Whether it's getting down to some rock-steady reggae in Jamaica or living luxuriously in Saint Lucia, we all crave our own Caribbean adventure. As they so often do, however, the sterilizing, vice-like tentacles of mass tourism are slowly dulling the sparkle of some of the Caribbean's most dazzling gems. So, if you really want to pass through the gates of island heaven, it's time to look past the mainstream and check out one of these lesser-known, lesser-tarnished, paradise destinations.
Bocas del Toro, Panama
If you're lucky enough to count yourself a fan of BBC One's Caribbean whodunnit series "Death In Paradise", then you might recognise this scene. A chain of 10 islands and a favourite of Panamanian tourists, Bocas del Toro is free from the tourists that dominate neighbouring Costa Rica but rich in Caribbean charm. Vibrantly coloured houses, turquoise waters, quirky architecture, and an island pace of life. The ebb and flow of the tide is the fastest changing part of this place. Low-cost, low-key, low-impact, with its unexploited beaches and unbroken tranquility, Bocas del Toro should be high on your bucket list.
Staniel Cay, Exumas
What it lacks in size, at just two square miles, Staniel Cay more than makes up for in charm. One of the highly exclusive Exuma Cays, the only island residents that outnumber celebrities are Staniel Cay's swimming pigs. The only lodging option on the island is a gorgeous waterfront bungalow on stilts, which comes with its own 17ft skiff. While you're here, hop aboard and explore neighbouring Thunderball Grotto, the scene of Sean Connery's galavanting in the 1960s Bond film, you guessed it, 'Thunderball'. The hollowed out island with weird and wonderful diving caves is an alluring prospect.
The tiny Honduran island of Utila is the Caribbean Queen of diving. Boasting the world's largest coral reef outside Australia, 12 separate dive centres, and the chance to swim with whale sharks (the largest fish in the sea), Utila offers an enchanting underwater paradise.
San Andres, Colombia
San Andres may fall under the territory of Colombia but it lies almost 500 miles to its northwest, just 90 east of Nicaragua. This has made San Andres subject to a cultural and political tug-of-war. The natives are English-speaking descendants of 18th-century settlers, while Hispanic arrivals are relatively recent. Visitors, though, should head to the south of the island, where luxury high-rise resorts gaze out onto the uninterrupted bays.
Bayahibe, Dominican Republic
Lying on the south coast of the Dominican Republic between La Romana and Punta Cana is an island first discovered by Puerto Rican fisherman in the 19th century. While neighbouring towns have felt the strain of mass tourism, Bayahibe remains relatively unscathed. Twice a day the village swarms with tourists before easing back into the mesmerisingly horizontal lifestyle that gives the Caribbean such unique charm.