Vacation time? Consider these direct routes from Houston to the Caribbean

Penni Schewe

The islands making up the Caribbean may seem like far-off destinations, but in fact, many are a simple plane ride away from Houston.

The Caribbean is made up of hundreds of islands, with each country or territory made up of its own distinct culture, food, people and way of life. Below, we highlight locations in the Caribbean to which Houstonians can fly directly, as well as what the destination is known for and what to look for when considering which one is right for you.

Be sure to look up COVID-19 entry requirements on official tourism board websites before booking any trip. Keep in mind that some airlines only do direct flights to specific destinations on certain days.

Oranjestad, Aruba

Royal Plaza Mall, Oranjestad, Aruba on June 17, 2018. 


United Airlines from George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to Queen Beatrix International Airport

Duration: 4 hours, 35 minutes

Just 15 miles north of the coast of Venezuela, Aruba is an independent country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It has a population of approximately 100,000. The country is located south of the hurricane belt, which means that it rarely rains for extended periods. Aruba’s cuisine is made up of African, Spanish, French, Dutch, Indian and Chinese influences. There are a wide array of places to stay on the island, catering to many different styles of travel. An all-inclusive resort may appeal to vacationers, or one not including food for those who wish to explore the cuisine on their own.

Nassau, Bahamas

Junkanoo Beach, which is within walking distance of the cruise terminal in Nassau, Bahamas, is empty during a cruise ship's port of call.

Junkanoo Beach, which is within walking distance of the cruise terminal in Nassau, Bahamas, is empty during a cruise ship’s port of call.

Andrea Sachs, The Washington Post / The Washington Post

United Airlines from IAH to Lynden Pindling International Airport

Duration: 3 hours

The Bahamas is made up of 16 islands, covering more than 100,000 square miles of crystal clear ocean. Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas and is located in New Providence. Popular attractions include the downtown area, the Government House and Queen’s Staircase, commonly referred to as the 66 steps. It is located in the Fort Fincastle Historic Complex in Nassau. Hewn out of solid limestone rock by enslaved people between 1793 and 1794, it is said that it provided a direct route from Fort Fincastle to Nassau City.

Culture abounds in the Bahamas, from handmade batik to the Junkanoo beat. And don’t forget the options around watersports and boating! For accommodations in Nassau, there is the world-famous Atlantis resort on nearby Paradise Island as well as Baha Mar, a sprawling complex featuring hotels, a golf course, swimming pools and the largest casino in the Caribbean. 

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Aerial view of Punta Cana, east of the Dominican Republic on April 16, 2015. 

Aerial view of Punta Cana, east of the Dominican Republic on April 16, 2015. 


United Airlines from IAH to Punta Cana International Airport

Duration: 4 hours, 20 minutes 

Located where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean, Punta Cana is known for offering relaxation, whether that be a much-needed massage or a round of golf. With 30 miles of white sand coastlines, visitors will have plenty of room to dip their toes into the destination. There are family-friendly resorts as well as more private properties for couples, even those looking for a destination wedding. Inland, there are ziplines and cave explorations for the more adventurous traveler. 

Montego Bay, Jamaica

A resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. 

A resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. 

Ellen Creager/TNS

United Airlines from IAH or Southwest Airlines from HOU to Sangster International Airport

Duration: 3 hours, 15 minutes 

Montego Bay is the third most populous city in Jamaica. Its many adventure tours and eco-friendly activities include unique experiences such as a ride down the Martha Brae River in a hand-crafted bamboo raft. One can learn about the history and culture of the town at the Montego Bay Cultural Center. When it comes to accommodations, there is something for every traveler: all-inclusive resorts, villas and apartments. 

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Tourists on Aug. 3, 2021 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Tourists on Aug. 3, 2021 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Carlos Giusti/AP

United Airlines from IAH or Southwest from HOU to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport

Duration: 4 hours, 30 minutes

A U.S. territory with very strong Spanish influences due to its colonization over hundreds of years, Puerto Rico includes the main island and several smaller islands. San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico and celebrates the 500th anniversary of its founding this year. Begin the trip with a stay in Old San Juan’s new Palacio Provincial Hotel, where you’ll be just steps away from centuries of history, including historic forts, a cathedral, a cemetery, and museums and galleries. Finish the trip sipping one of the many rum-inspired drinks at a beachfront property in Isla Verde, minutes away from the airport. For those looking for a more luxurious stay, consider Fairmont El San Juan Hotel for its spacious rooms and many pools. 

Turks and Caicos (seasonal)




United Airlines from IAH to Providenciales International Airport

Flight will stop operating during September and October 2021 and return in November 2021

Duration: 3 hours, 45 minutes 

The economic hub of Turks and Caicos, Providenciales is known for white-sand beaches, some of the clearest turquoise water seen around, lobster, conch shells and water activities. 

Tourism is the British territory’s top industry, and properties dot the island. From the luxe Grace Bay Club or Wymara Resort in the tourist-friendly Grace Bay Beach area to the more off-the-beaten path Harbour Club Villas & Marina, there’s something for all types of travelers. For water enthusiasts, consider Big Blue Collective, which not only offers activities like paddle boarding, kayaking and excursions, but also takes a sustainable approach to them.

Providenciales, or Provo as many people call it, is also a great jumping off point to less populated islands like South Caicos and Grand Turk, which have a more rugged, island-style vibe.

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Ritz Carlton St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.

Ritz Carlton St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.

courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas

United Airlines from IAH to Metropolitan Area Airport

Duration: 4 hours, 40 minutes

St. Thomas is jam-packed with activities and history, yet still retains the island atmosphere of the Caribbean. Aside from world-class diving, travelers can enjoy a well-regarded golf course, beautiful beaches and exciting nightlife. 

For history or art enthusiasts, don’t miss seeing the second-oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, the circa-1680 Fort Christian, or the childhood home of Camille Pissarro, one of the best-known French Impressionists.

For eco-conscious travelers, the USVI has over 40 types of coral. There are a variety of eco-friendly accommodations, including eco-resorts and villas. Restaurants throughout the USVI also support farm-to-fork initiatives. 

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