19 Things to Do with Your Family on a Caribbean Vacation
I’ve never had just one island in mind when I dream about the Caribbean. There are tropical islands, desert islands, islands so big that they’re home to more than one country and others so small you could hardly fit a tiki bar on them.
Here’s my list of 19 amazing things do on the many Caribbean isles that hops, skips, and jumps from beach to jungle to volcano.
1) Catch a fish and eat it on the same day
Are you ready? Okay…
Grouper, Amberjack, Marlin, Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Snook, Barracuda, Rainbow Runners, Wahoo, Snapper, Bonefish, Tarpon, Sailfish, Parrot Fish, Squirrel Fish, Sporgy, Mackerel. The Caribbean offers all these fish and more.
Just remember that Mahi Mahi, Dorado, Dolphin Fish, and Dradu are all the same fish.
Check out this site for a great list of charter companies by island and fishing type.
And here’s a classic Caribbean fish recipe if you get lucky.
2) Find the best snorkel trail
I’m sure you’re familiar with a walking or hiking trail. But what about a snorkel trail? Trunk Bay - considered by beach aficionados to be one of the most beautiful in the world – has an epic 225-yard underwater snorkeling trail, complete with plaques labeling the diverse species of coral. This snorkel has a lot to see and is great for kids.
3) Dive in an airplane coral reef
Ever wondered what they do with those airplanes confiscated in drug busts? Well, this Convair 240 was sunk off the coast of Aruba to create an artificial reef. Seeing a cockpit covered in coral is a surreal experience to say the least.
4) Take a submarine tour
If you don’t like to get wet, but still want to explore the magnificent reefs of the Caribbean, a submarine tour might be your calling. Plus, it’ll make you feel like Captain Nemo. Check out Atlantis Adventures, which has tours on many of the islands.
5) Swim with stingrays in Grand Cayman
Stingrays may have a scary sounding name, but they’re surprisingly safe and also quite playful. You can feed and even pet them on Stingray City Sandbar in Grand Cayman. Or just watch them from the protection of a glass-bottomed boat.
6) Swim with dolphins
If Tuna is the Chicken of the Sea, then dolphins are the Homo sapiens. There’s nothing quite like swimming with a creature that can keep up with your wit and intellect. The Caribbean is one of the premier places to meet sea animals that share your sophistication. The Bahamas is one of the best spots to swim with dolphins, but you can find tours on most islands.
7) Be yacht rich for a day
You don’t have to be a millionaire to sail a yacht. You can always take a catamaran day cruise and island hop across the Caribbean. The Virgin Islands, especially St. Thomas and St. John, are perfect for a quick jaunt from island to island. For a little extra, you can also learn to sail yourself.
8) Horseback ride at sunset
Have you heard about the newest Nicholas Sparks novel? You’re in it! Well, at least a sunset horseback ride along the beach might make you feel like you’re in a romance novel. Let the sparks fly, as your hair catches the wind like Fabio. Or turn up the adventure and do a zipline horseback ride combo. If you’re on St. John, check out the Fort James Beach Ride.
9) Tubing in the jungle
Take a ride along the rainforest waters into the Caribbean heartland. Jamaica has a number of excellent river adventures including an inner tube safari hat begins at Montego Bay. You can also stick to the rafts and head down the Rio Bueno.
10) Go rum tasting
Rum was invented on Caribbean plantations in the 17th Century and has been the regions signature spirit ever since. Distilled from molasses, this liquor has come a long way. With dozens of varieties and tasting notes, rum is as diverse as whisky or tequila. Any connoisseur would do well to do a rum tasting or tour a local distillery. Check out this guide to the most popular distilleries to visit or this list for the ones you’ve never heard of.
11) Discover the best cocktail
How you make it is one thing and how you mix it is another. Many will debate who makes the best rum cocktail, but a Killer Bee from Sunshine’s beach bar in Nevis is said to be one of the best. To discover what you like most, create a drink checklist and find the one to match your palate. When you come home, you can impress your friends with your cocktail skills.
12) Become beach bar royalty
Find that perfect tiki bar on the beach for a refreshing drink and a fish taco. Many bars in the Caribbean are more than just places to drink. You’ll find delicious food, live music, and even karaoke. They can be a great place to meet people in a laid-back atmosphere.
13) Be a pirate in the Bahamas
The Pirates of the Caribbean were more than a series of Disney movies. Nassau in the Bahamas has a fantastic interactive pirate museum where you can learn the true stories behind the legends. View a replica pirate ship and learn why these islands once provided an ideal hideout for buccaneers.
14) Duty-Free shop, ‘till you drop
Did you know that St. Thomas is one of the 10 best shopping destinations in the world? This tiny Caribbean island is a mecca of duty-free bargains, well below anything in the states. Discover sales tax free shopping in Downtown Charlotte Amalie, Havensight Mall, Red Hook, and more.
15) Listen to local music
Whatever Island you visit, ask a local about their music, and find a show. The Caribbean boasts more styles than any other place on Earth. The cultures of Africa, Europe, Asia and Indigenous tribes mixed in the mini-universe of each island to create some unforgettable sounds. Calypso, Reggae, Junkanoo (Bahamas), Merengue, Bachata, and Dub all have their own place on the Caribbean Isles, and many have even left their mark on American music.
16) Discover a secret beach
The Caribbean’s most popular beaches get too much attention. But maybe that’s a good thing because they keep the secret ones a secret. If you’re an off-the-beaten-pather, then it’s worth making the trek by jeep, foot or boat to one of these secluded gems. Check out Smuggler’s Cove on Tortola, Cayman Kai on Grand Cayman, Mangel Halto Beach on Aruba, or the little islet of Klein Curacao. But remember to keep them secret.
17) Taste the best cuisine in the world
I absolutely love Caribbean food because it’s so fresh. Plus it’s a melting pot of international techniques. You must try Caribbean goat stew, Pelau (caramelized chicken and rice with coconut milk), Blaff (lime-poached fish), conch fritters, turtle soup (if you dare), Jamaican Jerk, and coconut rice pudding.
18) Climb a volcano
Mt. Liamuiga is a dormant, but not extinct volcano on the island of St. Kitts. Several hikes of varying difficulty, take you up the steamy cloud forests that blanket its sides, and then down into the crater. In clear patches you can catch a view of the ocean or spot the island’s native green vervet monkey.
19) Explore a cave
The Caribbean has some great caves both underground and underwater. Each Island has its own system caverns, many of which used to be pirate hideaways. Puerto Rico’s Rio Camuy Cave Park is a great one to explore, as well as Aruba’s Guadirikiri.