The Caribbean is undoubtedly a paradise for sun-seekers wanting to enjoy the crystal clear beaches. However, the region is also a must-visit for sightseeing enthusiasts, full of natural wonders, historical landmarks and hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Let us take you on a journey through some of the best Caribbean travel destinations for sightseeing, where history, beauty and culture converge.
Havana, the capital of Cuba, is a city frozen in time. Well-preserved, brightly colored colonial architecture and vintage American cars still used as taxis set the scene. Take a stroll through the historic Old Havana (Habana Vieja) and you’ll be transported to the 16th century, with its narrow cobblestone streets, charming squares and grand cathedrals. Step into Plaza de la Catedral and prepare to see locals socializing over lunch before exploring the on-site museum and ancient church.
After an afternoon hopping between restaurants and bars serving delicious fare, don’t forget to visit the iconic Malecón, a seawall that stretches for miles, offering captivating views of the Caribbean Sea.
Outside of the city, nature lovers will enjoy the over five-decade old National Botanical Gardens, filled with native and exotic plants. Back in the city, visit the Cuban Art Factory (Fábrica de Arte Cubano). This unique cultural space combines art exhibitions, live music, theater performances and more in a converted cooking oil factory, offering a modern take on Cuban culture. It even transforms into a club after hours for dancing the night away!
San Juan, Puerto Rico
As the Capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan is a dynamic city where history and modernity coexist. Visit Old San Juan, a designated United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site, and explore a number of historic forts, including Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal. Beyond the historic sites, San Juan offers an amazing modern culinary scene, beautiful beaches, lively arts and culture and plenty of options for nightlife.
While in the city, check out the Old San Juan Artisan Market for authentic artisan wares or the Mercado Agrícola Natural (MAN) farmers’ market on the weekend to sample and purchase fresh, local produce and artisanal products. Closer to the middle of the island are the Jayuya mountains where you’ll come across Museo el Cemí, which houses a repository of remarkable Taíno relics. The museum’s architecture is shaped like a “Cemí,” one of the revered deities or gods of the Taíno people.
Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao, is known for its pastel-colored, Dutch colonial architecture and vibrant neighborhoods. The historic district of Punda features charming shops, markets and curiosities, like a unique defense system of 17th Century walls and ramparts which were connected to Fort Amsterdam. Cross the iconic Queen Emma Bridge, which still opens to allow ships to pass, and explore the Otrobanda district to discover even more architectural wonders before you dine al-fresco on local cuisine like Kabritu Stoba (meat stew) and Piska ku Funchi (fish and polenta).
For those looking for a more adventurous day, visit Christoffel National Park for a breathtaking hike outside of the city, including the challenging climb to the summit of Mount Christoffel which provides panoramic views of the island. Looking to go off the beaten path? Explore the rugged north coast, which is known for its dramatic blowholes and sea caves, with a tour of Shete Boka National Park.
Barbados is not only famous for its stunning beaches and as the birthplace of Rihanna, but also its rich history and cultural heritage. In the capital, Bridgetown, you can visit sites like St. Nicholas Abbey, a 17th-century plantation house turned museum and rum distillery, and the historic Garrison Savannah that used to house the British military, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Barbados is also home to a fascinating underground network of limestone caves that can be viewed at Harrison’s Cave, where you can take a tram tour through intricate stalagmites formations.
History buffs can enjoy the Barbados Museum & Historical Society, housed in a 19th-century military prison, that features exhibits on the island’s indigenous, African, and British influences. Next, check out Mount Gay Visitor Center to get insights into the island’s rum-making tradition. And when you’re ready to enjoy the pristine waters, visit Folkestone Marine Park for snorkeling and diving at a sunken ship coral reef.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, is the oldest European settlement in the Americas. Explore the historic Ciudad Colonial where you’ll find well-preserved buildings dating back to the 16th century. Visit the Alcázar de Colón museum, once the home of Christopher Columbus’s son, Diego, and stroll along the cobblestone Calle Las Damas, believed to be the oldest street in the Americas.
Looking for a unique natural attraction in the heart of the city? Three Eyes National Park (Los Tres Ojos) is a great option for exploring a series of caves and underground lakes with crystal-clear water. For those looking to dig a little deeper into the history of the Dominican Republic’s culture, Museo del Hombre Dominicano features exhibits on the island’s indigenous, African and Spanish heritage and has the largest collection of preserved Taíno objects and relics in the Caribbean.