The Caribbean's Top Natural Attractions
Visitors to the Caribbean will find much to see and do—from fantastical resorts to historical sites to world-class shopping to casinos. But there are also some impressive natural attractions that enthrall and amaze visitors.
By Lisa Mullins Bishop
Caribbean Edge Staff Writer
Here's Caribbean Edge's short list of some intriguing natural attractions you won't want to miss.
1. The Baths (Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands)
These immense granite boulders are as mysterious as the huge monoliths at Stonehenge in England. While the stones of Stonehenge are off limits to visitors, those at the Baths are more visitor friendly. Located along the water's edge, these stones create caves, caverns, and small tidal pools that invite exploration. Visitors can swim, snorkel, or dive in the area around the boulders. Be sure to don your bathsuit so you can explore the Baths from both land and sea.
2. Drive-In Volcano (La Soufriere, St. Lucia)
Truly an out-of-the-ordinary experience. St. Lucia is a volcanic island, and at La Soufriere visitors can see a volcano up close. Here, visitors can drive their cars right up to this semi-active volcano, then park the car and walk with a guide through a fault in the rock. You'll smell the sulfur and see a bubbling, hissing crater that spans more than five acres.
3. Harrison's Cave (Barbados)
This limestone cave is reputed to be the largest of its kind in the Caribbean. Visitors board an electric tram that takes them through an extensive cave system with an amazing spectacle of stalactites and stalagmites. Visitors pass a 40-foot waterfall and numerous crystal-clear underground pools and streams. This limestone cave is reputed to be the largest of its kind in the Caribbean.
4. Stingray City (Cayman Islands)
Truly an amazing site. At Stingray City off the northwestern tip of Grand Cayman Island, divers complete an easy 12-foot dive to swim in crystal-clear waters. Their companions? Dozens of relatively tame stingrays swimming all around their fellow divers. Those wishing to snorkel can do so in the shallower waters of the Stingray City Sandbar.
5. St. John National Park (U.S. Virgin Islands)
This island comes closest to that ideal of an unspoiled tropical paradise. Nearly two-thirds of the island has been designated a national park. There are trails throughout the park or visitors can take a guided walk with a park ranger. Those opting to hike the Reef Bay Trail while see remnants of a sugar plantation, tropical plants and trees, and petroglyphs at the trail's end. St. John is well known for its white sand beaches and beautiful blue waters. Trunk Bay on the island has a marked underwater trail that is popular with snorkelers and divers.
6. Bio Bay (Vieques)
Known as "Mosquito Bay," this narrow, shallow bay surrounded by mangroves is home to microscopic organisms that emit a phosphorescent light when the calm saltwater is disturbed. The blue-green light emitted by this protozoan is brighter than that of a flashlight. Visitors to the so-called Bio Bay can swim in the water, kayak, or take a cruise on an electric boat. The experience has been described as "swimming with fireflies."
7. Buck Island Reef (St.Croix)
Buck Island has been called "one of the finest marine gardens in the Caribbean Sea." Located off the northeast coast of St. Croix in the USVI, Buck Island is a 176-acre island surrounded by an extraordinary coral reef system. Those not wanting to get wet can view the gorgeous display of yellow, green, and purple corals and rainbow-colored fish, such as queen angelfish, yellow tang, parrotfish, from glass bottom boats. Snorkelers and scuba divers can trace the underwater snorkeling trail, where informative markers along the way point out the various coral formations, such as elkhorn, black, and brain corals, as well as the numerous species of fish, some 250 in all. The numerous grottoes and labyrinths tempt scuba divers to further exploration. A number of endangered species, including leatherback, green sea, and hawksbill turtles and brown pelicans, use the island as their nesting grounds.
8. Diamond Mineral Falls and Mineral Baths (St. Lucia)
Nestled in St. Lucia's Diamond Botanical Gardens are the Diamond Waterfall and the Diamond Mineral Baths. Waters from underground sulfur springs bubble to the surface and run downhill to create the magnificent Diamond Waterfall. As the waters cascade over the mineral-encrusted rocks, the Diamond Waterfall becomes a kaleidoscope of color, changing color throughout the day from yellow to black to green to gray to purple. In 1713, The discovery of sulfur springs on the estate led the Governor of St. Lucia to send samples to France. Physicians there confirmed that the mineral waters possessed the same healing properties as the mineral baths at Aix-les-Bains in France and Aix-de-Chappelle in Germany. King Louis XIV ordered baths constructed at the site of the sulfur springs to "provide recuperative effects for French soldiers fighting in the West Indies." The French Governor had a bathhouse with a dozen baths constructed in 1784. The bathhouse was destroyed after the French Revolution, but in the 1930s the estate owner excavated two of the original twelve stone baths, and had them restored. Today visitors can experience for themselves the restorative powers of these mineral waters, which register 106 degrees F.
9. EL Yunque (Puerto Rico)
The Caribbean National Forest, or El Yunque, is a 28,000-acre rainforest. While its best to hike the forest with a tour guide, you can do it alone if you prefer. There are 13 well-maintained hiking trails meandering through the rainforest for both the expert hiker and those looking for a short, easy hike. Keep an eye out for Puerto Rico's endangered green parrot. Throughout the forest are more than 67 types of birds and 240 tree species, not to mention other flora like ferns, impatiens, and other tropical blooms and greens.
10. Dunn's River Falls (Jamaica)
One of Jamaica's most famous tourist destinations, this 600-foot waterfall is truly an awesome sight. The clear, cold waters make their way over a series of stone steps leading to the waters of the warm Caribbean below. Swimsuit-clad visitors climb the slippery steps with the help of a guide. For safety, climbers make a human chain, holding the hands of those above and below them. Along the way, guides regale climbers with stories of local lore, history, and events. Once at the top of the falls, visitors exit into a colorful marketplace.