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Best Caribbean shore excursions

July 07, 2022
12 min read
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Whether your ideal cruise vacation involves lounging, exploring or learning something new, there's a Caribbean shore excursion designed to help you find your bliss. In a year-round destination like the Caribbean, most of the fun revolves around sun, sand and sea. History, culture and food also top the lists of excursions available in the region.

You may be surprised by how many Caribbean islands have interesting geological features not found anywhere else in the world. Shore excursions offer plenty of adventurous ways to explore these areas, from caves to volcanoes.

In our quest for the best Caribbean shore excursions, our goal was not to find the most popular tours, but to find the experiences and attractions that make a destination stand out. Let's jump in with a look at our favorite tours.

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Prices may vary among third-party sellers, and from cruise line to cruise line. To account for that, we are using the following price key to help you get an idea of the costs to expect for each tour.

  • $ = $0-$50.
  • $$ = $51-$99.
  • $$$ = $100-$199.
  • $$$$ = $200-$499.
  • $$$$$ = $500 and up.

Best Eastern Caribbean shore excursions

Virgin Gorda and The Baths, Tortola

(Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

You’ll have the opportunity to visit many gorgeous beaches in the Caribbean, but The Baths is about as unique as they come in terms of pure scenic beauty. The beach features giant boulders and stone formations that create hidden pocket beaches and spots where the sand and water rush in and out. It’s part of the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands. To get there, you’ll take a 45-minute boat ride from Tortola to nearby Virgin Gorda.

  • 4 1/2 hours, challenging, $$$.

Related: Caribbean cruise guide: Best itineraries, planning tips and things to do

Bioluminescent Kayak Adventure, Puerto Rico

This excursion out of San Juan starts at dusk and finishes well after dark. You’ll travel by van to the eastern edge of the island to a beach near a bioluminescent bay. You’ll get brief kayaking instructions, life vests and lights before setting off through the mangroves and into a small, sheltered bay. Every stroke of your oars sets off sparks of light in the water as you stir the tiny glowing organisms.

Even with availability limited to cruises that stay in port overnight in San Juan or pre- or post-cruise stays, this excursion made our list because it is simply not something you can do in very many places in the world. Kayaking in the mangroves in the dark was one of the coolest things I've ever done, and the bioluminescence was an incredible extra bonus.

  • Six hours, moderate, $$$.

America's Cup 12-Meter Regatta, St. Maarten

Are you up for a yacht race? You don’t need any experience sailing to participate. You can simply go along for the ride, or with some instruction, help sail the boat as you race to the finish. It’s possible to hop on a sailboat and cruise around sipping fruity drinks on any island in the Caribbean. What you cannot do everywhere is help sail the boat or participate in a race. St. Maarten is known for sailing -- why not join the fun?

  • 2 1/2 hours, challenging, $$$.

National Park Snorkeling Excursion to St. John, St. Thomas

(Photo by James R.D. Scott/Getty Images)

This excursion simplifies the complicated process of getting from the cruise pier on St. Thomas to the island of St. John, home of Virgin Islands National Park. You’ll get to see a bit of St. Thomas on the way to the boat dock, then enjoy a beautiful boat ride before your snorkeling begins. This is the spot for some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean because the park encompasses over 18,000 acres of submerged land that include 45 species of hard coral, 400 species of reef-associated fish and 17 documented species of whales and dolphins.

  • 3 1/2 hours, easy to moderate, $$.

Related: Best Caribbean cruise tips to help you make the most of your time aboard and ashore

Monserrat Volcano Flightseeing, Antigua

Helicopter flightseeing is a popular shore excursion in other destinations, but it's not something you'll find in most of the Caribbean. This flight offers the opportunity to see a still-active volcano from the air, as well as experience the beauty of the islands from a unique perspective. There’s also the possibility of seeing sea life like whales, dolphins and turtles from the air as you fly between the islands.

  • Two hours, easy, $$$$$.

Best Western Caribbean shore excursions

Blue Hole and Konoko Falls, Jamaica

Waterfall excursions are a big deal in Jamaica, with multiple excursions featuring the often overcrowded Dunn’s River Falls. This tour from Ocho Rios takes you off the beaten path to two slightly less crowded sets of falls. Blue Hole is an idyllic waterfall-fed swimming hole, where the more daring can jump from heights into the pool below. Konoko Falls is located within a botanical garden featuring parrots, crocodiles and tropical birds found on the island. Here, you can climb to the top of the falls for a better look and enjoy a swim in natural pools.

  • 4 1/2 hours, moderate, $$$.

Flavors of Jamaica

Jerk chicken is one of the best-known dishes of the Caribbean. Finding an excursion that allows you to experience it firsthand with a cooking class that teaches you about the flavors and culture of Jamaica is possible in most Jamaican ports. Most tours have you cooking your own lunch under the tutelage of a Jamaican chef. In Ocho Rios, a visit to a Jamaican estate house is a bonus.

  • Three hours, easy, $$$.

Related: Eastern Caribbean vs. Western Caribbean cruises: Which itinerary will I like more?

Xocolatl — The Chocolate Experience, Roatan

You may think you know chocolate, but Mayan chocolate is a palate pleaser not well known around the globe. This excursion from Roatan, Honduras, allows you to learn and taste how chocolate fits into the Mayan culture. Part cultural education, part Honduran traditional lunch, this tour is a delightful option for Roatan cruisers eager to skip the sun and sand to experience a local meal.

