These days, flying can be so stressful and soul-destroying that by the time you’ve navigated check-in, security and all the chaos of the concourse you’re desperate for a vacation – even if you didn’t need one before. Which is why we’re fans of these Caribbean airports, which make our tropical transits that much easier. Featuring perks such as automated Immigration, plush lounges and smart layouts, here are our top 10 picks, based on major criteria including aesthetics, food and beverage options, shopping and, importantly, customer service levels.
Princess Juliana International Airport, St Maarten
A modern, well-run airport with perhaps the Caribbean’s best duty-free shopping collection, this was an easy addition to the top of this ranking. This airport has well-run immigration and, even more importantly, is the Caribbean’s great regional hub, with easy-to-make connections across the region. Congratulations to the Caribbean Airport of the Year for 2016.
V.C. Bird International Airport, Antigua
We love the modern new terminal inaugurated last year at ANU. But we’re even more impressed with the just-completed solar power plant, which provides almost enough energy to power the entire operation.
Aeropuerto Internacional Reina Beatrix, Aruba
The airport on “One Happy Island” is one of the few Caribbean hubs that offers pre-clearance through U.S. Immigration. And last December it became the first Caribbean island to offer digital embarkation and customs cards for incoming travelers. The addition of complimentary WI-FI earlier this year is icing on the cake.
Lynden Pindling International, Nassau, Bahamas
US-bound travelers transiting through the Bahamas’ busiest airport can now take advantage of Global Entry machines (installed last spring) as well as the convenience of pre-clearance through Immigration and Customs. And then there’s the lovely Graycliff lounge, with its own cigar bar and great Wi-Fi, too.
Punta Cana International, Dominican Republic
The thatch-roofed, open-air design of the main terminal at PUJ precludes having air-conditioning. But the new second terminal, which is air-conditioned, spacious, and easy to navigate, is what most travelers arriving from and departing to the United States will experience. We’re also eagerly anticipating the convenience of U.S. Immigration and Customs preclearance, said to be coming on stream soon.
Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Built in 1955, the Caribbean’s busiest airport was, frankly, showing its age. A welcome reconstruction program is still ongoing but a number of improvements have made transiting through much more pleasant. Among them: JetBlue’s modern facility in Terminal A, and Terminal C’s The Lounge. SJU gets our nod as most improved.
Cancun International Airport
This impressive airport is one of the wider region’s biggest hubs. It’s a modern, clean place with a substantial array of superb shopping, from high-design to duty-free liquor.
Charles Kirkconnell International Airport, Cayman Islands
Tiny Cayman Brac’s even tinier airport makes a big impression with air-conditioning, free WI-FI, an observation deck, and the friendliest security officers we’ve ever encountered. We look forward to the day when we can fly there directly from the U.S. (which should be soon since CYB has already met TSA requirements).
Curacao International Airport
Home of the Caribbean’s third-longest commercial runway, the airport here isn’t resting on its laurels. Following a recent multimillion-dollar renovation, the Dutch nation has also announced a major terminal expansion project, expected to be completed in 2018, which will include the addition of more retail and dining facilities.
Aeroport International Aime Cesaire International, Martinique
A fine example of first-world infrastructure in the French Caribbean, FDF offers excellent food (bien sur!) and an outstanding duty-free shopping experience – including a great rum shop where travelers can pick up that last-minute bottle of rhum agricole. And then there’s the typically smooth security and immigration experience.