The Caribbean is known for its white sandy beaches and endless ocean horizons, but a large part of its charm lies in its exceptionally warm and friendly culture. If you are traveling to the Caribbean and looking for just the right destination for your Caribbean vacation, it helps to know which island communities and cultures are the most welcoming. It’s not hard in the Caribbean to find locals on each island that want to share their traditions – for most; it is a point of pride to introduce new people to their island home. However, some Caribbean island destinations shine above the rest.
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What’s the friendliest Caribbean island to visit?
With input from travelers and foreigners living abroad, we have compiled the top five friendliest islands in the Caribbean:
- The Virgin Islands
- The Grenadines
- Exumas, Bahamas
We used first-hand accounts from vacationers, cruisers, and people living on each island to determine which Caribbean islands could indeed make this list. Where are the locals warm and helpful? Did they share about their culture, language, and traditions? Then they made the list!
There is no solid metric to measure friendliness. We may hear that an island has the “friendliest” reputation on their tourism site or read about it in travel magazines, but perhaps the most important gauge is the traveler experience.
We have compiled the top five friendliest islands in the Caribbean with traveler and expat accounts.
The Top 5 Friendliest Islands In The Caribbean
Culture In The Caribbean
The Caribbean covers over a million square miles of ocean and includes 13 sovereign nations and 12 distinct territories. It is impossible to describe the whole of Caribbean culture in just a few words. Each island has its own deep history, which can create a vastly different culture from island to island.
For example, where the Virgin Islands were colonized by the Dutch and retain that culture as their core heritage, the Grenadines have British colonization history and vastly different cultures and traditions.
Due to this colonial blending, most islands have a melting pot of languages, cuisines, music, and traditions. The people are also a representation of this and are a mix of Indigenous, African, and European backgrounds.
One thing can be said is true across all the Caribbean islands- a smile goes a long way.
Island life is generally simpler, the infrastructures are basic and people utilize the local land and sea for sustenance and economy.
They are used to accepting the out of the ordinary (including new visitors!) and going with the flow. Most islanders you meet have been on the island or have generational ties to the island, making them very proud of their heritage. Smile back and we guarantee you’ll have an island friend who will answer your questions and help you to discover the best of their island home.
The Five Friendliest Caribbean Islands
1. The Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands are a three for the price of one deal with St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John are all in close proximity to each other. If St. Croix is the retired and laid-back sibling, St Thomas is the party animal, and St. John is the artsy secluded smaller sister to them.
Located just east of Puerto Rico and a quick three-hour flight from Miami, the Virgin Islands are a popular destination known for their vibrant boating community, superb diving, and excellent hospitality.
Virgin Islanders are famous for their own style of welcome. They will hit you with a double dose of rum and steel pan music straight off the airplane or cruise ship that will have you smiling whether you are ready to or not.
For Virgin Islanders, it is not so much obligatory to be friendly to each other and visitors; it is very much part of the culture. However, it is considered somewhat rude to pass anyone without at least a small acknowledgment in the form of a “Good Morning,” “Good Afternoon,” or “Good Night.”
In addition, it is a point of pride to share their local culture in the art of Mocko Jumbie (performers who dance on stilts) or Quelbe music- a mix between reggae, calypso, and African beats.
Native Virgin Islanders are of primarily Dutch and African descent. The population is 76% Afro Caribbean and 17% Hispanic.
The dominant language is English, but you’ll hear almost all locals speaking Virgin Islands Creole English, a clipped, musical-sounding patois.
The Best Local Guides
For the most friendly local tour experience, check in with local guides at Godfrey Tours in St. Thomas. They have two decades of experience showing visitors the best local experiences in an open-air Safari vehicle through the bays, beaches, and best shopping areas.
2. The Grenadines
The Grenadines are composed of 35 small islands, most notably Grenada and St Vincent, and are known as the Windward Islands, a part of the lesser Antilles. The islands are renowned for their beautiful scenery, spectacular beaches, and diverse marine habitats.
Expats have described this area as a great mix of Old World and New World attributes combined and report that the locals have a contagious vibrant, positive outlook that is part of everyday life.
In addition, the people of the popular tourist destination of St Vincent, the Vincentians, are known to be extremely hospitable and welcoming to visitors in the community sharing local produce and knowledge about their culture.
In neighboring Grenada, many travelers report Grenadians as some of the friendliest people in the Caribbean and treat visitors like honored guests. Locals feel their island represents the best of the Caribbean and love to share their cocoa, grilled food culture and especially their rum!
The culture of the Grenadines has historical West African roots intermeshed with Portuguese, French, and British influences brought from settlers and laborers of long ago. The result is a vibrant multi-ethnic community.
English is the official language of the Grenadines but because of the multi-ethnicity influence, you will also hear English Creole, which is a mix between French, Spanish, and Portuguese, and a French Patois, which is a mix of African and French languages. It is a very musical-sounding mix of languages in the Grenadines!
The Best Local Guides
To get an insider’s view of the Grenadines, you can check out the local guide service Coreas Caribbean Adventures on St. Vincent. They have been in operation since 1988, delivering authentic, locally driven tours of the island to give you the richest and real experience the island has to offer.
Aruba is located in the Southern portion of the Caribbean in the Lesser Antilles, just miles from the Venezuelan coast. It is rich in culture and local charm and can easily vie for the title of a visitor’s most “happy place” for vacationing.
Aside from its aesthetic beauty and charm, Aruba is widely known as one of the most friendly islands in all of the Caribbean. The best proof of that might be its representation of nearly 90 nationalities that are represented here that all intermingle seamlessly. Aruba’s national tourism slogan is “Open For Happiness,” and they do not disappoint.
