White-sand beaches, palm trees and coconuts likely come to mind when thinking of the Caribbean. (Dreamstime)

Because the Caribbean is one of the world's most popular vacation destinations, everyone has an idea of what it's like. White-sand beaches, palm trees and coconuts likely come to mind. However, unless you've visited, you haven't quite scratched the surface of this vast region. There are many misconceptions about the Caribbean, but thankfully we are here to debunk six of those common myths. Take a look below.


Transporting goods and people over water always tends to drive up prices more than on the mainland. However, costs vary wildly across the Caribbean. Some of the smaller islands require stopovers to reach, so look for airlines with direct flights from your city, which saves on fuel costs. Spirit Airlines offers flights from Fort Lauderdale to destinations like Montego Bay, Jamaica and St. Thomas, USVI, for a base fare of $200. And sure, renting a beach villa in St. Barts for a week might set you back a cool $1 million, but if you're not a tech mogul or a Hollywood starlet, you can put together an affordable vacation by traveling off-season, when flight and hotel rates drop dramatically. Or, look into destinations like Haiti and Cuba, where your dollar will stretch further. With a little extra effort, you could be paying pennies for a street food in Havana — and the food is often better than in the hotels.


Sure, you're not going to be able to grab a backpack and hop from Tortola to Trinidad in a day, but there are ways around it. For instance, daily ferries run from St. Thomas to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, allowing visitors to explore two different countries for the cost of one flight. The same goes for St. Martin, St. Barts and Anguilla. Or, to cover maximum ground, why not charter your own boat? Places like the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands and Grenada have become hubs for catamaran sailors who want to cruise the islands on their own time. Check out The Moorings for bareboat charters, where you can take the helm as captain, and Dream Yacht Charter for crewed charters, where you can sit back in a deck chair and let the crew map out your trip.


Think you need a passport to reach the Caribbean? Think again. There are several destinations within the region, like Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, that are U.S. territories, and therefore don't require a passport for Americans to touch down. Your warm-weather beach vacation just got a lot easier to plan.


Adventure-seekers, take heart. Although plenty of travelers want nothing more than an endless series of beach chairs and pina coladas, there's plenty of culture to soak up in the Caribbean. This becomes most evident during Trinidad's annual Carnival, a weeklong bacchanal that occurs every March and includes breathtaking costumes, soca music and barbecue. But nearly every Caribbean island features their own version. Hungry? Check out the St. Lucia Food and Rum Festival in January, in which world-renowned chefs fly in to put their own twists on local cuisine. For culture vultures, there are institutions like the Barbados Concorde Experience, where you can simulate flying the French jet. Or, check out the Museum of Art in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The 13,000-square-foot space is packed with art dating back to island's native inhabitants through to the modern day.


Crowded beaches, cookie-cutter souvenir shops and jam-packed tour buses suck all the fun out of relaxation. But you can choose to skip the over-popular destinations like Montego Bay and Nassau, which tend to be full of tourists and been-there-done-that attractions. Instead, learn to surf at Boston Beach in Jamaica's Portland region, then enjoy delicious pork from the nearby Jerk Centre. Or, enroll in a scuba diving course in Utila, Honduras, the diving school capital of the world. Visitors can also hike all 4,000 feet of the Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent or learn to salsa dance at the clubs of Cienfuegos, Cuba. It might take a little bit more planning and time to map out these lesser-known destinations, but when you return home, you'll have stories and photos your friends will have never heard or seen before.


It's true, many countries took a beating during the hurricanes in September 2017. The monster storms cut power and water and decimated infrastructures. While some major hotels and attractions in Puerto Rico, Dominica, and Antigua and Barbuda still haven't reopened, other places, like Aruba and Jamaica, weren't hit at all. Some destinations that were impacted, like St. Barts, are back in business, and others are continuing to rebuild. Most hotels are pretty good about keeping potential guests informed. Check the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) for frequent updates about what's open and what's not, so you can visit the Caribbean you know and love — complete with coconuts, turquoise waters and friendly residents.

At Oyster.com our special investigators visit, photograph, review and rate each hotel. We uncover the truth, before it's "uh-oh" time.

(c)2018 Oyster.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.