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Best Things to Do in the Caribbean

Stingray City

© Cayman Islands Dept. of Tourism

By Scott Bateman
Say “Caribbean attractions” to someone, and they are likely to think beaches.

Yes, the Caribbean has great beaches, but it also has plenty of other fun things to do. Imagine lying on the beach from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for seven days in a row.

It’s not likely to happen that way, especially if you are visiting an island with adventurous excursions, world-class Mayan ruins or the chance to go swimming with dolphins, sea turtles or stingrays.

The ideas below cover some of the best things to do in the Caribbean.

1) Excursions

Cave tubing in Belize is the No. 1 adventure trip in this Central American country that is a common stop for western Caribbean cruises.

Canopying, which requires gliding on a zip line from one tree to another, is popular in Costa Rica.

Dominican Republic has whitewater rafting. Other great excursions include Stingray City, Chichen Itza and Dunn’s River Falls.

2) Beaches

© Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

© Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

Of course the beaches are a big draw. But not every destination has great beaches.

What makes most Caribbean beaches unique is the combination of fine white sand, palm trees overhead and the distinctive blue-green of the ocean water.

The great ones are wide, long and have beautiful vistas. Some of the better beach destinations include Aruba, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Tortola (British Virgin Islands) and St. Maarten.

3) Shopping

Many destinations are known for duty-free and sometime tax-free shopping.

Prices are often discounted. U.S., Canadian and British citizens all face various limits on how much they can bring home without facing a tax.

Excellent shopping districts are located at Palm Beach (Aruba), Old San Juan and Playa del Carmen.

4) History

El Castillo at Chichén Itzá

El Castillo at Chichén Itzá

All of the Caribbean islands have a connection to Europe because of colonization going back centuries.

The biggest and most famous is Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, which dates back nearly 500 hundred years and includes winding cobblestone streets, massive forts and interesting architecture.

The shopping is good, too. Mayan ruins in Mexico and Central America are a great opportunity for families and anyone else interested in education. The massive ruins at Chichen Itza are accessible as part of a day trip for anyone visiting Cancun. Numerous other ruins are accessible throughout the region.

5) Recreation

Fishing, sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving and other water sports are all popular.

Underwater shipwrecks and numerous colorful fish in the warm Caribbean waters make snorkeling and scuba especially good choices at almost any island, but popular options include Belize, Cozumel and Roatan.

6) Nature

Climb the long cascading water falls at Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica, snorkel with sting ray at Sting Ray City or swim with dolphins in Cancun, the Bahamas, Jamaica and other locations.

Other islands such as Barbados give visitors a chance to snorkel with giant sea turtles.

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