Best Caribbean Islands for Romance, Destination Weddings | Islands

10 Best Caribbean Islands for Destination Weddings

Looking for the best Caribbean island for a destination wedding? These 10 tropical islands are romantic spots for a Caribbean beach wedding or honeymoon

Editor’s Note: Some of the information below may be out-of-date. Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were heavily impacted by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Please visit caribbeantravelupdate.com for updates.

The Caribbean endures as a top pick for destination weddings for dozens of reasons. For starters, you can find an island to suit every mood and pocketbook, your guests are guaranteed a great time, and the beaches are as perfect as you've imagined. Read on to find which island is best for you.

Best Caribbean Islands for Weddings | Aruba

Aruba

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Aruba

What Makes it Unique

This popular isle boasts a winning combo of barefoot island life and stiletto-heeled, sexy glamour. Situated below the hurricane belt, the island is a true stunner, with an arid interior of cacti and twisted dividivi trees, as well as a coastline of silky-soft sand that seems to glow against the aquamarine water. Ever-present trade winds draw windsurfers and kitesurfers, who race and whirl across — and above — the sea like dancing marionettes.

Aruba's luxurious high-rise beachfront resorts may not lure escapists, but they'll wrap you in luxury, with onsite coordinators who can help you plan as elaborate a bash as you wish. You can even receive a wedding blessing in one of the downtown casinos, which boast Las Vegas-style gaming and live music.If you're looking for a little less glitz, head to the north shore to exchange symbolic vows at the base of the California lighthouse, perched on a wind-swept bluff next to the ocean. Aruba's party scene doesn't start until nearly midnight and rocks until dawn, so you'll have plenty of time to linger at your reception before kicking up your heels at one of the town's many bars and dance clubs. A fun way to get around town: Make getting there part of the party by renting one of the colorful Kukoo Kunuku party buses.

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Savaneta is Aruba's oldest settlement, but tourists still haven't caught on to the often-empty beaches at the southeastern end of the island. Spend the day lounging in the velvet-soft sand, marry on the beach without a crowd watching, and hold your reception dinner at a table set with silver and crystal, situated under a cluster of ocean-side palms.

Good to Know

Aruba's westward-facing beaches give sunset ceremonies a dreamy glow, but you'll need to hold your official wedding ceremony at the Civil House in Oranjestad for your wedding to be considered legal.

Best Caribbean Islands for Weddings | Bahamas

Bahamas

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Bahamas

What Makes it Unique

There are few places in the world where you can take your pick from 700 islands. Lots of Caribbean destinations transport you off the grid, but not Paradise Island. Brimming with flashy resorts that offer an incredible range of diversions — think casinos, water parks, sybaritic spas and loads of dining options -- in addition to perfectly groomed beaches, Paradise Island can deliver a big-city wedding in tropical splendor. Just across the bridge, along Cable Beach on New Providence Island, find similar action and amenities but with a lower price tag.

Located 55 miles off the coast of central Florida, Grand Bahama Island can also manage a big resort wedding. The wide-open spaces outside the well-developed areas near Freeport and Lucaya mean you can mix it up: Marry on a pristine beach like Churchill or Barbary, then move to a resort or local restaurant for your reception.If you love the idea of a super-casual, down-to-earth wedding, the Out Islands — Bimini, the Abacos, the Exumas — may be more your style. Loaded with uninhabited cays, tiki bars and resorts ranging from beach shacks to eco-luxe, this flurry of islands has natural beauty to spare. A wedding here might incorporate saying your vows on a tiny isle, then taking a flotilla of boats to a barren islet for a feast of lobster grilled on a bonfire next to the sea. Eleuthera's most splurge-worthy destination is Harbor Island, a 3½-mile-long spit of pink sand, where visitors drive golf carts from polished resorts into Dunmore Town to shop at local designer boutiques.

Don't Miss

The Cloister and Versailles Gardens on Paradise Island. William Randolph Hearst had this 12th-century monastery delivered from France and reassembled stone by stone in the 1920s. Although it sits on property now owned by One&Only resort, the grounds are open to the public. Set with gazebos, grand columns and flowers, it makes a great photo op. You can have your wedding ceremony here too, but only resort guests can do a reception.

Good to Know

Getting to some of the Bahamas Out Islands often requires taking a puddle-hopper flight, plus a water taxi or ferry. If your connection to the pickup point is tight, consider arriving a day early; once the last ferry has gone, you're generally there for the night.

