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10 Top Caribbean Activities for Cruising Kids

Avast, you scurvy dogs! The Jolly Roger, Cayman Islands. Photo: www.jollyrogercayman.com
Avast, you scurvy dogs! The Jolly Roger, Cayman Islands. Photo: www.jollyrogercayman.com

The Caribbean Sea is a huge aqueous playground for cruising kids. Yet there are great activities to explore ashore as well. Here are ten top suggestions:

1. Sail on a Pirate Ship
The Jolly Roger, a near replica of Columbus’ galleon Nina, is a regular on the Cayman Islands day charter scene. Take the two-hour afternoon swim and snorkel tour along Seven Mile Beach and feel like Captain Jack Sparrow in search of buried treasure. There’s plenty of grog onboard, with rum for parents and without for kids. www.jollyrogercayman.com

 

Columbus Lighthouse, Dominican Republic – the final resting place of Christopher Columbus. Photo:  Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz) / Wikipedia
Columbus Lighthouse, Dominican Republic – the final resting place of Christopher Columbus. Photo:  Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz) / Wikipedia

2. Meet Christopher Columbus
Actually, visit his final resting place. This famed New World explorer featured in every history textbook is claimed to be buried in the Columbus Lighthouse in the Dominican Republic, near Santo Domingo. This huge cross-shaped monument offers many history lessons, 63 to be exact, in exhibitions depicting the past and culture of Spain and the countries in the Americas. One of the coolest exhibits is the anchor from Columbus ship, the Santa Mariawww.godominican
republic.com

 

Mosquito Bay, Vieques. Photo curtesy of Puerto Rico Tourism Company UK ©
Mosquito Bay, Vieques. Photo curtesy of Puerto Rico Tourism Company UK ©

3. Be Part Jedi, Part Pixie
“As awesome as the blue light of a Star Wars’ Jedi’s lightsaber and as magical as a sprinkle of pixie dust,” is a great way to describe the brilliant way dinoflagellates (marine organisms) light up the water in Mosquito Bay, Vieques, Puerto Rico, when a hand or paddle is swept through the water at night. The Bio Bay here is so bright it’s recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. vieques.com/island-biolumi nescent-bay

 

Trunk Bay, Underwater Trail. Photo: Dean Barnes
Trunk Bay, Underwater Trail. Photo: Dean Barnes

4. Snorkel an Underwater Trail
Watch for blue tang reef fish that look like Dory from Disney’s movie, Finding Nemo, when snorkeling off Trunk Bay, part of the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John. Even more fun, snorkel the 225-yard-long underwater trail and read the submerged plaques that tell about other types of fish life here. The bay is usually calm, and lifeguards are on duty during the day. www.nps.gov/viis/planyourvisit/placestogo.htm

 

The Baths, Virgin Gorda, BVI. Photo courtesy of British Virgin Islands Tourist Board
The Baths, Virgin Gorda, BVI. Photo courtesy of British Virgin Islands Tourist Board

5. Hide & Seek
If the cartoon Flintstone family had built a playground out of big boulders, it would have looked like the Baths on the British Virgin Island of Virgin Gorda. The mix of large and little rocks at the sea’s edge makes for a great game of hide and seek. The granite giants trap sea water to form kiddie pools. A short trail leads down to the Baths and another quick trek through the boulders ends at another white sand beach. www.bvitourism.com/baths-national-park

 

A little TLC at the Antigua Donkey Sanctuary & Animal Shelter
A little TLC at the Antigua Donkey Sanctuary & Animal Shelter

6. Pet, Brush & Adopt A Donkey
Donkeys were once the ‘workhorse’ of the Caribbean, carrying both people and cargo up the steep mountain hills. Today, there are still many in the islands. The Antigua & Barbuda Humane Society runs the Antigua Donkey Sanctuary & Animal Shelter for some 150 of these animals near Bethesda. Visitors, especially families, are welcome to help brush and pet the donkeys. T-shirts for sale, plus a US $25 Adopt an Antigua Donkey program, help to provide food and vet care. www.antiguaanimals.com/donkey

 

Brimstone Hill Fortress. Photo: Ukexpat / Wikipedia
Brimstone Hill Fortress. Photo: Ukexpat / Wikipedia

7. Play Soldier
Walk along the row of cannons perched atop the massive Brimstone Hill Fortress in St. Kitts and pretend to watch for enemies approaching from the Caribbean Sea beyond. There’s a short movie that shows the history of this 17th century former British stronghold. However, the real fun is exploring the fort itself and checking out all the rooms and alcoves, which feature displays and relics. The large grassy lawns outside are a great place to run and play. brimstonehillfortress.org 

 

Emerald Pool, Dominica. Photo: Aneil Lutchman / Wikipedia
Emerald Pool, Dominica. Photo: Aneil Lutchman / Wikipedia

8. Swim in a Waterfall
There’s no need to visit a manmade waterpark when islands like Dominica boast beautiful and easy to reach waterfalls. The Emerald Pool, set in the rainforest outside the capital of Roseau, is located at the end of less than a mile-long round-trip trail that is an easy walk. The cool pool below the 40-foot falls is sufficiently calm for a grade schooler or older child to swim with a parent. www.dominica.dm

 

Sulphur Springs geothermal area near Soufrière, Saint Lucia showing hot pools and steaming fumaroles. Photo: Gordon Leggett / Wikipedia
Sulphur Springs geothermal area near Soufrière, Saint Lucia showing hot pools and steaming fumaroles. Photo: Gordon Leggett / Wikipedia

9. Visit a Volcano
See the bubbling hot springs that dot the lunar-looking landscape, turn up your nose at the rotten egg-like sulfur smells from the shooting plumes of steam and afterwards jump into a bathwater warm pool for a mud bath. The Sulphur Springs near the town of Soufriere in St. Lucia boast the Caribbean’s only ‘drive in’ volcano, named due to the ease of driving right into the dormant crater itself and seeing it close-up from a viewing platform. Park rangers lead 30-minute tours. www.soufrierefoundation.org

 

Getting ready for my first snorkeling adventure. Photo courtesy of Belize Tourism Board
Getting ready for my first snorkeling adventure. Photo courtesy of Belize Tourism Board

10. Explore an Aquarium Come to Life
This is what it’s like for kids to snorkel, or even look down into clear waters from a tour boat, off Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island. There is a rich diversity of finned and other sealife here, plus there are calm shallow areas that are perfect for young children just learning to snorkel. ambergriscaye.com

 

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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