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The Caribbean is hardly a secret to New Yorkers (or any other U.S. travelers for that matter): With a plethora of short flights from JFK, it’s long been the winter (and summer) playground of many vacationers. What is kept quiet, though, are some of the lesser-known Caribbean isles on this list, each with its own distinct vibe. Some are super rugged, while others are an exclusive enclave for A-listers—but all are worthy options for your next tropical getaway. 

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jost van dyke island
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JOST VAN DYKE, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

Named for an early Dutch settler and one-time pirate, Jost Van Dyke is only three square miles but it’s home to one of BVI’s most beautiful beaches. With soft sand and clear blue water, all sheltered by a barrier reef, White Bay is known for great boating, swimming and snorkeling, plus lively beach bars. Swim ashore for the original Painkiller cocktail at the Soggy Dollar Bar or hit up the barbecue at Foxy’s in Great Harbour. Staying overnight? Book a room at the White Bay Villas. And if you need to escape the party during your stay, check out Sandy Cay, a small, deserted all-beach island off Jost Van Dyke. Bonus: If you’re on The Yacht Week, you’re likely to stop at one or both depending on the weather, but you can also take a ferry or hire a boat to take you to Jost Van Dyke from Tortola or St. Thomas.

martinique island
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MARTINIQUE

The “Paris of the Caribbean” has a bit of everything you love about the island region—sweeping ocean views, beautiful white-sand beaches and mountainous terrain—all with a French flair. (Think French cooking techniques using local ingredients and island spices.) You’ll also find a rich cultural center with festivals, markets, rum distilleries and museums highlighting the island’s history. Martinique is less of a resort island than some of its Caribbean neighbors, which means there are a lot of small hotels, but the real value can be found in vacation rentals listed on Airbnb. Stay on the island’s west side for views of Mount Pelée or the bay of Fort-de-France; or on the east side for views of the Atlantic in La Vauclin or Le François. With nonstop flights on Norwegian Air as low as $208 round-trip, the francophone escape is closer than you think.

guadalupe island
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GUADELOUPE

Norwegian also conveniently flies direct from JFK to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe’s largest city. The French-governed islands are a small archipelago with two main islets—Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre—in the Lesser Antilles. It’s shaped like a butterfly and known for its more rugged beaches, hiking, rain forests and French Creole cuisine (Chez SylvieTi Kaz’la and La Rhumerie du Pirate are a few of our favorite spots). Shopping in Guadeloupe’s lively markets and visiting the island’s old forts and colonial homes are musts, but if you’re ready for adventure, hike to the Carbet Falls or to the top of La Soufrière volcano in Basse-Terre. You can also scuba dive or snorkel in the footsteps of a famed ocean explorer at the Cousteau Reserve. If you’re considering a honeymoon or another romance-filled trip, check out the Tendacayou Ecolodge & Spa, located in the tropical forest, or the five-star La Toubana on Grande-Terre. Going with friends? Hit the beach at Plage de la Datcha or Îlet du Gosier. And regardless of whom you go with, you won’t want to leave without sampling local delicacies like bokitsorbet coco and tourment d’amour.

british virgin islands
Courtesy of British Virgin Islands

ANEGADA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

This low-lying coral island—or “drowned island”—is secluded, tranquil and insanely beautiful, with pristine beaches, lots of greenery (loblolly and sea grape) and acres and acres of salt ponds and marshes. Anegada is less of a resort destination (you won’t find any all-inclusives) and better suited to those looking for an adventure. Divers are drawn to the island for the 40-mile-long Horseshoe Reef and the more than 300 shipwrecks available to explore—more wrecks than anywhere else in the Caribbean. The region also scores lots of points for its Caribbean lobster. It’s abundant across the island and easy to enjoy fresh just minutes after coming out of the sea. Unlike some of the islands on this list that are a little easier to access, Anegada is more remote. From St. Thomas, VI Airlink flies direct to the island, or you can take a ferry or water taxi from Tortola or Virgin Gorda. The island’s remoteness is also what gives it a desert-island vibe. We recommend staying on the sand in a luxury tent at the Anegada Beach Club or booking a room at the beachfront Anegada Reef Hotel.

mustinique island
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MUSTIQUE

Located in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Mustique is definitely off the beaten track…and admittedly, a total freakin’ splurge. The island is exclusive (it was essentially built for royals, and was a favorite of QEII’s sis, Princess Margaret) and secluded, popular with celebs, rock stars and the super-wealthy. Cap off a relaxing day at one of the island’s many beautiful beaches with a cocktail at Basil’s Bar. There is no mass tourism—or traffic lights, ATMs or street signs—but there is a tennis club, an equestrian center and an island-wide cocktail party each week. Water sports like windsurfing, scuba diving and deep-sea fishing are also popular activities. You won’t find resorts, only small hotels (the 20-room Cotton House is the largest) and private villas for rent. To get there, book a spot on a scheduled flight from St. Lucia or Barbados or hire a charter from Canouan or St. Vincent. Like we said: exclusive.

monserrat
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MONTSERRAT

Known as the Caribbean’s Emerald Isle, Montserrat is making a comeback after it was almost completely destroyed and abandoned when the Soufrière Hills volcano started erupting in 1995 (it’s actually technically still active). Like its Caribbean neighbors, this island has beautiful beaches and sweeping sea views, but the intriguing British Overseas Territory in the West Indies became somewhat of a modern-day Pompeii with vast portions of the island wiped out and still in a no-visit exclusion zone. Visitors can tour the volcanic-buried ruins of towns like Plymouth, once the capital, Richmond Hill and St. Patrick’s, though, with a guide. We’ll be candid: Montserrat isn’t known for being super luxurious like some other Caribbean spots, but it is more of an off-the-radar gem that’s worth considering for a visit that’s unlike anything else. Book a stay at the Montserrat VillasFlights and ferries to the island depart from nearby Antigua.

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