Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024
Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024 - The ABC Islands: Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao
The ABC Islands - Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao - are a trio of sunny, sea-swept gems located just off the coast of Venezuela. With swaying palm trees, powder-soft beaches, and the inviting turquoise waters of the Caribbean, these islands have become a haven for beach lovers and water sports enthusiasts alike.
Aruba is the most developed of the three ABC Islands and a favorite stop for cruise ships. Its beaches stretch for miles, and popular activities includewindsurfing, kiteboarding, sailing, scuba diving, and snorkeling. On the island's rugged eastern coast, visitors can explore Arikok National Park and hike its limestone caves and rugged hills. Afterworking up an appetite, head to Palm Beachto enjoy fresh seafood and Caribbean fusion cuisine as the sun sets over the water.
Just 50 miles east lies low-key Bonaire, which has gained acclaim as one of the world's top shore diving and snorkeling destinations. With over 80 marked dive sites along its leeward coast, divers of all levels can explore pristine reefs and observe sea turtles, rays, and tropical fish. Top snorkel spots include the salt pier at Kralendijk and the coral gardens at something Unique. When it's time for a break, beachgoers can relax on crescent-shaped Pink Beachbefore exploring Washington Slagbaai National Park.
The island of Curaçao rounds out the ABC trio. Here, pastel-colored Dutch colonial architecture adds old-world charm to the lively capital city of Willemstad. Wander the Handelskade waterfront and pop into boutiques before stopping for a cocktail at one of the al fresco bars. Outside the city,Christoffel National Park offers hiking trails that wind past cacti, orchids, and grazing wild donkeys. Curaçao is also renowned for its house reefs that are perfect for beginning divers.
What else is in this post?
- Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024 - The ABC Islands: Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao
- Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024 - Hiking Dominica's Boiling Lake Trail
- Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024 - sampling Street Food in Puerto Rico
- Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024 - Kiteboarding in Barbados
- Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024 - Relaxing on the Pink Sand Beaches of Bermuda
- Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024 - Exploring Mayan Ruins in Cozumel, Mexico
- Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024 - Sailing the British Virgin Islands on a Catamaran
Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024 - Hiking Dominica's Boiling Lake Trail
For those seeking a heart-pumping adventure in the Caribbean, look no further than Dominica's Boiling Lake Trail. This challenging 9-mile trek transports hikers through the island's lush Morne Trois Pitons National Park to a bubbling, belching cauldron of volcanic forces at work.
The strenuous trail starts gently enough, meandering through verdant rainforest filled with mammoth ferns, heliconias, and wild ginger. Passing scenic vistas, you’ll cross narrow ridges, traverse muddy bogs via slippery wooden planks, and navigate rocky scree slopes. Eventually, the steamy sulfur smells offer a hint that you’re getting close.
At the end lies Dominica’s iconic Boiling Lake, the world's second largest flooded fumarole. This stunning natural wonder bubbles and roils, while plumes of steam rise into the air. Hikers are rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the lake’s gray-blue waters churning within its cinder cone crater.
Reaching the Boiling Lake is no easy feat. The round trip can take 6-9 hours depending on your fitness level. Come prepared with supportive hiking boots, trekking poles, plenty of water and snacks. An early start is also key to avoid hiking in the midday heat.
For many, it’s the hike of a lifetime. “It was the most challenging, treacherous, and rewarding hike I've ever done,” shares Andre, who tackled the trail in 2019. “The views along the way were unreal. Reaching the Boiling Lake felt like a huge accomplishment.”
Others offer advice for smart preparation. “Don't underestimate the difficulty of the hike,” cautions Alicia. “Having a guide is helpful since parts of the trail aren’t well marked. Bring lots of water and wear sturdy shoes with good traction."
Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024 - sampling Street Food in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is a prime destination for indulging in mouthwatering street food. From fritters to skewered meats, the variety of quick bites sizzling on sidewalk grills and vendors’ carts reveals much about the island’s culture and flavors. Digging into these casual eats offers a sensory experience that immerses you in Puerto Rican life.
“Eating my way through Old San Juan was a highlight of my trip,” shares Amanda after sampling staples like alcapurrias, empanadillas, and piononos. These savory fritters are filled with ingredients like ground beef, seafood, cheese, or vegetables then deep fried to golden perfection. “The alcapurrias from La Bombonera were some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Crispy on the outside and bursting with seasoned meat on the inside.”
