Top 10 Caribbean Islands

After a hectic end to 2007, what better way to start the new year than unwinding on a beach in the Caribbean!

1. St. John – Best for unspoiled nature
The least populated and least developed of the U.S. Virgin Islands sits just east of St. Thomas. Two-thirds of St. John is protected from development as part of the Virgin Islands National Park – the legacy of Laurance Rockefeller, who donated the first 5 000 acres to the federal government in 1956.

2. Virgin Gorda – Best for peace and quiet
The easternmost of the British Virgin Islands, scrubby Virgin Gorda is at once laid-back and empty; like St. John, much of the island is protected parkland. It isn't especially easy to reach – you'll have to take a puddle-jumper or ferry.

3. Harbour Island – Best for shopping
One of the oldest settlements in the Bahamas, this 3.5-mile-long spit is a five-minute water taxi ride from North Eleuthera. Colorful cottages line the harbour; beyond them are palatial houses owned by monied locals and the fashion crowd that "discovered" the island's pink beaches in the 1980s.

4. Saba – Best for adventure
A five-square-mile dormant volcano with a thin, winding road, Dutch-controlled Saba is one of the best-preserved islands in the Caribbean. Despite the fact that it is virtually sand-free, the abundant wildlife, 14 easy hiking trails, rain forest, and protected reefs lure thrill-seekers and nature lovers. Since it's only a short flight or ferry from St. Martin, ideal for day-trippers.

5. Nevis – Best for an authentic Caribbean experience
This island has a flat coastline that soars up to the rain forest enshrouded 3 200-foot Mount Nevis. It feels intimate, in part because it's tiny (population 11 000), but also because development has been controlled with no high-rise hotels.

6. Anguilla – Best for beaches
Almost in the shadow of nearby St. Martin, with St. Bart's visible on clear days, Anguilla is flat and sandy and remains relatively undeveloped compared with its neighbours but it's still home to some of the most luxurious resorts and villas.

7. Bermuda – Best for golf
The British Crown colony sits in the middle of the Atlantic, some 645 miles off the Eastern seaboard, at roughly the same latitude as Savannah, Georgia. Just two hours from York and Boston, it's an easy quick-break destination.

8. Grenadines – Best for sailing
More than 30 tiny isles (most uninhabited) stretch out like an unfurled sail for 45 miles in the southeastern Caribbean. Each has its own distinct flavour from Mustique where the rich, and famous hide out to the quiet fishing island of Bequia to Mayreau with only one road and electricity since 2003.

9. St. Bart's – Best for the scene
Glamorous, star-studded and ultra-exclusive, St. Bart's manages to keep the masses away, despite the fact that it's just 15 miles (a 10-minute flight) from touristy St. Martin.

10. Vieques – Best for relaxation
When the U.S. Navy closed its base on Vieques, northeast of Puerto Rico, the cognoscenti predicted that this tranquil getaway would emerge as the next St. Bart's. Significant upgrades are in the works but it's still rustic and relaxed.

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