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Our Favorite Swimming Holes in the Caribbean

Some people travel for food. Others travel for art. We travel to swim.

It’s not a conscious thing, though. And by that, I mean we don’t plan our trips around swimming the way surfers do for waves. Truthfully, it’s a fact I never realized until sitting down to write this story. As I reflected on our travels, from Iceland to Italy to Greece to Baja to the Maldives, I realized swimming has been our one constant activity.

During the last few years, we’ve traveled closer to home, because we wanted to be near loved ones. Fortunately, we got to explore the western Caribbean aboard two Carnival cruise ships. We went to the islands to swim and that’s exactly what we did.

Along the way, we discovered so many refreshing swimming holes, some on our own and others via excursions. These are our five favorite places to swim in the western Caribbean.

West Bay Beach – Roatán, Honduras

It doesn’t really get any prettier than West Bay Beach in Roatan. Honduras’ Bay Islands have been luring divers for years, and after our visit, I can see why. Flush with flora and fauna, sugar white sand and jewel-tone water, West Bay Beach is pure paradise. We didn’t have a lot of time, but we made the most of it. Locals sell beer and rent snorkel gear on the beach, making for a cheap and easy beach outing. And the water is exactly what you would expect: Perfect.

Cheeseburger Reef – Grand Cayman

Diving is something that’s been on our to-do list for so long, it’s almost embarrassing we haven’t gotten certified yet. So, when we discovered an introductory scuba excursion on our first Caribbean cruise, we signed up immediately. Really, that’s where our love of Grand Cayman started. Within an hour of getting off the ship, we were in the small lagoon outside of the dive shop preparing for our first lesson. Cheeseburger Reef is just a short swim from the lagoon. I can’t think of a better place for a first dive; the reef is vibrant and full of life.

Akumal Bay – Riviera Maya

In the Mayan language, Akumal means “land of turtles.” It’s an apt description for this secluded bay in the Riviera Maya, where sea turtles are still plentiful. We discovered the bay as part of a snorkeling excursion that left from Cozumel. With its light currents and shallow depths, Akumal Bay is one of the most accessible places on the planet to swim with these majestic marine animals. We saw several sea turtles in the hour or so while we were in the water, and I got the feeling this was the norm in the bay. It’s a surreal experience to swim alongside the turtles in their natural habit and something I think everyone should experience once in life. 

Seven Mile Beach – Grand Cayman

We love Grand Cayman. It has a familiar feel to it, kind of like a Caribbean San Diego. We discovered Seven Mile Beach after diving at Cheeseburger Reef. It is a quintessential island beach—tiki bars, white sand and warm sea water. Seven Mile is the perfect spot for a beach day. And on our return trip to Grand Cayman, that’s exactly what we did. We spread out our blanket on the sand, grabbed some food and local craft beers from Calico Jack’s, and spent the day playing in the warm Caribbean sun.

Dos Ojos Cenote – Riviera Maya

I learned of cenotes (pronounced cey-No-tays) from Bethany after she returned from her first trip to Riviera Maya in 2011. Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula has nearly 7,000 of these underground caverns. Cenotes are formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock, which often expose turquois pools of crystal clear water. Some are simple swimming holes, while others are part of a huge underground river system. Dos Ojos (Spanish for two eyes) is a system of underground caverns connected by two caves. It is a diver’s paradise and a great cenote for swimming too. We visited Dos Ojos before Akumal Bay and had a fantastic time snorkeling in the two different caves. The water is exceptionally clear and refreshing. When it comes to swimming holes, it doesn’t get any better than cenotes.

Do you have a favorite swimming hole or beach? Let us know about it in the comments below!

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.