Anyone who says all the islands of the Caribbean are the same has never explored the Southern Leeward Antilles. The ABC islands as they are commonly called—with the three major ones being Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao—move to their own rhythm. The islands were first settled by the Dutch in the 16th century and they remain part of the Netherlands (with varying political statuses) to this day; that country’s famously tolerant and cosmopolitan attitude extends to these outposts as well.
Curaçao’s capital, Willemstad, is famous for its typical Dutch rowhouses, though here they are painted in a rainbow of pastel hues. Bonaire is the smallest of the three islands, and one rarely visited by other cruise lines. If you are in search of a barefoot chic escape, the island offers it. Aruba, meanwhile, is known for its dramatic desert landscapes as well as steady ocean breezes that help make it a favorite of windsurfers.
Not to be overlooked is the Dutch islands’ neighbor, Trinidad and Tobago. In bustling Port of Spain, the country’s capital, visitors will find a Caribbean melting pot of cultures and an eclectic selection of restaurants serving traditional Caribbean fare, Indian dishes, and the latest culinary creations of young chefs. Another highlight of the region is Barbados, where centuries of British rule have left behind a fondness for cricket and afternoon tea, both enjoyed under the tropical sun.