The quintessential Puerto Rican street snack, alcapurrias trace back to the island’s African roots. This fusion cuisine combines the concept of filling a fritter from West Africa with local crops like yucca and green banana. Today, they encapsulate the island’s cultural diversity in one hot, crispy bite.
Beyond San Juan, Mike recommends seeking out lechón asado, Puerto Rico’s famous spit-roasted suckling pig that’s consistently juicy and flavorful. “Near Guavate, roadside stands have mastered the slow roasting process,” he says. “Their generous portions of tender, garlicky pork with crispy skin totally hit the spot after a day exploring the hills.” Locals flock here on weekends for a taste of this iconic comfort food.
Tantalizing aromas draw visitors to pinchos carts, where meat skewers are displayed like edible art. Beef, chicken, pork, or combinations thereof are meticulously stacked, seasoned with sofrito, then grilled over coals or gas flames. “The chicken pinchos in Ocean Park smelled so good, I had to stop for lunch,” recalls Julie. “The vendor meticulously rotated each piece to ensure even cooking.”
Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024 - Kiteboarding in Barbados
Barbados has captured the attention of adventure seekers as the up-and-coming destination for kiteboarding in the Caribbean. With constant trade winds, shallow turquoise waters, and miles of uncrowded beaches, the island offers prime conditions for both beginners and advanced kiteboarders to hit the waves.
“I chose Barbados for my first kiteboarding lessons because I’d heard such great things about the conditions for learning,” shares Janet. “The steady winds were strong but not overpowering, and the waist-deep water felt safe for practicing crashes and relaunches before venturing further out.” Janet took lessons from the patient, experienced instructors at deAction Beach Shop on popular Silver Sands Beach. Within a few days, she’d gained control of the kite and board enough to start riding waves.
Meanwhile, kiteboarding veteran Pablo was eager to discover Barbados’ remote spots on the wilder east coast. “For advanced kiting, the winds and waves around Bathsheba Beach totally delivered,” he raves. “I had stretches of turquoise water all to myself to jump waves and attempt new tricks and jumps.” Pablo recommends codrington college wall as another great spot where gusty winds funnel between two hills, creating a wind tunnel effect. Just be cautious of submerged rocks when launching and landing.
When a day on the water stirs your appetite, Refuel with traditional Bajan dishes like flying fish, cou cou, and macaroni pie. “I loved how the local food provided fuel for kiting while giving me a taste of Barbados culture,” says Janet. Or stop for a rum punch as the sun dips low, toasted to a day well-spent paddling across brilliant waters.
Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024 - Relaxing on the Pink Sand Beaches of Bermuda
With its pastel cottages and breezy oceanside charm, Bermuda radiates a relaxed vibe. But nothing says “kick back and unwind” quite like the island’s blush-colored beaches. Dotting the coastlines, these sandy stretches captivate with their rosy hues – a rare phenomenon caused by finely ground bits of coral and shell mingling with the grains of calcium carbonate.
“I’ve traveled to a lot of places, but I’ve never seen sand in such a gorgeous peachy pink shade,” shares avid beachgoer Naomi. “It was almost surreal, like stepping into a滤镜ed Instagram photo.”
Many flock straight to Horseshoe Bay Beach, widely considered one of the island’s top beaches. Stretching a stunning half-mile in a perfect horseshoe shape, its pale sands and tranquil turquoise waters never fail to impress. Just beware the crowds, especially when cruise ships are docked.
For more seclusion, Naomi suggests heading to rose-tinted Chaplin Bay Beach near the end of Southampton Parish. “It was like having my own private beach paradise!” she says. Here, families relax beneath shady trees near the water while couples stroll hand in hand along the shore.
Meanwhile on Tucker’s Town Beach, Gary and Monica simply planted their beach chairs in the fluffy sand, cracked open a bottle of rosé, and toasted to vacation mode. “We immediately slipped into relaxation mode just taking in the beautiful scenery,” Gary recalls. Sinking your toes into the soft sand really does wonders for releasing stress.
Pink sand beaches also offer prime lounging for beach reads. “I parked myself under a palm tree with my latest murder mystery and just read for hours, stopping occasionally to cool off with a dip in the gentle waves,” says bookworm Amanda. “It was pure bliss.” Reading transports you into other worlds – a welcome effect enhanced by Bermuda’s dreamy landscape.
Seaside yoga is another favorite pastime on these cotton-candy shores. Brianna suggests finding a quiet stretch of sand early in the morning when fewer people are around. “Connecting breath with movement while looking out over glistening waters flowing between the rocks was so centering and restorative for both mind and body.”
