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Best Shore Excursions in 30 Caribbean Cruise Ports (Photo: Costin Constantinescu/Shutterstock)

30 Caribbean Cruise Ports and Their Best Shore Excursions

Best Shore Excursions in 30 Caribbean Cruise Ports (Photo: Costin Constantinescu/Shutterstock)
Carolina Pirola

Nov 6, 2023

Read time
11 min read

You've got just 10 hours in a Caribbean cruise port. What's the best way to spend your day? If you're like us, you spend hours poring over your shore excursion list, trying to figure out the absolute best way to maximize your time while in port.

Independent travelers might go straight to private tour guides (and the invaluable Roll Call forums to find friendly folks to share the minivan). But many travelers -- especially first-time cruisers -- prefer to rely on ship-sponsored shore tours. And while it's great that there are tons of Caribbean shore excursions, it doesn't make the decision-making process any easier.

To help you out, we've created a cheat sheet highlighting our favorite Caribbean cruise excursions in 30 of the Caribbean's top cruise ports.

1. Antigua: History Tour at Nelson's Dockyard and Shirley Heights

Antigua (Photo: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com)

While the Caribbean is most well-known for sun and sand, there's lots of history on offer as well. In St. John's, Antigua, the historical highlights are Nelson's Dockyard and Shirley Heights, both of which are remnants of the island's British military past.

The two sites can usually be visited on a half-day excursion, and both are typically included in any full-day bus tour of the island, which oftentimes is combined with a beach stop and lunch.

2. Aruba: Island Highlights Tour

Eagle Beach, Oranjestad, Aruba (Photo: Steve Photography/Shutterstock)

One of the best ways to see Aruba is with a tour that hits island highlights and offers some beach time. Along the way, you'll visit rock formations and lighthouses, and pass by some of the desert island landscapes and less touristy towns.

3. Barbados: Electric Tram Tour of Harrison’s Cave

Bottom Bay, Barbados (Photo: Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock)

If you need a break from beach-bumming, a popular alternative in Barbados is a tour of Harrison's Cave. This crystallized limestone cavern comes teeming with streams, pools, stalactites and stalagmites.

Explore the cave system on an electric tram tour, with commentary provided by an informative tour guide. Note that some full-day island highlights tours also factor in a visit to the cave as part of its circuit.

4. Belize City: Cave-tubing and Ziplining Through the Rainforest

Rio Frio Cave at Mountain Pine Ridge, Belize (Photo: Suzi Prat/Shutterstock)

For high-flying views of Belize's rainforest, ziplining is a must, and for those who enjoy swimming in ancient, darkened caverns, cave-tubing will be right up your alley. If you're feeling extra adventurous, book a tour that combines the two for an active day in port.

5. Bonaire: Snorkeling, Scuba Diving and Sailing Tours

Arriving at Bonaire at the Capital of Bonaire, Kralendijk in this Beautiful Island of the Caribbean Netherlands (Photo: Paulo Miguel Costa/Shutterstock)

You're likely to catch a glimpse of sea turtles, rays and all sorts of tropical fish and coral if you head out to Bonaire's pristine waters for snorkeling or scuba diving. Get out on the water by boat, then dive in; it's tough to beat the variety of marine life that surrounds this Southern Caribbean island.

6. Costa Maya: Beaches and Restaurants in Mahahual Town

Costa Maya (Photo:Roman Stetsyk/Shutterstock)

Costa Maya is a laid-back Mexican tourism village carved out of Yucatan jungle featuring bars, restaurants, shops and pools. And while you can stick around and simply unwind at the touristy complex, or set off on one of the worthwhile side trips -- like a visit to the mysterious Mayan ruins at Chacchoben -- many passengers opt to spend a carefree day on the nearby beaches.

Outside of the faux-village, there's a real one: the one-time fishing town of Mahahual, with its beaches and beachside shops and restaurants, is just a five-minute cab ride away. Snorkeling, scuba diving, paddleboarding and other watersports are sometimes included in shore excursions to Mahahual.

7. Cozumel: Mayan Ruins at Tulum and Chichen Itza

Tulum, Mexico (Photo: BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock)

A highlight of any Cozumel port of call is a visit to Tulum or Chichen Itza, the ruins of ancient Mayan cities. Situated atop oceanfront cliffs, Tulum offers fascinating history and gorgeous scenery. Chichen Itza, further inland, is dominated by a massive and magnificent step pyramid.

Note Caribbean cruise excursions to Tulum require a bit over an hour and a half each way in travel time (including ferry and motor coach transfers); for Chichen Itza, you'll need a full day -- it's about a three-hour transfer one way from Cozumel, so keep in mind that you won't have much time to explore the ruins once you get there.

8. Curacao: Scenic Island Tours with Hato Caves and Distilleries

Curacao (Photo:Sorin Colac/Shutterstock)

With so much located near the port of Curacao, you can squeeze a number of activities into a single day with a combination excursion. Take a scenic island tour to visit highlights like the Hato Caves with their underground limestone formations and pools. These tours often include a visit to a distillery where the island's namesake Curacao liqueur is distilled (do try a sample of the blue drink).

