The Caribbean is famous for white sand beaches, crystal blue waters and luxury accommodation. If you’re looking for something above and beyond pure relaxation on your holiday, we’ve compiled a list of the very best hidden gems of the Caribbean. You’re guaranteed the perfect mix of history, adventure, and of course, a luxury hotel-stay that the destination is renowned for.
Tulum, Mexico: Home of the Mayans
Mexico is full of must-sees, but it’s hard to top Tulum. Once an essential port, the architecture here is varied and well-preserved, and set beside one of the best beaches in the area. Nearby is the Sistema Dos Ojos – the stunningly clear waters in this flooded cave make it ideal for scuba diving and swimming.
Further afield is Cenote Samula, considered by many to be one of the best cenotes (natural swimming holes) in the region. Much like Sistema Dos Ojos, Cenote Samula is perfect for swimming in a completely unique environment.
A holiday in Tulum isn’t complete without a day spent at Sian Ka’an. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sian Ka’an is ideal for couples looking for a natural retreat, as well as families hoping to learn about Tulum’s wildlife.
Based around the centre of these sites is the Dreams Resort and Spa. Offering amenities for couples and families, Dreams is a central point from which to enjoy all of these attractions. The Explorer’s Club for Kids and Core Zone Teens Club are perfect for younger guests to have fun with people their own age, while adults can enjoy restaurants, bars, pools and the world-class beach, in a romantic and modern setting.
Barbados: Legendary beauty and luxury
A popular tourist destination for well over 200 years, Harrison’s Cave in Barbados makes for a great alternative Caribbean excursion. Immerse yourself in the cool, dark cave and learn about the formation of this astounding natural landmark, then return to the famous Bajan sunshine of the beautiful surrounding area.
For a taste of history, try the incomparable Bridgetown and its garrison – another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built between the 17th and 19th centuries, this colonial town contains some of the best-preserved historic buildings of the time. Educational and fun, the site is a treasure trove for visitors of all ages who want to learn about the country’s compelling past.
For easy access to these must-visit landmarks, Tamarind Hotel provides relaxed accommodation with plenty to be enjoyed by all members of the family. The beach is one of the best on the west coast, while the hotel boasts almost endless amenities to keep you entertained, from the spa to the three pools. And, of course, the all-important kids’ club…
The nearby Waves Hotel and Spa is an excellent option for couples looking to chill out after their fascinating excursions. It’s a newly opened property from Elegant Hotels, so 2016 visitors will be among the first to experience the luxury services on offer. This all-inclusive resort features an on-site spa and two restaurants, alongside peaceful pools with exclusive adult-only areas.
Cancun, Mexico: Underwater thrills
The Cancun Underwater Museum is unlike anything you’ve seen before. With more than 470 life-sized statues, this reef is easily one of the most fascinating man-made underwater structures – perfect for exploring both the natural wildlife and the unique artworks that lie beneath the waves.
The underground river of Río Secreto offers yet another unique experience for those who love the water. You’ll have the chance to swim and wade through the turquoise waters that run through this large and dramatic caving system, as well as experiencing complete darkness when the lights go out!
When you’ve finished exploring these tranquil underwater destinations, it’s time to make a splash at Xcaret Park. Adults and children will both enjoy the natural park packed with more than 50 attractions.
Paradisus Cancun is the prime resort for exploring all of the area’s attractions. Families will love the sports facilities, kids’ club and white sand beach, offering plenty of space for both relaxation and activities. Couples can take advantage of the adults-only amenities, alongside the 10 on-site restaurants. For something a little more exclusive, check out the adults-only Secrets Silversands resort. With eight pools, jacuzzis, a tranquil beach and a wide range of restaurants to choose from, you’ll never run out of ways to unwind.
Cuba: With history at its heart
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Old Havana is on most people’s bucket lists for good reason. This beautifully preserved 16th-century town is one of the most unique destinations in the world, thanks to its architecture, 1950s vehicles, and legendary cultural experiences.
El Capitolio is one of the most fascinating buildings in the area. Originally built in 1926 to serve as the seat of government, following the Cuban Revolution, this stunning neo-classical building went on to become the Cuban Academy of Sciences. Inside, you’ll find the world’s third largest undercover statue: La Estatua de la República.
Moving away from the city to nearby Varadero, Cueva de Saturno is a must-visit for those who love to snorkel and dive. This flooded cave features an impressive and imposing entrance, with water deep enough to explore for an otherworldly swimming experience.
Most visitors to this fascinating island like to split their time between bustling Havana, learning about the heritage, and finishing their holiday on the shores of Varadero for a relaxing, sun and rum-soaked end to their holiday. There are plenty of luxury choices for couples looking for romance, while families will find their children well catered for with shallow beaches and kids’ clubs.
Cruising: The best view is the one that changes
For something completely different, consider a Caribbean cruise. This gives you the freedom to explore a wider area of the Caribbean, all in the utmost comfort. Better yet, try a Cruise & Stay holiday, which gives you the best of land and sea.
Holland America Line provides an award-winning service that’s ideal for families looking for an exclusive experience. The liners provide plenty of entertainment for all ages, while the destinations are perfect for on-shore fun. Everything from the food to the cabins is designed with your pleasure in mind, allowing you to explore the Caribbean in total comfort.
Star Clippers, meanwhile, are the go-to option for couples. The ships themselves are completely unique, and sailing in them is an experience in itself. These traditional sailing ships offer an intimate and truly relaxed experience as you move from port to port. There’s no set itinerary on a Star Clippers ship: you’re just blissfully free to do what you want, when you want.
Take a romantic break or take your whole tribe. Either way, the Caribbean makes for a legendary holiday. Couples will love the luxury accommodation and amenities, while children and teens can live like royalty in the resorts (which is a guaranteed good time for parents). Whether you choose Barbados, Mexico or Cuba, you’re guaranteed to want to return time and time again.