How To Travel Between Caribbean Islands?

How To Travel Between Caribbean Islands?

The Caribbean is a dream holiday destination for many. But when the region covers 2.754 million km² and encompasses hundreds of stunning islands and bucket-list destinations, how are you supposed to choose just one? Well, you don’t! Instead, you choose several and travel between Caribbean islands during your vacation. 

It’s one of the most beautiful regions in the world and has something for everyone. Sun-drenched white-sand beaches and dramatic landscapes, azure waters teeming with marine life, vibrant towns packed with authentic culture, unique flavors, and fascinating histories. You’ll find it all here. Plus a laid-back rum-soaked lifestyle and gorgeous climate. 

You’ll never manage to see everything in one trip, but we can help you make the most of your time. So we’ve put together a guide on how to travel between Caribbean islands to help you plan the ultimate island-hopping vacation!

Which Are The Best Caribbean Islands To Visit?

Caribbean beach from above
Photo by Hugh Whyte on Unsplash

The Caribbean is home to 13 sovereign nations encompassing around 700 islands, so it is pretty tough to whittle them down to a handful of must-visit locations. But here are a couple of the top spots to help you get started.

Aruba is one of the best-known Caribbean destinations, famous for its perfect climate and wandering flamingos. 

Turks and Caicos, the ultimate honeymoon destination. Featuring stunning white sand beaches, exclusive resorts, and all the luxury facilities you could want. 

British Virgin Islands. The 40 islands that make up BVI are popular with island hoppers, sailors, divers, snorkelers, and anyone who lovers the ocean lifestyle. 

Jamaica is the place to enjoy reggae beats, laid-back Caribbean lifestyle, lively nightlife, spicy food, and famous beaches.

US Virgin Islands offer a tropical getaway for Americans who don’t have passports or like their vacations in a home away from home. 

Antigua is home to 365 beaches and some of the best resorts in the Caribbean. 

Barbados is one of the best options for budget travelers and has some of the best surfing in the region. Explore pink sand beaches, adrenaline activities, and high-energy festivals. 

St Vincent and Grenadines are perfect for people who want to meander slowly through a chain of 32 beautiful islands. Home to celebrity favorite Mustique. 

Is It Easy To Travel Between Caribbean Islands?

Sea plane landing in the Caribbean
Photo by Karl Callwood on Unsplash

It’s easy to travel between Caribbean islands. This region has been popular with tourists for decades, and it has a well-established network of travel options. 

The Caribbean is a hugely popular cruise ship destination, plenty of major and regional airlines service the islands, and several ferry companies run domestic and international routes. There are also excellent connections and regular direct flights between all the major island nations and the US and Europe.

Plus, many of the Caribbean nations comprise lots of smaller islands. So a vacation spent island hopping doesn’t have to take in many countries; it could be spent exploring as much as possible in just one. 

Traveling Between Caribbean Islands By Cruise Ship

Cruise ships at port
Photo by Fernando Jorge on Unsplash

The most popular way to travel between Caribbean islands is by booking a cruise. Many cruise ship companies operate in this extremely popular holiday destination, so you can shop around for the deal and itinerary that suits you. Then once you’re booked, relax and enjoy the journey as the crew takes care of everything else. 

Pros

  • Cruises mean that you can relax while someone else handles the details.
  • You can enjoy all the facilities onboard while traveling, so the journey is just as enjoyable as the destinations.
  • There’s no need to find new accommodation at each destination. 
  • It’s a sociable way to travel.

Cons

  • Cruises can be expensive.
  • Beyond deciding which cruise to book, you have no control over the itinerary. 
  • Cruise ships tend to be big, which means you’ll arrive at each location with thousands of other passengers.

Traveling Between Caribbean Islands By Ferry

Public ferry traveling between Caribbean islands
Photo by Renato Marzan on Unsplash

Public ferries are a brilliant way to travel around the Caribbean islands since they allow you to travel independently and are far cheaper than flights or cruises. You can access the timetables and fares online and plan each step of the journey as you go rather than having it all planned out in advance. Plus, the scenery along some of the routes is spectacular. 

The ferry service in the Caribbean is by no means comprehensive. Many nations have good ferries between their own islands but no international connections, while some islands are well connected to their immediate neighbors but no further afield. But if you fancy traveling on the ferries, do a little research and pick an area with lots of connections.

For instance, the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands have excellent internal ferry services. And in Saint Vincent and The Grenadines, it’s standard practice to hop aboard commercial fishing boats to journey between its 32 islands. And for travel between nations, try L’Express des Iles, which runs an excellent service between Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, and St.Lucia. 

Pros

  • Travel independently with complete control of your itinerary and total flexibility.
  • Cheaper than flights and far more affordable than a cruise or chartering a boat.
  • Travel the way the locals do for an authentic experience.
  • Enjoy the journey on open boats, enjoying the view and scenery. 

Cons

  • The ferry service does not cover the whole region, so you will not be able to travel to every island this way. 
  • Some destinations are too far apart to make ferries feasible. 
  • Unlike cruises and charter boats, ferries don’t come with accommodation, so you will need to book that separately. 

