For most people, thoughts of the white, sandy beaches, crystal clear water, fresh fruit, and lots of sun come to mind when thinking about the Caribbean.
Whether you are imagining what a vacation would be like in the Turks & Caicos or are keen on going back to the Dominican Republic, one thing is sure: you probably haven’t considered moving to a Caribbean island permanently and building a life.
But why not?
While thoughts of beautiful beaches and sun-filled days are spot on, most people believe living in the Caribbean requires a small fortune. This line of thinking may be depriving you of the natural beauty, agreeable weather, and more laid-back lifestyle many Caribbean islands offer.
Take a moment to look past the tourist areas, and you’ll find that the Caribbean is much larger than you thought and there is plenty of affordable Caribbean real estate worth your attention.
Affordable and Stunning Caribbean Islands You’ll Want to Call Home
What makes an island the best Caribbean island to live on? The answer is going to be different for everyone, but a few things to consider include:
- Beach rankings
- Life expectancy
- Homicide rates
- GDP growth
- Home price per square meter (average price per square meter in the United States: about $17,200)
Turks & Caicos
With a budding ex-pat community and that totally relaxed island vibe you’re looking for, the Turks and Caicos offer some of the Caribbean’s greatest beaches and opportunities to own beachfront property.
Nowhere here is ever extremely busy, the waters of the Caribbean Sea beg you to dive in and the beaches are just perfect. Grace Bay Beach and Providenciales are amazing places to stay, but real estate rates are less on the smaller, outer islands including the quiet and off the beaten path South Caicos island. Considering there are no income or property taxes, this is the best Caribbean island to live on to offset unexpected moving costs.
Price per square meter: $3,884
The Bahamas provide you with an array of real estate options, a growing arts scene, and fast internet. It has some of the most beautiful beaches and has programs to help you move your business to the Caribbean, get permanent residency, and assist with tax mitigation.
Very friendly to newcomers, the Bahamas also has relatively low crime rates and is an English-speaking country.
Price per square meter: $3,632
U.S. Virgin Islands
Though the Caribbean vibe is ever-present, because it is a U.S. territory this is a popular destination for English speakers and Americans who seek an easier transition into their new life.
Known for its hilly terrain and 7,000 acres of national park, there’s lots of life to live. From St. John, a popular bohemian paradise, to the increasingly urbane, trendy St. Croix, there are real estate opportunities everywhere.
Price per square meter: $3,235
If a genteel, laid-back atmosphere is what you’re looking for, Barbados is the place for you. This charming country has fantastic broadband infrastructure, a growing business community, and a thriving ex-pat community.
It may be one of the higher-priced countries in terms of real estate, but you truly do get what you pay for.
Price per square meter: $4,467
Which Caribbean Island is Best for Families?
You know how the saying goes: families that play together, stay together. So where do you take your family when everyone is overdue for a break from work, school, and possibly each other?
You pack up and head to some of the best Caribbean islands for families.
The Cayman Islands are one of the best islands for families with teenagers. When all they want to do is lounge, there are gorgeous pools; when they want activities to get their adrenaline pumping, they can go scuba diving, with their pick of 300+ dive sites safe enough for them to dive.
Is your family competitive or very active? If so, the Dominican Republic may be the perfect island for the group.
Long considered to be the Caribbean’s adventure capital, there are rainforests to explore by foot, canopy and zip-line tours, and a long coastline that is perfect for a range of water activities that include sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and surfing. The interior mountain terrain is perfect if you enjoy rock climbing or cave exploration.
The Turks and Caicos offer beach beauty and fun that is hard to find anywhere else, even in the Caribbean.
Grace Bay Beach on Providenciales gives your family 12 miles of powdery white sand and calm, clear waters. There are a number of resorts that are family-focused as well as beachfront properties that can provide any amenities you may need.
The best islands for a lot of fun that won’t empty your pocket are Jamaica, The Bahamas, and Puerto Rico. Each has a number of direct flights that make these places easily accessible, and as main tourist destinations, they are littered with family-friendly hotels and all-inclusive resorts. You’ll be able to find competitive pricing, excellent service, and sparkling beaches, of course.
Looking for Long-Term Stays?
