I have been to 20 Caribbean islands. Here are 7 mistakes first-time visitors should avoid making.

  • I’ve been to 20 Caribbean islands and have noticed some common mistakes first-time visitors make.

  • I have noticed that many visitors tend to avoid island hopping and travel outside of their resorts.

  • Tourists should leave room in their itineraries for surprises and to try local food.

The Caribbean is the perfect vacation destination for those seeking warm weather, endless beaches, and exciting activities in and out of the water. From nightlife and water sports to great food and historic attractions, the Caribbean has something for everyone.

That’s why it’s no surprise that traveling to the Caribbean is so popular. In fact, tourism is off to a good start in 2024, with many islands seeing an increase in visitors compared to 2023.

However, as someone who has been traveling to the Caribbean for the past two decades, I have observed some common mistakes first-time visitors make.

If you are planning a trip to the Caribbean and want to maximize your experience, here are some mistakes to avoid making during your visit.

Do not leave the resort

The view of a waterfall between thin tropical trees.The view of a waterfall between thin tropical trees.

I climbed Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica. Mariette Williams

The Caribbean is full of gorgeous resorts, but one of the biggest mistakes I see first-time visitors make is never leaving the property. Every time I travel to an island, I make it a point to get out of the resort and visit the nearby attractions.

One of my favorite recent travel experiences was a day trip to Jamaica, where I got to float down the Martha Brae River and climb Dunn’s River Falls.

If you’re not sure what activities are available, check out some reputable tours online or ask your hotel concierge for recommendations. If you plan to leave the resort, be sure to do your research and take standard safety precautions.

Stick only to all-inclusive resorts

Buildings near the ocean in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.Buildings near the ocean in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

When I visited Puerto Rico for the first time, I stayed in a one-bedroom apartment in Old San Juan.Mariette Williams

The Caribbean is known for its all-inclusive resorts, which are convenient for families with small children or large groups of friends.

But for solo travelers, couples and families with older children, I recommend visiting smaller boutique hotels. Some of my best travel memories come from staying at smaller properties.

When I first visited Puerto Rico, I stayed in a lovely one-bedroom apartment in Old San Juan, which was a short taxi ride from the beach. We spent our days exploring Old San Juan and each night we chose a new restaurant to visit, which we wouldn’t have done if we had stayed at a large all-inclusive resort.

Assuming all islands look the same

A rock retaining wall with cacti, vegetation and large rock formations on top.A rock retaining wall with cacti, vegetation and large rock formations on top.

There is much to do in Arikok National Park.Mariette Williams

There is a misconception that all Caribbean islands look the same. However, the geography varies from island to island.

Volcanic islands like St. Lucia and Dominica feature black sand beaches, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas have relatively flat terrain and deep cave systems, and Antigua and St. Croix have rolling hills ideal for long hikes.

In Aruba, visitors can relax on the white sand beaches or explore the towering cacti, sand dunes, and rock pools of Arikok National Park.

Each island offers something a little different and you can maximize your stay by knowing how you want to spend your holiday.

Don’t go from island to island

While island hopping seems expensive, several islands have convenient and affordable ferries. For example, visitors can take a ferry from St. Kitts to neighboring Nevis to soak in the hot springs or visit the botanical gardens.

I always recommend setting aside a day to visit a nearby island, especially if it is accessible by ferry.

Looking forward to a fast-paced lifestyle

A beachfront restaurant with tables, chairs and umbrellas.  In the background there is a large tree.A beachfront restaurant with tables, chairs and umbrellas.  In the background there is a large tree.

My tour guide recommended stopping by a popular beachside restaurant in Barbados.Mariette Williams

First-time visitors to the Caribbean may be surprised to discover that, for the most part, life seems to move more slowly on the islands.

Be sure to leave time between activities or meals and embrace flexibility. If you have planned activities, I recommend doing one activity per day or reserving at least half a day for each excursion.

In Barbados, for example, I hired a driver to visit Bathsheba, a stunning rocky beach on the east coast of Barbados. On our way back, my tour guide recommended stopping by a popular beachside restaurant, which was not on the itinerary.

I ended up staying a few hours, ordering food and drinks and walking along the beach. I would have missed this delightful detour if I had been on a tight schedule, and I always recommend adopting the slower pace of the island for the best experience.

Don’t eat local food

Part of the joy of traveling is experiencing new cuisine, and the Caribbean offers a variety of food that reflects the history and culture of each island.

In Puerto Rico, I decided to eat mofongo, an African-influenced dish made with fried plantains. In Granada I tried the oil plumon, a delicious meat and vegetable stew.

On a girls’ trip to Curacao, we stopped by a local restaurant that had come highly recommended for their goat burgers. I was worried at first, but it was one of the most delicious and memorable meals of the trip.

Don’t research what is the best time to visit

Palm trees on the beach on a sunny day.Palm trees on the beach on a sunny day.

Winter is the most popular time to visit the Caribbean. Mariette Williams

Although the Caribbean offers warmth all year round, some months are better than others for a trip.

For example, although most of the Caribbean experiences hurricane season from June to November, some islands such as Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao are outside the hurricane belt.

The summer slow season also means lower hotel rates, but it comes with higher temperatures and afternoon showers.

Peak season in the Caribbean occurs in the winter months, when hotel rates are high and rooms can sell out quickly. However, if you book early enough, you can spend New Year’s Eve on the beach.

Read the original article on Business Insider