Though spring, summer and early fall are decidedly "off-season" in the Caribbean, it's surprising to note how many Americans vacation there year-around. The biggest problem they face is choice; among dozens of islands, which to visit? Here are a few notable selections:
Aruba is for beaches and casinos. It has some of the world's best oceanside strands--vast expanses of granulated white sand off bathtub-warm waters, all of it serviced by high-rise hotels featuring giant casinos active at night and until early morning.
Bonaire is for scuba divers--its main activity, offered by numerous instructors and facilities. If you've ever wanted to experience the world sixty feet below sea level, you'll quickly arrange to do so here by simply enrolling in a dozen major schools or programs.
Puerto Rico is for an immersion into the world of Hispanic culture and history. An entire Latin culture is on display here, in countless museums, well-preserved forts, cities ("Old San Juan") built by the Spanish conquistadors, excellent restaurants featuring an ethnic cuisine. Though it has its share of beaches and sea sports, its highlight is this experience of Spanish-speaking life.
Jamaica is for nightlife. Though its visitors will claim they come here for its beaches and sea sports, they really come alive in the evening, when reggae is performed and the night is filled with its pulsating rhythms. Nearly every resort offers an evening filled with dancing and bands.
St. Lucia is for honeymoons. Its elegant hotels are mainly along cliffs, well-spaced, never dominated by crowds, quiet and romantic, and with a surprisingly high level of cuisine owing to the French occupation of several centuries ago. Meals are occasions for delight, and couples dance to melodic sounds between courses.
The Dominican Republic is for budget-minded vacationers. Its hotels (mainly in Punta Cana and Puerto Plata) are almost always all-inclusive in their policies (room, meals, beverages, entertainment, for one price), and the cost of package vacations is among the lowest in the Caribbean. Very few visitors venture outside the premises of their all-inclusive havens, and the big cities are rarely explored by foreign tourists.
Curacao is for the flavor of Europe. Its capital city of Willemstad is consciously Dutch in appearance; its restaurants are mainly European in dishes and flavors; its main touristic attractions are serious museums of history (an important slavery museum) and nature, and one main edifice is the oldest synagogue of the western hemisphere. Though there are halfway-decent beaches for sunning and swimming (not a main selling point), a better activity here is sightseeing.
There are many more such islands, of course, and every American should visit at least several in their active years.