Best Islands in the Caribbean for Weddings | Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands

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Cayman Islands

What Makes it Unique

Sure, there's world-class diving in the Cayman Islands. But that's far from the only thing these isles have going for them. Boasting one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean, the Caymans are some of the best Caribbean islands because they take great restaurants, trendy boutiques and even yoga studios, give them a dose of Caribbean flair, and welcome you to indulge. Hoping for a fancy soiree? Grand Cayman delivers with top-notch wedding planners and vendors whose quality matches what you can find in the States. The largest and most populated of the three isles, it's home to the capital, George Town, where the quaint waterfront is strung with outdoor cafes, and Seven Mile Beach, the island's gorgeously famous stretch of turquoise-and-white perfection.

Smaller and less developed, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac are a little more off the beaten path, requiring 30-minute flights out of Grand Cayman. But if you're into simplicity, they're deeply alluring, with friendly guesthouses and small divecentric resorts dotting the shoreline. Spend your days snorkeling, diving, or on Cayman Brac, rock-climbing the island's steep limestone cliffs, called the bluff.

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In the Cayman Islands, what's under the sea is as impressive as what's above it — some would argue more so! Even veteran divers and snorkelers return to shore awed by the forests of coral, labyrinths of caverns, and rainbow waves of tropical fish. Offshore from Little Cayman, Randy's Gazebo is an underwater archway highlighted by streamers of light from above, and it's often used as a chapel by couples who want to say their vows before a silent congregation of sea life.

Good to Know

All the attributes that make Grand Cayman one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean also make it one of the busiest, meaning a number of cruise ships could be docked at any given day. If you want to marry here, be sure to ask about cruise-ship schedules and plan accordingly.

Best Islands in the Caribbean for Weddings | Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

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Dominican Republic

What Makes it Unique

The Dominican Republic made a name for itself as a getaway for budget-conscious travelers, and while it's still a bargain (there are more hotel rooms here than anywhere in the Caribbean), the island is also home to some of the Caribbean's prettiest beaches. Each of the DR's regions has its own personality and airport, which makes getting to your fantasy beach a breeze.For gracious charm and sprawling golf greens, opt for La Romana in the southeast. For a taste of history, marry in the ornate 16th-century stained-glass-filled cathedral located in Santo Domingo, the capital and the oldest city in the Americas.

Spread over a peninsula that juts into the Caribbean, Punta Cana is home to a glorious, palm-studded, 20-mile-long beach lined with splashy all-inclusive resorts of every ilk and price range. Most are less than a decade old and were built with destination weddings in mind, so you'll find experienced wedding planners and beautifully imagined settings -- sweeping marble staircases, rose-filled restaurants -- that epitomize Caribbean romance.On the north coast, Cabarete, a windsurfer hangout with loads of barefoot charm and breezy golden beaches, offers great water sports and easy access to inland adventures like waterfall cascading, canyoneering, mountain biking and white-water rafting.

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Altos de Chavon Cultural Center Foundation, in La Romana, is a replica 16th-century Mediterranean village featuring cobblestone streets lined with art galleries, restaurants and shops. Catholic ceremonies can be performed in the St. Stanislaus chapel (in Spanish only, but you can bring a translator). Or hold a nondenominational ceremony in the dramatic Grecian-style amphitheater, which is transformed by nightfall into an intimate setting for an under-the-stars wedding.

Good to Know

If you're staying at an all-inclusive, upgrade to the highest class of service in the resort. These "resorts within resorts" will give you access to better pools, private beaches, more restaurants and in some cases, VIP treatment at the airport.

Best Islands in the Caribbean for Weddings | Jamaica

Jamaica

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Jamaica

What Makes it Unique

Everything about this charismatic isle — the unmistakable tang of jerk spices, day-glo landscape and intoxicating pulse of reggae — seems larger than life, so it's no wonder that couples who choose to marry on Jamaica often return again and again. And why not? Great airline access makes it an easy escape, plus you can usually find good deals on rooms.The concept of the all-inclusive resort was founded here, and the sprawling properties in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios live up to the legacy, including all types of water sports, gourmet restaurants, fun nightlife, incredible beaches, and romantic extras like champagne at check-in, private beach dinners -- even free weddings with a minimum nights' stay. But Jamaica isn't just about all-inclusive resorts. Even in MoBay and Ochi you'll find a surprising number of small, serene properties tucked into tiny crescents of beach or perched atop mountains.

Negril is the island's hippest enclave, with a string of boutique resorts lining the cliffs on the west coast. Port Antonio is a three-hour drive from the airport, but its quiet beaches, cascading waterfalls and rustic, cushy retreats are locked in a languid time warp that celebrates the abundance of nature from mountain to sea.

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A number of Jamaica's former estates are open to the public and make unique locales for an intimate wedding or group outing. Firefly, the hilltop estate near Ocho Rios where playwright Noel Coward entertained guests like Elizabeth Taylor and the queen mother, is filled with tropical plantings and celebrity mementos. In Montego Bay, guests follow a torch-lit path from the circa-1794 Bellefield Great House to a courtyard, where an ancient guango tree is strung with thousands of glittering white lights.