Affordable real estate can be found on the island of your dreams, especially compared to how much your family will save compared to current prices in the U.S. or Europe.
Some of the best Caribbean islands for families looking to relocate include the Turks and Caicos, the Cayman Islands, Belize, and the Bahamas.
Boasting low crime rates, high-class school systems, and rich cultures, children from Caribbean homes grow up with a completely different perspective and profound appreciation for various people, customs and traditions.
How Much Does It Really Cost to Live in the Caribbean?
As if finding affordable property wasn’t already a barrier, many people jump to the conclusion that the cost of living in the Caribbean will keep them from being able to enjoy all that an island paradise can offer.
The truth is that the cost of living is higher in most Caribbean countries than in places like the United States, Canada, and Europe. There is no getting around this.
Even Caribbean countries with the lowest cost of living have expenses that will be higher than most people realize. This is primarily because nearly everything has to be imported. This includes fuel, food, clothing, cars, fertilizers, boats, ships, milk, cream, phones, engine parts, and your favorite bottles of wine.
You will most probably pay more for groceries on a Caribbean island than you are used to and gas prices are going to be higher as well. Utility bills also tend to be higher as those who are not native to tropical, balmy climates will run air conditioning, which will also be more costly.
Ways to Offset Higher Costs
Don’t get too worked up about how much the cost of living in the Caribbean is. There are a number of ways to save money.
A small number of Caribbean islands, like the Turks and Caicos and the Cayman Islands, do not charge property taxes. You can buy affordable real estate without worrying about those kinds of costs creeping up on you.
The Turks and Caicos do not charge income tax either. This is something to think about when choosing a location.
The Caribbean island you move to will play a part in how much more daily items may cost. For instance, if you live in more densely populated areas like Kingston, Jamaica or Nassau, Bahamas, you can save money on groceries by buying from local food stands, instead of shopping at grocery stores.
Highly populated locations like those mentioned above also make it cheaper to travel as they have airports in the city. If you lived in a sparsely populated island, you’d need to catch a ferry to the airport or pay for expensive flights that come to your island less frequently.
There are plenty of other ways to save money, but it should be said that finding affordable Caribbean real estate to buy or rent is much easier than in other countries.
Having your dream home makes a lot of the day-to-day pricing less of a sacrifice and more of an investment.
Love Marine Activities? These Are the Islands for You
Shades of green and blue waters gently lapping white sand beaches lure many people to the Caribbean. You can spend hours on end sailing the numerous cays, learning about marine life just below the gentle waves or exploring shipwrecks – you may even discover a lost one. The possibilities are endless.
For those who enjoy water-based activities, there’s no place like the Caribbean.
Fun and easy, grab a mask, tube, and fins and dive into the warm, shallow waters of the Caribbean and see what you can find. The best snorkeling in the Caribbean can be found throughout the regions.
Turks & Caicos
Touting some pretty fantastic snorkeling spots, like Long Cay in South Caicos, you can see large marine animals like squid and stingrays and a number of colorful reefs with rainbow-colored fish.
This beautiful island is a leader in conservation efforts and you’ll get to visit reefs teeming with life and biodiversity. What’s great about this destination is that you can wade in the shoreline and easily head to some spectacular reefs.
An island that often feels like the Caribbean’s secret hideaway, Curacao has an underwater wonderland waiting to be explored, such as coral and wrecks.
There is no wrong time to dive when you’re in the Caribbean. It really can be done year-round as long as you pay attention to hurricane season, which occurs between June 1 and November 30.
Most divers opt to have their adventures without the use of a wet suit in the summer and use one in the winter months. Whenever you do decide to give scuba diving a try, it is best to grab some diving insurance before heading to some of the best diving spots in Caribbean waters.
From coral reefs, sheer wall drop-off cats, and pinnacles, there’s no shortage of things to find in the waters. Here are a few islands that will guarantee some eye-popping underwater adventures further out from the shore.
Turks & Caicos
Get lost in mangroves along the shore and discover secluded pocket beaches in this Caribbean paradise. Turks and Caicos is also home to the world’s fourth-largest barrier reef system.
Get lost in mangroves along Anguilla’s shoreline or head further out for lively marine life.