9. Dominica: Trafalgar Falls and Rum Punch

Soufriere Bay, Dominica, Caribbean (Photo: loneroc/Shutterstock)

The Southern Caribbean island of Dominica is a nature-fanatic's paradise; it's home to more than 170 types of birds, numerous waterfalls and mountains that rise to 5,000 feet. The best way to explore it as much as possible is to embark on an active excursion.

Try one that combines a short hike through the rainforest to the twin Trafalgar Falls with a relaxing dip at the Emerald Pool (a waterfall grotto), all paired with a glass or two of rum punch.

10. Freeport: Snorkeling Excursions to the Coral Reefs

This Bahamian port lends well to the Caribbean classics: beach time and snorkeling. Set out to explore Freeport's stunning coral reefs, tropical fish, rays, dolphins, sea turtles and more on a guided snorkeling excursion. Some outings are led by boat, while others let you simply swim in with your snorkel gear right from shore.

11. Grand Cayman: Sandbars and Rays at Stingray City

Grand Cayman Port

The undeniable top attraction in Grand Cayman is Stingray City, a legendary sandbar where stingrays once came to eat leftover bits jettisoned by fishermen, and now wait to slurp squid from the hands of bikini-clad tourists.

Visitors have the unusual opportunity to hop in the shallow water with the habituated creatures, feel their velvety skin and pose for photos. Guides accompany you. Many excursions pair the stingray experience with a beach stop.

12. Grand Turk: Scenic Catamaran Tours or Power Snorkeling

Diving off the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean Sea (Photo: Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock)

Cool off in Grand Turk's turquoise waters on a snorkeling tour; many of them are run aboard scenic catamaran sailings.

For a unique twist, seek out a "power snorkeling" excursion instead. The experience incorporates a high-tech twist via special handheld power units that utilize propellers to guide snorkelers along on their underwater adventure.

13. Grenada: Spice Gardens, Forts and Grand Etang National Park

St George's, Grenada, Southern Caribbean (Photo: NAPA/Shutterstock)

If you're visiting the "Spice Island" of Grenada, you'll likely want to see a spice plantation. Grenada is also known for its beautiful Grand Etang National Park, based around the crater lake of an extinct volcano. An island combo tour will typically take you to both, as well as to Fort Frederick and Annandale Falls.

If you're feeling more adventurous, head to Grand Etang for the Seven Sisters Waterfalls hike; the tour is often combined with a visit to spice or rum factories.

14. Havana: Old Havana Tour with Complimentary Cocktail

Oozing flavor, culture and history, a Havana city highlights tour is the way to go for visitors looking to maximize their time on the ground in this fast-emerging Cuban port.

Bus tours whisk visitors around for stops at the Malecon seafront esplanade and the historic sites of Old Havana, with its bustling Plaza de la Catedral and Plaza de Armas. A cocktail is typically included in the outing, too.

15. Martinique: Half-Day Tour of Balata Garden

Martinique (Photo:Pack-Shot/Shutterstock)

Possibly the best things to do in the French isle of Martinique are shop for French luxury goods and hit the beach, but you don't need an excursion to do that. For a little shore tour adventure, try a half-day tour of the Balata Garden, an impressively maintained botanical collection of tropical vegetation.

16. Montego Bay: Historic Plantation Tours with Tropical Fruit Tastings

Montego Bay (Photo:Lucky-photographer/Shutterstock)

Montego Bay offers the same water sports, beach breaks and dolphin encounters as does Ocho Rios. For something a little more Jamaican, take a plantation tour, such as the one to Croydon Plantation. You'll visit a historic plantation house and taste pineapples, bananas or sugarcane, straight from the source.

17. Nassau: Atlantis Aquaventure Day Pass

Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas (Photo: Pola Damonte/Shutterstock)

Nassau's star attraction is the Atlantis Resort, and, happily, you don't have to be an overnight resort guest to partake in some of its world-class facilities. Book an outing to the Atlantis Aquaventure "waterscape," a sophisticated 141-acre water park that comes jam-packed with water slides, rolling rapids, swimming areas and more. It's guaranteed fun for kids of all ages.

18. Ocho Rios: Dunn’s River Falls and Dolphin Swims

Dunn River Falls, Ocho Rios, Jamaica (Photo: CO Leong Shutterstock)

One of the biggest highlights of visiting Ocho Rios, Jamaica, is climbing up Dunn's River Falls, a 600-foot-long waterfall that flows into a pool by the beach. You can combine a climb up the falls with a number of other activities, including a dolphin swim, beach time or snorkeling.

19. Playa del Carmen (Calica): Swim with Sea Turtles in Akumal Beach

Playa del Carmen (Calica) (Photo:posztos/Shutterstock)

Shore excursions to Tulum are popular from Playa del Carmen, but you can get there from Cozumel as well. Your best bet here is to take in some of the area's diverse marine wildlife. Our favorite option is snorkeling and swimming with sea turtles in the protected waters of Akumal Beach.

