Category: about cities
Caribbean Geography 101
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Learn How to Navigate the Caribbean Sea and Caribbean Islands and Nations
When people say “the Caribbean,” they generally don't think too hard about what the name means — thinking hard, after all, shouldn't need to be part of an island getaway. Still, whether you're planning a cruise trip or an island-hopping adventure, it pays to know at least a little about what makes up the region known collectively as the Caribbean.
Politics and geography have played a role in naming and sorting the 28 Caribbean nations and 7,000-plus islands in the Caribbean Sea. Cruise ship itineraries are commonly structured as Western and Eastern Caribbean, for example, but there's also the Windward and Leeward Islands, the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the British and French West Indies, and more. In many cases, these designations overlap, so we've tried to sort it all out for you as simply as possible.
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02 of 13
Which Islands Are in the Caribbean (And Which Ones Are Not)
Technically, any country with a coast on the Caribbean Sea can be considered a Caribbean nation, and not all of them are islands. Some countries commonly considered part of the Caribbean actually are in the Atlantic Ocean (the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and Bermuda), while many travelers don't realize that several Central and South American countries (as well as Mexico) have Caribbean coasts and Caribbean islands, including Venezuela, Belize, Honduras, and even Colombia.
Perhaps most interesting is Guyana: it's located on on the Atlantic coast of South America but is considered part of the Caribbean due to its deep cultural connections to the region.Continue to 3 of 13 below.
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The Western Caribbean
The Western Caribbean includes all of the Caribbean islands west of Hispanola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) as well as the Caribbean coastal nations of Central America and Mexico. That includes Cuba, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands. A typical Western Caribbean cruise might call at Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, and/or the Honduran island of Roatan.Continue to 4 of 13 below.
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The Eastern Caribbean
There are far more islands in the Eastern Caribbean than the Western Caribbean; the Eastern Caribbean includes Puerto Rico, Anguilla, St. Martin/Maarten, St. Barts, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados.Continue to 5 of 13 below.
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The Southern Caribbean
A region mostly used for cruise-planning purposes, the Southern Caribbean includes such obvious destinations as Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao — all of which are located just off the coast of South America in the Caribbean Sea. Cruise itineraries for the “Southern Caribbean” also may feature port calls in southeastern Caribbean nations like Antigua, St. Kitts & Nevis, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago. So, as you can see, there may be some overlap between what's considered the Eastern and Southern Caribbean.Continue to 6 of 13 below.
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The Greater Antilles
The Greater Antilles region refers to the five larger islands (and six countries) of the northern Caribbean, including the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Hispanola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico, and Jamaica. The name derives from an old Spanish word, Antillia, which was used to refer to a mysterious island located in the Atlantic Ocean.Continue to 7 of 13 below.
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The Lesser Antilles
The arc of islands that roughly define the eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea are known as the Lesser Antilles. These include Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Bonaire, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, Saba, St. Barts, St. Maarten/Martin, Statia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and several of the Caribbean islands belonging to Venezuela. A large geographic region, the Lesser Antilles stretch from the northern edge of the Caribbean Sea to the coast of South America.Continue to 8 of 13 below.
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The Netherlands Antilles
A political, not geographic, designation, the Netherlands Antilles includes the former Caribbean possessions of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, including Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius (Saba).Continue to 9 of 13 below.
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The Windward Islands
The Windward Islands are the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles island group in the Eastern Caribbean. They are so named because the trade winds touch here first, placing these islands upwind from the Leeward Islands. The term dates back to the days when explorers and merchants relied on the trade winds to carry their ships across the Atlantic to the Caribbean.
The Windward Islands include Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.Continue to 10 of 13 below.
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The Leeward Islands
The Leeward Islands are the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles in the Eastern Caribbean. They are so named because they are downwind from the Windward Islands, which the prevailing trade winds reach first.
The Leeward Islands include Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St. Martin/Maarten, St. Barts, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, and Dominica.Continue to 11 of 13 below.
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The French West Indies
The French West Indies includes the two overseas departments (states) of the nation of France, Guadeloupe and Martinique, as well as St. Martin and St. Barts. French Guyana also is considered part of the French West Indies.Continue to 12 of 13 below.
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The British West Indies
Historically, the British West Indies (BWI) included more than 20 Caribbean islands that were part of the British Empire, including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos. Many of these islands have gained their independence from Great Britain over the years, however, so presently the BWI comprises only Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, and Montserrat.Continue to 13 of 13 below.
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The Mexican Caribbean
Mexico actually has a huge swath of coastline on the Caribbean Sea, including such popular destinations as Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Puerto Morelos. The region is entirely contained within the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and is commonly referred to as the Riviera Maya.
10 Great Caribbean Dive Spots
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Here’s PADI’s Picks for the Caribbean’s Must-See Diving Destinations
There are many great Caribbean dive destinations, from Bonaire to the Virgin Islands, but even within these dive meccas there are certain sites that stand out as extraordinary. With the help of PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, we've sorted out the best of the best that you should check out the next time you plunge into a Caribbean snorkel or SCUBA trip.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
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Anse Chastanet, St. Lucia
This shallow reef in St. Lucia's marine park has more than 150 different fish species and is a favorite for photographers and popular with both snorkelers and SCUBA divers. The shallow waters make it a good spot for beginner divers as well. The reef is just offshore the resort of the same name and can be dived right from the beach – no dive boat needed!
