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Caribbean

Most interesting attractions in Caribbean

View from Mount Scenery, Saba
View from Mount Scenery, Saba / Christine Warner Hawks, / CC BY 2.0

Caribbean is unique group of islands. These islands are somewhat similar - tropical islands surrounded by the blue Caribbean sea. At the same time they are very diverse - from enormous Cuba to minuscule Saba, from dry Bonaire to jungle covered mountains of Trinidad, from flat Bahamas to mountainous Dominica.

Highlights of Caribbean are:

  • Unique geological landmarks. Several geological landmarks here are truly incredible: such as Black Hole of Andros (Bahamas), Palo Quemado blue amber (Dominican Republic) or Boiling Lake in Dominica.
  • Colonial architecture. Powerful European empires clashed in Caribbean, these islands brought wealth - but also death and despair. Rich, often legendary architecture tells this history to us.
  • Unique ecosystems. Humans have depleted the rich ecosystems of these tropical islands, many animals and plants are extinct now, Nevertheless a lot remains to see and admire.

Natural landmarks

Rock formations, canyons

Pitons, Saint Lucia
Pitons - main landmark of Saint Lucia. Petit Piton is the steepest mountain./ Mike Fleming, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Bimini Road - Bahamas, Bimini. Unusual natural monument - some 0.8 km long geological formation which resembles ancient man-made linear structure, located in 5.5 m depth. For a while it was considered to be a unique megalithic structure. There are several more similar sites in the Bahamas - f.e. Andros "Temple".
  • Los Haitises - Dominican Republic, Samana, Sabana de la Mar And Monte Plata. Interesting karst region, covered with tropical forest. Consists of hundreds of conical, 200 - 300 m tall, steep hills. Numerous caves, underground rivers, rare species of animals and plants.
  • Moonhole arch of Bequia – Saint Vincent and Grenadines. Enormous natural arch at the seaside, with small community of ecologically oriented community living under it and next to it. Moon can be observed through the arch in certain times of the year.
  • Petit Piton - Saint Lucia. Giant, very steep volcanic plug, 743 m high. Contains different vegetation zones, including elfin forest. Many rare species.
  • Río Jauco Canyon - Cuba, Guantánamo. Spectacular, up to 300 m deep canyon with limestone cliffs, covered with pristine rainforest.
  • Tanama River Cave - Puerto Rico, Lares. Natural arch - 300 m long and 40 m wide tunnel with Tanama river flowing through it.
  • The Baths - British Virgin Islands, Virgin Gorda. Unusual beach with giant granite boulders with amazing grottoes in between.

Caves

One of entrances in Camuy cave system, Puerto Rico
One of entrances in Camuy cave system, Puerto Rico./ Jason Sturner, / CC BY 2.0
  • Camuy cave system - Puerto Rico, Camuy, Hatillo and Lares. Giant cave system with 17 entrances, not mapped yet. Not all caves are connected - currently system consists of some 220 caves with total length in excess of 15 km. Clara Cave contains 212 m long and up to 65 m high chamber. Rio Camuy is one of largest underground rivers in the world.
  • Gran Caverna de Santo Tomás - Cuba, Pinar del Rio. One of the largest known caves in Cuba, the explored length of passages is 46.2 km. Cave has beautiful speleothems, including gours.
  • Jackson's Bay Caves - Jamaica, Clarendon. Group of closely located caves with total length exceeding 10 km, although the connections between some of the caves still need to be found. Some of the most beautiful caves in Caribbean. Here have been found prehistoric engravings and rock paintings. Human bones from around 1240 AD have been found. Here have been found remnants of such extinct animals as Jamaican monkey (Xenothrix mcgregori) and the unique Jamaican ibis (Xenicibis xympithecus) whose wings were like clubs, possibly used in fights.
  • Martin Infierno Cave - Cuba, Cienfuegos. Cave with the tallest stalagmite in the world. This fantastic speleothem is 67.2 metres tall. Two other stalagmites are 45 and 35 m tall. Cave is 793 m long, 179 m deep, it has also unique, enormous gypsum flowers and fossils of extinct mammals.
  • Rio Encantado Cave system - Puerto Rico, Ciales. 21 km long and up to 344 m deep cave system with underground river - Rio Encantado.

