Choosing a Caribbean Island to combine with a Latin America Vacation

Having just added to the Caribbean section of the main travel guide, I’ll now include an article advising how to sensibly go about choosing a Caribbean island to combine with a vacation to Central or South American destination.

First I’ll point out that due to flight routings and schedules, it’s often rather complicated to combine the traditional Caribbean islands with a trip to Central or South America. Many of the islands are only accessible via Miami. As a rule of thumb, to get anywhere in the Caribbean from Latin America, you’ll have to fly via Miami (normally with American Airlines - popular destinations such as Antigua, the Cayman Islands and Barbados should be accessible), but here I’ll endeavour to point out some interesting alternatives.

Second I’ll note that flight routings change all the time, and by no means I’m aware of all options. If you’ve further suggestions do post them in the comments section!

From Mexico

If the Caribbean beaches of Mexico’s Riviera Maya aren’t good enough for you, there’s always flights from Cancun to Havana in Cuba. Just off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel both have some lovely Caribbean beaches. To get anywhere else, you’ll probably have to fly via Miami.

From Panama

Panama has wonderful Caribbean beaches itself in both Bocas del Toro and the San Blas Islands. If you want to head out of Panama, there’s flights to San Andres Island (part of Colombia).

From Colombia

There’s plenty of flights from various destinations in Colombia to San Andres, from where I’d recommend travelling onwards to the thoroughly undeveloped island of Providencia. In addition the airline Aires flies to both Aruba and Curacao from Colombia. If you prefer to travel by boat, both the Rosario Islands and San Bernado islands are a short distance off the coast in Colombia’s Caribbean.

Providencia
Providencia Island offers wonderfully undeveloped beaches and is easily accessible from Colombia and San Andres.

From Venezuela

Los Roques is the obvious group of Caribbean islands to combine with a trip to Venezuela. The Dutch owned islands of Aruba and Curacao are also easily accessible (both have onward flights to destinations in Europe and North America) - airlines include Aeropostal and Aserca. Aserca also fly to Porlomar (Margarita Island). Avior fly to the island of Martinica, as well as Trinidad (from where one can travel onwards to Tobago). Various other airlines fly some of tese routes too - see the Venezuela flights section for more info.

Aruba
Aruba is easily accessible from both Venezuela ansd Colombia

From Ecuador

It’s a regular dilemma that many travellers have to face - how to get to the Caribbean from Ecuador, whether it’s Guayaquil or Quito? The logical option is to fly direct to the island of Bonaire with KLM (who continue on to Amsterdam in Holland). For Europeans it makes a lot of sense - just fly to Ecuador with KLM with a stopover at the lovely Caribbean beaches of Bonaire. Alternatives would be to fly with Avianca via Bogota to San Andres Island, or with Aeropostal via Caracas to Aruba or Curacao. The adventourous could fly via Panama City to either the San Blas Islands or Bocas del Toro.

From Peru

Well Peru doesn’t really have many decent beaches, and take it with a large pinch of salt is anyone tells you otherwise. One used to be able to fly from Lima to the Caribbean islands of Bonaire and Aruba, but schedules suggest that this no longer seems to be possible (this could revert in the future so do check). You could fly with Aeropostal via Caracas and onwards to destinations such as Curacao or Aruba. Or you could fly somewhere via Panama City. Or fly American Airlines via Miami to the Bahamas perhaps? Or you could stuff the Caribbean and fly direct to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil with Gol (there’s many lovely beaches near Rio remember). In all honesty, there is no longer a logical beach solution to holidays in Peru any longer….

From Chile and Argentina

You’re a long way from the Caribbean here - indeed you’re a long way from any decent beaches at all. Options would be to fly via Miami to a range of places (though the Bahamas will probably be the most easily connectable), or as a long shot to fly somewhere via Caracas in Venezuela. In reality, you’re better off forgetting about a Caribbean beach, or heading to Punta del Este in Argentina, or Florianopolis in Southern Brazil (there’s flights to Florianopolis from both Buenos Aires and Santiago).

From Brazil

Brazil has plenty of lovely beaches itself, but if you’re determined to head to the Caribbean proper, there’s flights from Sao Paulo and Manaus to Havana in Cuba.

In summary

It’s not easy to choose a Caribbean vacation destination to combine with many countries in Latin America. Generally speaking, you’re best off choosing a local destination - remember that Latin America does have some wonderful beaches on it’s doorstep - often there’s no need to head to the Caribbean Islands. See the post on the best beaches in Latin America for some tips. Otherwise, you’re simplest option is probably to head to the Bahamas, which have great flight connections to almost everywhere.

Bahamas
Bahamas Islands are easily accessible, and have great beaches.

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