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03 of 10
Cenotes, Mexican Caribbean
Likely the product of an ancient meteor strike, cenotes are deep sinkholes formed when the roofs of limestone caverns collapsed and filled with water. Dotting the Yucatan Peninsula of the Mexican Caribbean coast, cenotes have intricate cave systems and underground tunnels, making them a magnet for daring (and expert) divers who are also drawn by the super-clear turquoise waters and stalagmites and stalactites formed from limestone over millions of years.
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Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras
Utila, the smallest of Honduras’ Bay Islands, can provide some of the best underwater animal encounters in the Caribbean — the area is frequented by whale sharks, the gentle giants of the Caribbean waters. Plus, the region's warm waters, pristine reefs, and ample tropical fish make it a great dive destination. Utila is at the south end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest coral reef in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
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05 of 10
Moliniere Underwater Sculpture Park, Grenada
A functional piece of art, Jason DeCaires' Underwater Sculpture Park is not only a visual treat for divers but also serves as an artificial reef. The 50 life-size sculptures were submerged in a protected marine area off Grenada in 2006, and the installation is constantly being enhanced with new colors and patterns as new corals grow.
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SS Stavronikita, Barbados
It was fire, not water, that did in the Greek freighter SS Stavronikita. The boat burned and drifted for three days in the early 1970s before being brought to Barbados, where it was eventually stripped and sunk as an artificial reef. Now the island's most famous wreck, the “stavro” is part of the Folkestone Underwater Park and hosts a forest of tube and rope sponges. The wreck sits upright in 120 feet of water, with its mast almost reaching the surface, making it a fun destination for snorkelers as well as SCUBA divers.
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Stingray City, Grand Cayman
Just because Stingray City is the Cayman Islands most popular tourist attraction — and indeed one of the most famous sights in the Caribbean — doesn't lessen its appeal to divers A shallow dive over a sandy-bottomed bay will find you in the company of swarms of southern stingrays looking for a snack provided by dive operators and tour boats.
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James Bond Wrecks, New Providence Island, Bahamas
Not only did the makers of the James Bond movies have a thing for filming in the Caribbean, they also had a habit of sinking ships while they were in the islands. Divers in the Bahamas can explore two ships purpose-sunk for dramatic effect in the 007 films: the Vulcan Bomber, sunk for the movie Thunderball, and the Tears of Allah, used in Never Say Never Again.
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Columbus Passage, Turks and Caicos
The deep Columbus Passage separating the Turks islands from the Caicos islands is a top spot for viewing humpback whales as they migrate to their Dominican breeding grounds during the winter. The passage also serves as a marine highway for migrating fish, rays, turtles, and dolphins. Divers are also drawn to the wreck of a British warship, caverns, and walls.
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Klein Bonaire, Bonaire
Klein Bonaire is within swimming distance of Bonaire and shares its big sister's reputation as the best overall destination for diving in the Caribbean. Lying in the protected marine park that encircles the islands, Klein Bonaire has calm waters and ideal dive conditions; you can also see a nursery where researchers are seeding and propagating coral.
Book a Bonaire trip with TripAdvisor
Seven Great Ports To Visit While Sailing Or Cruising In The Caribbean
01 of 07
Philipsburg, St Maarten
The beautiful capital of St Maarten is one of the most popular destinations in the region for cruise lines, and with the port almost directly adjacent the town itself, it means there is no long winded transfer to get there. There is great shopping to be found in the charming streets of the town, with the local guavaberry liqueur being one of the most popular souvenirs. There is also a lovely beach that is great for swimming just yards from the main center of the town.
02 of 07
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
On the north east coast of the island, Ocho Rios has a fine marina for those sailing in, and is another popular stop for cruise routes, with a huge range of activities, and a fair amount of glamor too. The James Bond beach is a lovely local beach which is near the former home of the author who created the spy, Ian Fleming, while the town also has rafting trips, a park where you can enjoy a swim with a dolphin, and the beautiful Dunn's River Falls, which can be climbed by the more adventurous visitors.
03 of 07
Port Of The Valley, Anguilla
This lovely port has good facilities for those yachting in the Caribbean, and with an English-speaking population it is a destination which has developed a good following of people who return here on a regular basis. There is a series of locations where you can spot sea turtles, while there are good beaches within easy reach of the port too. A lovely relaxed place where you can enjoy a drink and absorb the friendly surroundings.
04 of 07
San Juan, Puerto Rico
The capital of Puerto Rico is one of the most popular cruise ship stops in the Caribbean, and its links with the United States mean it has the benefit of plenty of English speakers as well as those fluent in Spanish. History buffs will enjoy the castles and fortifications that were built to protect the city, while the cathedral and historic churches date back to the sixteenth century. The old town is a nice area to explore on foot, while there are also some good quality restaurants and bars for refreshments during your trip.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Lying west of the larger settlement of Port of Spain, Chaguaramas is a great destination for those who want to enjoy some outdoor activities during their time on dry land. There are some great hiking and cycling areas around Chaguaramas, while there is also a range of kayaking spots, and a nice golf course too. There are some good marinas for those coming in by yacht, with everything you need to refuel and stock up in a shady bay that keeps the waters calm.
