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Interest in summer travel is heating up, and a Caribbean native shares the under-the-radar islands you should visit to avoid tourists

Summary List PlacementFOLLOW US: Insider is on Facebook Riselle Celestina was born and raised in the Caribbean, and she spends most of her days exploring the region's 700 islands. Celestina was born and raised on the island of Curaçao, but today she calls St. Martin home. Celestina told Insider that the Caribbean is home to much more than white sandy beaches crowded with tourists, palm trees, and clear water. With more than 700 islands, the region ranges in food, culture, language, history, and terrain, all of which she writes about on her blog The Traveling Island Girl.   Instagram Embed: //instagram.com/p/CDJkhY3pVBj/embed Width: 540px   "Each Caribbean island is...

The Traveling Island Girl

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Riselle Celestina was born and raised in the Caribbean, and she spends most of her days exploring the region’s 700 islands.

Celestina was born and raised on the island of Curaçao, but today she calls St. Martin home.

Celestina told Insider that the Caribbean is home to much more than white sandy beaches crowded with tourists, palm trees, and clear water. With more than 700 islands, the region ranges in food, culture, language, history, and terrain, all of which she writes about on her blog The Traveling Island Girl.

 

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“Each Caribbean island is different from the next,” she told Insider. “We might have a lot in common, but accents, the way people talk, the way people look, the way people dress to stuff like cuisine and landscapes are all completely different.” 

As vaccination rates rise, more people are looking to travel this summer, and the Caribbean will be a popular destination.

Travel is on the verge of a booming comeback as vaccination rates increase, Insider previously reported.

Many vaccinated travelers are looking to explore the Caribbean, according to Kayak, an online travel agency. Currently, most of the Caribbean is welcoming both vaccinated and unvaccinated visitors with restrictions, according to Travel Weekly.

As Insider previously reported, some restrictions may still be in place when countries reopen, so check each destination’s COVID-19 precautions before booking a trip. You can also see our guide to international travel here.

Celestina shared 10 Caribbean spots where she said visitors can expect fewer tourists and one-of-a-kind experiences.

From delicious foods to desert-like terrain, the Caribbean offers experiences for every type of traveler. 

Visit Celestina’s home of St. Martin, where you get two destinations on one island.

Celestina moved to St. Martin 19 years ago.

“It feels more like home than any other place I’ve been to,” she said.

The island is compromised of two sides: the northern French side, Saint-Martin, and the southern Dutch side, Sint Maarten, where Celestina lives. She said traveling to the opposite side of the island is like visiting an entirely different country. 

“If I want to get away, I can easily just drive over to the French side and feel like I’m somewhere else,” she said. “It’s a gem in the Caribbean.”

Celestina noted that in recent years, the island has become more popular with tourists and cruise ships. However, there are still lesser-known places across the island that visitors can discover.

She suggested skipping places like Mullet Bay Beach or Orient Beach and opting for lesser-known beaches, such as Petite Plage Beach, or hiking to Happy Bay Beach.

From St. Martin, take a day trip to Tintamarre Island.

Tintamarre Island is a remote island off the coast of St. Martin.

While you won’t find any hotels, restaurants, or shops, it’s the ideal remote day trip. 

The island is just two miles away from St. Martin’s coast. Visitors can snorkel with sea turtles, explore the island’s red rock cliffs, or enjoy its sandy beaches.

Celestina recommended packing a picnic because there aren’t spots to buy food or drinks on the island, but visitors will be welcomed by wind, sand, and a serene environment. 

There’s a reason Anguilla has been continuously named the best Caribbean island.

From the coast of St. Martin, Celestina can spot Anguilla, and it’s been calling her name ever since the territory closed its borders in March.

The British overseas territory is filled with remote beaches. Since the island doesn’t cater to mass tourism, it’s much less crowded than some of its neighboring islands.

The entire coast of the award-winning island is public land, and since few travelers journey to the island, you almost always have the beach to yourself, Celestina said. 

“Especially in the summer, it would be normal for you to be on one of the top beaches in the world by yourself,” she said. “It is an absolutely gorgeous place, the people are nice, and it’s never crowded.”

Visit the five square miles of Saba, also known as the “unspoiled queen.”

The island of Saba topped Celestina’s list of lesser-known Caribbean destinations. 

