By day, Fajardo’s famous “Bio Bay” looks like a regular Puerto Rican coastline. By night, however, the bay becomes an eerie lagoon that literally shines a fluorescent hue with every movement or splash. Due to the presence of microscopic plankton that thrive in the shallow waters, every stroke of a kayak paddle creates a trailing ribbon of light. Officially known as “bioluminescence,” there are only a handful of places worldwide where the phenomenon is consistently found. One of those is here at Laguna Grande just off the shores of Fajardo, where kayak tours literally allow visitors the chance to set the water aglow. For as eerie and almost unnatural as that sounds, watching the water glow on your fingertips isn’t the spookiest part. Rather, that would be kayaking through dense mangroves under a total canopy of darkness, where every creak, groan, and jungle sound reminds you’re not indoors.
Don’t let your Jamaica vacation end when you get to the airport. Continue the island relaxation and fun by spending your last hours in Jamaica at Club Mobay Departure Lounge in Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport.
Club Mobay is an airport lounge to rival all airport lounges. Feel like you’re flying first class as you step into the nearly 12,000 square foot lounge and take in the comfortable chairs, stylish bar, large televisions and well-stocked snack bar. There is also a business center with computers for those that need a peaceful place to catch up on work emails or do other online projects before heading up into the air. High-speed Wi-Fi is available throughout the lounge. Club Mobay also has a great area for kids called Pickney Place that has arcade games and other activities. There are also shower facilities if you’d like to freshen up before your flight.
Clear blue waters and white sandy beaches make Macao an ideal spot to experience the real Caribbean. Because it’s public, this beach attracts both far-off travelers and close-to-home locals. Visitors won’t have to worry about aggressive vendors or crowded shores, either, making this an ideal spot for a peaceful morning stroll or an active outdoor afternoon.
Travelers can lounge in the sand, boogie board or learn to surf near Macao Beach’s bigger breakers. And for those who prefer to stay dry on land and keep out of the water, an afternoon horseback ride still offers stunning coastal views and fresh saltwater air, without the hassle of getting wet.
The national park-protected Saona Island (or Isla Saona) lies just off the southern coast of the Dominican Republic.
Lovely beaches fringe this remote slice of heaven, with the best swimming at Mano Juan and Punta Gorda. It’s an ideal beach getaway for a day’s excursion by catamaran.
The population numbers little more than 300 lucky souls, and beach and eco-touring activities are the main drawcards, along with the island’s lagoons, caves and offshore snorkeling.
The island measures around 15 miles long by 3 miles wide (25 kilometers by 5 kilometers).
Hidden in a lush jungle, the Damajagua Falls are a series of 27 cascading waterfalls only discovered as recently as the early 1990s. You can climb, jump off and slide down this natural, watery assault course, which can become treacherous after heavy rain.
The best way to see the falls is on a tour. Tour guides will take you as far as the 7th waterfall and will provide you with appropriate safety equipment, such as helmets and life jackets. It is possible to explore further than the 7th waterfall but you will need to arrange your own transport from Puerto Plata and a guide and safety equipment upon arrival at the falls.
Dreams of the Bahamas are usually comprised of an empty, white-sand beach, set on the shores of a deserted island that’s surrounded by a turquoise sea. Finding that beach can be tough, however, as much of the development located around Nassau leaves little sense of seclusion.
Just off the shore of Nassau, however, the uninhabited sands of Rose Island are closer to that tropical dream. A lone beach bar and a few palm trees that skank to the rhythm of the breeze, and an exclusive setting for snorkeling and sunbathing in a private corner of paradise. On a full day getaway to Sandy Toes, leave the first set of footprints in the white sand that has been wiped clear by the tide. Order a drink at the beachfront bar and swim in the crystalline waters, or colonize an empty, oceanfront hammock and not do anything at all. It’s a getaway from your getaway where you can completely press pause and soak up the relaxation, or ramp up the energy on the tropical holiday.
You might be surprised to find out that the most visited attraction in Nassau is a 31 m (102 ft) staircase. But the staircase's value resides not just in its 65 steps, but in its importance to Bahamian cultural history. The steps were carved out of solid limestone by slaves sometime between 1793 and 1794; a century later the staircase was renamed to honor the 65 year reign of Queen Victoria as well as her role in helping bring about the abolition of slavery in the Bahamas.
Today, come and marvel at the serene majesty of the steep, sloping staircase, still considered a remarkable construction feat. In order to carve the steps, the slaves had to cut through the rocks with axes and other sharp hand tools. The staircase leads to the back of Fort Fincastle.