06 of 07
Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
This lovely island is a great yachting destination that is famous for the wealth of wildlife that is to be spotted on the island, with a population of pink flamingos among the highlights to be seen, while the coral reefs around the coast are very popular for scuba diving. There is a good visitor infrastructure here with plenty of locally owned restaurants and great seafood, while the currency used here is the US Dollar, making it ideal for those coming from the United States.
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Georgetown, Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands has long been a hub for yachting and sailing in the Caribbean, and Georgetown on the south west coast of Grand Cayman is definitely one of the places to visit and to explore. There are plenty of watersports to enjoy such as diving and snorkeling, while on the island taking a relaxing horseback ride is one of the most popular activities. However, the biggest attraction is Stingray City, a place where you can have an encounter with a friendly stingray in water that is just a few feet deep.
The Seven Natural Wonders of the Caribbean
01 of 07
The Baths, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
The Baths is the Caribbean snorkeler's paradise, a jumble of ancient underwater boulders that form a series of caves, grottos and pools along the coast of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. Thanks to the calm and sheltered waters, even the most novice snorkeler can enjoy the beauty of the coral-kissed rock formations as they paddle from hidden pools right up onto the shore of the main beach. There's nothing more refreshing than a plunge into the sparkling sea after exploring The Baths' intricate shore caves — it can take an hour or more of clambering and snaking through the rocks to see them all.
Check BVI Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor
02 of 07
Bioluminescent Bay, Vieques, Puerto Rico
A kayak trip down a narrow mangrove river leads to Vieques' Bahia Fosforescente, or Biolumnescent Bay, which is both a unique natural site and a wonderful experience for visitors to Puerto Rico. The bay's shallow and bacteria-rich waters provide the ideal environment for one-celled protozoa that use bioluminescence, or light creation, as a defense mechanism. In other words, these microorganisms light up when disturbed, either by a predator or a swimming tourist.
On a moonless night, a swim in the biolumanescent bay of Vieques is truly a magical experience as ripples and waves of light stream from your paddling arms and wiggling fingers. If you can't make it out to Vieques, there's also a bioluminescent bay in Fajardo can that be reached via day-trip from San Juan.
Book a Tour of the Fajardo Bioluminescent Bay with Kijubi
Check Puerto Rico Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor
03 of 07
Bonaire National Marine Park
In a region where nearly every destination has a reef system and boast of its diving opportunities, Bonaire is acknowledged as one of the true meccas for scuba buffs and snorkelers. Bonaire's National Marine Park literally surrounds the island, from the shoreline to the point where the water reaches 200 feet in depth, and is the best protected reef system in the Caribbean. Human activites, while closely controlled, range from swimming, kayaking and windsurfing to diving and snorkeling.
Check Bonaire Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor
04 of 07
El Yunque Rain Forest, Puerto Rico
The Caribbean's most famous rain forest is also it's most beautiful, one of the crown jewels of the U.S. National Park Service. The Puerto Rico park isn't huge, but its 28,000 acres includes staggering biodiversity — home to thousands of native plants and hundreds of animal species. With 600,000 annual visitors, El Yunque can sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed, but quieter experiences can be had in the summer (when locals enjoy a dip in the cool rivers, largely away from tourists), spring, and fall. Hiking, fishing, and even camping is available to those who truly want to immerse themselves in the rainforest experience.
Book an El Yunque Tour with Kijubi
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05 of 07
The Pitons, St. Lucia
One of the iconic vistas not only of St. Lucia but in the entire Caribbean, the twin volcanic peaks of the Pitons rise dramatically from the sea. The Pitons Management Area, a UNESCO World Heritage site, includes active hot springs, coral reefs, and tropical forests. Hardy visitors to St. Lucia take the challenge of hiking to the top of the 2,619-foot Gros Piton (Petit Piton, at 2,461 feet, is off limits to climbers).
Book a Gros Piton Nature Trail excursion with Kijubi
Check St. Lucia Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor
06 of 07
Pitch Lake, Trinidad
Some call the Pitch Lake of Trinidad the ugliest tourist attraction in the Caribbean, and some visitors have likened its appearance to a giant parking lot. But this bubbling, hissing, stinky 100-acre lake of liquid asphalt is the largest of its kind in the world, and well worth a visit. Located near the town of La Brea, the Pitch Lake is 350 feet deep, and visitors can walk on parts of its crusty surface. Guides will show you how the lake is constantly moving and swallowing some items, spitting out others. The lake, which contains an estimated 6 million tons of asphalt, is replenished from pitch veins that run deep below the earth's surface.
Check Trinidad Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor
07 of 07
Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat
The highly active, sometimes angry Soufriere Hills volcano in Montserrat has been both a blessing and curse to local residents. A major eruption of the volcano beginning in 1995 devastated the tiny island, rendering the entire southern half of Montserrat uninhabitable, burying the capital city of Plymouth under tons or ash, and killing 18 people. But the volcano also is an irresistible lure for island visitors, who can view current eruptions and abandoned buildings from a former golf course now covered by volcanic mudflows. Tourists also can visit the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, which closely monitors activity at Soufriere Hills.
