Travel to any of the hundreds of tropical isles some call paradise. As befits heaven on earth, there is much to enjoy, see and do. Beaches, boats, banks and bikinis are Caribbean menu essentials. But the number one playground for the Americas also comprises movie-set beauty, coconut-tree-clad mountains, verdant valleys of sugar cane and bananas and seashore galore. Caribbean cities glow with glorious architecture in communities established long before the automobile.
Offering temperate seas, pristine coral reefs and diverse marine life, the Caribbean is a natural choice for outdoor enthusiasts. For those who prefer their adventures below the waterline, taking the plunge in a glassy realm of constant motion, vivid color and profound silence is thrilling, fun for all ages and a fantastic way to experience the undersea world. Whatever your choices are, you'll be mesmerized as the warm Caribbean sun shines through aquamarine waters to a glistening sea floor--with you in its midst!
Horned vejigante masks combine papier maché, coconut shells, metal, gourds and paint in a festive fusion of African, Spanish and Caribbean cultures. Instruments such as conga and bongo drums, timbales, steel drums, claves and maracas blend music and art into living sculptures. Quilts, rag dolls and clothing incorporate the vibrant colors of flowers, fish, birds and local scenery.
With such a diverse array of activities and atmosphere, committing to a destination in the Caribbean can seem daunting. Remote and secluded or energetic and thriving? Relaxation or adventure and intrigue?
Here are a few Caribbean destinations to help you find the island that’s calling your name...
The Bahamas is a country of 700 different islands and cays, stretching southeast off the Florida coast. The islands differ physically: pine forests, white sandy beaches, limestone caves, lush plantations, bonefishing flats and the world's third-largest barrier reef. Because each island retains its individual character, each has something unique and unexpected to contribute to an island vacation. Islands with everything from casino to golf courses. Islands for the country-club set, where tennis overlooks mile-long beaches. Islands bustling with colonial charm. Islands for frogman and islands for fisherman. Even islands have islands- a Sunfish sail from nearly any beach can become a voyage of discovery.
Major Destinations in the Bahamas: Paradise Island Beach, Pink Sands Beach, The Queen's Staircase, Port Lucaya Marketplace, Garden of the Groves and the Hermitage
The Bahamas Attractions: White and rose-colored sand beaches, bird watching, boating, fishing, golf, hiking, horseback riding, scuba diving and snorkeling
St. Lucia is one of the most scenic volcanic islands in the Caribbean. This island possesses a wealth of natural beauty—lush mountains, a steaming sulfur volcano, acres of rain forest (35% of the country), charming black- and white-sand beaches, rare colorful foliage and exotic wildlife. The twin volcanic peaks, Petit Piton and Gros Piton—probably the most-photographed mountains in the Caribbean as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site—are on the southwestern side of the island.
Major Destinations in St. Lucia: Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens, Piton mountains, La Soufriere Volcano, Marigot Bay and Mount Gimie
St. Lucia Attractions: Ziplining, mineral baths, whale- and dolphin-watching, snorkeling, kitesailing, fishing, mountain biking, hiking and diving
Enchanting Puerto Rico has it all...272 miles of pristine beaches, exotic natural wonders, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. Forest Service and oldest city in the U.S. By day, a variety of watersports, championship golf and world-class shopping await you. Then get ready to feel the nightlife sizzle... from gourmet dining to glitzy casinos to live salsa bands. The Latin flair of Puerto Rico is evident in everything you see and do there.
Major Destinations in Puerto Rico: Historic District of Old San Juan, San Juan Bautista Cathedral, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Fort San Cristobal, Hacienda Buena Vista, Camuy River Cave Park, El Yunque and Laguna Grande.
Puerto Rico Attractions: Historic sites, outdoor adventures, plenty of amusements and aquatic light shows at bioluminescent bays
U.S. Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands' long-standing, enviable international reputation is not solely based on pristine beaches, warm weather, and crystal-clear waters - they are the most culturally diverse, ethnically rich and artistically vibrant society in the tropics. The biggest asset is its sun-kissed people who are island-spiced, friendly and happy.
U.S. Virgin Islands Attractions: Secluded beaches, national parks, kayaking, hiking, ecological tours, world-class-diving, sunbathing, fine dining and nightlife
From each glorious morning sunrise to the iridescence of the sunset, Jamaica presents a magnificent kaleidoscope of color and beauty that has made the island the most precious jewel in the Caribbean. It is a land of warm and welcoming people, inspiring scenery and so many unique and engaging ways to experience it visitors want to come back again and again. For those looking for a little outdoor fun, Falmouth has 30-foot bamboo rafts that offer romantic and adventurous rides on the Martha Brae River.
Major Destinations in Jamaica: Great River, Hope Gardens, YS Falls, Runaway Bay, Windsor Spring and Rose Hall Great House
Jamaica Attractions: Sunning on white-sand beaches, snorkeling, diving, listening to reggae music performed by local bands, horseback riding, river rafting, hiking, and visiting caves and historical sites
Turks & Caicos
Aside from the Turks and Caicos' spectacular white-sand beaches and unbelievably blue waters, a view from the air reveals little that's inviting about the mostly dry, scrubby, sparsely populated chain of Caribbean islands. Their real appeal lies below the water—one of the world's largest networks of coral reefs provides exceptional diving and snorkeling, while the turquoise inshore flats and deeper aquamarine offshore waters guarantee world-class fishing.
Major Destinations in Turks & Caicos: Conch Bar Cave System, Grace Bay Beach, Crossing Place Trail, Cheshire Hall, Turks and Caicos National Museum, Grand Turk Lighthouse and Salt Cay
Turks & Caicos Attractions: Diving, snorkeling, world's largest networks of coral reefs, waters for world-class fishing, vast flora and fauna, kitesurfing and secluded beaches
Dive into the spectacular underwater world of the Caribbean with these snorkeling hotspots.
Smith's Reef In Turks and Caicos, Smith's Reef boasts a large coral reef conveniently arranged in a circle, which makes it perfect for slow, leisurely exploration. Overhangs filled with lobsters, spider crabs and tropical fish abound, while other areas are home to sea turtles and one particularly famous giant green moray eel.
Chankanaab Bay The calm, clear waters of Cozumel’s Chankanaab Bay are teeming with brightly colored fish and dotted with limestone caves and tunnels that are great places to explore. Sunken statues from ancient ships are intriguing discoveries, and there is a marine park where visitors can swim with dolphins.
Buck Island Just off the coast of St. Thomas, tiny Buck Island is home to an astounding variety and quantity of sea life, from stingrays and parrot fish to urchins and exotic species like sea eggs and four-eyed butterfly fish. Plus, there are abundant sea turtles and barracuda living amongst the corals of its reef.
Eden Rock The coral canyon of Grand Cayman’s Eden Rock is regarded as one of the Caribbean’s best, and fish-feeding is the most popular experience. The food lures swarms of multi-colored fish out of the corals, for a snorkeling experience that is like wandering through a giant aquarium!