Established in 1949, The San Juan National Historic Site is home to some of the city’s most famous attractions. Visitors can climb to Castillo San Felibe del Morro, overlooking the San Juan Bay, for an up close look at military efforts more than 250 years ago. Travelers can learn about historic battles that took place against the English and Dutch while visiting the restored lighthouse, chapel and vintage cannons.
History buffs will also love Castillo San Cristobal, near the gate of Old San Juan. While El Morro protected Puerto Rico from seaside attacks, Castillo San Cristobal was designed to stop intruders approaching by land. With grounds stretching some 27 acres, this is Puerto Rico’s largest fortification site, as well as the biggest built by the Spanish after discovering the New World.
Thrill seekers who visit Ocho Rios, Jamaica, must make time to visit Mystic Mountain for some stomach jumping and gravity defying adventures. Mystic Mountain is a nature park located in Jamaica’s lush rainforest. You’ll see and experience the island from different vantage points through three different types of excursions.
Mystic Mountain’s zipline course sets you racing through the rainforest as you slide down thick cables while strapped to them via a harness. As you reach each new platform that is part of the zipline course you’ll not only get a rush of adrenaline, but you’ll also see gorgeous views of the rainforest as the zipline course takes you through a distance of over 550 feet.
The Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica will get you feeling like an Olympian as you race around twists and turns on the bobsled track – no snow or ice required. You can speed up for thrills or slow down to enjoy views of the rainforest and Caribbean Sea as you slide around the track.
High atop a hillside overlooking the harbor of Nassau is the British-colonial Fort Charlotte—the largest fort in Nassau. Constructed in the late 18th century for a battle that never took place, this historic site offers picturesque views, hidden underground passages, a waterless mote, remote dungeons and even authentic canons. Guides are available to help travelers navigate through subterranean halls far below the fort, but well-place signage and plenty of light means visitors can just as easily explore the grounds on their own.
Occupying a spot of Montego Bay’s “hip strip,” Doctor’s Cave Beach is the best-known beach in Jamaica. It's a top party destination with plenty of sand-and-sea-centric activities available at good rates. Its white sand descends into the turquoise of the Caribbean, as beachgoers soak up sun in a tropical paradise.
Rent a beach umbrella and unwind with a can of Red Stripe, or grab some snorkel gear and marvel at the stunning variety of marine life in water so clear you can see all the way to the bottom. Doctor’s Cave Beach provides easy access to the 15-acre Montego Bay Marine Park, and you can also rent Jet skis, parasailing and glass bottom boat rides from private operators located nearby. When you’re done with all your sea and shore activities, you’re just a short walk from the restaurants and bars in one of Jamaica’s hottest entertainment districts.
Sitting atop Bennet's Hill, overlooking the city of Nassau, the hulking Fort Fincastle regally rests. The fort, though rather simple in appearance, is still impressive due to its huge brick walls with canons peeking out over the top.
Built in 1793 by Lord Dunmore, the governor of the island at the time, this 38.5 m (126 ft) tall fort was constructed to offer protection over the island. Today, you can climb to the top of the fort to explore the cannons and three rooms that are dug beneath the lookout. While the fort makes for a neat viewing opportunity, it is truly a must-see because of the spectacular panoramic views of the ocean it offers from the top.
This seafood paradise—ripe with fresh fish and strong drinks—is a destination for diners looking to truly taste Nassau. What began with a few tiny stalls selling locally sourced conch quickly grew to include a variety fish and a more extensive list of traditional Bahamian fare. Travelers line up for famous conch salad and crispy conch fritters that local cooks fry to order. But visitors can sample shrimp, lobster and snapper prepared street side, too. Be sure to request a hit of local hot sauce, made with the island’s special blend of spicy peppers and juicy limes.
Arawak Cay is a fun stop for an afternoon snack or a delicious local dinner. And since the streets come alive at dusk, this waterfront spot is an ideal destination for a frosty beer or a strong sipping sundowner to round out the night.
Blue Hole is a natural wonder located near Ocho Rios. A deep cavern within the tropical mountains of Jamaica, Blue Hole gets its name from the deep hue of the water here. This site isn’t just pretty water, though. There are also waterfalls pouring into the hole from the sides and thick vegetation growing around the edges and from crevices in its rocky perimeter. Vines hang down into Blue Hole as well, giving it an even more exotic appearance. It is an excellent place to go swimming and cliff jumping.
Quite literally meaning walkway of the princess, Paseo de la Princesa does indeed have enough romance and beauty fit for royalty. A perfect spot to enjoy the Old World charms of San Juan – strolling through this romantic 19th century avenue is perhaps one of San Juan’s most romantic escapes – and yet it’s located just outside the city walls. Lined with antique street lamps, shade trees, and fruit cart vendors – walking the Paseo de la Princesa embues a leisurely sense of ancient romance and serene beauty. With the impressive Old San Juan fortifications towering above you and the glistening San Juan Bay on your left, the Paseo de la Princesa stands a good chance of being your favorite simple escape while in San Juan.