Check Montserrat Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor
Ride a Sleek Schiller Bike Across the Waters of St. Lucia
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There's a lot of ways you can move yourself across the water — by sailboat, kayak, jet ski, paddleboard, and surfboard, to name a few. Biking across the waves is a whole different experience, mixing the leg workout of a bike ride with the elevated views only an upright posture (like being on a paddleboard, minus the paddle) can provide.
Three-wheeled water trikes have been around for a while: you've probably seen these Big Wheels on steroids at resorts. They're funny looking and amusing to play on, but pretty slow-going once they get in the water. The Schiller S1 water bike, on the other hand, slides along the water with the grace of an actual marine vessel — they're basically a pedal-powered catamaran, minus the sail.
“The S1 delivers a sensational bike ride on water that also comes with a glass bottom view of an aquatic world below,” says Judah Schiller, CEO and founder of Schiller Bikes, who became the first person to bike across San Francisco Bay and the Hudson River in 2013. Schiller wedded cutting-edge nautical and bicycle engineering to create the S1, including a proprietary drive train, integrated handle bar steering, and rugged inflatable pontoons in a lightweight package.Continue to 2 of 2 below.
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Bike Between the Pitons in St. Lucia
With a price tag of $4,500, it's unlikely that you'll be picking up a Schiller bike to putter around the lake at home. But it's a great toy — or exercise machine, if you prefer — to try out when you're visiting the Caribbean: in fact, resorts are a key sales market for the company. Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort in St. Lucia, is the first (and so far, only) resort in the Caribbean to offer the use of Schiller bikes to guests; in fact, it was the first resort anywhere to do so. (They are also now available at the Four Seasons Resort in Bora Bora.)
Sugar Beach offers lessons on how to use the bikes as well as rentals. Rated safe on open water, the bikes can be used to explore Anse des Pitons, the body of water between St. Lucia's famous twin Piton mountains, right offshore of the resort.
“The best part of being on a bike on the water is how fabulous the perspective is,” says Jennifer Hawkins, president and founder of Hawkins International Public Relations, who recently had the opportunity to take a Schiller bike for a sail … er, spin. “It was really different than being on a boat or even a kayak because you’re much higher up. I could see the seaside below the water and also look around and view the scenery on shore. I think it would be a cool toy to have on a yacht or at a resort. It was a lot easier than it looks, and I loved that I could pedal backwards.”
Backwards or forward, the Schiller is built for speed, powered by a propeller like a boat rather than giant wheels or paddles like some other water bikes. The handlebars determine the direction of the prop for steering — no rudder required. The bike can only be used by one person by a time, but the rugged frame supports riders of up to 300 pounds.
Besides the chance to ride a Schiller bike, the Viceroy Sugar Beach offers a variety of more traditional water sports activities, including windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, Hobie Cats, pedal boats (don't try to race the Schiller in these!), snorkeling, and paddleboarding. Plus the resort has a fully certified PADI dive center, the gorgeous Rainforest Spa, and is located one one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with luxury villas and bungalows offering nonstop views of the Pitons.
A pair of lighted tennis courts top the list of the resort's land-based activities, which also include a daily schedule of fitness classes. When your day's activities are concluded, you can recap over an outstanding selection of fine rums at the resort's Cane Bay, one of the best upscale rum bars in the Caribbean.
Check Viceroy Sugar Beach Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor
Plunge into the Best Caribbean Diving
01 of 07
The Cayman Islands
Three outstanding dive options in the Cayman Islands are Stingray City, where you can feed and pet stingrays; Shark Alley, the most common place on the islands to see sharks; and Bloody Bay Marine Park, which comprises 22 of the islands' dive sites and has two walls, Bloody Bay in the west, Jackson in the east. The reef here starts at an easy 6 feet deep, but soon plummets to an awesome 1,600 feet below the surface. In contrast, Stingray City is shallow enough to make it an excellent option for snorkelers as well as divers.
Check Cayman Islands Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor
02 of 07
Bonaire's entire coastline, even the small neighboring island of Klein Bonaire, is preserved as a marine sanctuary down to 200 feet below the surface. As you snorkel or dive, you'll want to keep an eye out for the elkhorn and staghorn coral as well as for colorful tropical fish. This fragile ecosystem has been under protected status for 25 years, and any diver wishing to explore these waters must take part in an orientation session covering the park's rules and regulations.
Check Bonaire Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor
03 of 07
Small, volcanic Saba has a marine park that, like Bonaire's, takes in the entire coastline of the island. Here, you'll want to see the Pinnacles, peaks of underwater mountains that start around 85 feet below the water's surface and plunge into the depths.
Check Saba Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor
04 of 07
The British Virgin Islands
At the Baths, snorkelers can navigate a striking landscape of enormous boulders and glimpse exotic sea creatures darting among the grottoes and tranquil pools. The wreck of the Rhone, a mail ship that sank in 1867, is an evocative dive site off Salt Island, and a good destination for experienced divers.
