Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Viator Travel Awards, an annual awards competition where we – along with our readers, travelers, and fans – select the top things to do and see in each of the major regions we serve, the top things to do in our most popular tour categories, and more.
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Welcome to the 2012 Viator Travel Awards: Caribbean Edition! In the past, we’ve focused on specific tours for each item on this list, but this year we thought we’d feature some of the top things to do in 25 of the most exciting places to visit in the Caribbean. The Caribbean spans over hundreds of islands. These islands range from tiny to expansive and offer a diverse range of activities. From adrenaline junkies looking for their next daring adventure to shoppers hoping to find that perfect travel souvenir, plus lots of hiking and nature found in between, the Caribbean does not disappoint, regardless of one’s activity level.
The tours and activities highlighted are chosen based on traveler reviews, data from the millions of people who check out Viator.com during the year, and information on which tours in the region travelers book most often. We think you’ll enjoy reading about the array of activities available in each of these places – it’s the little mental vacation we could all use right now – and we also think this list is a great place to start if you’re planning a trip to the Caribbean in 2013.
You’ll find all kinds of activities listed below, including ziplining through jungle canopies, coming face-to-face with the Caribbean’s sea life, horseback riding on white sand beaches, and learning about the unique culture, history, and cuisine of the Caribbean. Join us for this tour of the Top 25 Things to Do in the Caribbean!
1. Zipline through the jungle
Careening down a thin cable rope with your feet dangling high above the ground is a huge adrenaline rush, which is a big reason why adventurous folks love ziplining. The Caribbean offers some of the best ziplining in the world thanks to its high trees, rainforests and thick treetop canopies. Most islands in the Caribbean that cater to a large number of visitors offer ziplining attractions and some favorites include Zipline Canopy Eco-Adventure from San Juan, Punta Cana Zipline Canopy Adventure and St Kitts Zipline Canopy Tour. While in the Dominican Republic, you can get adventurous above and below the tree canopy line with the Zipline and Horseback Riding Combination Tour in Puerto Plata.
2. Set sail at sunset
The sun setting over the teal and turquoise waters of the Caribbean is a magnificent view to behold and one that is lovely to watch while on the water. Sail the calm seas of the Caribbean to see the sunset on an Aruba Sunset Catamaran Cruise or Luminous Lagoon Night Cruise in Jamaica. Partake in the wonders of sailing around St Martin during a Tall Ship Sunset Cruise. Excite your sense of taste as well as your sight with a Grand Cayman Catamaran Dinner Cruise.
3. Snorkel below the waves
The beauty of the Caribbean descends below the surface of the water. Underneath lightly rippling waves is a world of colorful coral and active marine life. A snorkel trip is a fun way to ensure you see the wonders of underwater life in the Caribbean. Increase your chances of gazing at sea turtles during your vacation by going on the San Juan Snorkel and Picnic Cruise or the take advantage of the large stingray colony that lives there and pet and play with the creatures on a Grand Cayman Stingray City adventure.
Cruisers, check out our Nassau Shore Excursion: Bahamas Snorkel Adventure
4. Hike through the rainforest
Some Caribbean islands, such as Puerto Rico, have their very own rainforest. These rainforests may not be as big and mysterious as the Amazon, but they’re still full of vegetation and animals that are hard to find outside the rainforest’s rich earth. In Puerto Rico, head out on the El Yunque Rainforest Half Day Trip from San Juan. And don’t forget your poncho – it’s not called the rainforest for nothing.
5. Go on a jungle safari
Hold on and get ready for a bouncy, rocking drive when you go on a safari ride. You’ll head out in a topless vehicle and leave the paved roads of the Caribbean behind. As you off-road through an island, you’ll get the opportunity to see less-travelled parts of the Caribbean that are ripe with lush trees, wildlife and gorgeous vistas. In the Dominican Republic depart on the Dominican Republic Mega Truck Safari or Dominican Outback Safari to see how the locals live and get the chance to visit sugar cane fields. Nature lovers will enjoy the Jeep Safari Adventure Tour from Montego Bay, which includes a hike to hidden waterfalls. If you love wildlife, hitch a ride on the Curacao North Shore Jeep Safari during which you’ll have the chance to see lizards, wild pigs, flamingos and other birds.