Sinkholes

  • Black Hole of Andros - Bahamas, South Andros. 300 m wide and up to 47 m deep round water filled sinkhole with a layer of violet jelly layer of bacteria at 18 metres depth. Microoganisms have heated up the water to 40°C.
  • Dean's Blue Hole - Bahamas, Long Island. World's deepest sinkhole in the sea, 202 metres deep and only 25 - 35 metres across.
  • Dunn's Hole - Jamaica, Trelawny (Saint Ann?). The largest cave chamber in Jamaica, some 200 m long, 100 m wide and up to 80 m high. It is located at the bottom of 200 m deep, slanting sinkhole with 100 by 80 m large entrance.
Boiling Lake, Dominica
Boiling Lake, Dominica./ Jean & Nathallie, / CC BY 2.0

Geothermal features

  • Boiling Lake - Dominica, Saint Patrick. Flooded fumarole, filled with bubbling greyish-blue water and enveloped in a steam. Diameter of this lake is some 63 m. Temperature of water is 82 - 100 C°. At the late 19th century in the centre of lake formed a geyser which was up to 18 m high. Second largest boiling lake in the world.
  • Valley of Desolation - Dominica, Saint Patrick. Spectacular geothermal area with steam vents, fumaroles, hot springs and boiling mud pots.
Carbet Falls in Guadeloupe
Carbet Falls / gωen, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Waterfalls

  • Carbet Falls (Chutes du Carbet) - Guadeloupe, Capesterre-Belle-Eau commune. Magnificent waterfall with a total height of 245 m. Fall has three steps, tallest is 115 m high.
  • Dunn's River Falls - Jamaica, Saint Ann. Approximately 55 m tall waterfall with many cascades and spectacular tufa formations. Waterfall ends directly in the sea. Popular tourist destination, tourists enjoy climbing the falls.
  • Salto Fino - Cuba, Guantánamo. The tallest waterfall in Caribbean, 305 m tall. Formed on Arroyo del Infierno, this waterfall is not a vertical plunge it slides down along very steep mountainside. Tallest plunge is some 60 m tall.

Ecosystems

El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico
El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico / Jeff Gunn, / CC BY 2.0
  • Bioluminescent Bay (Mosquito Bay) - Puerto Rico, Vieques island. One of the most spectacular bioluminescence sites in the world. The bluish glow is caused by dynoflagellates which feed on the leaves of red mangrove trees.
  • El Yunque - Cuba, Guantánamo. Forested mountain plateau where in isolation for millions of years have evolved endemic species of ferns and palms.
  • El Yunque National Forest - Puerto Rico. The only tropical rainforest in Puerto Rico. Beautiful area, where mountains raise up to 1,065 m. Rich with species of plants and animals, contains 23 species which are not found anywhere else in the world. Contains unique dwarf forest.
  • Guánica State Forest - Puerto Rico. Peninsula in south-west of Puerto Rico. The best preserved subtropical dry forest in Caribbean. Although species diversity here is comparatively low, here are many rare species of plants. 16 species of plants are met only in this forest, also Puerto Rican Nightjar is found only here.
  • Hellshire Hills - Jamaica, Saint Catherine. Some of the largest and most interesting dry forests in Caribbean, with 53 endemic species of plants and many endemic animals, such as Jamaican iguana (Cyclura collei) and skink Mabuya mabouya.
  • Marine terraces of Maisí - Cuba, Guantánamo. Possibly the most prominent limestone marine terraces in the world - a rugged coast with several impressive marine terraces starting under the sea and rising up to 460 m above the sea level. Terraces contain unique ecosystems with many endemic species of plants and animals. Some of the most exotic are the large, colourful land snails of Polymicta genus.
  • Mogotes de Jumagua - Cuba, Villa Clara. Group of 8 forested limestone hills. These hills have served as a refuge for numerous species of plants and animals not met anywhere else. In the hills have formed caves. Interesting endemic species is Thrinax ekmaniana - a spectacular palm, some 100 trees remain. Site of many legends.
  • Mona Island ecosystem - Puerto Rico, Mona island. Small, isolated island which is surrounded by steep limestone cliffs. Well preserved ecosystem with endemic species of animals and plants, including the 1.2 m long Mona Ground Iguana (Cyclura cornuta stejnegeri) and six other species of reptiles. Sometimes this island is named "Galapagos of Caribbean".
  • Rockbay bioluminescence - Jamaica, Saint Ann. Small bay, one of the best places in the world to experience bioluminescence. It is caused by high concentration of Pyrodinium bahamense microorganisms.

Other natural landmarks

Chalk Sound, Turks and Caicos Islands
Chalk Sound, Turks and Caicos Islands / Tim Sackton, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Chalk Sound – Turks and Caicos, Providenciales. Lagoon with unbelievably blue, shining water. Water is colored by the fine, white chalk powder.
  • El Patriarca - Cuba, Matanzas. One of the largest cacti in the world. This Dendrocereus nudiflorus might be more than 500 years old.
  • La Brea pitch lake - Trinidad and Tobago, Siparia. Natural asphalt lake, the largest in the world. In some areas one can sink in the asphalt if he stands in one place long enough. Water on the surface of asphalt may become sulphurous. Contains unique ecosystem of microorganisms.
  • Las Breas of San Felipe - Cuba, Matanzas. Two ancient asphalt seeps where in the past have drowned many animals which are extinct now. Interesting are the remnants of enormous sloths Megalocnus rodens (went extinct after the coming of people), crocodiles.
  • Lagon Bouffe - Trinidad and Tobago, Rio Claro-Mayaro. One of the largest mud volcanoes in Trinidad, some 100 - 150 m wide area covered with water, with occasional vents of gas and mud in it.
  • Palo Quemado blue amber mines - Dominican Republic, Santiago. The richest finds of the fluorescent Dominican blue amber, which changes its color according to lighting conditions. Dominican amber (but not the blue one) is found also in many other mines in three regions - La Cordillera Septentrional, Bayaguana and Sabana de la Mer.

Man made landmarks

Petroglyphs

Pictograph in Pomier Caves, Dominican Republic
Pictograph in Pomier Cave No.2., Dominican Republic / Espeleogrupo, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Bassim Zim Cave – Haiti, Centre. Large cave with Taino petroglyphs, used for vodou rituals.
  • Buccament petroglyph cave – Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Saint Andrew. Cave shelter with near unique group of petroglyphs – rows of abstract symbols which look like a primitive writing.
  • Dondon Caves – Haiti, Nord. Group of magnificent caves with stone carvings of stalagmites and petroglyphs made by Taino people. Caves still are used by vodou priests.
  • Patana Cave - Cuba, Guantánamo. A cave in the limestone marine terraces, which contains 9 idols carved in stalagmites. Around the cave are located more archaeological monuments.
  • Pomier Caves - Dominican Republic, San Cristóbal. Series of 55 caves containing the largest collection of ancient rock art in Caribbean, created 2,000 years ago by Taíno, Carib, Igneri people. Approximately 6,000 charcoal drawings and etchings.
  • Punta del Este petroglyph caves - Cuba, Isla de la Juventud. Group of seaside caves with 235 prehistoric drawings - mainly complex, overlaid sets of concentric rings. Some drawings have clear astronomical orientation.

Other archaeological landmarks

  • Cueva de los Niños - Cuba, Sancti Spíritus. Cave with 13 prehistoric child burials. Each deceased child got a stone ball with him - larger ones for larger children, smaller ones - for smaller. Balls have been crafted in very high quality. Cave has petroglyphs as well.
  • Pueblo Viejo in Maisí and Laguna de Limones - Cuba, Guantánamo. Prehistoric earthen enclosures - ceremonial squares. The largest monuments of such kind in West Indies.
  • Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center - Puerto Rico, Ponce. Unique archaeological monument - ceremonial, sports center and cemetery of Taíno and Igneri people, inhabited around 400 - 1000 AD. Possibly served as astronomical observatory. Contains large stone constructions, alignments, ballparks, burials.

Cities and towns

Street in Trinidad, Cuba
Street in Trinidad, Cuba / Elemaki, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Camagüey - Cuba, Camagüey. A historical city with winding alleys and authentic architecture, established in this location in 1528. The city is intentionally planned as a maze to make it hard for pirates to orientate. Numerous ornate buildings.
  • Cienfuegos - Cuba, Cienfuegos. Beautiful historical city with many hundred buildings in Neo-Classical style and many other historical buildings. With its strict grid planning Cienfuegos is one of the best examples of the Spanish Enlightement city planning from the early 19th century.
  • Old Havana - Cuba, La Habana. A centre of Caribbean metropolis, established in 1519. The best preserved large historical city in Americas. The enormous historical centre of city has huge number of valuable buildings in Baroque, Neo-Classicism, Ecclecticism, Art Noveau and Modern styles. Buildings have retained their original details of wrought iron and wood. Old Havana has many impressive places but one of the best known is Malecón - one of the most picturesque promenades in the world.
  • Old San Juan - Puerto Rico, San Juan. Oldest European settlement in Puerto Rico, historical quarter of San Juan. Cobblestone streets here are lined with historical buildings, many from the 16th and 17th century. City walls preserved.
  • Oranjestad historical centre - Aruba. Collection of colourful, ornate buildings - representatives of Dutch colonial architecture. Built mainly in the late 19th - early 20th century.
  • The Underwater City of Port Royal - Jamaica, Kingston and Saint Andrew. This historical city was submerged in the sea in 1692 after an catastrophic earthquake. Thus the city has been preserved very well and represents an unique testimony of English colonial town from the late 17th century. Captain Morgan was buried in a cemetery which is under the sea now.
  • Trinidad - Cuba, Sancti Spíritus. Beautiful historical centre in one of the oldest cities in Americas. The city was founded in 1514 and its centre almost entirely consists of very well preserved historical buildings. Street network was developed in the 16th - 17th centuries, but current buildings are built in the 18th - 19th century.
  • Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo - Dominican Republic, Distrito Nacional. The oldest continuously inhabited European city in Americas, settled since 1496, city established in 1498. Partly preserved the defensive walls and the original grid pattern. Contains many valuable and ornate buildings in late Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque styles.