To up the relaxation, Gary and Monica treated themselves to couples massages in a beachside cabana at The Reefs Resort. “Having the sound of the ocean waves in the background while enjoying a massage totally enhanced the Zen vibe,” Monica says.
Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024 - Exploring Mayan Ruins in Cozumel, Mexico
Off the coast of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula lies the island of Cozumel, a diving mecca that also harbors spectacular remnants of ancient Mayan civilization. Dotted across the island are temple complexes, plazas, and pyramids left behind by the Maya who inhabited Cozumel from the early Classic Period (300-600 CE) up until the 16th century. Today, these magnificent ruins offer a glimpse into the island’s storied past.
For Debbie, exploring Cozumel's archeological sites gave deeper meaning to her tropical getaway. "Seeing the ruined temples and climbing the structures brought history to life in a tangible way," she shares. "It was incredible picturing the Maya gathering in these plazas for sacred rituals." At San Gervasio, the island's largest and most excavated site, she was amazed wandering amid the temple foundations imagining the complex at its peak.
Meanwhile, Javier was fascinated learning about Mayan culture and architecture at El Cedral. "Our guide explained how the Maya designed El Caracol to align with celestial events like equinoxes," he says. Climbing the adobe brick pyramid, he felt a sense of wonder standing at its summit surveying the surrounding jungle canopy.
However, to fully experience Cozumel's ruins, Mateo advises dedicating a full day to visit El Cedral, San Gervasio, and Isla de las Palomas by taxi or guided tour. "That way, you can immerse yourself in each site without feeling rushed." He suggests bringing plenty of water, sunscreen, and wearing comfortable shoes for exploring the ruins on foot.
At Isla de las Palomas, Mateo enjoyed snorkeling the underwater statue garden, then examining the small temple complex onshore. But the highlight was climbing the lighthouse for panoramic island views. "It was an amazing vantage point to visualize Cozumel’s strategic importance for maritime trade routes during Mayan times."
Beyond the history, Elena appreciated the scenic beauty surrounding the ruins. “Photographing the vivid wildflowers and rugged limestone architecture with the sea as a backdrop was incredible,” she shares. At San Gervasio, she woke early to capture the temple ruins bathed in golden sunrise hues.
Island Hopping: The Top 10 Caribbean Destinations to Discover in 2024 - Sailing the British Virgin Islands on a Catamaran
For travelers seeking a quintessential Caribbean experience, there's nothing quite like charting a catamaran and sailing the aquamarine waters surrounding the British Virgin Islands. This island-hopping adventure combines luxuriating under the sun with discovering hidden coves and secluded beaches only accessible by sea.
"Sailing through the BVIs gave me the fantastic freedom to explore at my own pace and get off the beaten path," shares avid traveler Brad. Along with his wife Ashley and another couple, they booked a 38-foot catamaran out of Tortola. Their captain Rex came highly recommended for his deep local knowledge and passion for sharing the region's natural wonders.
"Having a catamaran as our base made the trip seem so effortless," Brad says. The twin hulls and abundance of space meant no one ever felt crowded or seasick. At night, they would drop anchor in quiet bays and dine beneath a canopy of stars. Brad especially loved waking each morning and diving straight into the tranquil sea before breakfast.
Meanwhile Ashley couldn't get over the spectrum of intensely saturated blues and greens. "Photographing the landscapes around every bend thrilled my artistic eye," she shares. A top highlight was arriving at The Baths on Virgin Gorda early to beat the crowds. There they experienced this stunning labyrinth of sky-high granite boulders surrounding pristine tide pools in near solitude.
Jessica, another BVI sailing fan, remarks on feeling fully immersed in island time. "We fell into the rhythm of watching the sunrise with coffee in hand, snorkeling, reading on deck, sundowners at dusk, repeat." Sailing heightens awareness of nature's cycles while eliminating distractions from the wider world.
For Hannah, meeting locals enriched her cultural experience tremendously. The group would stop to chat with fishermen at Cooper Island or stroll around uninhabited islands imagining what life was like generations ago. These interactions and sense of discovery fostered deeper connections.
A few words of advice for those planning a BVI sailing adventure: provision wisely to avoid running low on essentials, bring motion sickness remedies if prone to queasiness, and be prepared to disconnect - internet access is limited. Opting for a captain allows you to fully enjoy the journey rather than worrying about navigation and boat systems.