20. Progreso: Half-Day Tour to Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins and Cenotes

Progreso (Photo:Lewis Liu/Shutterstock)

If you want to visit Mayan ruins but don't want to be accompanied by the more than a million visitors per year that make it to Chichen Itza, the lesser-visited Dzibilchaltun Mayan ruins near Progreso (along with its Temple of the Seven Dolls) is a great option.

Don't miss taking a dip in the cenote (a sinkhole leading to a deep natural swimming hole) onsite.

21. Roatan: Tabyana Beach and Animal Sightings at Gumbalimba Park

Roatan Port

No cruise visit to Roatan, a tropical jungle island in Honduras, would be complete without time spent on the beach and an introduction to the local wildlife. To get both, seek out any excursion that includes Gumbalimba Park with its free-roaming monkeys, free-flying birds and sandy beach.

Even better, combine Gumbalimba with Tabyana Beach -- generally considered the nicest stretch of sand on the island.

22. San Juan: El Yunque Rainforest with Waterfalls and Hiking

El Yunque National Forest (Photo: Dennis van de Water/Shutterstock.com)

The charms of a stroll through Old Town are not to be missed, but for nature lovers, one of San Juan's most stunning nearby natural attractions is the nearly 29,000-acre El Yunque National Forest. The tropical rainforest is known for its myriad waterfalls, scenic views and hiking trails.

Excursions to El Yunque typically include bus stops at or short treks to one of the park's waterfalls.

23. St. Barts: Sailing Adventure with Snorkeling

St. Barts (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

St. Barts is arguably the best place in the Caribbean for duty-free designer goods and haute couture straight from France, and you can easily visit the stores strung out all along the harbor.

You can opt for a sailing tour to further feel like a celebrity or socialite. A catamaran or sailboat will whisk you away, typically including stops for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. Just give a nod to the other yachts you pass and act like you own the place.

24. St. Croix: Powerboat Ride to Buck Island

St. Croix Coastline (Photo: JohnHancockPhoto/Shutterstock)

Buck Island Reef is officially a national monument, and the 19,015 acres of land and sea lie just off the north shore of St. Croix. A typical shore excursion features a 45-minute bus ride across the island, followed by a 40-minute scenic powerboat cruise out to the reef.

You can snorkel among the coral and sea life for about an hour (a snorkeling lesson may be included, too), or just enjoy the views (and the rum punch included on the way back).

25. St. Kitts: Nevis by Sea Taxi

Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, Saint Kitts & Nevis in the Caribbean (Photo: evenfh/Shutterstock)

An island tour is a popular option if you want to see St. Kitts, but for an escape from the crowds, cruisers can hop a "sea taxi" to the less-traveled island of Nevis. While on Nevis, you'll typically visit some historical sites, lunch at a beachside restaurant and have some time to swim in the Caribbean waters.

26. St. Lucia: Scenic Cruise with Views of the Pitons

St. Lucia (Photo:PlusONE/Shutterstock)

On any cruise heading to St. Lucia, you'll hear talk of the famous Pitons. The island's two volcanic spires are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and many would say a visit here is not complete without at least catching a glimpse of them.

One of the best ways to see the Pitons is from the water on a scenic cruise, which might also include a stop for swimming and snorkeling.

27. St. Maarten: America’s Cup Yacht Racing with Rum Punch Toast

St. Martin (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Independent-minded travelers will probably head for St. Maarten's famous shopping areas and casinos. But for something a little different, sign up for the America's Cup Regatta. On this excursion, you'll actually race onboard a 12-meter racing boat and serve as part of the crew. The boat ride (typically lasting about two hours) features refreshments and perhaps even a rum punch party to celebrate.

Note that this can be a strenuous activity and is not simply a relaxing sailboat ride.

28. St. Martin: Shopping and Dining in Marigot Market

St. Martin (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

As the fashionable French sister on the conjoined island of St. Maarten/St. Martin, St. Martin draws cruise tourists with its shopping opportunities. Head to Marigot, where visitors flock to chic boutiques touting upscale French fashion imports and duty-free perfume, jewelry and more.

Don't miss the stunning architecture and interior design of Le West Indies Shopping Mall. It features bars, restaurants, a spa and some 20 luxury designer shops in a three-level masterpiece. Check out Marigot's open-air Waterfront Market, encompassing a craft market and a Caribbean food fair selling spices and fresh-off-the-boat fish.

29. St. Thomas: Magens Bay Beach and Duty-Free Shopping in Charlotte Amalie

St. Thomas

St. Thomas of the U.S. Virgin Islands is equally famous for its beaches and shopping. Luckily, you can manage to combine both in the same tour. Head out to Magens Bay for a couple of hours of fun in the sun; afterward, you'll be transferred to Charlotte Amalie for some duty-free shopping.

30. Tortola: Norman Island Guided Snorkelling Tour

Loungers lining a beach in Tortola. (Photo: Cruise Critic)

One of Tortola's premier snorkeling spots is in the waters off Norman Island, a legendary pirate haunt that's said to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island." Join a snorkel guide to explore the caves and view colorful coral formations, exotic fish and abundant marine life.

Updated November 06, 2023
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