The Western Caribbean is just south of Florida and east of the Gulf of Mexico. It includes the islands of Cuba and Jamaica as well as Central America and parts of Mexico and South America. It is very popular as a cruise destination, for good reason. If you are planning a cruise to the Western Caribbean, here are some highlights that you should try to include.
- The Panama Canal
North and South America are connected by a thin strip of land called the Isthmus of Panama. Until 1914, it was necessary to sail all the way around South America to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific or, if you were sailing a relatively small vessel, to drag it over the isthmus. All that changed with the Panama Canal, and your Western Caribbean cruise gives you the opportunity to see firsthand one of the largest and most challenging engineering feats ever undertaken.
- Roatan, Honduras
Roatan is the largest island in Honduras Bay. However, “largest” may be a relative term in this case because, despite being 40 miles long, at its widest point the island measures only 2.5 miles across. Honduras Bay is home to one of the largest barrier reefs in the world, second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. This draws a lot of snorkelers and scuba divers to Roatan to see the spectacular underwater site. However, Roatan also has attractions for those who prefer to keep their heads above water, such as its pristine white-sand beaches.
- Veragua RainForest
Costa Rica’s Veragua RainForest is actually a theme park, but don’t let that put you off. It features plant and animal wildlife in a dizzying array over its 4,000 acres, and you are guided through the park by staff who are as knowledgeable as they are enthusiastic. It is much closer to a nature preserve than it is to the tacky theme parks in the United States.
- Chichen Itza
If you want your cruise to be educational as well as relaxing, book a trip that allows you to visit Chichen Itza. This is a historical site famous for the remains of ancient Mayan plazas, pyramids, and even a sacred ball court. Chitzen Itza is one of the most famous sites of Mayan ruins, but it is not the only site. If you’re interested in a site that is a little less popular with tourists, check out Dzibilchaltun, an important ceremonial center in Mayan culture, or the impressive array of pyramids at Uxmal.
- Colonial Cartagena
Cartagena is a city in Colombia, a country with a reputation for drug trafficking and crime. While the reputation is not entirely unearned, there is a lot more to the country than that. Cartagena is a good example. Its Old Town preserves colonial architecture from the 16th and 17th centuries, giving it some Old-World charm. It also offers the opportunity to learn more about the colonial era.
- Ocho Rios, Jamaica
In 1988, Jamaica made history by entering a bobsled team in the Winter Olympics despite being a tropical country where it doesn’t snow. The Jamaican bobsled team captured the world’s imagination, and since then, bobsled has held an interest for tourists and locals alike. The Mystic Mountain adventure park in Ocho Rios gives you the opportunity to try a Jamaican bobsled variant, as well as waterslides and ziplines. Another popular attraction near Ocho Rios is the 600-foot Dunn’s River Falls and the lush greenery that surrounds it. There are several different ways of getting to the waterfall, including sea kayak, motorcoach, and hiking.
- Grand Cayman
There are a myriad of fun and interesting adventures that await you in Grand Cayman. You can take a selfie next to a sign that says, “Welcome to Hell” or swim with stingrays at the aptly named Stingray City, one of the few places in the world where you can do so safely.
There are many more fascinating things to see and do in the Western Caribbean. When planning your cruise, you have the opportunity to literally choose your own adventure.
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