6. Go whale or dolphin watching
Tropical fish and sea turtles aren’t the only species to call the waters of the Caribbean home. Larger mammals also frolic in the waters and if you’re a fan of SeaWorld, you’ll become even more entranced with dolphins and whales by seeing them in their natural habitat. It’s hard to spot them from shore, though, so a cruise out into the sea with experts who know the migration pattern of the animals is the best way to increase your chances of seeing them. From St Lucia, you can depart on the Whale Watching and Dolphin Spotting Cruise from the North Island, which also includes picture-worthy views of the island’s famous Pitons from the sea.
7. Sip some island drinks
Caribbean locals are passionate about their homegrown drinks, especially their rum – and you may be, too, after trying some. To really understand the love and dedication that goes into the rum grown on the islands, it’s best to participate in a brewery tour, such as the Rum Distillery and Old San Juan Half-Day Tour, which will take you through the world of Bacardi, the largest rum distillery. For more adventurous souls, check out the Black River Safari, YS Falls and Appleton Rum Estate Tour from Negril or the Half-Day Tortola Rum Tasting and Snorkel Tour to mix in some more active excursions with your day of learning about rum. If drinking the rum sounds more fun to you than touring how it’s made, head out on the Bermuda Rum Cruise, which will let you sample and learn about different rums while sailing the Caribbean seas.
8. Take a cruise
The Caribbean is as much about the sea as it is about the islands so it’s important to experience this part of the area as well when visiting. Experience speeding over water and get the chance to feed iguanas on a private island on the Exuma Powerboat Adventure in Nassau, explore St Lucia and a volcano by sea onboard the St Lucia Catamaran Day Sail and use the sea as transportation to an island that is a part of a nature reserve with the Catamaran Cruise to Saona Island from Punta Cana.
9. Hit the beach in a dune buggy or ATV
If you’ve had enough of the ocean during your cruise vacation, leave it behind and bounce over sand and gravel on a dune buggy or ATV ride. It’s fun, adventurous and a memorable time. An ATV is like a motorcycle, but with more wheels. San Juan ATV Adventure Tour, Jamaica ATV Off-Road Adventure to Sandy Bay, Ocho Rios ATV Safari all offer top-notch ATVs for speeding over the land. Montego Bay Dune Buggy Adventure and Punta Cana Half-Day Dune Buggy Adventure are great choices if trying out a dune buggy (think a go kart on steroids) sounds like fun to you.
10. Search for waterfalls
The Caribbean is home to a variety of waterfalls; big, small, powerful and trickling. Under the Caribbean’s sun with rainforests and jungles as a backdrop, any type is worth a view. Some give way to pools ideal for swimming in after a long hike to get to the waterfall, such as Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica. Travel there via Dunn’s River Falls and Ocho Rios Shopping Tour or Jamaica Combo Tour: Dunn’s River Falls and Bob Marley’s Nine Mile, both of which offer extra sites to see in addition to swimming at Dunn’s River Falls. You can also visit a waterfall as part of a day tour that covers much of a city or area, such as Santiago and Jarabacoa Waterfalls in the Dominican Republic and Black River Safari, YS Falls and Appleton Rum Estate Tour from Negril.
11. Take an unforgettable kayak trip
Be astounded by your own strength as you propel a kayak through the Caribbean Sea on tours that combine kayaking with other adventures, such as Caneel Bay Kayak, Hike and Snorkel Tour and St Thomas Mangrove Lagoon Kayak and Snorkel Tour. You’ll have the opportunity to see sea turtles, colorful fish and other wildlife. Been there, done that when it comes to kayaking? Try a nighttime kayak adventure like the Bioluminescent Kayak Adventure from San Juan, which takes you and your kayak out into the sea under the light of the moon, which highlights the glowing of plankton in the dark water.