Tourism started on this island in 1920 under Dutch influence, so they are well practiced in hospitality and offer a warm welcome to visitors.
Aruba draws travelers from around the world because of this; their kind and generous way make it comfortable for visitors to ask for directions or assistance as the locals will gladly guide them. In fact, Aruba ranks as one the safest for visitors in the entire Caribbean and ranks above even Australia and Japan on the Travel Safety Index.
Another reason that might compel everyone to be in the best mood is that it is also known as the “Sunniest Place In The Caribbean,” which gets, on average, just 18 inches of rain a year. It is safely set outside of the hurricane belt, making it a safe bet to visit year around.
Before Aruba was the melting pot it is today; the Arawak Indians were the first to leave their mark on this Caribbean island. Eventually, it became a storied place of smugglers and pirates changing hands between the Spaniards to the Dutch to the British and back to the Dutch before becoming an independent nation in just 1994.
Aruba is heralded for its artistic community with these influences seen in museums, art galleries, music and dance that fill the streets on a nightly basis.
The official language of Aruba is Papiamento, a Portuguese-based creole, and Dutch. However, most Arubans are multilingual and can speak an average of four languages, including Spanish, French, and English. This likely also contributes to their friendly reputation as they can easily communicate with many cultures.
The Best Local Guides
To experience the best of Aruba, Aruba Walking Tours are given by local guides who will take you through a Daytime Downtown Historic Tour where you can learn about the country’s historical and culinary traditions and landmarks. There is truly no better way to find Aruba’s happiness than through a local’s eyes.
The culture of Dominica is centered around natural wellness as they utilize their bounty of natural resources to heal and live a good life. The people of Dominica are happy to share these medicinal and culinary traditions. Dominicans are known to be happily conversational to anyone who will listen and boast “chatting” as a national pastime.
Dominica is located in the Eastern Caribbean Sea between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. It is probably best known as the most majestic and mountainous of the Caribbean, with nine active volcanoes and many additional volcanic domes.
As a matter of fact, Dominica is the Caribbean’s youngest island coming in at a youthful 26 million years old, and was created by the volcanic activity itself. Its interior is blanketed with rainforest landscapes and heaving with 350 waterfalls and rivers. It is an adventurer’s paradise!
The landscape in Dominica precludes it from looking or feeling like a luxury resort island. Accommodations are often off the beaten path, brimming with nature and secluded. However, the locals know that most of the people who travel here are genuinely interested in getting to know their island, and culture, and traditions and will return the curiosity in kind by relaying their pride in Dominican traditions and customs.
The culture in Dominica is principally native Carib (the native Arawak tribe of Orinoco), and West African with French and British influences. The resulting people identify as a festive Creole culture that is unique to Dominica and can be seen in its vibrant culinary, art, and annual celebrations.
The official language of Dominica is English, but French Patois can commonly be heard throughout the island as evidence of it being colonized by the French for several decades.
The Best Local Guides
To see the best Dominica has to offer, a locally guided eco-tour is the way to go. Check in with local tour guide family Alexis Tours who will guide you on private tours and provide insider tips on cultural traditions and where to find the best of the island.
5. Exumas, Bahamas
The Bahamas as a whole are a friendly, welcoming nation that has been beloved by travelers for decades. There are areas of the Bahamas that can be set aside from the rest as having possibly the most friendly, welcoming locals and overall vibe: The Exumas.
The Exumas are not one or even two islands in the Bahamas but a district consisting of over 365 islands, one for each day of the year.
Most people will visit the two mighty anchoring islands of this area: Great Exuma and Little Exuma, which are joined together by a bridge. While the Exumas have the requisite crystal clear blue waters and powder white sands of the Bahamas, they take it to the next level with their signature swimming pigs, friendly nurse sharks, and underwater caves.
The paradisiacal scenery is so famous that it has become a beloved filming spot for movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and James Bond.
Over and over, travelers and expats living abroad report the people of the Exumas to be welcoming, helpful, generous, and friendly. There is a go with the flow attitude that extends a simple and easy-going way of life.
The Exumas adopt a simple way of life that includes an ability to be happy and satisfied with what they have. Smiles are abundant and it is rare to pass a local without receiving a smile in return or greeting.
Travelers also report that it is exceptionally easy to meet people, socialize, and connect with the locals and foreigners living in the Exumas. If you are coming to the Exumas as a traveler or long-term, it is likely because you also want a break from the hustle and bustle of the more lively Bahamian Islands.
Most tours and businesses are owned and operated by locals, and they will be happy to extend their pride in the Exumas to any visitor with mirroring curiosity.
The culture of the Exumas dates back to the Lucayan Natives, who were removed in the 16th century, leaving this district of islands wholly uninhabited until the Americans came in the 18th century. The intervening period holds some of the Exuma’s most spirited history which involved smugglers, pirate hideouts, and even the lair of Captain Kidd.
Today the Exumas are proudly Bahamian, a culture that is involved in having the spirit of African culture and many of the laws and customs of British culture. It is friendly, outgoing, informal, and welcoming.
The official language throughout the Bahamas is English, but there is a distinguishable slang language that can only be found in the Exumas. Phrases like “well mudda sick” (wow!) or “sip sip” (gossip) are common slang terms that are part of a uniquely Bahamian dialect.
The Best Local Guides
To soak up the best of the Exumas, Island Boy Adventures is a locally owned tour guide service that provides the inside look at the Exumas by boat. They offer tours to snorkel or dive with nurse sharks in the coral reefs, check out secluded beaches, and of course, visits to the famous swimming pigs.