These are the islands closest to the US, a mostly-flat archipelago that stretches from just east of Boca Raton, Florida, south to Haiti.
Independent (UK, 1973)
Average RT airfare from the US: $350
Islands included: There of 700 of them in this flat-island chain; the most visited are Abaco, Bimini, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Nassau, New Providence, and Inagua.
Why visit? It's the closest Caribbean country to the Unites States and a key stop on a lot of cruises. But past the straw markets and hair braiders, the Bahamas boast one of the best pink sand beaches in the world at Harbor Island, swimming with feral pigs, and the Atlantis resort if you're looking for a little bit of Vegas in the Caribbean.
Turks & Caicos Islands
British Overseas Territory
Capital: Cockburn Town, Grand Turk
Average RT airfare from US: $475
Islands included: There are 300 islands between the Turks & Caicos. The most populated ones include Grand Turk and Salt Cay in the Turks Islands, and Providenciales, Parrot Cay, North, East, South, West and Middle Caicos in the Caicos.
Why visit? It might offer the most turquoise water of any spot in the Caribbean, and the snorkeling at Coral Gardens in Providenciales is top notch. Also, if you hit the Da Conch Shack in Provo, the staff will actually dive in the water and catch your conch fritters.