If you’re looking for a kayak shore excursion try our Bermuda Shore Excursion: Kayak Eco-Tour
12. Go underwater in a new way
Underwater adventures in the Caribbean don’t just need to include snorkeling. There are other fun and adventurous ways to see the sea world beneath the surface. The Nassau SUB Bahamas Adventure is no ordinary sub. Instead, you’re in your own little “Scenic Underwater Bubble” submarine, letting you explore the world beneath at your own leisure. Another new craze fascinating travelers to the Caribbean is the Snuba excursion. Snuba Adventure at Coral World Ocean Park gives you a diver’s view without the need for scuba diving certification. A mix between snorkeling and scuba diving, this Snuba adventure will let you go deeper than you would by snorkeling while still keeping a connection to the surface via the oxygen tube that connects to your underwater helmet.
13. Go horseback riding on the beach
There are few better sensations than being astride a moving horse as the wind whips through your hair and your horse splashes through the shallow waters of the shore. Get that feeling by partaking in a horse riding excursion during your time in the Caribbean. The Heritage Beach Horse Ride in Jamaica and the Scenic Horseback-Riding Tour from San Juan just focus on you, your horse and the surrounding scenery. The Zipline and Horseback Riding Combination Tour in Puerto Plata lets you experience a beach horse ride plus a bonus activity of ziplining through the tall trees.
14. Swim with dolphins, sharks and rays
Kiss a dolphin, rub its belly and get pulled along through the water by these gentle creatures when you go swimming with dolphins. Many Caribbean locations offer dolphin experiences, including Ocho Rios Dolphin Encounter, Ocean World Dolphin Swim in Puerto Plata and Grand Cayman Dolphin Swim Adventure. You can also play with stingrays while in the Caribbean and caress their soft, silky skin and watch as they effortlessly glide through the water in the Bahamas with the Grand Cayman Stingray Sandbar and Reef Sail. If something a bit scarier gets your excitement up, swim with stingrays and sharks at Marinarium Shark and Ray Experience.
For a cruise-friendly option, check out St Thomas Shore Excursion: Swimming with Sharks at Coral World Ocean Park
15. Visit the birthplace of reggae
No trip to Jamaica is complete without learning about the origins of reggae and the king of the much-loved music: Bob Marley. During Jamaica’s Spirit of Reggae – the Bob Marley Experience from Montego Bay, you’ll be able to learn about how Reggae began, plus visit Nine Mile, the village where Bob Marley lived. Learn about his life in Jamaica and about the Rastafarian religion he practiced. You’ll also get the chance to visit his grave.
16. Taste the flavors of the Caribbean
Sometimes when traveling it’s hard to know exactly what cuisine is traditional to the area and where to get authentic versions of that food. That’s when an organized dinner is a great thing to partake in while on vacation. With the Small-Group Dinner Tour in Old San Juan, you’ll get to eat at not one, but four different restaurants with a guide telling you about each dish you try. A dinner cruise is also a lovely way to experience the food of a destination. Tango Caribbean Dinner Cruise in St Maarten and Nassau Small Group Lunch Tour both offer excellent Creole and other local cuisine with stunning views.
17. Take a day trip
When visiting one of the larger Caribbean islands, you usually won’t need to be worried about becoming locked in by the surrounding sea as there are many day trips you can take to nearby, smaller islands. St Martin in particular has many islands nearby that are wonderful for a one-day getaway. Day Trip to the Island of Prickly Pear from St Martin and Anguilla Day Trip from St Martin both offer transportation to smaller sister islands that are unspoiled in their natural beauty. The Saba Day Trip from St Martin is also available via boat; Saba is an eco-paradise loved by divers and hikers. Sea isn’t the only way to view the surrounding area of a larger island you’re on. On the US and British Virgin Islands Air Tour from St Thomas you’ll be whisked away from St Thomas for a birds-eye view of the surrounding islands.
18. Tube down a river
Ride river rapids via an inner tube on some of the Caribbean’s most scenic rivers. Jungle River Tubing Safari in Jamaica will let you sunbathe while going down the river at a relaxing pace. It also gives you a unique view of the island from the water that runs through the heart of it. For a more adventurous tubing experience in Jamaica, head out on the Jamaica River Tubing Adventure on the Rio Bueno. You’ll float over fast-paced river rapids with a knowledgeable guide and will also have time to swim in Bengal Bay.
