Beyond the Caribbean’s all-inclusive resorts, casinos, overpriced restaurants, and huge crowds are a handful of islands that have escaped mass development. These quiet islands, with their tiny populations and scattered tourist facilities, are not headed for mass-tourism overdevelopment anytime soon, and for a range of reasons-in some cases, the absence of an adequate expanse for a large runway; in others, proximity to more developed islands, or local governmental resistance, or even a decently profitable traditional economy that generates more money than tourism. For whatever reason, these backwaters should remain charming and relatively quiet for some time to come. Let your castaway fantasy flag fly.
1. Anegada, British Virgin Islands.
Geographically and geologically apart from the rest of the Virgin Islands, Anegada is a limestone-based island with enormous stretches of perfect white-sand beaches. It’s hard to top Anegada’s Loblolly Bay or Cow Wreck beaches for their achievement of ideal beach status. There may be things to do on the island above and beyond lazing on the beach in a rum haze, but you’ll surely never need to discover them. Think Anguilla without the crowds (let alone the celebrities) and you’ve got a good sense of the island. Anegada can be reached by ferry from Tortola or charter plane.
2. Barbuda, Antigua & Barbuda.
Barbuda boasts some of the Caribbean’s best and least-trafficked beaches, a noteworthy frigate bird preserve, a fascinating cave complex, and Lighthouse Bay, one of the Caribbean’s most thrillingly perfect resorts. That the island hasn’t been developed to pieces seems a miracle when one contemplates how many Caribbean islands with less remarkable beaches manage to be vastly more developed. Barbuda can be reached by air and ferry from Antigua-or, if you’re lucky enough to be a guest of Lighthouse Bay, by helicopter.
3. Little Cayman, Cayman Islands.
A far cry from Grand Cayman and its densely-packed Seven Mile Beach district, Little Cayman boasts utter and complete quiet. With fewer than 200 residents, it is a backwater by any standard. Most visitors come to dive or check out the island’s interior nature preserve. The island’s beaches are not the region’s best, although locals will help direct visitors to good swimming and sunning spots. Little Cayman can be reached by air from Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac.
4. Marie-Galante, Guadeloupe.
Mass tourism has never taken off on rum-producing Marie-Galante, a quick flight (or turbulent catamaran ride) from Pointe-à-Pitre. There are a handful of hotels on the island, though it is Marie-Galante’s friendly gîtes, operated by local residents, that really stand out. Activities include countryside exploration, rum distillery visits, and of course the island’s truly extraordinary beaches (see above.) The only downside of this relaxed rural idyll is the formidable mosquito population. Be prepared.
5. Mayreau, St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
Tiny Mayreau is situated halfway down the Grenadines archipelago. The island boasts an extraordinary stretch of beach and a hilltop stone church with phenomenal views. Accommodations are restricted to one upscale resort and a cluster of simple locally-run guest houses. There is no airstrip on Mayreau. The island can be reached by ferry, water taxi, or private boat.