Celestina said Saba is often overlooked because it doesn’t have many beaches, but the island does have an underwater world ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving.

The island gets its nickname, the “unspoiled queen,” from its pristine nature. It’s home to rainforests, coral reefs, and the dormant Mount Scenery volcano. 

While most people head to Old San Juan when traveling to Puerto Rico, Celestina said visitors should consider inland Aibonito.

Celestina said that Aibonito is filled with “waterfalls, rainforests, and a little bit of chilly weather.”

Inland Puerto Rico is much more isolated than nearby towns like Old San Juan, but visitors still get the best of both worlds, Celestina said.

From Aibonito, beaches are still only an hour away. The area is known as Puerto Rico’s horticultural hub, where local businesses sell an array of beautiful flowers, plants, and fruit trees. 

In Aibonito, a trip to Cañón de San Cristóbal is a must, Celestina said. It’s a 5.6-mile canyon teeming with waterfalls, springs, and a diverse range of plants and flowers.

Take a trip to Curaçao, where Celestina was born and raised.

Celestina said that visitors looking for remote areas in the Caribbean should head to Curaçao‘s western side. 

Curaçao is known as a city island of the region, so it can get pretty crowded, but on the western side, visitors will feel like they’re in a more isolated place. 

This area known as Banda Abou has breathtaking beaches, as well as churches, museums, and historic architecture. 

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Or you can head to Little Curaçao, which is a tiny sandbank off the coast of Curaçao.

It’s a quaint island with a lighthouse, which makes it ideal for a remote day trip or overnight camping excursion. 

Head to the volcanic island of Nevis for its peaceful atmosphere.

While its sister island, St. Kitts, is more well-known, Nevis is home to many beautiful spots, Celestina said. 

Sprinkled throughout the tropical land are dozens of waterfalls and volcanic beaches.

“I don’t think people realize how much you can do on Nevis,” Celestina said. “It’s a quiet little place that’s really beautiful.” 

While most visitors flock to Nevis during the winter to escape the cold, Celestina suggests visiting during the off-season, when hotels and Airbnb rentals often offer lower accommodation rates. 

The island is filled with centuries-old sugar mills and other spots teeming with history. Celestina said that she has never had a bad meal on the island and that all the locals were extremely welcoming. 

Explore isolated waterfalls and hot springs on a trip to Dominica.

“It’s not one of the first islands you think about when you say ‘Caribbean,'” Celestina said.

Dominica is known as the Island of Nature because it’s filled with rainforests and picturesque waterfalls.

It’s a destination that’s perfect for people who love adventure, and it’s not as popular as some of the nearby islands, she said.

While you might not spend your vacation on Dominica lounging on white sandy beaches, visitors can fill their itineraries with diving, hiking, and relaxing hot springs, all without crowds of tourists, according to Celestina.

St. Barts might be known as a spot for the rich and famous, but if you go during the off-season, it’s much emptier and more affordable.

St. Barts, also called “Saint Barthelemy,” is a French-speaking Caribbean island.

It’s known for being a luxurious destination, but Celestina said that in less popular travel times it can be a more approachable place to visit.

According to US News, the best times to visit the island are between April and June, when fewer tourists are there but the weather is still calm. 

“When it’s out of season, it’s more accessible to everybody,” Celestina said. “And a lot of people tend to forget that.”

If you’re not there during high season, restaurants and shops might be closed, but you’ll have the island to yourself, Celestina said. All 14 of the island’s beaches are public, and they’ll likely be empty during the off-season months. 

“You really get to see the island,” Celestina said. 

Aruba is a popular destination, but Celestina said there are plenty of isolated spots on the island.

Celestina recently embarked on a trip to Aruba, and the island immediately became one of her favorite Caribbean destinations. 

She said loved Aruba’s efforts to better its environment. The island has a ban on single-use plastic and sunscreen containing oxybenzone, which is harmful to coral and marine life.

She also fell in love with Aruba’s landscape, which she said was surprisingly desert-like with rocks and cacti. 

“Aruba’s nature is beautiful and rare and definitely not advertised enough,” she said.

If you’re looking to avoid tourists, Celestina suggested finding hotels and accommodations inland, where you’ll spot some of the island’s more unusual terrain. 

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