If you’re planning a cruise, try the Ocho Rios Shore Excursion: Jamaica River-Tubing Adventure on the Rio Bueno
19. Make sunset a special event
Island, sea and sky: an ideal combination for amazing sunsets. Jamaica is no exception to this rule and has sunsets that should be soaked in and appreciated. One way to watch a sunset while in Jamaica is with the Negril Sightseeing Tour with Sunset at Rick’s Cafe, which gives you a full day’s tour of Negril that covers history and beaches. You’ll finish your day with a drink at the popular Rick’s Cafe, which has stellar views of the sunset.
20. See the islands from above
Riding a helicopter is an adventure in itself. Being able to ride that helicopter as it descends over the islands of the Caribbean is a memorable experience due to the magnificent, panoramic views you’ll be able to see from your vantage point high above the sea. The Antigua Helicopter Tour flies over the luscious island of Antigua, or you can also do a Montserrat Volcano Tour as part of your Antigua helicopter ride.
21. Dive into a shipwreck
Exploring a ship that has sunk to the bottom of the ocean adds an extra level of adventure and intrigue to a dive. Catalina Bay and Antilla Ship Wreck Snorkel Cruise takes you to Aruba’s most famous snorkeling spot where you can see the remains of a ship wreck plus a multitude of tropical life under the sea. If you’ve snorkeled one too many times and want to elevate your sea exploring to the next level, take part in the many scuba diving courses on the Caribbean islands. The Resort Diving Course in Nassau gets you well-trained and doing your first dive within just three hours. The Introductory Diving in Aruba course also gets you fully up to speed on diving in just one day. You’ll be exploring ship wrecks via scuba diving before you know it!
22. Go deep sea fishing
There’s no mystery that there are many types and sizes of fish in the Caribbean Sea, but you may be surprised to learn how much fun it is to fish for them. Deep-sea fishing requires heading out on a fishing vessel made for the sea as you peruse the waters for the day’s big catch. Deep Sea Fishing Private Boat Charter in San Juan and Deep Sea Fishing from St Lucia both offer excellent boats for fishing from. You may catch wahoo, tuna or even a marlin during your deep-sea fishing adventure.
23. Learn to surf and board
Learning to surf is even more fun in the warm waters of the Caribbean. Learn to catch the waves while enjoying the salty waters and warm sun of the Caribbean. Puerto Rico Surf Lesson will get you knowledgeable not just on how to ride a surfboard, but also on the rules and etiquette of the sport, which you’ll be taught about by an expert, competitive surfer. Paddleboarding is another fun watersport to do in the Caribbean. Stand-Up Paddleboard Adventure in Bermuda will teach you the technique of the sport in a protected beach site for an enjoyable day on the water.
24. Shop for souvenirs
Many Caribbean islands offer a plethora of duty-free shopping. You can find everything from local goods to million dollar diamonds. The U.S. Virgin Islands, Jamaica and St Martin are some of the most popular islands for shopping. St Thomas Island Tour and Shopping and Dunn’s River Falls and Ocho Rios Shopping Tour will deposit you in some of the most popular sections for shopping on each island during your day of sight-seeing. If all you want to do is shop ‘til you drop, head out to town via the Shopping Spree in St Lucia tour, which will take you to the best places for shopping for china, jewelry, crafts and more.
25. Remember that it’s not all about the beach
The Caribbean has world-famous beaches, but when visiting remember to make time for the cities of the Caribbean as well. With cities that were used as forts during World War II (San Juan) to cities that are hippie havens (Ocho Rios), you’ll find alleyways, cobblestoned streets and rows of restaurants and bars to explore. You can learn about the history of Puerto Plata, tour a rum center and see gorgeous views on the Puerto Plata City Tour with Cable Car Ride tour. Experience the historic and modern portions of Trinidad and learn why it’s call the Port of Spain on the Port of Spain City Tour. Visit Heritage Cay, a local vegetable market and more during the City of St John’s Sightseeing Tour. Nassau History and Heritage tour and Rum Distillery and Old San Juan tour are also informative and popular tours to partake in to better explore each city.
If you’re planning a cruise, check out our Caribbean Shore Excursions that come with a worry-free guarantee and unbeatable prices
- Viator Travel Team