BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday August 30, 2016 – Mapping out a Caribbean cruise itinerary – and selecting how to spend your time ashore – can be overwhelming. After all, beyond breathtaking beaches and scenic trails, the Caribbean’s diverse isles offer an array of port activities and shore excursions you can – and should – partake in if you have time to spare. You can book shore excursions directly with your cruise line, through a reputable tour outfitter or explore on your own. Still, some Caribbean excursions are more popular than others, and for good reason. Here are five Caribbean excursions and daytrips you should try at least once in your lifetime.
1. Stingray City
Imagine enjoying a relaxing boat ride along the shores of the Cayman Islands. When the boat stops over a sand bar, however, your boat is surrounded quickly by giant stingrays. This is exactly how a visit Stingray City in the Cayman Islands plays out. Because the stingrays are used to being fed, they happily greet visitors. If you venture off your boat and onto the soft sand below, they’ll gladly swim around you and underneath you – and even let you hold them. The best part about Stingray City is that these creatures are absolutely wild. So unlike a visit to a SeaWorld Adventure Park, you don’t have to feel guilty about enjoying the company of these amazing creatures. Trips out to Stingray City start at around $30 from Grand Cayman, but you can pay more for a private or semi-private boat tour.
2. Maho Beach
St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport hangs on a stretch of land right next to the open ocean, yet a thin strip of beach stands between the short runway and the surrounding turquoise waters. Every year, thousands of people flock to this beach to watch enormous planes take off and land. And if you position yourself against the fence near Runway 10, you can feel the engine power push you toward the beach. Best of all, the experience is absolutely free. And if you need a place to rest while you watch, the bars adjacent to the airport offer prime viewing locations and cold drinks.
3. Trunk Bay
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. John offers a wide range of lodging options, with a mix of high-end and budget-friendly resorts. Still, thanks to the island’s convenient location and proximity to other Caribbean isles, St. John makes for a great daytrip, whether you’re arriving on the car barge from St. Thomas or taking a private boat. Trunk Bay in St. John offers turquoise waters and world-renowned sands. Consistently named one of the most beautiful places in the world, Trunk Bay is worth a trip all on its own. A variety of reputable tour operators offer daytrips to St. John, but f you want to explore on your own and take the car barge from St. Thomas to St. John, expect to pay around $50 round-trip.
4. Swim with Whale Sharks
Certain times of the year – most notably, June through September – intrepid travelers can experience up-close encounters with whale sharks. Most whale shark swimming excursions depart from the Riviera Maya near Cancun, but you can also partake in this expedition from Belize. This once-in-a-lifetime excursion typically costs around $200 per person, but affords the chance to swim along the giant animal and watch it feed on plankton. And after all, how often do you get to see an animal of mythic proportions in its natural ocean habitat?
5. Swim with Sea Turtles
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. Thomas is well known for its inspiring island scenery and fascinating wildlife. In nearby Turtle Cove, for example, you can swim alongside magical sea turtles. Watch these captivating creatures feed on the sea floor and effortlessly glide through the surf, all while keeping an eye out for other interesting aquatic life that could be nearby. If you want to tack on a few days to your cruise vacation, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas offers guests an opportunity to book this excursion as part of their vacation package, though you can also book individual turtle watching excursions elsewhere. A half-day snorkel trip from Bolongo Bay Beach Resort starts at $75 for adults and $55 for children.
While the Caribbean is known for its crystal clear waters, white-sand beaches and picturesque scenery, there are plenty of action-packed and worthwhile excursions to try. You just need to know where to look. Next time you’re heading on a Caribbean cruise, consider a guided excursion to enjoy can’t-miss sights and attractions across different isles. (US News & World Report)