Traveling Between Caribbean Islands By Plane

Plane landing in the Caribbean
Photo by Brighton Pereira on Unsplash

The quickest way to travel between islands is by flying. It’s easy and efficient and covers many routes that the ferries don’t. Major airlines fly routes that connect the biggest Caribbean destinations, while smaller regional ones serve the more secluded islands. Some of the most remote routes are serviced by tiny planes that barely seat a dozen people. Flying in one of those is an experience you won’t soon forget!

The best way to plan your itinerary is to check the airlines’ websites to see their route maps or use a third-party website like Skyscanner to search all your options at once.

Pros

  • Quick and efficient transport between islands
  • Cheaper than cruises or private yachts
  • Flights go to islands that ferries cannot
  • Keep control of your itinerary and stay flexible on your routes. 

Cons

  • More expensive than ferries
  • You might have to book further in advance if you want cheaper flights, giving you less flexibility. 
  • Unless you end up in a tiny island-hopper plane, the journeys won’t be as scenic as traveling by boat.

Traveling Between Caribbean Islands By Chartered Yacht

Luxury yacht
Photo by Bluefin Led on Unsplash

This is the dream way to see the Caribbean but by far the most expensive. Chartering a private yacht gives you complete control over your itinerary and lets you travel in luxury with a full crew, including chefs, servers, and housekeepers. Relax in the sun, and enjoy the spectacular views and glorious food and drinks as you sail towards your next destination. You might not even want to leave the yacht when you get there!

Pros

  • You’ll have complete control over the itinerary, and, since you’re in control, you can remain flexible and make changes as you go.
  • Enjoy living a millionaire’s lifestyle with luxury surroundings, an experienced crew, and highly qualified chefs and staff. 
  • Enjoy the journey between destinations as much as the stops themselves. 
  • Benefit from the crew’s experience. They’ve often sailed the same routes for years and can advise you on the best beaches, restaurants, nightclubs, and activities in each port. 

Cons

  • It’s easily the most expensive travel method on our list and out of most people’s budget. 
  • You charter the whole boat, so if you’re a solo traveler or a couple it’s more expensive and not ideal. 
  • Traveling between islands can take longer than flying or taking the ferry. That’s not necessarily bad when you’re on a private yacht, but flying is more efficient if you’re short on time. 

What’s The Best Way To Travel Between Caribbean Islands?

A lot depends on your time frame, budget, and personal preference. But we’d say the best way to travel between Caribbean islands is via a combination of public ferries, flights, and boat trips. This will give you access to the entire region, plus you’ll have the fun and flexibility of putting together a mix and match itinerary. 

Fly into your chosen destination and use public ferries to island-hop as much as possible. When you reach the end of the ferry routes – or if you need to speed up your journey a little – hop a flight to the next destination. And when you hear about a remote and wonderful island not serviced by ferry or flight – like Antigua’s Green Island – look for boat excursions to take you over for a day trip. Don’t worry, day trips don’t cost nearly as much as chartering private yachts! 

Caribbean Islands from above
Photo by Viktor Ruppert on Unsplash

How Long Does It Take To Travel Between Caribbean Islands?

How long it takes to travel between Caribbean Islands depends on your methods and where you’re traveling from. For example, a flight from The Bahamas to Trinidad and Tobago takes six hours, while flying between St. Martin​​ and St Barts takes only 15 minutes. And a ferry between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico takes roughly 12 hours, but you could fly that route in less than an hour. 

And if you were to sail non-stop down the chain of Caribbean islands – a distance of 2500 miles – it would take you around ten days without stopping to enjoy anything. So, decide how much time you have before choosing your travel methods and the distances you want to cover. 

How Much Does It Cost To Travel Between Caribbean Islands

Beautiful luxury accommodation in the Cayman Islands
Photo by Marc Babin on Unsplash

How much it costs to travel between Caribbean Islands depends on your method of transportation. For example, the L’Express des Iles ferry service runs a round trip route between Martinique and Guadeloupe for $104, while a one-way flight costs roughly the same.

As a rule, flights in the Caribbean region are not cheap, and you won’t find many for under $100, no matter how close the destinations are. The average flight between Jamaica and The Bahamas costs $350, and between Barbados and Antigua, $474.

If you want to take a cruise, the average price for one person for one week is between $1500 – $2000. And if you’re going to charter a private yacht, prices tend to start around $10,000 per week.

How Many Caribbean Islands Should I Visit On One Trip?

A seven-day cruise will generally visit three or four Caribbean islands or destinations, and that’s about right. If you have ten days or two weeks of vacation, you could extend that to five or six stops but try not to overload your itinerary. 

If you want to spend every day on the move, visit a destination made up of smaller islands, like the British Virgin Islands, the Caymans, or the Bahamas, where you can island hop quite easily. If you’re traveling longer distances from country to country, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to relax, enjoy and explore when you get there. 

Joseph

For more than 11 years, Joe has worked as a freelance travel writer. His writing and explorations have brought him to various locations, including the colonial towns of Mexico, the bustling chowks of Mumbai, and the majestic Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not crafting his next epic blog post on the top Greek islands or French ski resorts, he can often be found engaging in his top two hobbies of surfing and hiking.

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