Get up and close personal with sharks, as this is the best shark diving location in the world.
Antigua and Barbuda
Scuba divers can spend forever diving these twin islands. You may want to extend your stay to make sure you see everything these waters have to offer.
Another favorite location for scuba divers, don’t miss the chance to see barracudas hunting or turtle nesting grounds.
A charming and relatively undisturbed island, it feels like it was preserved in time, which is great for its underwater life, which is sure to be around for many generations to come.
The Cayman Islands
If you are looking for superior wall diving, the Cayman Islands is where you should head. The waters here offer record levels of visibility, amazing wall dives, and stunning coral.
As one of the world’s most popular destination for fishing enthusiasts, there are plenty of all-inclusive resorts that cater to fishing, while also providing entertainment and comfort for the family.
The warm waters mean that fishing never has to end and the varied Caribbean waters make it possible to finally reel in that big fish you’ve been dreaming about.
What Kind of Fishing is Possible in the Caribbean?
Bonefish, or shallow water fish, in the Caribbean are considered some of the toughest fighters of all fish and include species like permit, wahoo, and the barracuda.
These fish can be caught from the shores of the beach or by using a small boat in the shallow waters. For the best fishing in the Caribbean in shallow waters, the Bahamas is hands down the place to go, but there are many other locations that offer great bonefishing, too.
- The British Virgin Islands
- The Cayman Islands
- Turks & Caicos
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- Puerto Rico
Looking for game that’s a little bigger? Deep-sea fishing, or sport fishing, enjoys popularity in the region as well and the waters have plentiful amounts of swordfish, sailfish, kingfish, wahoo, marlin, and yellowfin tuna.
With a variety of deep waters where the seafloor falls away, you can fish just off the shore in some of these waters, while others will require a boat.
- Saint Martin
- Turks & Caicos
- Puerto Rico
- St. Lucia
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- The British Virgin Islands
A unique situation to the Caribbean, lionfish is another option fishermen may want to try their hand at. You can help the local environment by specifically fishing for lionfish.
Lionfish are found throughout the Caribbean, but they are an invasive species that has steadily taken a toll on many of the Caribbean’s coral reefs.
To eradicate the population, a number of Caribbean governments have set campaigns in place that encourage any and everyone to catch as many lionfish as possible. For those who are looking for something a bit different than they are used to, this could be a hunt that is worthwhile and eco-friendly.
Find lionfish in the waters of:
- St. Lucia
- The Bahamas
- Turks & Caicos
- Dominican Republic
Before you head out on a fishing trip, you’ll want to remember that depending on the time of year, certain areas of the Caribbean will yield better catches.
Look at the areas you plan on traveling to and make sure the season lines up with the kind of fish you are hoping to hook. If there is a best time to fish in the warm waters, it would be during the first half of the year, between the months of January and June.
When it’s time to leave the beach and do a little exploring of a country’s other areas, you’ll be amazed at the views some of the best hiking in the Caribbean delivers. Many of the islands have a range of terrains that make for exciting adventures and awesome challenges.
- The hurricane season (June to November) can make hiking dangerous, especially the months of September and October when rainfall is the heaviest. Caribbean summits can often be covered by clouds, so as soon as the weather looks good, head to that mountain and start as early as possible to beat the heat.
- Using a guide is a good, common sense thing too. It keeps you safe, helps the local economy, and makes for some pretty enlightening company. Finding a reliable map is rare and some trails are so overgrown, they need to be opened up a bit with a machete. Hotels and tourist offices are happy to recommend tour operators and guides. Tipping is customary if you choose to do so, it’s wise to have cash on your person
- Hiking boots are the best shoe choice and will make scurrying over rocks and slippery branches easier while keeping your ankles well-supported. A walking pole will make you feel like a true adventurer and will be a useful tool that guides can cut for you. Wear clothes you don’t care much about as some plants and soil can permanently stain items.
- Bring your own food (guides provide a snack, too), lots of water, a hat, insect repellant, and sunblock. It’s never a bad idea to slip a map of the island and a compass in your pack, either. Your phone will be mostly for show and pictures, as reception is variable at best.
