblestone streets – look out for Spanish landmarks like the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor in the Colonial Zone; this is the oldest cathedral in the Americas, begun in 1512 and completed in 154.
Families will also love the powder-white beaches, some are backed by palm trees while others are lined with rocky cliffs, wind-swept dunes and pretty mangrove lagoons.
Accommodation-wise, the island’s pride and joy is the amazing Casa de Campo resort, a tropical playground of beaches, sports facilities and exotic gardens. One of the safest and most luxurious resorts in the entire Caribbean, the resort boasts 3 golf courses, 7 restaurants, a marina, an equestrian center, a shooting course and 3 private white-sand beaches.
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What are the worst Caribbean islands to visit?
On the basis of crime rates, some of the least safe Caribbean countries to visit include Puerto Rico, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago.
As we noted though, most crime in the Caribbean is an internal problem and is linked to inner-city areas well away from tourist resorts. In short, if you’re heading out from your resort, make sure you do your research and stay away from bad neighborhoods.
Apart from a few isolated incidents in the press, tourists are rarely victims of violent crime while on vacation in the region, and most Caribbean islands are perfectly safe to visit as long as you follow common sense precautions.
Ready to find somewhere to stay? You can view all of our Caribbean rentals on our website.