Take off on an exotic adventure to the Caribbean to experience world-class beaches and glistening waters, historical towns and stunning landscapes...
Dominican Republic is the second biggest nation in the Caribbean and shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.
The capital Santo Domingo is a mixture of classic Spanish style buildings alongside modern high-rise skyscrapers. History buffs will enjoy the impressive display of monuments to document Christopher Columbus's arrival more than 500 years ago. Holidaymakers will be attracted to the large tourism gateway areas of Puerto Plata, Punta Cana and La Romana.
The climate varies between evergreen forests in the highlands, fertile valleys and desert zones with dune formations. Away from the city visitors can relax on one of the many pristine golfing greens, enjoy whale watching from Samana, or sunbathe on the bone white sands of Bahia de la Aquilas - consistently voted the Dominican Republic's best beach. Dominican Republic is also a diver's paradise with a number of wrecks to explore as well as a coral reefs and extensive cave systems.
Forever associated with Castro, cigars and mojitos, Cuba has moved on to become one of the most unique holiday destinations in the Caribbean. Enjoy the Spanish colonial architecture of Havana, stroll down the Calle Obispo and take in the quaint shop windows and colourful 1950s motorcars chugging on through the narrow streets. The tiny offshore islands such as the Cayo Guillermo stretch along the Sabana-Camagüey archipelago and offer some of the most pristine beaches in the region, giving opportunities to dive alongside living coral reef.
The large resort area of Varadero is popular with Brits holidaying in Cuba, while others favour the city of Holguin, the white sand beaches of Guardalavaca or the all-inclusive resorts to be found on the island of Cayo Coco. By night be sure to try a local rum cocktail and salsa dance to the Latin rhythms of Cuban music.
Mexican Riviera - Cancun
Arching up the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, the Mexican Riviera hosts a wide selection of cities and lagoons that are hugely popular with holidaymakers and regular stop off points for cruise ships north to south. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System runs along the whole of the Riviera and offers stunning diving opportunities.
In Cancun you can combine a stylish beach holiday with luxury living in some of its excellent hotels and spa resorts, while Playa del Carmen and Playacar have a more compact resort feel to them. Whether you're exploring the Mayan ruins of the Yucutan peninsula, sightseeing in Chichen Itza, relaxing on the island of Cozumel or the beaches of Acapulco, Los Hornos, or Caleta, the Mexican Riviera offers plenty of options to tailor your kind of holiday.
One of the most diverse islands you will find in the Caribbean, from the rugged coral reefs and harsh tides of the beaches of Bathsheba in the East, to the white sanded tranquil surroundings of the western beaches. The lively capital of Bridgetown in the South, with its old school colonial buildings and plantations to visit, itsgreat restaurants and traditional Bajan hospitality, or further south to the full on nightlife of St Lawrence Gap and Oistins, to the secluded all-inclusive resorts and golfing greens to be found in the quiet and relaxing pace of the north. A climate of year round sun has kept Barbados as one of the most visited destinations in the Caribbean.
Just south of Cuba is the island of Jamaica, famed for its natural beauty and laid back atmosphere, holidays to Jamaica can be as active or as chilled as you want to make them. Visit the capital city of Kingston, and spot the European influence in its colonial architecture. Take a stroll around the Bob Marley Museum, housed in the late singer's recording studio to learn more of the nation's musical heritage. Alternatively head to Montego Bay, the islands second largest city and gateway to the northern coastal resorts
Go hiking in the Blue Mountains, or view the water cascading down the 180-metre drop at Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios. Continue your adventure by rafting down the Rio Grande River to St Margaret's Bay. Or do what many people go to Jamaica for, relax on Long Bay in Negril,, a seven-mile stretch of pristine white sand, with tiki huts serving up chilled rum cocktails and spicy jerk chicken smothered in marinade to the blissed out sounds of local reggae.
Lying north of Cuba are the 16 main islands that make up The Bahamas. The historic capital city of Nassau on Paradise Island has excellent shopping from straw market to designer boutiques; this is thought by many to be the most stylish spot in the Caribbean. By night the centre transforms into a vibrant clubbing spot. Exploring the area by ferry will take you to the pink sands of Harbour Island or face to face with the wild dolphins of Grand Bahama Island.
This overseas territory of Britain is made up of the islands Cayman Brac, Little Cayman and the largest of the three, Grand Cayman. The capital of George Town is a mix of wooden buildings and upmarket shopping malls, while the beaches and marine life some of the best to be found in the Caribbean. Swim with stingrays, visit the Green Sea Turtle farm, or follow one of the many nature trails.
Turks and Caicos Islands
Made up of 40 islands, only eight of which are inhabited, Turks and Caicos Islands are encircled by coral reef and home to some of the most varied marine life in the Caribbean, making the islands a diver's paradise. Between late December and April, humpback whales can be spotted of the coast of Grace Bay on the island of Providenciales. The laid back pace, makes the island a perfect relaxation spot. Also worth checking out the local ripsaw music scene and trying the locally sourced conch fritters.
Leeward and Windward Islands
Starting east of Puerto Rico and reaching southward of Dominica, the Leeward Islands are a string of mostly volcanic islands. The islands are hugely popular with holidaymakers due to their year round high temperatures and tropical beach surroundings.
Still very much the place to be seen, Puerto Rico combines the laid back pace of The Caribbean with the cosmopolitan nightlife of a US city. Whether you're watching the salsa dancers spin in Old San Juan or visiting one of the city's state of the art casinos, there is always something vying for your attention. Puerto Rico is home to 250 flawless beaches, most notably Mosquito Bay in Vieques considered to be the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, a chance to swim in the liquid light and enjoy one of nature's most amazing gifts.
