Things to Do in Caribbean
Rose Island is an idyllic private getaway off the coast of Nassau. Home to a coral reef and a lone beach bar, this tiny, tropical islet offers an exclusive setting for snorkeling and sunbathing on an 11-mile (18-kilometer) stretch of uninhabited, privately owned Bahamian beach.
Macao Beach (Playa Macao) is one of the Punta Cana region’s least-crowded public beaches, set away from most resort hotels. A favorite among locals, this stretch of white sand is considered one of the Dominican Republic’s most beautiful coastal escapes, with clear blue waters and a beach break known for its surf-friendly waves.
The cobblestone streets of Puerto Rico’s Old San Juan, lined with brightly colored Spanish colonial houses, lend themselves to aimless yet inspired wandering—but don’t let yourself pass by the neighborhood’s key attractions. From the UNESCO World Heritage-listed forts of Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro) and Castillo San Cristobal to restaurants serving plates of aromatic rice and fried plantains, Old San Juan charms travelers at every turn.
During the day, Laguna Grande in Fajardo looks like other bays along the tropical Puerto Rican coastline. But come nightfall the bioluminescent lagoon glows fluorescent, thanks to pyrodinium bahamense, microscopic plankton that thrive in its shallow Caribbean waters and glow when disturbed.
The Blue Hole—alternatively known as the Cool Blue Hole, Secret Falls, or Island Gully—is a natural limestone sinkhole near Ocho Rios. A deep cavern within the tropical mountains of Jamaica, the Blue Hole gets its name from the deep azure hue of the water. Travelers visit to swim, cliff dive, and make their way through the lush rain forest to Secret Falls.
Dunn's River Falls is a spectacular White River waterfall near Ocho Rios in Jamaica, where cold mountain water cascades 1,000 feet (300 meters) down naturally terraced steps. Those interested in geology will be fascinated with the way the world-famous falls renew themselves via regular deposits of calcium carbonate and sodium, while movie buffs will recognize them from films such as Dr. No and Cocktail.
Built in 1801 on an estate on top of Mount Fitzwilliam, Government House is often considered the best example of Georgian Colonial architecture in all of the West Indies. The mansion is painted a vibrant pink with a bright white trim (a nod to Nassau’s famous conch shells) and is the residence of the Governor-General of the Bahamas.
The El Yunque National Park is the only tropical rain forest under the protection of the US Forest Service, as well as the largest nature reserve in densely populated Puerto Rico. Situated in the mist-wreathed Luquillo Mountains—where year-round precipitation ensures lush, green landscapes and a healthy diversity of animal life—El Yunque is home to the rare Puerto Rican parrot and the Coqui frog, whose distinctive croak provides El Yunque's soundtrack.
Named the “Best Beach in the World” multiple times (and by multiple entities), Grace Bay Beach is so beautiful that it really needs to be seen to be believed. This is the main beach on the island of Providenciales, in Turks and Caicos, and is lined with upscale resorts.
Just off of the western coast of Aruba, De Palm Island attracts visitors from the main island looking for an all-inclusive beach day. In addition to hosting an array of outdoor activities, De Palm Island also offers simple rest and relaxation on its three beaches.
More Things to Do in Caribbean
High on the cliffs outside Negril, Rick’s Cafe is one of Jamaica’s most enduring institutions. Negril was a sleepy fishing village when Rick’s opened in 1974, and travelers and locals alike still make a pilgrimage to the restaurant and bar for strong cocktails, tasty Jamaican dishes, death-defying cliff divers, and sunset viewing parties.
Named in honor of Saint John the Baptist, San Juan Gate (Puerta de San Juan) was originally one of five doorways to the city used to protect its streets from invaders and each gate has its own unique function. Today, this towering red and white entryway that’s tucked into the city’s surrounding stonewall offers a truly magical way to enter and explore Puerto Rico’s capital city.
