Each individual island in the Caribbean is influenced by a different country which collectively gives it a feeling akin to wandering around Europe. From the large Latin nations of Cuba and Puerto Rico to the tiny atoll of French St Barts, there is more culture spread around these islands than you’d expect.

The weather is balmy all year round, allowing a range of landscapes that includes cloud forests and scrubland dotted with cacti. There are also interior mountains to balance the magnificent beaches which ring most islands. Just watch out during the summer hurricane season, as the Caribbean regularly gets pounded by massive storms.

If you want to hike in protected national parks or scuba dive you may want to try the US Virgin Islands or the Cayman Islands. Creole culture abounds in the French Antilles destinations of Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St Martin. If it’s pure luxury and indulgence you’re after, head to Anguilla or St Barts. Both of these celebrity-infested islands offer every creature comfort you can imagine, at great expense.

Jamaica is the home of reggae, Bob Marley and the slums of Kingstown. But even its mean streets are nothing compared to the chaos and danger of Haiti’s Port au Prince. Vacation there at your peril. The Dominican Republic along with Trinidad and Tobago are renowned across the globe for their extravagant carnival parties, and their red light districts.

Try Bermuda if you’re nostalgic for the days of the British colonialism, or Cuba if you want to see one of the world’s longest running social experiments still petering along. Tiny enclaves such as St Kitts, Nevis, St Lucia, Curacao, Barbados, Aruba, and the Grenadines are as sublime as anything you’ll find in the tropics. The scene here revolves around laid back beach time and a good night out dancing and drinking local rum.

Although some islands excel above others, expect to find good cooking, great people and incredible scenery just about anywhere you go in the Caribbean. Its proximity to North America makes it a major winter hangout for Americans and Canadians.