Popular hiking islands in the Caribbean include St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica and Jamaica. There are many more places that offer great trails and undiscovered paths, and breathtaking beauty, but these will get you headed in the right direction.
It’s a poorly kept secret that some of the best golf courses in the Caribbean also are some of the best golf courses in the world.
Many of the golf courses in the Caribbean were designed by leading architects such as Pete Dye, Robert Trent Jones Sr and Jr and Gary Player, who were given the resources to build layouts that complimented the surrounding natural beauty of the island they were built on.
Unfortunately, accessing some of these world-class courses is not possible because hotel resorts and private clubs only allow their residents or members the privilege of playing. All is not lost, however, because many great golf courses are located in the Caribbean and are open for public play.
When it comes to golfing in the Caribbean, it is truly an experience unlike any other. You will get gorgeous bluffs, limestone outcroppings and may even see a few green monkeys on the green while you’re teeing up.
A few courses to try while you’re in the Caribbean:
- Teeth of the Dog and The Links in the Dominican Republic
- Four Seasons Resort Nevis
- Tryall Club Jamaica in Montego Bay
- The Buccaneer Golf Course in U.S. Virgin Islands
Caribbean Cuisine: A Fusion of Taste
There is no way to visit the Caribbean without getting a taste of the colorful blend of flavors it has to offer. A focus on using fresh and local ingredients in creative ways makes Caribbean food an absolute highlight for many visitors.
Each island has a staple dish, its own rich history and influences, and food that makes a statement.
A Quick Overview of Caribbean Food
In a nutshell, Caribbean food is a blend of herbs, fish, spice all freshly caught or picked. An eclectic mix of African, Cajun, and European, Caribbean food is a winning blend of various cultures, resulting in something completely its own.
For the best Caribbean food that you cannot leave without trying, these are the delicacies you can’t miss:
Jerk chicken may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Caribbean food. This signature Jamaican flavor is created by marinating meat in a hot, fiery mixture of spices.
This slow-cooked stew of okra, squash, potatoes, aubergine, and meat is the national dish of Antigua. Cornmeal dumplings are commonly added to the stew to create a richer consistency. It is a dish that warms the heart.
Tasty curry fills a chew pancake to the brim. Made using flour, these treats are comparable to tortillas and quite popular through the islands, but particularly in Trinidad and Tobago where they are stuffed with chickpea curry or Channa.
It may look like a banana, but rest assured it does not taste like one. Devoured throughout the Caribbean, plantains are usually fried or cooked and eaten as a snack or side dish. Starchier than bananas, but also having a sweet flavor, it is a perfect complement to any Caribbean dish.
High in protein and delicious when paired with fresh fish, this starchy fruit is served as a snack or side and consumed throughout the Caribbean islands. Though similar to plantain, it is far too starchy to eat as a fruit. It is usually roasted, boiled, or fried instead.
Rice and Peas
Simple and comforting, even the pickiest foreigner will fall in love with this popular Caribbean dish. The rice is boiled with coconut milk to create a sweet and fluffy texture and it’s usually served with chicken to complement the sweet flavor.
Both the name of the dish and ingredient, callaloo is a leafy stew made from a leafy vegetable. It’s basically the pesto of the Caribbean. Callaloo or spinach is boiled with okra, onions, and peppers and served as a side dish with meat or seafood.
It’s not a food, but that is how important it is to try. It really packs a punch. If you can, try one in Barbados; their rum is phenomenal.
When Should You Start Your Journey?
Two main seasons can sum up the Caribbean: high season and low season.
If you’re looking for perfect Caribbean weather, High season is considered the best time to go. This is peak tourist time as many people from the north flock toward warmer weather.
During this time, temperatures are steadily in the mid-80s and there is very little rainfall. This also happens to be when visiting the Caribbean is more expensive.
Crowds are everywhere, beaches are busy and resorts are packed the most during:
- New Year
- February half-term
The low season is from June to October. Humidity is soaring and the daily temperatures are in the lower 90s. If you’re looking for a more tranquil getaway, this is the perfect time to visit the Caribbean. Crowds are gone, and things will be quiet. It is also less expensive, especially September and October.
There is no best time to visit the Caribbean. Great food, people, culture, and adventure are always in the Caribbean for anyone to enjoy!