Built in 1806, the Government House is considered by many to be the leading example of Georgian Colonial architecture in all the West Indies. Its vibrant exterior gives this traditional building that sits atop Mount Fitzwilliam a uniquely island vibe, with a coral-colored paintjob that nods to Nassau’s famous conch. An impressive entryway, towering Ionic columns and a proud statue of Christopher Columbus lend a noble air to the mansion the visiting representative of the Queen calls home. Climb the hilltop for breathtaking views of Paradise Island or hang around the gates to catch the changing of the guards—both offer photo ops that are uniquely Nassau.
Fort San Felipe was built in 1564 by order of Philip II of Spain and is Puerto Plata's oldest surviving building. It was a formidable construction, designed to strike fear into any would-be-invader's heart. Its 2m- (7ft) thick walls, squat doorways and moat filled with sharp coral and swords served to keep people out and, when the fort later became a prison, worked just as effectively at keeping people in - including one of its most notable captives - Juan Pablo Duarte, who served time here in 1844.
The tower contains a small museum of wartime artifacts such as guns, artillery shells, and cannonballs. Fort San Felipe's main attraction, however, is its sweeping views across the Atlantic.
Nine Mile is synonymous with one of Jamaica’s most famous sons, the late great master of reggae Bob Marley.
Thanks to guided tours led by Rastafarian guides, you can visit the former home of Bob Marley, as well as the musician’s beloved Mt. Zion Rock and his mausoleum. Many of the guides are Bob’s fellow musicians, relatives, and friends.
You can admire Bob’s gold and platinum records on display, along with musical instruments, his favorite chair and other personal effects.
Another highlight of a visit to Nine Mile is the Jamaican scenery you’ll see on the drive from the coast.
The privately run 1,500 acre (600 hectare) Punta Cana Ecological Park protects coastal and inland habitats. Around 80 species of birds live here, along with more than 500 types of plants. Within the park is the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park, named for the crystal-clear freshwater lagoons (called ‘eyes’) that run underground to emerge near the sea. Trails lead around the park, or you can take a guided tour. Tours on horseback go through the park and along the coast.
Just north of the Old San Juan district, within the San Juan National Historic Site, lies Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a 16th-century citadel, or fortress.
It is a World Heritage-listed site on the northwestern tip of the islet of San Juan – a perfect spot to keep watch over the Atlantic Ocean and protect Old San Juan and the Bay of San Juan from incoming enemies. Its more recent history includes the American military, which occupied the site from 1898 to 1961.
The citadel, surrounded like it is by an expansive green lawn and the dramatic rocky coast, sits on quite a beautiful spot; the imposing fortress walls create an interesting contrast to the sparkling blue sea. When the wind blows, the lawn that connects the citadel to the town is a popular kite-flying spot.
If you’re wondering what it was like several centuries ago on the island of the Dominican Republic, then you should head to Altos de Chavón, a recreated 16th-century village built in La Romana near the Chavón River. Sculpted in stone, the site is an impressive example of what a Mediterranean-inspired village would have looked like on the island long ago.
Construction began in 1976 with the goal of having Altos de Chavón serve as a center for Dominican Republic culture. The site was created using the local handiwork of the people of the island; much of the stonework and metal carvings seen here were handcrafted by local artisans, which continues to draw attention to the craftwork that was once so prominent in island life. Much of Altos de Chavón is made of stone, and its coastal location provides a dramatic and inspiring backdrop. Visitors to Altos de Chavón will find restaurants, shops and even a 5,000-seat amphitheater where concerts and other performances are held.
Deep in a sheltered gorge at the foot of the Pitons, the Diamond Botanical Gardens is part of the Soufriere Estate, one of the oldest and best-preserved estates on the island, still owned by the original family to whom the land was granted by King Louis XIV in 1713. The gardens sit at the edge of the Sulphur Springs Park, and the rich volcanic soil nourishes an incredible collection of tropical plants and flowers.
In addition to walking trails flanked by a lush mix of flora and fauna, the garden is home to a historic mill, a waterwheel and the Diamond Waterfall, one of the most colorful falls in the Caribbean with mineral-laced water that gives it a rainbow-like appearance. Proximity to the sulphur springs means these grounds also boast volcanically heated mineral baths that have been used as relaxing soaking tubs since King Louis XVI built his troops a bathhouse here in 1784.