The Caribbean is such an alluring place that it hardly seems possible to single out any one destination for its visual appeal. And yet, some places make an especially memorable first impression when your cruise ship arrives. These islands do just that, captivating travelers with their rich mix of architecture, culture and natural beauty.
If you’re looking to start snapping Insta-worthy pics on your next cruise, check out these destinations:
Honduras doesn’t get the same foot traffic as some of its Caribbean neighbors, so the magic in this southerly destination is its simple, untamed beauty—it’s a mecca for divers and snorkelers. This port does have some restaurants and shops, but what you’ll see most clearly when you arrive are the clear waters that house incredible coral reefs, lots of palm trees, and, because of its abundance of fish, the largest fleet of fishing boats in the western Caribbean.
One of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean always delivers with its breathtaking landscape and views. Surrounded by lush mountains and filled with shimmering bays, travelers visiting St. Thomas have the choice of relaxing on powdery-soft beaches or sampling what’s on offer in the “shopping capital of the Caribbean,” all while making pit stops at some of the island’s famous restaurants along the way.
The natural scenery is the real draw here, from Mountain Top to Magens Bay. The glitz of the well-heeled town and the people it attracts doesn’t hurt, either. Next door, there’s St. John, an easy-to-reach neighbor known for its picturesque town of Cruz Bay and large national park.
It doesn’t take long to see why St. George’s is considered one of the most photogenic locales in the Caribbean: ships are greeted with pristine, white colonial buildings with red rooftops and rolling green mountains behind them. While yachts and small boats lounge in the midnight blue water, tropical birds and rare flowers fill the Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve, which includes a lake in an extinct volcano. If the sights don’t wow your senses enough, the aroma will: Grenada is a leading source of nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and cocoa, and is filled with spice trees.
Some two million people travel to Puerto Rico through this port every year, where they get a magical first impression of this tropical country. Many are lured by the nearby natural wonders, like El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Parks System.
But Old San Juan beckons with its rows of brightly colored buildings flanked by dramatic fortresses. It’s the second-oldest European settlement in the New World, and showcases its historic charm alongside vibrant cultural draws that bring it into the modern age—don’t miss the Ballaja Barracks or Quincentennial Square, and be sure to try the mofongo and coquito for which Puerto Rico is known.
The view when you arrive in Castries is nothing short of dramatic: the famous twin peaks of the Pitons, two towering volcanic spires, surrounded by unspoiled rainforest and palm-fringed beaches. You can hike the Pitons—which stand at more than 2,600 feet—tour the banana valleys below, and visit the local fishing villages while you’re here. In town, shopping is the name of the game, with steep deals on luxury goods at the Spanish-style complex of Pointe Seraphine.
Cozumel sits just off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, close to Playa del Carmen, and its unique position has allowed a lively culture that blends Mexican and Caribbean elements to thrive. It’s evident from your first glimpse of the water, which is a near-blinding blue, bordered with Spanish colonial-style buildings, vibrantly colored shops and restaurants, white-sand beaches studded with palm trees, and nearby Maya ruins. There’s hardly a high-rise in sight, making it obvious that the focus here is on what’s at your fingertips: food, fun and an array of natural wonders that are hard to find elsewhere.
Made up your mind about where you want to go? Then head right this way.