Travelers who pass through this historic entrance will find energetic vendors selling traditional snacks and ice-cold piragua along walkways heading towards the historic old town. Ancient trees stretch high into the sky and provide cool shade for lovers on romantic strolls. Narrow cobblestone streets lined with restored Spanish colonial homes and ornate balconies add to the charm of this favorite San Juan attraction.
For many years, Aruba’s natural bridge was a top tourist attraction on the island. The bridge sadly collapsed due to erosion in 2005. However, its ruins still remain, along with a smaller natural span known as “baby bridge.” The surrounding landscape is wild and beautiful, and the smaller bridge still attracts large numbers of tourists.
The Queen’s Staircase, one of Nassau’s most visited attractions, holds an important place in Bahamian cultural history. Around 1793, slaves carved this 102-foot (31-meter) staircase, comprised of 65 steps, out of solid limestone. Later it was named in honor of Queen Victoria’s 65-year reign and her role in abolishing slavery in the Bahamas.
Saona Island (Isla Saona) is the Dominican Republic's largest coastal island, clocking in at 15 miles (25 kilometers) long and three miles (5 kilometers) wide, with a population of little more than 300. Part of the National Park of the East, the island features plenty of photo-worthy white sands, swaying palm trees, and turquoise waters.
Amber Cove is one of the newest cruise ports in the Caribbean, but its nearby attractions are far from rookie. Built by Carnival Cruise Lines for the use of their cruise ships along with other large-capacity liners and located on the Dominican Republic’s so-called Amber Coast, Amber Cove is the gateway to Puerto Plata, a popular Dominican Republic vacation destination.
Known locally as Iguana Island, Little Water Cay emerges from the crystal clear waters just outside Providenciales. The tiny islet is ringed by white sandy beaches—a tranquil habitat for the endangered Turks and Caicos Rock Iguana, a charismatic green lizard endemic to the islands.
Located on the eastern end of St. Thomas, Sapphire Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the island. Featuring stellar views and a long stretch of pretty white sand, it’s an ideal beach for relaxing and sunbathing, snorkeling, and a variety of water sports. Numerous amenities and rentals make for an easy and enjoyable day out.
Bioluminescent Bay (aka Mosquito Bay or Puerto Mosquito) is one of Puerto Rico’s three bioluminescent bays, located on the island of Vieques. A popular destination for nighttime boat tours, this bay is by far the brightest. The water is illuminated by dinoflagellates called Pyrodinium bahamense, tiny microorganisms that glow when touched.
Hidden in a lush Dominican Republic jungle, Damajagua Falls—otherwise known as the 27 Waterfalls of Rio Damajagua or 27 Charcos—are a series of 27 cascading waterfalls that were discovered in the 1990s. Located in the midst of sugarcane fields in the Northern Corridor mountain range, the hidden falls are a true off-the-beaten-path experience.
With deserted beaches and rocky coves, dusty plains dotted with cacti, and ancient limestone caves, Arikok National Park feels worlds away from the luxurious resorts of Aruba’s north coast. Covering almost 20 percent of the island, the park, one of the best reasons to venture south, offers a spectacular backdrop for outdoor adventures.
Largely regarded as one of Jamaica’s best rum distilleries, the Appleton Estate has been producing the liquor since 1749. With its sprawling sugarcane plantations and facilities, the estate covers an 11,000-acre (4,452-hectare) plot and makes about 10 million liters of rum per year.
St. Maarten has plenty of upscale shops, but travelers itching for a more authentic experience head to this weekend market in the French capital of Marigot. Anguilla fishermen arrive early with their hauls in colorful boats, joined later by fruit and vegetable sellers as well as spice vendors, filling the air with tropical aromas.
Built in 1521, San Juan Cathedral(Catedral de San Juan Bautista) is one of the highlights of Old San Juan. The second-oldest cathedral in the Americas, this landmark in the heart of Old San Juan has an impressive array of religious and historical artifacts. The church is still operational, with services held throughout the week.