Good to Know

All-inclusives make receptions easy, as food and beverages are already included in the guest rates -- but this works only if everyone is staying at the same resort. If you have wedding guests who are staying off-property, they'll likely need to purchase day passes to enter the resort for your festivities

Best Islands in the Caribbean for Weddings | Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rico

What Makes it Unique

Who wouldn't love the seductive trio of sizzling Latin culture, lovely scenery (including a few delectably empty beaches) and vibrant nightlife, all set to a soundtrack of energetic salsa? Because San Juan serves as the transfer hub for flights throughout the Caribbean, you'll find plenty of affordable flights to this U.S. territory — and though the ambience screams exotic, no passports are required.The swank resorts along the sunny north side of the island — especially along Isla Verde Beach — are large enough to create a wedding as extravagant as you desire, as well as convenient to the chic nightclubs and stylish shops that line Old San Juan's twisty cobblestone streets.

Active couples should head to the west-coast town of Rincon, which is as famous for its waves and striking strands as it is for its laid-back attitude. Here, small welcoming resorts share the volleyball-net-strung shoreline with funky beach bars and a few newer high-rise condos. Since the beaches face west, they're lovely for sunset weddings. (Tip: Avoid the crowds by hitting top surfing beaches like Maria's Beach after the winter surf season.) For something truly off the beaten bath, the offshore isle of Vieques, with its secluded beaches and luminescent bio bay, is a beautiful option for solitude seekers. While there are a few boutique resorts and restaurants, it's mostly wide-open beach.

Don't Miss

Old San Juan has two of the Caribbean's most beautiful fortresses. San Cristobal's timeworn stone walls conceal 27 acres of grassy courtyards and rocky promenades 150 feet above the old city; nearby San Felipe del Morro is a 16th-century castle set on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Both make dramatic options for a photo op or a wedding ceremony, though you'll need to hold your reception elsewhere.

Good to Know

Puerto Rico requires a couple to show proof of a blood test, which must be performed at a federally certified laboratory no more than 14 days before the wedding. The test must also be approved by a doctor in Puerto Rico and authenticated at the Demographic Registry

Best Islands in the Caribbean for Weddings | Riviera Maya

Riviera Maya, Mexico

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Riviera Maya, Mexico

What Makes it Unique

Enchanting culture, paired with history, atmosphere and captivating natural beauty, gives Mexico such a sense of place that even nonbeachgoers will be seduced. Cancun, as famous for its party scene as it is for its palm-lined beaches and azure water, can fit any budget, and great air service makes it a snap to get there.Heading south along the Riviera Maya, you'll find oodles of hotels, from exclusive boutique inns to mega all-inclusive resorts with a package to fit every couple. You can't marry at protected Maya ruins like Tulum, but eco theme parks like Xcaret and Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve are great alternatives, combining culture and onsite catering with fun activities like snorkeling and river tubing.

Cozumel started life as a quiet escape for scuba divers (there are 25 reefs in the marine park); today, even though large resorts dominate, it's still got the same laid-back attitude.If you decide you want a beach wedding somewhere other than your hotel, it pays to contact a local wedding planner -- many have exclusive access to lovely reception sites.For something more intimate, Isla Mujeres, reachable only by ferry, still feels like the sleepy fishing village it's been for decades. You'll find lots of small resorts perfect for buyouts, but you may need to import vendors from Cancun.

Don't Miss

Get into the mood by incorporating at least one Maya element into your wedding. Traditional Maya weddings are led by a shaman, who offers blessings in the ancient Mayan language. Most Maya ceremonies also involve sharing a cup of balche — a sacred liqueur made from honey and the bark of the balche tree — and the ritual mixing and offering of flower petals, which symbolizes abundance and fertility.

Good to Know

Shipping welcome-gift or reception items to Mexico is expensive and risky, thanks to strict import laws. You're better off carrying items in your luggage and ponying up the extra baggage charges to the airline. You'll save money and won't have the stress of worrying when your gifts arrive.

Best Caribbean Islands for Weddings | U.S. Virgin Islands

U.S. Virgin Islands

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U.S. Virgin Islands

What Makes it Unique

The U.S. Virgin Islands is a triple threat: three isles, three styles, all accessible to U.S. citizens without cracking open a passport. St. Thomas is the most developed and easily accessible of the sunny trio, with regular flights from all over the U.S. It's a beach-lover's dream — strands run the gamut from tiny coves tucked into the scalloped coastline to Magens Bay, one of the most beautiful in the world. St. John is accessible only by ferry from St. Thomas and is two-thirds national park, with winding trails leading through marine forests populated with wild burros and dazzling lookouts (some topped by stone ruins) over quiet beaches. Hold your reception in funky Cruz Bay, the isle's walkable main town lined with eclectic waterfront eateries and bars. St. Croix, the least visited isle, has large swaths of untamed beach waiting to be explored. Iconic sites include Buck Island Reef National Monument, ideal for group outings thanks to its underwater snorkel trail (you can marry while you're sailing there), and historic downtown Christiansted, with its wedding-worthy band shell.