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05 of 07
Turks and Caicos
Surrounded by one of the largest coral reef systems in the world — 65 miles across and 200 miles long — with visibility up to 200 feet, these islands are consistently listed among the top dive spots in the world. Top sights include the HMS Endymion, which sank in 1790, and drop-off diving near Grand Turk, where the sea walls descend into unexplored blue holes almost 7,000 feet below sea level. On the way down, you'll pass black coral, purple sponges, and thousands of playful fish.
Check Turks and Caicos Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor
06 of 07
Statia (St. Eustatius)
Statia is another island that made a wise and early decision to protect its local reefs and waters by establishing a national marine park. You'll find excellent wall, reef and wreck diving in this low-key Dutch Caribbean island, easily reachable from St. Maarten. Unique, ancient lava flows covered with coral provide an excellent refuge for a variety of marine life.
Check Statia Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor
07 of 07
The U.S. Virgin Islands
Snorkelers should head to Buck Island's underwater snorkeling trails off the northeast coast of St. Croix. This 704-acre underwater national park boasts clear water and a treasure trove of coral reefs. Trunk Bay on St. John has a 650-foot-long underwater snorkeling trail that is, believe it or not, marked with signs to help you identify what you're seeing, whether it be coral, sea fans or anemones. This is a great option for older kids.
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The Best Beach Bars in the Caribbean
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Caribbean Beach Bars: Sunny Days and Lively Nights
Beach bars are the epitome of the mellow Caribbean vibe, a distillation of sun, sand, rum, reggae, and the untamed personalities that make island life the best. Here's some of the Caribbean beach bars we think should be on your travel itinerary — heck, maybe even the point of your visit in the first place!Continue to 2 of 18 below.
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The Soggy Dollar, Jost Van Dyke, BVI
For decades, BVI boaters have been wading ashore on Jost Van Dyke with pockets full of sodden cash to seek refreshment at the Soggy Dollar Bar, famous for inventing the Painkiller rum cocktail. Down a couple of these nutmeg-sprinked concoctions and suddenly that ring game either becomes a cinch or the biggest challenge since trigonometry, depending on how the buzz hits you. Best to grab a bite to eat while you are here (three meals are served daily), and if you overindulge you can ask about a room at the adjoining Sandcastle Hotel.
Check BVI Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisorContinue to 3 of 18 below.
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The Bomba Shack, Tortola, BVI
Constructed largely of driftwood and other odds and ends, the Bomba Shack is held together in part by a collection of donated bras, panties, and other “unmentionables” from guests past and present. Yes, this Tortola bar is an adults-only place, and the party really gets going on nights when the moon is full and Bomba's (possibly psychedelic) mushroom tea starts flowing. Rum, dancing, live bands and Bomba himself add to the fun.Continue to 4 of 18 below.
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Foxy’s, Jost Van Dyke, BVI
Many of the best Caribbean beach bars are named after their long-time proprietors, and that's the case with Foxy's on Jost Van Dyke, where owner Foxy Callwood is not only omnipresent but also provides the entertainment (on guitar and vocals) and concocts the libations (homemade rum and four varieties of microbrewed beer). Foxy's is famous for having the Caribbean's best New Year's Eve party (known as Old Year's here), but you can drink, dance, dine and lime at this British Virgin Islands bar anytime — but especially on weekends where they get their big barbecue going.Continue to 5 of 18 below.
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Cow Wreck Beach Bay, Anegada, BVI
A shipwreck that spilled a load of cow bones onto this beach on Anegada gave the Cow Wreck Beach Bar it's unusual name, but that's hardly the only odd thing that's washed ashore to suck down a Cow Killer punch or three from the honor bar. This being the BVI, the beach of course is gorgeous, and the Cow Wreck may be one of the few bars in the world where you can go surfcasting and catch your own dinner (or keep it simple and order the delicious conch fritters or lobster). If you overindulge or just can't get up the will to depart, you can rent one of the Cow Wreck's oceanfront villas for the night.Continue to 6 of 18 below.
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Iggie’s, St. Thomas
Located next door to the Bolongo Bay resort, Iggie's is the best beach bar on St. Thomas and also quite convenient to the hotels of Charlotte Amalie. This is a bona-fide restaurant as well as a bar, featuring an excellent Caribbean buffet during the weekly Carnival night that includes moko jumbies, fire walkers, live calypso bands, and more. But Iggies' real claim to fame is that it hosts live music every night of the year, ranging from local acts to surprise guests like Stevie Wonder.
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07 of 18
Sunshine's is the most famous bar on the quiet island of Nevis, a focal point for local nightlife as well as a magnet for visitors, including those staying at the luxurious Four Seasons Nevis Resort next door. Sunshine's is far from posh — the main building houses a restaurant where you can plop onto a weatherbeaten couch and order a burger or some local fish, and there are several covered pavilions to provide shade when you want to sit closer to the water and sip on one of Sunshine's famous Killer Bees, a rum punch made with local moonshine. Have a few of these and you'll be sleeping on the beach — not a bad thing, since Pinney's Beach is Nevis' longest and prettiest stretch of sand.
Check St. Kitts and Nevis Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisorContinue to 8 of 18 below.