Antigua and Barbuda
The twin islands of Antigua and Barbuda sit just north of Guadeloupe. Antigua, the larger of the two is the main tourist destination and better suited to families with no shortage of resorts and plenty of activities to keep visitors entertained. Barbuda is well suited to couples seeking a romantic break, the secluded pink sand beaches, shorefront seafood restaurants and local marketplace are largely unspoiled by tourism infrastructure.
Also found in in the area are the US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, St Kitts and Nevis.
The more southerly part of the Lesser Antilles chain are referred to as the Windward Islands, the Islands are home to St Vincent and the Grenadines a collection of 32 islands and bays. Favoured by those looking for seclusion and relaxation on the soft, white sand beaches, the islands also offer jeep safari tours and excellent snorkelling around the bays.
Dominica is known as the nature island of the Caribbean, due to its rushing rivers, cascading waterfalls, rugged jungle and one of the world's biggest boiling lakes. The island offers up plenty to keep the active holidaymaker busy with challenging walking routes, coral diving, river tubing and mountain trekking. The beaches are mostly black sand with some golden to be found in the north east.
Martinique, an overseas region of France, is an elegant and fashionable holiday destination. The island has gorgeous beaches, no less than 12 rum distilleries and a live volcano. The capital, Fort-de-France is a mixture of Victorian era buildings, chic shopping boutiques and colourful market stalls. Pointe du Bout is the island's main resort area where windsurfing, kayaking and yachting enthusiasts make the most of the choppy Atlantic side of the island.
St Lucia, the largest of the Windward Island is an archetypal Caribbean getaway. Couples can relax on one of its many secluded beaches; relax in the sulphur springs or luxury spas. Those in search of a more active holiday experience can sail, horse ride or take on one of the many hiking trails and enjoy the unspoiled rainforest and dramatic twin peaks of the Pitons.
Grenada, one of the Caribbean's most southerly islands, is a perfect romantic retreat for couples wanting to relax on porcelain white beaches or take a stroll through verdant nature reserves. The capital of St George's is a sea of red roofed houses, leading down the hilltops to the bustling harbour. Deeper into the ancient rainforest jungle, monkeys chatter in the trees and locals work the spice crops of nutmeg, cinnamon and clove.
Finally, the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago offer an intriguing dual personality. Tobago, the peaceful partner is an island of secluded beaches, lush rainforest walks and coral reefs, quickly becoming recognised as a premier eco-destination. Trinidad is famed for its abundance of culture and its lively carnival atmosphere particularly during the February celebrations. A visit to the Asa Wright Nature Centre is a must for all visitors, as is the La Brea Pitch natural asphalt lake.
Whether you're looking for a sizzling summer or winter sun, the Caribbean will deliver. Find out the best time of year to go for you...
The Caribbean is largely regarded as a year-round destination. Temperature variations across the Caribbean are surprisingly slight, averaging between 24C and 29C through winter and summer.
Peak season runs from December to mid-April, while hurricane season officially runs from July to late November, although satellite forecasts give enough warning for precautions to be taken.
Festivals, parades, shows and concerts - there is always something going on in the Caribbean. Here's a snap-shot of some of the top events...
Holetown Festival; Barbados, Mid February: Commemorating the anniversary of the first settlement of Barbados in February 1627, the week-long festival includes street parades and fashion shows, music concerts and theatre performances.
Trinidad and Tobago annual carnival; Grand Turk, Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, February: Billed as “The Greatest Show on Earth”, the annual carnival is the most significant event in the islands' cultural calendar. Calypso and soca music, extravagant costumes, stick fighting and limbo competitions help make up the colourful celebrations.
Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica; Montego Bay, July: The largest concert festival in Jamaica, featuring a variety of Jamaican reggae artists. A week of live performances and the best beach party to be found in the area.
Turks and Caicos Islands Music and Cultural Festival; Late July-Early August: This week long festival showcases the talents of local and international musicians playing Hip Hop, Reggae, R&B, Gospel and many more styles across a selection of venues. The local Miss Turks and Caicos beauty pageant remains a popular tradition and with fine local cuisine on offer this annual celebration is one of the most highly regarded in the region.
Whether you're looking for time-out and tranquillity, fast-paced adventure or family fun, the Caribbean offers something for everyone...
Relaxing: The Windward Islands offer tranquil secluded beaches with white sands for those looking to get away from it all. If you do get restless, pop on a snorkel to discover an underwater paradise in the crystal-clear waters.
Active: Those in search of an active, adventurous holiday will find Dominica the perfect Caribbean destination. Head for the hills to experience challenging walking routes and mountain trekking or take to the waters to try out river tubing or diving.
Romance: Barbuda is the perfect hideaway island for loved-up couples. Spend your days lazing on secluded pink sands and your evenings sampling the local catch in beach-front seafood restaurants.
Shopping: Love to shop? Nassau in the Bahamas should be the destination of choice for those looking to splash the cash while on holiday. A combination of designer boutiques, high-end fashion stores and more traditional markets will offer up plenty to keep you busy.
Grown-up families: Energetic families can experience the beauty of Jamaica by hiking up the Blue Mountains. Beautiful plants and stunning scenery await you and, if you make it to the peak, you'll be rewarded with outstanding views.
Kids & teens: The Dominican Republic offers a huge selection of family-friendly all-inclusive resorts. Mums and dads will be able to relax while the children have fun letting off steam at kids' clubs, splashing about in pools and watching the entertainment.
Nightlife: The energetic nightlife of Cuba will thrill even the most die-hard party animal. Salsa the night away, sip on a mojito at a laid-back jazz bar or head to world-famous Tropicana to experience an extravagant cabaret show.