The top three islands of the Caribbean

By | Tuesday, Aug 13, 2013

When you think of a Caribbean holiday it’s likely that sunshine and white sandy beaches spring to mind, and whilst the dozens of islands that constitute the Caribbean certainly share these features, they are also incredibly diverse. With so many islands to choose from, planning a holiday in the Caribbean can be difficult, which is why we’ve put together this brief guide to the best places to visit in the region.

We’ve tried to cover a good spread of places, so that if you’re specifically interested in history, adventure or wildlife you’ll know exactly where to go. If you’re charmed by the idea of them all, then why not combine a few destinations on one of MSC’s Caribbean Cruises? To inspire your trip, here’s our pick of the top three islands to visit in the Caribbean.

Puerto Rico

If you’re planning on visiting Puerto Rico then be sure to make a stop in its capital, San Juan. With San Juan, you don’t have to choose between culture and sunny beaches –it has an abundant supply of both. Head to the city centre to see architecture ranging from Spanish colonial to 20th-century Art Deco and take in the local art scene in the new Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, which boasts a huge collection of Latin American and Caribbean artworks. There’s also the Teatro Tapia (Tapia Theatre), which is one of the oldest theatres in the western hemisphere. The theatre still hosts a variety of shows including ballets, concerts and plays, so make sure to book tickets.

Once you’ve had your fill of cultural pursuits, it’s time to see some of the natural beauty that Puerto Rico has to offer. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience head to Mosquito Bay, located on the southern shore of the tiny Vieques Island. This bay is known for its bioluminescent organisms, which glow a bluish-green when disturbed. Travellers from all over the world come to swim in these waters and witness the magical effect of the creatures’ phosphorescent trails. If you’re still craving adventure then take a guided trip to the El Yunque national rainforest, in the east of Puerto Rico. Here you’ll discover stunning nature trails, waterfalls and hopefully spot many of the 240 species of plants and wildlife that live in this area.

Trinidad, Trinidad and Tobago

The sister islands of Trinidad and Tobago are both worth a visit, but if you only have time for one then head to Trinidad – the larger of the two. Trinidad is the perfect Caribbean island to visit if you’re looking to experience authentic Creole culture. The island also boasts a lively party scene, which peaks with one of the world’s best annual carnivals in either February or March each year so making a visit around this time is advised.

Once you’re ready to escape from the bustle of the carnival, why not head out for a spot of bird-watching? In Trinidad, which acts as a natural aviary on a major migratory route, this typically sedate activity is transformed into something much more exciting. Among species you are likely to encounter either on a guided bird-watching trip or just exploring on your own are the piping guan, bearded bellbird and the scarlet ibis – Trinidad’s national bird. If you want to see something truly magical, head to Yerette, a secret garden in Trinidad’s Maracas Valley which hosts the largest concentration of hummingbirds in the Caribbean.

Dominican Republic

With its rich history and mixture of European, African, and native Taíno Indian cultures, there’s no place quite like the Dominican Republic. In one day here as a tourist you’ll feel as though you’ve travelled the world, since every aspect of life on the island from the food to music, art, sports and religion reflects the country’s fascinating and diverse heritage. To get a true taste of the culture, try some of the local cuisine, which has a Latin American feel but with twists of Taíno and African flavouring.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Dominican Republic’s rich culture then make a visit to the capital city of Santo Domingo. Here you will find a huge collection of museums, galleries and historic sites. It is also thought that the remains of the great explorer Christopher Columbus lie in Santo Domingo (although Seville in Spain also makes this claim). Once you’ve had your fill of culture, then you will most likely want to experience the beautiful beaches that the Caribbean is famed for. For the best of the best, head to Cap Cana beach in the Punta Cana area of the island. Here you’ll find the promised white sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters and stunning views that you’ve been waiting for.

Editors Note: This a guest post