  • Three hours, easy, $$.

Cave Tubing, Belize

(Photo by Michele Westmorland/Getty Images)

Cave tubing is the only super popular excursion that made the list. Cave tubing is famous in Belize, and we didn't want you to miss out. The drive through the jungle to get to the caves is half the fun of the excursion. Upon arrival, and after a safety briefing, you’ll quickly get cool and wet floating through a tunnel of limestone. You’ll want a waterproof camera for this one.

  • 5 1/2 hours, moderate, $$.

Discover Scuba Diving From Shore, Grand Cayman

If you’ve ever thought of learning to scuba dive, a Discover Scuba course is the way to try it without taking hours of classes or investing loads of money. If you are going to try it, you might as well try it in one of the best diving locations on the planet. Plus, doing it from shore is less intimidating than trying it for the first time from a boat.

Several dive operators set up shop right at the shore within walking distance of the tender docks. You can make your own arrangements with the dive shops in advance to participate in a Discover Scuba class or sign up for a ship’s excursion if there is one. You’ll learn the basics of breathing through a regulator, then enjoy a guided dive around the reef just offshore. (The reason ships anchor offshore at Grand Cayman.)

  • 2 1/2 hours, challenging, $$$.

Save a Sea Turtle Experience, Cozumel

(Photo by Chalabala/Getty Images)

Most cruisers park their sunscreened bodies on a towel in the sand at one of the many beaches in Cozumel, Mexico, but you do have other options. Why not do something as cool as participating in a sea turtle hatching?

When sea turtles hatch, not all of them make it out of the nest and into the sea. This educational excursion allows you to give a helping hand to the little guys that didn’t make it out. Under the careful watch of experts, you’ll dig in the sand at already-hatched nesting areas looking for hatchlings that can either be helped into the ocean or retrieved and raised in a sanctuary until they are strong enough to be released. Bonus: Tiny baby sea turtles are adorable.

  • Four hours, moderate, $$$.

Best Southern Caribbean shore excursions

Whale and Dolphin Safari, Dominica

There is exactly one place on the planet with a known resident pod of nonmigrating sperm whales, and it’s off the shores of Dominica. Come see them on a guide boat licensed to seek out both whales and dolphins; sperm whales aren’t the only cetaceans that pass through this area. As with any whale watching, there aren’t any guarantees, but this tour puts you in the right place for sightings.

  • 3 1/2 hours, easy, $$.

Related: The best Caribbean cruises for every type of traveler

Cave Snorkeling, Bonaire

Bonaire has dozens of accessible caves, some filled with actively growing stalactites and stalagmites. Most cruise excursions will take you to at least two of them. These tours are not for the faint of heart.

Climbing into the caves is the hardest part. Some involve ladders; others are more challenging, requiring you to don a climbing harness and pick your way down a rock wall with the help of an expert guide.

Once inside the cave, snorkeling allows you to experience the incredible clarity of the water that has filtered through rock crevices to form pools. You may need to take a brief swim through a passage leading to another room in the cavern. If you’re up for it, you’ll return to the ship with a remarkable story. This is near the top of the list of amazing things I have done.

  • Three hours, challenging, $$.

Sky Canopy and Aerial Tram, St. Lucia

(Photo by Marc Romanelli/Getty Images)

Many islands offer adventure courses, but the geography of St. Lucia gives it the unique ability to offer a true treetop zip line experience among the island’s mountain peaks. Start by taking a gondola ride into the mountains, ending near the first zip line tower. The lines are interspersed with rope bridges, making the whole course an adventure. Bonus: There’s a cold beer waiting for you at the cantina when you finish.

  • 4 1/2-5 hours, moderate, $$$.

Pilot Your Own Boat and Snorkeling Tour, Grenada

Totally different from a personal watercraft, these little two-person inflatable motorboats (picture miniature Zodiacs) are crazy fun to drive. The snorkeling part of the excursion lets you explore one of the world's best underwater sculpture parks. The excursion is fun and lets you get wet, while leaving you plenty of time to shop or explore the port.

  • 2 1/2 hours, challenging, $$$.

Half-Day Land Rover Safari, Aruba

(Photo by Aruba Walter/Getty Images)

Some of Aruba's best sites require a 4x4 to get there. The Land Rover option is a bit more comfortable than the ATVs many people choose. You’ll visit the famous California Lighthouse and the more picturesque side of the island. On most of these excursions, you’ll end up at a beach, so wear your swimsuit and bring a towel.

  • 4 1/2 hours, moderate, $$$.

4x4 Adventure and Harrison's Cave Exploration, Barbados

If you want to get out of the city and see Barbados in its rawest form, this 4x4 adventure is a superb option. You’ll enjoy a forest drive, featuring scenic overlooks and a view of the pounding Atlantic Ocean (and the rock formations it creates) where it meets the Caribbean on the eastern side of Barbados before enjoying a motorized tram ride through Harrison’s Cave. The active cave (meaning it has water flowing through it) has a great hall with a ceiling height of almost 50 feet.

  • 4 1/2 hours, moderate, $$$.

Bottom line

Shore excursions in the Caribbean give you the opportunity to explore beyond the pier or even the city where your ship docks. Whether you crave water sports, wildlife or a taste of local food, you can easily find an activity to enhance your time ashore. When your ship stays in port all day, as they often do in the Caribbean, half-day excursions leave you plenty of time for those other cruise basics, like shopping, lounging on the beach and kicking back with a tropical drink.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases