These natural preserves are a must-see!
There is plenty to see when you travel to the Caribbean. Although beaches may be at the front of your mind, there’s a lot of natural beauty to explore.
A great place to start is in the areas so beautiful, important, and full of life that they were designated national parks and forests.
El Yunque, Puerto Rico
Did you know that there’s a tropical rainforest in the United States? If you’d like to see for yourself, head to El Yunque in Puerto Rico—it’s the only one! This park is smaller than some other sprawling U.S. Parks like Yellowstone, but the biodiversity packed in is incredible; there are tons of unique plants and animals like the coqui tree frog, named for the noise it makes.
It’s easy to access El Yunque since it’s so close to San Juan. Not to mention it’s home to La Coca Falls, once said to be the Fountain of Youth.
Virgin Islands National Park, U.S.V.I.
St. John island certainly deserves a place on this list because it’s mostly made up of the Virgin Islands National Park. It’s about 60% of the land!
Besides natural beauty —which St. John certainly has!—it also gives you a chance to look back in history. To start, there are ancient petroglyphs from the first people to live in the Caribbean, the Taino. You can also still see the remains of stone windmills that were used to grind sugarcane dotting the island.
When it’s time to dive into the Virgin Islands natural beauty, St. John may just be the best destination for snorkeling. And it’s right off the beach! Waterlemon Cay is the best known, and it’s likely you’ll glimpse some starfish and sea turtles there!
Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, Jamaica
The Blue Mountains of Jamaica are world-famous for the delicious coffee that grows there, but the park is just as incredible. It’s Jamaica’s one and only national park with about 100,000 acres of tropical rainforest. While there’s plenty of green to see, it’s the mist that hangs about some of the peaks that gave them their name and a bluish hue.
If you’re hiking through the area, there’s another reason to look up: magnificent birds, from the beautiful tail of the Jamaican lizard-cuckoo to the tiny Jamaican pewee (if you can spot it)!
Everglades National Park, Florida
Nearby the Caribbean Sea, you can visit a national park without even leaving the country–just head Southeast! Just about 40 miles from Miami, Everglades National Park is a subtropical wilderness that is home to rare animals, like the manatee, American crocodile, and the Florida panther.
More common creatures like the great white egret are also beautiful and abundant! And how do you get around when much of the park is wetland? By kayak or airboat!
North and South Marine Parks, Bahamas
Not all “parks” are on land. The Bahamas is home to North and South Marine Parks, which were made to help protect part of the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world.
Just like parks above water, these parks are important homes for lots of life, with more than 160 different types of corals and fish. Some of the most iconic Caribbean creatures live there like Spiny Lobster and the Queen Conch. If you’re looking to try scuba diving, either park is a great choice, but snorkeling in these preserves will let you see plenty too!