Things to do in the Caribbean

To many people the Caribbean is the most picturesque location in the world, offering a bountiful of glories. Most obvious are the beaches and swaying palm trees where you will spend hours, possibly with a rum in your hand, watching the waves crash against the shore. But there are plenty of other things to enjoy on the many islands dotted across the region. And all of these activities can be enjoyed under blue skies and a warm sun amongst friendly people. We have listed just a few of the things you might like to experience on your next trip to a Caribbean paradise.

Meet the marine life

If you are a scuba diver then the Caribbean is a dream destination for a scuba diving holiday. The waters are often calm (and, of course, warm) and you will be setting off on your adventure from some of the planet’s best beaches. The creatures you find in the water are spectacular in the extreme, as is the coral and other fauna. The biggest challenge you face is which diving spot to choose from a seemingly endless list. It is actually hard to go wrong and all the major destinations offer scuba experiences beyond parallel.

If you would like to explore a shipwreck then Aruba has one that is teeming with life and hidden mysteries. Close by, the island of Bonaire is renowned for the treasures it offers within its National Marine Park and famous sites such as the Alice in Wonderland Reef and the ‘1,000 steps’. The latter’s name is misleading and you will spend more time enjoying your swim than walking underwater. The Blue Hole of Belize is a vertical cave almost 400 feet deep and demands to be explored to view stalactites and the resident sharks. Give the Turks and Caicos islands a go for superb visibility underwater and the remarkable marine life that thrives in this region. Come back to the Caribbean year after year to find something new.

Go golfing at some of the world’s best courses

For those who enjoy a holiday of driving and putting, the Caribbean presents a huge array of courses where your 18 holes can be ticked off in amazing surroundings. Often these courses have been designed by well-known professionals but all offer sun-kissed memories and a terrain that is a long way from your windswept 9-holes at home.

King of the islands for golfers is the Dominican Republic which offers more places to play than any other location. Probably the most famous is Teeth of the Dog, a rugged challenge on the edge of a cliff, full of doglegs and beautiful vistas. However, other courses on the island, such as Playa Grande, Corales and La Cana, are an equal treat.

Barbados does not disappoint either with a selection of courses that offer the luxury experience you would expect from this beautiful island. The Green Monkey course is a must-try if you are in the vicinity. Head for Jamaica and enjoy the White Witch golf course which has an intriguing collection of elevations but 5 different tee placements so those with higher handicaps still have a chance of chalking up a decent score.

Chill out at a music festival

The Caribbean is a place where music comes naturally. Whether it is the world famous rhythms of reggae or the beats of the merengue that get everyone dancing - you will find big smiles and big tunes across the islands. Some of the globe’s best music festivals take place in the region where these sounds are celebrated in full and enjoying a live band on a beach in the Caribbean will be a moment to treasure for the rest of your life.

Probably the biggest festival is Sumfest in Jamaica which has an almost 30 year history of offering the best reggae and dancehall music around. You would be joining thousands dancing on the streets, beaches and venues of the island for days of pure aural bliss.

Go to St Kitts in the last week of June for one of the most diverse music festivals in the calendar with a 20 year track record of unforgettable experiences., spectacular. For something slightly different, the Meet! Festival in the Dominican Republic offers a huge line-up of talent from the underground scene with the added bonus of free access to the Aquapark and cool clubs throughout its seven day reign. Get even more laidback at the St. Lucia Jazz and Art Festival which delivers brilliant live music and an array of surrounding events including a fashion show. Discover the music and dance in the Dominican Republic.

Enjoy the local rum from source

If one drink is synonymous with the Caribbean then it is the rum that can be used in endless cocktails or imbibed neat with ice and a slice of lime. It seems to encapsulate the sunshine and joy of the region. If you want to try the best of the best then a distillery tour is recommended where you can see how the drink is made and then, best of all, taste the local produce at the end of your tour. There are numerous distilleries on the islands and likely to be some type of experience wherever you decide to base yourself.

On Martinique, visit Habitation Clement for a tour of the botanical gardens and fascinating plantation buildings to get a sense of its history before trying the drink itself which is dished out in generous portions. If you want to go to the rum capital of the world then Puerto Rico has a valid claim to the title. Bacardi has a superb tour where you will also learn how to make the perfect cocktail. The Dominican Republic offers big flavours to go with the memorable natural beauty and its Brugal Rum is made extra smooth by the way the warehouses are positioned to benefit from the sun – tours can be enjoyed every day. The Bahamas does not disappoint either with its famous John Watling's Distillery named after an old time swashbuckler. Enjoy the port of Nassau and savour the rum with a bowl of the local chowder.

Indulge in some retail therapy

Shopping in the Caribbean is a joy, especially if you choose the days when the sun is not beating down so harshly. It can range from the experience of perusing arts and crafts and picking up unique souvenirs created by the locals to exploring air-conditioned malls and wincing slightly at the prices of the brand labels. Either way, make sure your credit card still has some wiggle room left for a holiday purchase.

For the luxury side of things, St. Maarten island is hard to beat where the cruise ship traffic has created a retail offering that covers electronics and designer fashion. Its close ties with France means you will always be able to pick up something chic whether that's a new outfit or a perfume. The Dominican Republic is a treasure chest of handicrafts with local gemstones such as larimar adding lustre to jewelry and other trinkets. Furniture is also a good buy here if you are able to transport it home. You will find stalls dotted along the coast ready to provide you with authentic, beautiful objects of desire. Barbados lives up to its reputation as a playground for the rich and famous with an equally high end collection of shops. The Limegrove Lifestyle Centre is a heaven for those who love their brand labels including Cartier and Gucci.

Eat, eat and then eat some more

It is very easy to turn your holiday in the Caribbean into a foodie tour. The best word to describe the region’s cuisine is ‘vibrant’ and its amalgamation of many different cultures - including African, Latin American and Indian - means some familiar flavours will feel fresh again when given a unique Caribbean spin.

First up is the seafood which, as you might expect from locations surrounded entirely by water, is fresh and delicious. The flying fish of Barbados, salted cod in the Dominican Republic and shark in Trinidad all come recommended. Jamaican jerk chicken is something you really need to try from source as well as the local goat curry which tastes so much better than the version you enjoy at home. For vegans and vegetarians you will find plenty of ways to enjoy plantain or breadfruit which are cooked to perfection and could be the best street food you have ever experienced. Add to this the fresh fruit, roti wraps and countless other adventures for your taste buds and you have a destination where every meal offers a new sensation.

Swim with the piggies

Finally, let us narrow things down to one activity which you are unlikely to encounter anywhere else in the world. Imagine being on a beautiful beach but also imagine that you are sharing the sands with a friendly tribe of pigs who enjoy a dip in the sea as much as the tourists. You will need to book your stay in the Bahamas for this experience where Pig Beach can be found and the snuffling, happy creatures roam freely around charming everyone with their brown and pink snouts. Where did the pigs come from? Depending on who you believe they are either refugees from a shipwreck or animals left behind to breed and provide a future feast for some hungry sailors. Either way, they have established their presence on the island and will not be leaving any time soon.

It is possible to feed these delightful creatures, and early in the morning is the best time to catch them going for a swim. However, you may want to leave them in peace at some point or risk spending your day by the sea fending off animals demanding a few more treats. Luckily there are plenty of other sunbathing spots in the Bahamas to choose from if you start to feel uncomfortable from the porcine attention.

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