Get Here This melting-pot island — billed as the happiest in the Caribbean — is also the most visited, with nearly 90 percent of travelers hailing from North America. Fly nonstop from 15 U.S. hubs, as well as Toronto and Montreal.
Only Here It looks like a desert — dry, a tad barren, riddled with cacti. But white sands and blue sea remind you you’re in the tropics.
Stay Here Amid Oranjestad’s high-rises and casinos are intimate inns like the Boardwalk Hotel, owned by local twin sisters Kimberly and Stephanie Rooijakkers. Only 14 casitas dot this former working coconut plantation, just a three-minute walk from famed Palm Beach. Book online and get a peek at the sisters’ Aruba Treasure Box, where they keep their favorite to-do’s.
Get Here This nine-island chain off Portugal is the closest European landmass to the U.S. Two movies on the plane from Boston, and you’re there.
Only Here On São Miguel, a massive crater formed by an inactive volcano serves as a natural crockpot. Locals bury meat, potatoes and veggies in the Earth’s soil, and in about six hours, it’s dinnertime.
Stay Here Tucked into a neighborhood on the south coast, the Caloura Hotel Resort hangs out over lava cliffs, and every room has a balcony with an ocean view.
Get Here Finally a Caribbean destination that gets a lot of West Coast love. Some surprises include nonstop flights from Seattle (seasonal), Salt Lake City and Denver.
Only Here No matter which coast is home, Cancun is the de facto connecting point for nearby islands. Do a day trip to Cancun, but stay on Isla Mujeres to get off the grid. From July through September, there’s no better place to see as many as 400 whale sharks pass by at once.
Stay HereEsencia Cancun is a 29-room haven blanketed by jungle and blissfully removed from the resort strip. No nightclubs or throngs of people. No views blocked by megaresorts. Here it’s sweat lodges (temazcal), thick gardens and empty beaches for days.
Get Here As one of the southern Caribbean’s ABC Islands, along with Aruba and Bonaire, Curaçao sits safely outside the hurricane belt. Deals abound on airfare and resorts during summer.
Only Here Get a pedicure ... from schools of fish. Called doctor fish, these little nibblers exfoliate with the best of ’em. Arrange it through the Amazonia center, and so long, Aveeno.
Stay Here Since the Renaissance Curaçao Resort didn’t have a sandy spot nearby, they built their own — right on top of the on-site Rif Fort in the form of a second-story infinity pool. It’s filled with salt water from the ocean and real sand that gently slopes as you make your way to the edge.
Get Here Fall asleep as you leave the smog in LA and awake in paradise. Daily nonstops come from LA, while weeklies originate in Honolulu. Additional flights are added in high season (June to August; December and January).
Only Here Sure, the landscape is jaw-dropping, but it’s the Fijian people, regarded as the friendliest and most welcoming in the world, who are the true draw.
Stay HereYasawa is an island all its own. The only way in is by plane. Ask the pilot to dip the wings, and you’ll get the best photos of your trip.
Get Here Iceland just sounds far; it’s actually only a six-hour flight from New York, not much longer than flying across the U.S. Nonstops take off daily from New York, Boston and Orlando.
Only Here Icebergs, glaciers, volcano-heated pools — it’s a feast for the senses. The island’s southeastern part is especially riveting, with spots like the iceberg-happy Jökul-sárlón Lake.
Stay Here Modern comforts at the Fosshotel mean no roughing it while watching for the aurora. Also, glacier tours are available without the long drive from Reykjavik.
Get Here A trip and a fall from the east coast of Florida, Nassau has the busiest airport in the Bahamas and sees the largest number of nonstop flights. Coming from the West Coast? Save time and opt for a connection in Dallas or Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami.
Only Here Dine with a local family, or go fishing or attend church. The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism’s People-to-People Experience brings visitors and Bahamians together for a local experience beyond the duty-free shops.
Stay Here At the Comfort Suites next door to Atlantis, breakfast and Wi-Fi come free. So does entry to Atlantis. Now all that separates you and the fam from those water slides is a sidewalk.
Get Here Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, is the second busiest airport in the Caribbean, and it’s about to become even busier with a new terminal that promises to serve an additional 6,500 passengers daily. A total of 350 flights arrive per week, and nonstops come from 28- plus countries and 96 cities worldwide.
Only Here Choose from 50 all-inclusives and 28,000 hotel rooms along a 40-mile stretch of white sand. But still escape. At Juanillo Beach, it’s just you and the waves.
Stay HereSanctuary Cap Cana (which has its own castle, by the way) feels more private island than mega-resort. Think three plunge pools in the Castle Island Suite.
Get Here Surprisingly, all of the nonstop flights from the U.S. to the least known of the “Saint” islands are year-round.
Only Here More than a quarter of this 68-square-mile island is protected from development, which means likely your only other beach guests are frisky green vervet monkeys who’ll steal your rum punch faster than you can say “another round.”
Stay HereOttley’s Plantation Inn isn’t on the beach, but a free daily shuttle whisks you the easy 20 minutes to the sand. Wake up in a secret garden at this 23-room resort, where morning runs pass a rainforest and afternoon strolls scale volcanoes.
Get Here The private island of Vahine sits within the world-famous lagoon of Taha‘a island, so a regional flight from Papeete is a must. Don’t fret, though: You won’t lift off again till tomorrow. The flights run several times a day.
Only Here Vahine has all the flash of Bora Bora without the crowds, and all the comforts (private chef ) without sacrificing the natural landscape (coral gardens inches from shore).
Stay Here With just three overwater bungalows and six beachfront cottages, you’ll feel like the only one here.