Jamaica is the only island that’s actually totally surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. Famous for reggae, there’s the Bob Marley museum to visit as well as Blue Mountain Coffee with excursions to the plantations available. Downhill mountain biking is a favourite activity, where you go into the Blue Mountains and drop down on the bikes – after all, it’s too hot to cycle up them! There are zip-wires through the jungle which are really good fun, and if you remember the film Cool Runnings, they have a bobsled run to go on as well! The Dunns River Falls is one of very few waterfalls in the world that ends in the sea; you can climb up it from the beach and dive into the pools. It’s a lively destination, very music driven and you go there because there’s a lot to do and it’s a big island compared to the other ones. James Bond author Ian Fleming lived in Jamaica, and famously Dr. No was filmed there – remember the scene where Ursula Andress walks out of the sea? That’s Jamaica.
Pictures of St Lucia are usually recognised by The Pitons which are two extinct volcanoes on the island, where you can go scuba diving around the base in a really lovely coral reef. It may interest you to know that Dr. Dolittle was filmed there, and it’s a lush island with lots of coves and little beaches; it’s very laid back compared to some of the others. There’s a lot of boating and yachting around St Lucia, so it’s good for water sports. There are a few long beaches that you can horse ride along into the surf. Near Castries (the capital) there’s a market and lots of restaurants to go to. It’s also close to Rodney Bay where all the yachts get moored up, so you can sit and have a coffee watching the boating and surrounded by the nice restaurants – it’s a charming way to spend the time.
The Dominican Republic is a very large island where they filmed Jurassic Park. It has has the highest mountain in the Caribbean, white water rafting is popular, and Santo Domingo is famed as the original landing place of Christopher Columbus before he went to the US. It’s Spanish speaking where the others are English, and there’s a lot of Meringue dancing – in fact it has a really lovely, lively atmosphere.
Known as ‘Little England’, Barbados has probably got the best choice of restaurants you could have, and if you get the chance to visit the fish market on friday evening then do; it’s all fresh produce that’s been brought in and it’s popular with locals. Again, there are lots of water based sports including swimming with wild turtles, and they are fans of horse racing, which you don’t really get anywhere else in Caribbean. You go to Barbados if you’re looking to chill out. It’s small to get around; the West coast is Caribbean, the East Coast is Atlantic and it has beautiful beaches that are dramatic on one side of the island and more serene on the other.
Antigua is flatter than the other islands. There are 365 beaches, one for each day of the year, and it’s small with a rainforest in the middle, so you can get around easily. Lord Nelson lived there, and it’s the island that’s produced the most cricketers, which is a big deal in the West Indies. Antigua is great for duty free shopping as the cruise ships go in there. It’s very chilled out and the main activity is going to the beach.
A group of lots of little islands, here you tend to get one or two hotels per island and it really is the area to get away from it all. It’s trickier to get to than the other islands as you fly to Barbados or St Lucia and then fly over on a smaller plane. It’s popular for honeymoons and really, truly, properly chilling out. You could walk around Palm Island in an hour, Mustique is a little bigger and has a yachting community; it’s also a favourite amongst the royals Diana, Princess Margaret, and Kate and Wills have all stayed.
The Bahamas are probably more cosmopolitan than the other islands, being the financial centre of the Caribbean. You have the main island of Nassau and then little islands off that. You go there more for the nightlife (there are lots of casinos) and there’s lots of day trips out to the smaller islands, so it’s more about exploring and being active than the other islands; snorkelling and diving for example. It’s the island that’s all about shopping, going out, and being busy.
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