Fortifications

El Morro - fortress of San Juan, Puerto Rico
El Morro - the old fortress of San Juan, Puerto Rico / blucolt, / CC BY 2.0
  • Castillo San Felipe del Morro - Puerto Rico, San Juan. Impressive fort. Construction was started by Spanish in 1539 and lasted for some 400 years. Outer walls are up to 6 m thick and up to 44 m high.
  • Citadelle Laferrière – Haiti, Nord. Largest fortress in Americas, built in 1805 – 1830 in order to protect Haiti from French. Very well preserved, originally had 365 cannons, many still preserved. Even stockpiles of cannonballs still are standing. Walls are up to 40 m high.
  • Fortaleza Ozama - Dominican Republic, Distrito Nacional. The oldest European fortification in Americas, built in 1502 - 1505 by the Spanish. Representative of late Medieval architecture. Served as a prison until the 1960s.
  • La Cabaña - Cuba, La Habana. The largest historical European fortress in Americas, built in 1763 - 1774.

Castles and palaces

  • Alcázar de Colón - Dominican Republic, Distrito Nacional. The oldest European palace in Americas, built in 1510 - 1512 in Renaissance style. Residence of the Viceroy of the Indies. Site of important historical events, contains rich collection of furniture and artworks of period, now - museum.
  • St. Nicholas Abbey – Barbados. Plantation house in Jacobean style. One of three genuine Jacobean style buildings in Americas, built in the 1650s.

Other man made landmarks

Underwater sculptures in Moilinere Bay, Grenada
Underwater sculptures in Moilinere Bay, Grenada / SunCat, / CC BY 2.0
  • Amber Museum on Calle Duarte 61 - Dominican Republic, Puerto Plata. One of the best collections of amber in the world, with unique specimens.
  • Arecibo Observatory - Puerto Rico, Arecibo. Site with the world's largest single-aperture telescope, visually very impressive structure. Diameter of the main collecting dish is 305 m - it is constructed, using a natural depression - sinkhole. Constructed in 1960 - 1963.
  • Catedral de Santa María la Menor (Catedral de Santa Mariá de la Encarnación Primada de America) - Dominican Republic, Distrito Nacional. The oldest cathedral in Americas, built in 1512 - 1540 in Gothic and Renaissance styles. Altar is chiseled of silver. Contains collection of valuable art.
  • Chase Vault – Barbados. Burial vault, site of legends. According to a legend, every time when the vault was opened in the early 19th century, all lead coffins had changed position.
  • Manaca-Iznaga Tower - Cuba, Sancti Spíritus. Unusual structure - 45 m tall bell tower, built in 1816 in Manaca - Iznaga plantations. Ring of its bells marked the beginning and ending of the work in sugar plantations.
  • Moilinere Bay underwater sculpture park – Grenada, Saint George. The oldest and possibly the most impressive underwater sculpture garden in the world, created by sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor. Here are located some 65 sculptures which can be seen by snorkeling or using glass bottom boats.
  • Snoa (Curaçao synagogue) - Curaçao, Willemstad. The oldest synagogue in Americas, built in 1692 and reconstructed in 1732.
  • St. Vincent and Grenadines Botanic Gardens – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint George. The oldest botanical garden in the Western Hemisphere and, possibly, the oldest in tropics. Collection started in 1765, gardens contain many rare plants. Here grow breadfruits brought by William Bligh from Tahiti. Aviary of the endemic St. Vincent Parrot.

Described attractions by countries

Caribbean consists of the following 32 countries and territories:

Anguilla (United Kingdom)
Antigua and Barbuda
Aruba (country in Kingdom of Netherlands)
Bahamas
Bajo Nuevo Bank (Petrel Islands) and Serranilla Bank (disputed islands)
Barbados
Bonaire (municipality of Netherlands)
British Virgin islands (United Kingdom)
Cayman Islands (United Kingdom)
Cuba
Curaçao (country in Kingdom of Netherlands)
Dominica
Dominican Republic
Grenada
Guadeloupe (France)
Haiti
Jamaica
Martinique (France)
Montserrat (United Kingdom)
Navassa Island (United States)
Puerto Rico (United States)
Saba (municipality of Netherlands)
Saint Barthélemy (France)
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Martin (France)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Sint Eustatius (municipality of Netherlands)
Sint Maarten (country in Kingdom of Netherlands)
Trinidad and Tobago
Turks and Caicos Islands (United Kingdom)
United States Virgin Islands (United States)

Map of Caribbean

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