What’s not to love about the Caribbean? Simply stunning all year round, cruise passengers have an almost never-ending choice about when to go, what to see, and where to see it. However, with more than 700 islands lying in the Caribbean Sea, narrowing down your choices can be tricky. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, here is part 2 of our list of the 10 must see Caribbean islands:
No list of must see Caribbean islands would be complete without Aruba, and that’s because it appeals to everyone, regardless of their personal interests. Despite being a single island, there are two very distinct areas of Aruba – the south coast, which is stereotypically Caribbean, with amazing white sands and calm waters, and the north coast which is raw and rugged with waves crashing against the rocks and flooding the maze of underground caves. Aruba is actually a great place for families, too – Baby Beach, on the south coast, is protected by the curved bay, which makes it a safe and secure place to swim, even for those with less confidence.
Take a trip to the north shore, and it’s like travelling to a different country. Northern Aruba is full of natural wonders which are absolutely breath-taking. Make sure to take the time to walk the pathways erected around the Ayo rock formations. Aruba is a relatively flat island, so the presence of these tall, jutting rocks seems somewhat unusual. While researchers do believe they’re completely natural, some travellers like to think there’s some kind of mystical force at work! Some even think they were brought to the island for ritual performances. Whatever their origin, they’re fascinating.
Love food and drink? Then book a cruise to Grenada. Although the island is beautiful, with many mountains and high peaks commanding great views, it’s the cuisine that is the highlight here. If you’re partial to a bit of authentic Caribbean, you must visit Grenada’s rum factory at the River Antoine Estate. This is like nothing you will have seen before. As the oldest rum distillery in the Caribbean, this place dates as far back as 1785, and you can tell! There’s no high-tech machinery here (the sugar cane crushers are all operated by a water wheel), and there are barely any walls! It’s absolutely amazing to see a distillery operating in such a traditional manner today, especially if you’ve previously visited Barbados’ more modern Mount Gay Rum Distillery.
If you’re looking for spices to take home as a souvenir of your trip, you’ll find all sorts in Grenada. There are two prominent spice factories – one at the Dougaldston Estate and the other at the Gouyave Factory. You’ll be spoiled for choice here, with the opportunity to sample and purchase locally grown pimento berries, callaloo, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg to name just a few. If you’ve never seen nutmeg in its natural form, you’re in for a surprise – the fruit looks remarkably like a pale apple!
Like the neighbouring islands of Aruba and Curacao, Bonaire was colonised by the Dutch. However, unlike the other islands of this ‘ABC’ group, Bonaire didn’t become independent, and instead was incorporated into the Netherlands as an overseas territory. The culture here is incredibly varied, with Dutch as the official language, and an education system very similar to that in Holland which allows for uncomplicated student exchange programmes.
As well as its Dutch associations, Bonaire is also known for its nature – most notably its large populations of wild iguanas and flamingos. The best place to see the iguanas is at the Washington-Slagbaai National Park to the north of the island. Here, the Iguanas can reach almost 20 lbs, but don’t worry; they’re used to visitors and are very friendly. Bonaire prides itself on being one of the only places in the world where Caribbean flamingo breeding occurs naturally, and the flamingo has become the official bird of the island. You can see some flamingos at the Washington-Slagbaai National Park or, if you’re towards the south of the island, check out the Pekelmeer Sanctuary.
Unlike Martinique to the south, which primarily comprises of towns and cities, Dominica is much more rural and green, and is a favourite Caribbean cruise destination of those who love to throw on their hiking boots and get away from civilisation. There are a multitude of rivers, lakes, and ponds across Dominica, including hot springs and natural rock pools, but perhaps the most impressive of the lot are the island’s waterfalls. If you’re looking for some relatively easy hikes to waterfalls, we recommend Middleham Falls, Sari Sari Falls, and Trafalgar Falls.
From the start of the hiking trail in the Morne Trois Piton National Park, it takes around 1.5 hours to reach the Middleham Falls. The path is largely straightforward, with a few challenging sections and steep climbs along the way. The falls cascade about 200 feet down the rock face, and are truly magnificent. Getting to Sari Sari Falls can take a little longer – around 4 hours in total – but it’s worth it. Considered to be one of the most stunning falls in Dominica, you’re surrounded by the amazing nature of the Sari Sari River Gorge. The easiest falls to reach are Trafalgar Falls, which are just a 15 minute walk from the nearby parking spot. The most tourist-heavy of the falls due to easy access, there’s more facilities here, including an excellent viewing platform.
Of course if hiking isn’t on your ideal to do list when booking a holiday, relax, you’re in the Caribbean! You’re never too far away from a gorgeous beach and sumptuous cuisine.
If you’ve never travelled to Nassau before, it may not be what you imagine. Rather than being quintessentially Caribbean, with beaches, bars, and a laid back feel, this is quite a commercial destination, with Government buildings, offices, and residential streets. However, that’s not to say it’s any less interesting. In fact, seeing a ‘real’ Caribbean destination is fascinating. The best way to see Nassau is by taking a walking tour, although you’ll usually be able to book alternative tours through your cruise line, such as a bus tour, or even a Segway tour!
If you’re keen to get back to that typical Caribbean atmosphere, Atlantis Paradise Island is connected to the mainland by the Atlantis Bridge. Home to the Atlantis Resort – the sister property of the Atlantis Dubai – there are plenty of activities and attractions here. Water parks, marine habitats, and opportunities to swim with dolphins are just a few of the offerings, and there’s loads to keep the kids entertained while mum and dad sample a few sneaky Bahama Mamas – well, it would be rude not to enjoy the local cocktail when in the Bahamas, wouldn’t it?
Narrowing the hundreds of Caribbean islands down to just 10 of the best is very difficult, so this certainly isn’t a definitive list of all the amazing places you can see when taking a Caribbean cruise. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the Caribbean. Cozumel, Acapulco and Key West are prime examples of exceptional ports that narrowly missed out on making our list, not forgetting the departure destinations you can choose from including Fort Lauderdale, Miami and even New York if you wish for Caribbean itineraries. The choices are amazing and the cruises themselves are even better! You can find greats Caribbean cruise deals, both for cruise-only and fly-cruising, on our website, so start researching your dream Caribbean holiday now!