There’s no escaping the fact that cooler temperatures are on the way in most parts of the northern hemisphere. But, you can escape to sunnier skies and warmer weather and one of best ways to do it is to sail into the Caribbean. A cruise is one of the most convenient ways to take a family vacation, with plenty of activities for all ages both onboard and in the ports of call you’ll visit. Southern Caribbean cruises in particular are sheer joy in the “winter,” because it’s not too hot to explore the wide range of natural landscape the region offers, yet still warm enough to savor time on some of the world’s best beaches. When you travel to the Southern Caribbean, you’ll be able to sample unique, local things to eat and explore quaint villages with plenty of things to buy that will forever remind you of your warm winter cruise getaway.
Here are some of the top places to visit when you cruise to the Southern Caribbean.
It’s famous for its rum, for its diving and for its devotion to cricket. But even if you’re not into any of those things, you’ll find lots to love about this beautiful island nation. While independent, Barbados is part of the British Commonwealth and you can feel the English influence in its plantations, botanic gardens and 17th-century churches. But make no mistake, this is the Caribbean at its finest, with beaches built for everything from wind-surfing to picnics.
2. St. Lucia
If you love lush green landscapes set against a sparkling blue sea, St. Lucia and its majestic Pitons are for you. The famous Gros Piton and Petit Piton make an impressive backdrop for your time on the beach or perhaps they will inspire you to head into the rainforest and hike to a waterfall. White-sand beaches, black-sand beaches, St. Lucia has them both—but even when you’re away from the shoreline, you’ll be mesmerized by dramatic views and the feeling that you’re living in a picture-perfect postcard.
3. St. Kitts
If you want to visit a low-key, laidback island on your Southern Caribbean cruise, pick an itinerary that calls at St. Kitts. This volcanic island has a slower pace than many other Caribbean nations, even though it also offers up opportunities to get your heart pumping as you commune with nature, like zip-lining, hiking up a mountain or exploring a rainforest. Historic mills, a vintage railway and a colonial capital, Basseterre, add some culture to your visit, and of course sweeping stretches of sand with stunning views of the ocean and neighboring islands will lure you in for quality beach time.
4. San Juan
History buffs, fashionistas, foodies, adventure-seekers, beach lovers… Travelers of all kinds will find plenty of what they love in San Juan, which offers both city culture and a more laidback vibe. In charming Old San Juan, you can shop for handmade treasures along cobblestoned streets and sample authentic Puerto Rican food in local cafes. You can even do some cooking yourself and learn to make Puerto Rico’s famous dish, Mofongo, part the Old San Juan Walk, Mojito and Mofongo Experience. For more active excursions, adventure seekers can explore rainforest trails on horseback or ATV tours, or head to the island’s beaches. The city is also a great destination for families, given the range of activities and the chance for little ones to learn about awe-inspiring history at fortresses like Old San Juan’s El Morro and San Cristobal.
Aruba has world-famous beaches, where you’ll find plenty of divers, snorkelers, water-sports devotees and other people simply excelling at the art of doing not much at all. The island has a desert-like interior that makes for action-packed shore excursions, and a capital city, Oranjestad, with a delightful Dutch heritage, colorful architecture, bustling shopping and busy casinos.
Coral reefs, pink flamingoes, the beach and mangroves—Bonaire is a great place to swim, dive and snorkel, and it has a rich history and Dutch flavor to savor once you’ve dried off.
Like its neighbors in “The ABCs,” Curacao was once part of the Netherland Antilles and its colorful past lives on in the rainbow-colored architecture of downtown Willemstad. It’s cosmopolitan—with delicious food and its world-famous liqueur, and a trove of shops to browse. But it’s also a natural wonderland, with beautiful beaches and striking caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites.
Southern Caribbean itineraries also call at other ports worth exploring, including St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Dominica.