Don't Miss

Stone remnants of sugar mills dot the grounds of resorts and parks on all three islands. At Caneel Bay resort on St. John, dozens of candles set into the stone walls make an incredibly romantic setting for dinner or a small reception; at the Buccaneer on St. Croix, the crumbling towers of former windmills stand like sentries throughout the hilly property. St. Thomas' Villa Botanica also features sugar-mill ruins among its tropical gardens.

Good to Know

If you are planning on tying the knot on one of the more popular beaches on St. Thomas or St. John, take the cruise-ship schedules into consideration since day-trippers can clog the otherwise quiet beaches.

Best Islands in the Caribbean for Weddings | St. Kitts

St. Kitts

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St. Kitts and Nevis

What Makes it Unique

Mellow but sophisticated, this twin-island nation exudes classic Caribbean flavor. Exotically spiced rum punches (the recipes are closely guarded secrets) arrive on silver trays, traditional West Indian buffets are served in elegant turn-of-the-century surroundings, and historic plantation inns dot the lush hillsides. Boutique properties like Ottley's Plantation Inn (St. Kitts) and The Hermitage (Nevis) are loaded with charm, thanks to gorgeous grounds inhabited by friendly monkeys and bespoke rooms where you'll find posh extras like private plunge pools and breezy verandas.

For your nuptials, you'll be able to work directly with the property owner on every detail, from where to cut the cake to ceremony-site options: In the garden? On a bluff overlooking the ocean? At the beach? (And who knows the options better than the owner?) For a completely unique event, take your group aboard the historic St. Kitts Scenic Railway, a double-decker train (top deck is open-air; lower level has AC) that meanders through some of the most panoramic parts of the island. Say your vows at a pretty spot along the 3 1/2 -hour route; at the end of the party, wave goodbye to your friends as your overnight car uncouples from the rest of the train at a picturesque place of your choosing. The conductor will pick you up in the morning.

Don't Miss

The stone ruins of the 19th-century Cottle Church on Nevis make a lovely setting for a wedding. Be sure to visit Montpelier Plantation, where you can snap your photo under the same tree where British war hero Horatio Nelson and his bride, Fanny Nisbet, said their vows in 1787.

Good to Know

The islands are just two miles apart and serviced by a ferry. But they each have their own international airports and unique attractions (such as Nevis' famed Pinney's Beach or St. Kitts' beautifully landscaped Romney Manor), so you don't have to combine them unless you want to.

Best Caribbean Islands for Weddings | St Lucia

St. Lucia

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St. Lucia

What Makes it Unique

Ready to step into a postcard? Head to St. Lucia, where the towering twin Piton mountains leave just enough room at their base to create a rim of curvy sapphire bays. Villages like Soufriere, Marigot Bay, Rodney Bay and Castries are lined with lively bars and restaurants; on Friday nights, find a "jump up" in one of the smaller enclaves for a fun, casual meal of grilled fish and local beer.Beach weddings are an option, of course, but since many of St. Lucia's resorts have the feel of mountain aeries (rooms at resorts like Ladera and Jade Mountain are designed with just three walls, so you can drink in the incredible views without any boundaries), consider a wedding in the clouds, with the misty mountains in the distance.

But to completely immerse yourself in the scenery, look to the Pitons. These lush peaks and the surrounding rainforest invite you into their midst: Toraille Falls, a stunning 50-footer, is set close enough to the main roadway near Soufriere that you can marry there without hiking into the woods for an hour. (Just don't forget the bug spray.)

Don't Miss

St. Lucia's beauty is well appreciated by boat. Whether you choose to take a day cruise with your wedding party or say your vows aboard a rented yacht with the island as your backdrop, the sights along St. Lucia's scalloped coast are breathtaking. (Marigot Bay has been used as a backdrop in so many movies, you'll probably recognize it immediately.) Companies like Seaspray Charters can work with your wedding planner to organize the celebration.

Good to Know

The winding, mountainous roads that connect the two sides of the island can be treacherous, especially at night, so plan your events on the same side. For daytime group excursions, ask your resort to arrange taxi or minibus transfers to must-see spots like the National Rain Forest or the drive-in volcano in Soufriere.

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