The Caribbean has seen a few high-profile incidents in its day, prompting the U.S. State Department to tack travel advisories onto quite a few of its islands. High unemployment rates, a lack of economic development, and drug trafficking have made parts of this region susceptible to crime, violence, and gang activity. Still, though, the tropical region generally remains safe to visit.
Although homicide rates are high on a few Caribbean islands, most are lower than the United States' (according to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2019 there were 5.8 homicides per 100,000 people in the U.S.). The U.S. Department of State's crime warnings—which take into account the number of crimes and homicides reported to law enforcement agencies per 100,000 inhabitants—are a pretty reliable indication of which islands have lower rates of violent crime.
Montserrat is nicknamed the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean both for its terrain and the heritage of its inhabitants. This British territory in the Leeward Islands is considered to be one of the safest Caribbean destinations, its biggest threat being the active Soufrière Hills volcano and hurricanes that roll in between June and November.
St. Barts, short for Saint Barthélemy, has been an overseas collectivity of France since 2007. Accessible only by yacht, propeller plane, or ferry, this exclusive island is known for being a party destination for the rich and famous. Besides the occasional theft, which is a concern for any tourist-popular region, St. Barts doesn't have much crime.
British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) consist of Tortola (the largest and most inhabited island), Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, and more than 50 smaller islands and cays. The British government states that "although most visits to the BVI are trouble-free, serious incidents, including armed robbery, do occur." Tourists are advised to take normal precautions, such as not walking alone, carrying valuable possessions, or leaving anything unattended at the beach.
The Cayman Islands is another British Overseas Territory widely known as a haven for the wealthy. It enforces relatively strict gun laws, which make it especially safe for travelers. Keep your doors and windows locked, the U.S. Department of State advises, and worry more about the hurricanes that threaten this region during the summer.
Bonaire—which forms the ABC Islands with Aruba and Curaçao—is a special municipality of the Netherlands. Unlike most Caribbean islands, it's located outside of Hurricane Alley, making it safe in several senses. Aside from one incident in which two people were murdered within 24 hours in 2017, Bonaire doesn't have much major crime.
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda, nicknamed the Land of 365 Beaches, is a sovereign state in the Americas and British Commonwealth. According to the 2020 Crime and Safety Report for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, which covers Antigua and Barbuda, this region had 12 reported homicides and two kidnappings per 100,000 inhabitants. It ranked lowest among all Barbados nations in sexual assaults, shootings, and residential burglaries, too.
Martinique is an overseas collectivity of France located in the Lesser Antilles. While it does have a homicide rate of 11 per 100,000 inhabitants, tourists are advised merely to pay attention to their belongings so as to avoid robbery, especially in the capital, Fort-de-France, and in the tourist-centric region of Pointe du Bout.
The United States territory of Puerto Rico is generally safe to visit (especially parts like San Juan Viejo). Even though it isn't entirely crimeless, the U.S. Department of State deems Puerto Rico safe to visit.
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago, a sovereign state in the Commonwealth of Nations, was elevated to a Level 2 U.S. Travel Advisory in April 2019. The Department of State says to exercise "increased caution" due to crime, terrorism, and kidnapping, and warns against traveling to Laventille, Beetham, Sea Lots, Cocorite, and the interior of Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain, citing violent crimes like murder, robbery, and assault as common. Drug trafficking is a major concern here.
The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with the country of Haiti. It too was bumped to a Level 2 Travel Advisory in 2019 for armed robbery, homicide, and sexual assault. "The wide availability of weapons, the use and trade of illicit drugs, and a weak criminal justice system contribute to the high level of criminality," the U.S. Department of State says. If you do travel to the Dominican Republic, do not exhibit signs of wealth by wearing expensive jewelry.
St. Kitts and Nevis
A 2015 BBC report was widely criticized by St. Kitts and Nevis authorities for naming this Leeward Islands nation "the most violent place on earth." Most criminal activity here is believed to be gang or drug-related. The U.S. Department of State lists the dual-island country as a Level 1, meaning to exercise normal precautions. Tourists are more at risk of petty crimes and pickpocketing than anything.
In 2018, the homicide rate in Jamaica was 47 per 100,000 residents and that number increased more than 3 percent in 2019. was three times higher than the rest of Central and South America and the Caribbean, but 70 percent of all crime is linked to the drug trade. This Caribbean nation is under a Level 2 Travel Advisory, citing armed robberies, homicides, and sexual assaults as the biggest issues. The U.S. Department of State warns against traveling to troubled spots like Spanish Town and parts of Montego Bay or Kingston
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Assault or Homicide." January 25, 2021
- Overseas Security Advisory Council. "Barbados & Eastern Caribbean 2020 Crime & Safety Report." March 25, 2020.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. "Crime, Violence, and Development: Trends, Costs, and Policy Options in the Caribbean." March 2007. Page 10
Overseas Security Advisory Council. "Jamaica 2020 Crime & Safety Report." June 16, 2020.