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Shiggidy Shack, St. Kitts
Frigate Bay in St. Kitts is home to a cluster of lively beach bars — all within walking distance of the St. Kitts Marriott Resort — but the most famous is Mr. X's Shiggidy Shack, known for its grilled lobster and lively mix of college students, expats, tourists and locals. The shack is open daily from 10 a.m. on, but heats up at night with a Thursday night bonfire, live music on Fridays, and karaoke on Saturday nights.Continue to 9 of 18 below.
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Le Petibonum, Martinique
Chef Guy Ferdinand — a.k.a. “Chef Hot Pants” — is the main attraction at the rare beach bar where the food, not the drinks, are the main draw. That's not to say that you can't get a good drink here: after all,Martinique is part of France, so of course the wine list is fabulous, and there's also local rhum agricole and Biere Lorriane to consider. But that's just a prelude to fine French dining on the beach, from escargot to filet mignon to the freshest local fish and lobster. All served under a simple canopy in the sand and just steps from the bar's private beach chairs, cabanas, and the crashing surf.
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People travel to the island of Roatan (off the coast of Honduras) to truly get away from it all, but when you want to get away from it all ON Roatan, you head to Sundowner's. Located on Half Moon Bay Beach on Roatan's West End, Sundowner's has most of the attributes you want in a beach bar: cheap drinks, good food, mellow waters, plenty of room to spread out to work on your tan, and character galore. Settle under a palapa and sip a frozen Monkey Lala while the sun sets over the Caribbean, surrounded by friends old and newly made, and you'll be channeling the true spirit of the islands.
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This Jolly Beach hot spot is known for its great burgers and sundowners after a day spent lolling in the sand. If you are an early beach person, Castaway's serves breakfast daily, and while you'll find plenty of Caribbean food on the menu, they also serve Chinese cuisine some nights. Take in the spectacular sunset and settle in for a laid-back evening of fun Antigua style, including the weekly Friday bonfire.
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Da Conch Shack, Turks and Caicos
Cracked conch is the speciality of the house at Da Conch Shack, a Turks and Caicos gathering place that has managed to maintain its authentic aura despite the rapid development of Providenciales in recent years. This Blue Hills Beach bar and restaurant serves a mean rum punch alongside off-the-boat fresh seafood — well worth the drive out to settle in on one of the picnic tables in the sand for lunch, dinner, or just people-watching with drink in hand.
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If you want a “see and be seen” experience in the Caribbean, head to St. Barts. But if you want a chance to rub elbows with celebrities where nobody really cares who you are, visit Basil Charles' laid-back beach bar on Mustique in the Grenadines, where everyone from Mick Jagger to members of Britain's royal family have come in for a toot over the years. The place may not get as wild as it did in its '70s heyday, but on the bright side the food has gotten better, and you can still drink and dance above the waves into the wee hours. The annual Mustique Blues Festival, held at Basil's and featuring performers like Julien Brunetaud, is the event of the year on this tiny, tony island.
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The Dune Preserve, Anguilla
Lots of beach bars have live music, but the Dune Preserve in Anguilla is one of the few in the Caribbean that qualifies as a bona fide concert venue. Owner Bankie Banx is a renowned reggae artist in his own right, and the annual Moonsplashcelebration brings in diverse acts from around the world. You can walk here from the CuisinArt resort (or after a round of golf at the neighboring Temenos course) and settle into the ramshackle, open-air bar and restaurant for a Duneshine or rum punch. If Bankie himself is performing there's a cover charge, but usually other entertainment is free.
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Nippers, Great Guana Cay, Bahamas
This bright and cheerful beach bar in theOut Islands of the Bahamas is a wet and wild experience with two big beachside pools, a lively tiki bar, and hopping dance floor. The weekly (Sunday) pig roast is a can't miss, and if you're lucky you'll be in town for one of the semi-annual Barefoot Man concerts, a true “only in the island” happening where a local musician rounds up his buddies and thousands of fans flock to a tiny cay to hear the show.
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The Pelican Bar, Treasure Beach, Jamaica
You can see the beach from the Pelican Bar — but from the water side, not the shore side. What may initially appear to be a pile of woody debris washed up on an offshore sandbar near Treasure Beach is in fact one of the most unique bars inJamaica. Call in your lobster lunch in advance, then hop onto a rickety boat for the short ride out to the bar, where owner Floyd will take a break from dominos to serve you some cold Red Stripes. You can mellow out on the dock or hop into the water (it's only a few feet deep around the bar) to do some snorkeling. Since you've made it out here, be sure to leave some memento of your visit on the walls — carved initials, a license place, articles of clothing …
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The Wreck Bar, Rum Point, Grand Cayman
Take the free ferry from the busy West Side of Grand Cayman to laid-back Rum Point, and the picnic tables at the Wreck Bar are as about as casual as it gets (other than the beach hammocks, of course). Want a break from all that Caribbean rum? Order one of the famous Wreck Bar mudslides to go along with the surprisingly sophisticated pub grub (there's a gourmet restaurant attached to the bar).
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Elvis’ Beach Bar, Anguilla
Elvis himself — OK, not the “Love Me Tender” one — tends bar at this popular beach bar in Sandy Ground. Elvis Beach Bar is appropriately built from an old boat, and Elvis' gets especially lively during NFL football games (there's a big screen TV to watch on). You can step out of the shade at the boat bar to the roof deck to work on your tan, Elvis' specialty rum punch in hand.
