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Isla de Providencia, Colombia

Though it lies off the coast of Nicaragua, the sleepy island of Providencia belongs to Colombia—and it's a throwback to the kind of Caribbean many think no longer exists. Providencia doesn't have a single mega-resort; actually, it has no resorts at all, just a few small inns. Tourism may be an increasingly important part of the economy, but it has been slow to develop. That's largely because the island is difficult to reach. Most travelers first fly to San Andrés, a Colombian island 90 kilometers (56 miles) to the south, and then board a puddle jumper or boat to get to Providencia.

Back in the 17th and 18th centuries, Providencia was booming. It had a brief chapter as an English Puritan settlement, and while Spain first conquered the island in 1641, it was still intermittently used as a base for various English privateers, most famously Henry Morgan. Spain, and later Colombia, never made much effort to impose their culture on this remote outpost, and even today English creole is heard more commonly than Spanish.

Many locals believe that Henry Morgan left buried treasure on the island. That may or may not be true, but Providencia’s natural riches—stunning beaches and marine life—are undeniable.