There are a million things not to miss when visiting the Caribbean–truly, it’s a magical place. Most people don’t realize that the Caribbean is really a chain of over 7,000 very diverse islands, and different countries. The Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Puerto Rico, the Windward Islands, and of course, the Virgin Islands, are just a few of the unique nations throughout the chain that are rich with ancient ruins, delicious cuisine, romantic history and once in a lifetime experiences.
Our first “don’t miss” is in beautiful Puerto Rico. It’s the world’s finest underwater light show!
A major Caribbean hub, Puerto Rico offers the best of everything–a history steeped in pirate lore, friendly people, amazing cuisine and stunningly beautiful beaches–but go deeper, because Puerto Rico holds a myriad of secrets–perhaps the best one being that it’s home to a natural phenomenon–three bioluminescent bays. The underwater light show comes to life when tiny microorganisms known as dinoflagellates light up when disturbed, making the water around them shimmer like a liquid fireworks display. Three spots in Puerto Rico are home to these eco-wonders—La Parguera, in the southwest part of the main island; Fajardo, on the island’s northeast coast; and the most amazing, Mosquito Bay, on the south coast of Vieques Island.
When the U.S. Navy packed up and left Vieques in 2003, after more than 60 years, it left something behind: unspoiled nature. Land once used for bombing practice is now designated as a national wildlife refuge. There are only two towns on Vieques–Isabel Segunda on the northern side, and Esperanza on the south. The bay to visit is Puerto Mosquito. Of the seven bioluminescent bays on the planet (three are found on Puerto Rico), Puerto Mosquito is the most impressive, thanks to the clarity and brightness of it’s waters. On a moonless night, go for a swim or kayak tour and you’ll be greeted by billions of micro-organisms called dinoflagellates that ignite the water with a magical blue-green glow. It’s like swimming in a watercolor painting.
Next, in the British Virgin Islands, Jost Van Dyke is home to the world’s best cocktails.
Can you capture the Caribbean in a cup? The answer is yes. The Painkiller, invented in the 1970’s at legendary beach bar The Soggy Dollar, is a seriously sweet combination of dark rum, coconut cream, pineapple juice, and orange juice, sprinkled with nutmeg. The island’s lack of a dock is the inspiration for the bar’s name–visits wade in from their boats, paying for their Painkillers with waterlogged currency. Around the bend in the next harbor is Foxy’s Bar, which features the only micro-brewery in the Virgin Islands. The bar, which is known for its annual New Year’s Eve party—voted the #3 best place to spend New Year’s eVe (behind Times Square and Piccadilly Circus)—also features delicious grub ripe with the flavors of the islands.
Leatherback Turtles nest in refuges throughout the Caribbean. They are named for their unique shell which is composed of a layer of thin, tough, rubbery skin strengthened by thousands of tiny bone plates that make it look “leathery.” The leatherback is the only sea turtle that lacks a hard shell. The largest turtles on earth—they can measure over seven feet long and weigh over 1,000 pounds–are also impressively tenacious, having managed to survive as a species for over 100 million years. The Sea Turtle Conservancy, established in 1959, aims to keep the critters around for another 100 million. The group runs all kinds of conservation programs, and can provide information on how to “adopt” a sea turtle (for donation purposes only) and where to find volunteer opportunities to help preserve turtle habitats.
The Caribbean is full of unique, amazing experiences that are not to be missed, so put a trip to this amazing part of the Caribbean on your bucket list!