Top Points of Interest and Attractions in Puerto Rico
The Vieques Biobay
Bahía Bioluminiscente, Puerto Rico
Try to go on a moonless night. When there is a little light and you're kayaking through mangrove trees out into Mosquito Bay on Vieques Island, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. And then you'll notice that your oars are glowing green in the water. Fish streak away from you like underwater lightning. And then you'll understand why the Vieques Biobay is one of the most amazing experiences Puerto Rico has to offer. Thanks to its geography, climate, and local conservation efforts, the Vieques Biobay is one of the most bioluminescent bays in the world.
Top Caribbean Casino and Gaming Destinations
01 of 09
Aruba is where Caribbean Stud Poker was invented. Most of the casinos in Aruba are located in the high-rise resort hotels along Palm Beach, but the Alhambra Casino is near the Divi resort complex at Eagle Beach, while the Crystal and Seaport casinos are in downtown Oranjestad.
A few of Aruba's casinos are open 24/7, but in general opening hours are 11 a.m. for slots and 1 p.m. for table games. The currency is the U.S. dollar. Two of the most spectacular casinos include the island's largest, the Stellaris Casino at the Aruba Marriott, and the sophisticated Crystal Casino at the Renaissance Aruba Resort. Other options include the Excelsior Casino at the Holiday Inn Sunspree and the casino at the Riu Resort on Palm Beach.
Friendly reminder, you must be 18 years old to go to the casino in Aruba, as well as most Caribbean islands (so if you're traveling with kids, leave them in the room!).
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02 of 09
The major resort complexes of Punta Cana and Playa Dorada, and La Romana are home to many of the island's 120-plus casinos. You can bet in either pesos or U.S. dollars, and the odds are the same as in Las Vegas. Most casinos are open until the wee hours of the morning — 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. One good bet is the Playa Dorada Casino in the Allegro Playa Dorada. This hotel has 500 rooms and is near an 18-hole golf course. The Renaissance Jaragua Hotel and Casino in Santo Domingo is the largest casino on the island, but if you are traveling with kids, you may prefer the family-friendly Amhsa Paradise Beach Club & Casino. The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is a newer addition (opened in 2010) but has become a major destination for Punta Cana-bound gamblers.
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03 of 09
Most of Puerto Rico's 20-odd casinos are located in major hotels in destinations like Isla Verde, Carolina, Old San Juan and Condado in San Juan, as well as more far-flung destinations like Dorado, Fajardo, Humacao, Ponce, and Mayaguez. Most casinos stay open until 4 a.m. or 6 a.m., but a few are open 24 hours. The currency is the U.S. dollar. One of the most elegant options is the Ritz-Carlton on the Isla Verde beachfront. The casino is open 24 hours. Also, check out the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino and El Conquistador Resort, whose Golden Door Spa is justifiably renowned. This property has a casino with a casual Spanish vibe.
Puerto Rico also offers live racing at El Comandante Racetrack in Canovanas, west of San Juan.
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04 of 09
The casinos in the Bahamas cater only to tourists; Bahamians are not allowed to gamble. Casinos include the Atlantis Paradise Island, the Crystal Palace Casino at the Wyndham Nassau on Cable Beach, and the casino at the Grand Lucayan resort on Grand Bahama Island. The Atlantis offers an array of rooms and activities in addition to the 50,000-square-foot casino. The gaming floor is filled with more than 1,000 state-of-the-art slots and 90 table games, including blackjack, mini-baccarat and baccarat, craps, roulette, Let It Ride, and Caribbean Stud Poker.
The Crystal Palace Casino has 400-plus slots and about 40 table games.
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05 of 09
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua has a half-dozen casinos offering a wide variety of play, including slot machines, video poker, craps, roulette, blackjack, Let It Ride, three-card poker, and Caribbean stud poker. The newest, the Grand Princess Casino, is located near the Jolly Beach Resort and features a sports book, 250 slots, 25 table games, restaurants, and the Liquid nightclub.
Another freestanding facility, Kings Casino, is located in the capital of St. John's, close to the cruise pier and duty-free shopping. The St. James Club Resort & Villas in Mamora Bay is the place to go for gaming in an intimate, upscale European-style atmosphere.
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06 of 09
The Venito Casino at the Holiday Beach Resort is the largest gaming operation in Curacao, with a 29,800-square-foot gaming floor, 350 slots, and 14 table games. The Trupai Inn is home to the Hill Ross Casino, with 100-plus slots, eight tables of blackjack, poker and roulette, free drinks, and live music on Saturday nights. The Curacao Marriott Beach Resort and Emerald Casino and the Hilton Curacao each have smaller casinos on-site. The San Marco and Otrabanda are other casino-hotels located downtown in Willemstad. the Sunscape Curacao, the island's premier all-inclusive resort, features a 15,000-square-foot casino, and the 80-room Hotel Kura Hulanda has a European-style casino with the only seven-card stud poker game on the island.
Check Curacao Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisorContinue to 7 of 9 below.
