The epicenter of New Year’s Eve in the U.S. may be Times Square in New York City, but crowds and frigid temperatures drive many Americans to the Caribbean to celebrate this holiday in tropical bliss.
Think about it: sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, live music, friendly people, tasty food, mojitos and piña coladas. Now picture this: cold weather, snow, irritable relatives and the same party you went to last year with the same people.
The Caribbean is brimming with fun and exotic destinations that offer something special for different types of travelers. Whether you seek rest and relaxation at an all-inclusive resort, exciting ecotourism adventures, epic partying and dancing, or educational museum experiences, you can have that and more in the Caribbean.
With so many options, which Caribbean island should you choose? There’s no right answer. Here are some of the most attractive hot spots.
1. Puerto Rico
On New Year’s Eve, several hotels on the island host grand parties, especially in San Juan. The Caribe Hilton’s legendary annual bash, for example, features fantastic themes, multiple bars and dance floors, renowned DJs and midnight paella.
Puerto Rico is a superb option because it offers plenty to do before and after New Year’s Eve. The island has some of the most impressive Spanish forts in the Caribbean, such as the iconic El Morro in Old San Juan. The nightlife is vibrant, with numerous clubs, bars and restaurants to choose from in and outside the metro area. Adventure lovers will find a variety of ecotourism adventures to satisfy their adrenal glands, including kayaking on the Fajardo Bioluminescent Bay, hiking in El Yunque Rain Forest, rock climbing in Ciales, and rappelling in the mountains. San Juan is home to Plaza las Americas, the largest shopping mall in the Caribbean, as well as numerous designer boutiques mostly in the Condado and Isla Verde areas. For cultural travelers, the island has museums, theaters and the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, winner of the 2018 Grammy for Best Urban Fusion/Performance for its work with reggaeton super star Daddy Yankee.
2. Dominican Republic
Need an exorcism? One New Year’s Eve tradition in the Dominican Republic involves opening doors and windows at midnight so that evil spirits leave and good ones come in. A yearly cleansing is not a bad idea, especially in the resort town of Punta Cana—one the most visited destinations in the Caribbean, not only for its beautiful beaches, but also for its bustling nightlife and entertainment. Hotels and resorts there offer numerous entertainment choices on New Year’s Eve, including fine dining and parties featuring live music and DJs, giant video screens, lights and other special effects. At the Malecón, Santo Domingo’s famous oceanfront promenade, locals and tourists party the night away in local bars and hang around for spectacular fireworks displays.
3. St. Barts
Located in the French West Indies, St. Barts has become a favorite of celebrities and billionaires as the place to be on New Year’s Eve. Leonardo DiCaprio, Beyonce, Ellen Degeneres, Paul McCartney and other celebrities gather in yachts moored just offshore and private parties. You may be starstruck at St. Jean Beach or one of the stylish bars in Gustavia. The most anticipated parties typically are hosted in fancy villas and yachts, but local restaurants such as the Nikki Beach, Shellona and La Guerite, and fine hotels such as Le Toiny, Le Sereno and Hotel Christopher also host New Year Eve’s parties.
There’s no better setting for fireworks than the beach, and Barbados is surrounded by beautiful sandy beaches. The island welcomes the New Year with fireworks displays on the southern coast, near the Hilton Hotel Resort, and the west coast near Sandy Lane, the Mango Bay Resort and the Carlisle Bay in Bridgetown. Barbados is a premier surfing destination also known for its pirate history and excellent rum. Mount Gay Distilleries has been producing rum in Barbados since 1703, to date the oldest rum in the world. Local rum can be purchased at more than 1,500 rum shops on the island.
5. The Bahamas
The Bahamas is known for its pristine sandy beaches and turquoise blue waters, perfect for scuba-diving and snorkeling. It’s a great New Year’s Eve destination for those wanting to spend their days sunning on the beach and their nights partying in bars and clubs. After the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, the capital city Nassau hosts its famous Junkanoo Festival, a lively parade featuring music, elaborate costumes, dance numbers, acrobatic shows and fireworks.
New Year’s Eve celebrations in Aruba offer magnificent fireworks displays, street parties and an electric atmosphere throughout the island. Aruba’s climate is drier, so sudden downpours are more rare and less likely to put a damper on your holiday plans. Many hotels and resorts host New Year Eve’s parties featuring dinner, live music, dancing, open bars and party favors for the entire family at a variety of ticket prices.
These are just a few of many Caribbean destinations that can turn your cold and ordinary New Year’s Eve into a unique and dazzling experience you will never forget. So, buy a plane ticket, make your hotel reservations, and pack your light summer clothes. Think about it.