The Caribbean is synonymous with white beaches and relaxation but there’s a little more to the islands than just cocktails and turquoise waters. Lush rainforests offer plenty of hiking routes, historic dockyards and towns offer fascinating insights into the islands’ colonial past and unique culinary specialities such as conch fritters are an experience in themselves.
As long as you like the sun and a slightly slower pace there’s an island for you, to get your wanderlust going, here are a few of the top Caribbean cruise destinations:
Known as Waladli among by the native population, Antigua is the idealised Caribbean island fringed with sheltered bays, gorgeous beaches with a nod to its colonial heritage in its urban areas.
One of the island’s biggest draws is Nelson’s Dockyard National Park in English Harbour. The extensively restored marina was once a strategic naval base for the British and has been operating since 1745, now its restored buildings house shops, a five-star hotel and art galleries.
Sparing some time to climb to the summit of Shirley Heights is rewarded with panoramic views of the harbour and Guadeloupe’s active Monserrat volcano. The ruins of a military base are worth exploring and if you’re lucky enough to get there on a Sunday, a barbecue party is hosted in some restored buildings.
Much of life on Curacao revolves around Willemstad, the capital has a rich history dating back 500 years and its four historic quarters and old town boasts fascinating candy coloured Dutch colonial buildings and excellent museums. Ambling across the Queen Emma pontoon bridge is a must for exquisite views of the shimmering St. Anna Bay.
If travellers head north of Willemstad they’ll find the Christoffel National Park which offers an excellent museum exploring the island’s colonial era in the main house of a 17th century plantation. There’s also plenty of wildlife and cave drawings to look at along eight hiking trails, and visitors may be lucky enough to spot the indigenous White Tailed deer of which there are only about 250 left.
Volcanic Dominica is the ideal Caribbean island for nature lovers and anyone after isolation– the island is carpeted with rainforest, thermal springs and stunning vistas. The vibrant capital Roseau is worth a visit but the real treasures lie inland.
The Morne Trois Pitons National Park is home to many of the islands’ top attractions including the massive Trafalgar falls, where hot and cold natural pools await tired hikers, the fascinating Boiling Lake and the Emerald Pool.
Boat trips along the Indian River are also highly recommended, floating casually and quietly among mangroves, you’ll see plenty of wildlife before heading to the Bush Bar where smoked fish and rum cocktails are the speciality.
Grenada’s capital, St. George’s, is the perfect place to start an exploration of the island. Fort George, built in 1705 is a standout as is the nearby Pingouin Beach.
The incredibly fragrant Nutmeg Processing Cooperative is well worth a visit and gives an insight into the ‘Island of Spice’s’ moniker.
Snorkelling in the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park is perhaps one of the most unique experiences in the Caribbean. The world’s first underwater sculpture gallery features 65 pieces created by renowned artist Jason deCaires Taylor and is just a short trip away from St. George’s.
Puerto Rico has plenty to offer from the El Yunque rainforest, home to waterfalls, wildflowers and rare birds, to top beaches in Culebra the culture of San Juan.
San Juan’s main attraction is El Morro, a 16th century Spanish fort believed to be the oldest in the New World. The 140ft walls house a military museum that documents the fort’s construction and role in the island’s defence over the years.
Playa Flamenco in Culebra is widely regarded as one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. The well serviced beach is found in a sheltered horseshoe-shaped bay and offers white sand, exceptional clear waters and a taste of paradise.
The home of reggae and Rastafarianism, Jamaica is a lush island with plenty to offer.
Kingston should be the first port of call for a traveller wanting excitement. The Bob Marley museum, National Gallery of Jamaica and the colonial Devon House are all major cultural draws while the Blue Mountains offer a picturesque backdrop. Port Royal, once home to Blackbeard (Edward Teach), is also worth a wander for its museums.
On the opposite side of the island, things get slightly more serene. Montego Bay is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean including the famous Doctor’s Cave Beach. Cruisers should head to Church Street, one of the most picturesque avenues on the island and take a look in the beautiful St. James Parish Church.
Ghost Hunters will want to seek out the Georgian-style Rose Hall – built in the 1770s, the hall is allegedly haunted by the White Witch Annie Palmer, who murdered three husbands before suffering the same fate. Legends aside, the Hall is now a fascinating museum owned by former Miss World USA.
Ocho Rios is another Jamaican mishmash city with excellent beachfront resorts, plenty of cultural sights and fabulous natural escapes. For many, the nearby Dunn’s River Falls are the highlights of a trip to Ocho Rios, the 180ft terraced waterfalls are surrounded by lush foliage, lagoons and crash down onto a brilliant sandy beach.
Columbus Park, located where the explorer first dropped anchor, is a fantastic open air museum located in Discovery Bay and, as the name suggest, Dolphin Cove, allows travellers to swim with dolphins as well as sharks and stingrays.
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