If you have decided to take a vacation to the Caribbean, your next big choice is where you should go. Of course, the island you choose will have to accommodate your budget, as well as your vacation needs. While some destinations, such as Paradise Island, are known for their lavish resorts, others are considerably more affordable, especially good news for families traveling on a budget.
One of the most common ways that travel agents and cruise lines break down the Caribbean Islands is by dividing them according to western versus eastern locations. This page details the islands of the Western Caribbean.
The Islands of the Bahamas. No matter what type of vacation experience you seek, the Bahamas are the perfect fit. For the full-blown tourist treatment, complete with glitter, gambling, clubs and partying, consider the three most developed and most frequented islands: New Providence, Paradise and Grand Bahama Islands.
If you’re more of an adventurous explorer, then the underdeveloped Out Islands are for you. Depending on your agenda, each island will appeal to varied types of vacationers:
- Paradise Island: If high-rise hotels and casinos call your number, then Paradise Island is for you. The food, accommodations, entertainment and beaches can’t be beat, but this glittering island is usually overcrowded and very pricey.
- Cable Beach: The development of resorts on Cable Beach is second only to Paradise Island.
- Nassau: Nassau is the capital and largest city of the Bahamas. It doesn’t have as many first-class hotels, but it does have traditional British colonial charm. It’s also less expensive than some of the other islands.
- Grand Bahama Island: The resort area of Freeport/Lucaya is the second most popular tourist destination for good reason.
Explore Grand Bahama Island
Grand Bahama, Bahamas. Without a doubt, the Grand Bahama is the most popular vacation destination of the thirty Bahama islands.
One reason for this is the vast number of shops, night clubs and resorts that cater to tourism. Make a trip to Freeport, the capital of the Grand Bahama, to find popular beaches or cultural shows.
If you are looking for a more historical experience for part of your Bahama vacation, take a day to visit Williams Town or West End, both on the outskirts of Freeport. Each of these cultural landmarks offers a peak inside of the history and development of the Grand Bahama.
Americans traveling to the Grand Bahama would be happy to know that English is the official language of the island. However, keep in mind that they speak English through a distinct Bahamian dialect, which may be confusing at first. Another piece of good news for American tourists is the fact that the Grand Bahama freely accepts the U.S. dollar. Therefore, you need not worry about exchanging your currency.
While the Bahama climate is cooler during its peak season (about 75° from September to May), the off-season caps at about 85°.
Located on the island of New Providence, Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas and a major tourist attraction.
There are many things to do in Nassau, and if the city isn’t enough, just across the bridge is Paradise Island, a small island devoted to high-end resorts. Nassau is the most popular cruise port in the Bahamas for Caribbean vacations. This article provides details about Caribbean vacations in Nassau and Paradise Island, including: things to do, the weather and best times of the year to go.
Grand Cayman is the largest island of the string of islands known as the Caymans. In fact, if you are an avid snorkeler or scuba diver, the Grand Cayman is the place to go.
Not only do the Cayman waters offer divers around 100 percent visibility, but they also are home to one of the biggest limestone reefs in the world. For these reasons, the Grand Cayman is considered to be a top scuba or snorkel location worldwide.
As with other Caribbean islands, the land activities available are just as exciting and interesting as the traditional water sports. For example, tourists can visit the Grand Cayman turtle farm where they can see sea turtles that are as big or bigger then themselves! For a more historical view of the island, take a day trip to Pedro St. James Castle.
As with the Grand Bahama, the Grand Cayman also freely accepts the U.S. dollar. One thing to keep in mind when traveling to the Grand Cayman is that it is susceptible to hurricanes. If you are planning to travel during the hurricane season (from June to November), pay attention to storm watches.
When traveling to the western Caribbean, keep in mind that the Cayman Islands are among one of the few Caribbean Islands that has an off-season from June to the end of August. Most of the other western islands have their peak season during these months. If battling crowds and paying increased rates doesn’t appeal to you, then check to see when the island in which you are interested has its off-season.
Vacations in Jamaica. Unlike some of the other Caribbean islands, Jamaica has a network of rivers that stream through the entire island. As a result, a Jamaican vacation can offer river safaris and water rafting in addition to the scuba diving and snorkeling that make up more traditional Caribbean water activities.
Similarly, the rivers provide a series of waterfalls and inland pools that spice up any hike. If you are seeking out the cultural side of the island, visit the National Gallery of Jamaica. In addition to contemporary cultural art, the Gallery also houses some unique historical artifacts.
One museum that is a hot spot is the Bob Marley museum. Because Bob Marley is one of the most famous reggae musicians of all time, this museum is solely dedicated to him. It includes the original song sheets, as well as various other pieces of Marley memorabilia.
Another distinct feature of Jamaica is its imports. Rum and coffee are the two main products that Jamaica produces. If you are traveling to Jamaica, bring back a bottle of rum or some coffee beans to your loved ones. They make great souvenirs!
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. While many people visit Punta Cana for the beaches and resorts, don’t think that the only thing you can do on a Punta Cana vacation is lounge on the beach. Punta Cana visitors can take in a variety of attractions.
Here’s a list of some of the more popular Punta Cana attractions visitors enjoy:
Golfing: Most of the resorts in Punta Cana feature well-maintained golf courses. The P.B. Dye golf course, for example, has been likened to a Matisse sculpture, due to its voluptuous lines. The course offers ocean views from 14 holes. Greens fees are $70 per person, which includes golf cart rental.
Helicopter Tours: A popular activity for Punta Cana visitors is sightseeing in a helicopter. Taking a helicopter excursion over Punta Cana provides vacationers with breathtaking views of the island. As you fly over the turquoise waters of the Punta Cana beaches, your tour guide will provide you information on the historical and geographical background of the area. Helicopter tours typically last ten to twenty minutes and cost between $45 and $80.
The Manatee Park: The Manatee Park is a sanctuary for rare animals. It offers Punta Cana visitors an exciting educational and cultural experience. What began as a conservation and research project has now grown into a popular Punta Cana tourist attraction. Visitors can watch dolphin, sea lion, parrot and horse shows. They can also see a recreated traditional Taino village.
Because it’s such a small island, tourists can easily get around with a rented scooter or moped. However, you’ll likely not be doing much traveling around the island due to the fact that recreation in St. Maarten revolves primarily around water sports.
Scuba diving, snorkeling and boating are some of the most popular activities of this Caribbean destination. The beautiful waters of St. Maarten make it the perfect destination for anyone interested in exploring the underwater realm. While other islands of the Caribbean offer much to do in the way of water sports, St. Maarten is particularly noted for its surfing and deep sea fishing.
TURKS AND CAICOS
The Turks and Caicos beaches are part of the third-largest coral reef system in the world. So, while the inner areas of the islands may lack in activities, the underwater scenery is the real star of a Turks and Caicos vacation.
Snorkeling and scuba diving are the most popular activities to do during a Turks and Caicos vacation for good reason. The reef systems of the Turks and Caicos Islands consistently rank among the top 10 dive locations on the planet. Ocean activities are among the most popular diversions during a Turks and Caicos vacation. Sport fishing off the coast of the Turks and Caicos Islands is spectacular. Visitors can also parasail and take part in other water sports. Turks and Caicos resorts often organize many water-based activities for their guests.