07 of 09
The French Caribbean island of Martinique is home to two casinos: Casino de la Batelière Plaza, located just north of the capital Fort-de-France in Schoelcher, and Casino des Trois Ilets, just south of the capital. The Batelière Plaza resembles a classic plantation house and has 140 slots and 6 table games; poker, blackjack and French and American roulette are played. The smaller Casino des Trois Ilets has 70 slot machines, American roulette, blackjack and stud poker. Martinique also offers betting on live horse racing at the Hippodrome de Carrère in Lamentin.
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Visitors to St. Maarten have a total of 13 casinos to choose from, all of which are on the Dutch side of this French/Dutch island. Unlike most islands, the majority of the casinos in St. Maarten are stand-alone operations and not located in hotels. The newest casino on the island, however, is located at the Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort: the hotel's 5,000-square-foot casino has 260 slots and 10 table games.
The Sonesta Maho Beach Resort is home to the Casino Royale, which recently added 100 new slots (for a total of more than 400) and a high-rollers club with VIP booths. Philipsburg, capital of Dutch St. Maarten, is home to the Rouge et Noir and the Coliseum Casino, while sports fans will gravitate to the Lightning Casino.
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U.S. Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands has only one full-service casino: a 10,000-square-foot facility at the Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort & Casino in St. Croix. The Divi offers hundreds of slots as well as blackjack, Caribbean Stud, craps, roulette, three-card poker, Texas Hold'em, and Big 6. St. Croix's Randall “Doc” James Racetrack offers betting on live and simulcast horse and dog racing.
Check USVI Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor
Hilton Brings South Beach Style to Tiny Bimini
01 of 05
Beach by Day, Rooftop Party by Night at Bimini’s Big New Resort
The Hilton at Resorts World Bimini is a little (OK, big) slice of Miami's South Beach scene dropped into the middle of the Out Islands of the Bahamas — complete with a rooftop ultralounge and see-and-be-seen infinity pool.
This is a large resort on a small island, with all of the potential good and bad that entails. There's no question that the Hilton is a beautiful hotel; what remains to be seen is what kind of impact it has on Bimini, a sliver of land in the Atlantic that up until now has mostly been the province of anglers — both local fisherman and visitors who come to the island for game fishing. Existing resort on Bimini largely catered to boaters, for example the low-key, low-rise Bimini Big Game Club Resort and Yacht Club.Continue to 2 of 5 below.
02 of 05
By Yacht, Ferry or Seaplane, Bimini is Great for a Weekend Getaway or More
Shipped over in modular sections and then assembled, the hotel is a gleaming white edifice contrasting sharply with the blues and greens of the Bahamian sky and Bimini's shallow and warm Atlantic waters. There are several ways to get to Bimini — regular ferry service from the Miami area to Bimini resumed in September 2016, and there is regular airline service from Miami and Fort Lauderdale. By far the most stylish way to arrive at the Hilton, however, is by seaplane: both CapeAir and Tropic Ocean Airways offer seaplane flights practically to the resort's doorstep.
Check Hilton Resort World Bimini Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor
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Scandinavian Style and Full of Light
Once you are actually at the front door, your immediate impression of the resort is light-and-bright, from the sunsail-covered portico to the cavernous lobby and even the casino — possibly the only one on the planet with floor-to-ceiling windows. Obviously the designers thought the risk of distracting gamblers with views of the marina and lagoon were well worth the tradeoff.
The resort has 305 rooms and 18 suites, with room rates starting at a level you're not likely to find back on South Beach: as low as $189 per night, midweek, in the low season. While not quite IKEA, the room decor is distinctly Scandinavian – a mix of light and dark woods, brown, tan, and white fabrics, and chrome accents as the most prominent decorative enhancement.
Our room overlooked the resort's pastel private villas, but others face the water or overlook the hotel's main swimming pool, which undulates along one side of the building (you can walk out from some rooms right onto the pool deck).Continue to 4 of 5 below.
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Dine on Pizza, BBQ, Sushi — or Prime Steaks at Sabor
A la carte dining options include a centerpiece sushi restaurant and raw bar — both prominently situated in the lobby (this also may be the only hotel to have a bar set up directly behind the reception counter). Hemingways is the hotel's full-service eatery, while Amici is the place to go for a poolside pizza or burger (or Starbucks in the morning).
The Healing Hole has barbecue and beers by the marina docks, while the Paradise Beach Bar is a nice option for drinks and lunch when you need to get some shade after lounging on the resort's best beach, a short walk from the main hotel building. Located in a circular building with views from nearly any angle is Sabor, the standalone fine-dining restaurant.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Just Outside the Gates, Bimini is Another World
Bimini's compact size and minimal road traffic make it great for exploring on foot or, more efficiently, by bike or electric golf cart, which can be rented at the resort. Local bars, conch shacks, pizza restaurants and shops selling Bimini's famous sweet bread are all nearby, and we'd highly recommend venturing out to explore beyond the Resort World gates.
Fishing charters are among the most popular activities on Bimini, which also has a small museum, excursions where you can swim with sharks or dolphins, dive trips to the wreck of the Sapona, and the famous Healing Hole spring — yet another Caribbean candidate for the fountain of youth.