Insider’s Guide to the Caribbean
For world-class scuba and snorkeling, look no further than these wow-worthy Caribbean destinations.
When you think about the Caribbean, it can be tough to distinguish one island from another. After all, the turquoise water and diverse marine life you’ll find everywhere mean one thing: You’re in scuba and snorkeling paradise! While that may be true, there’s a lot that makes each island distinct and special in its own right—and the best way to really experience all that each of these islands has to offer is to visit their small ports on one of Windstar’s Star Plus yachts.
Imagine being on a sailing yacht or all-suite motorized yacht with just 148 to 342 guests—ships perfectly proportioned for small ports, remote islets, and under-the-radar spots. You’ll wake up in a new destination almost every day without having to pack and unpack or worry about the logistics of transportation or accommodations. Your meals will be locally-inspired feasts at world-class restaurants created by renowned chefs. Whichever yacht you choose, you’ll find expansive decks and elegant outdoor spaces, impeccably appointed staterooms and suites with spa-like bathrooms, and high-end amenities—a 180-degree difference from most other cruise ships!
Before you start planning your next scuba or snorkeling beach vacation, read on for a close look at the unique histories, cultures, and underwater experiences you’ll have at some of the most sought-after destinations in the Caribbean. Then, get ready to experience these extraordinary destinations in a way that’ll delight you with new discoveries and deeply enrich your life.
The island: Like many of the Caribbean’s beautiful islands, Aruba’s diverse past is woven into the fabric of everything— from its artwork and architecture to the cuisine and cultural traditions. Originally a fishing outpost for the Indigenous population, the Spanish and then the Dutch colonized the island. It wasn’t until 1986 that Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles, obtaining a separate status as an autonomous country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Today, the island is a true melting pot: More than 90 nationalities are represented in its 110,000 residents, most of whom can speak several languages (the native language of Papiamento, Dutch, English, and Spanish).
The scuba and snorkeling scene: This island nation offers plenty of coral reefs and wreck diving to keep snorkelers and divers busy for days. For some of the best snorkeling sites, go to Malmok Beach and Boca Cataline, where the water is shallow and calm and the marine life is plentiful. The southern, leeward coast has multiple dive sites and is home to the Antilla wreck—known as the best shipwreck in the Caribbean.
The island: While virtually every island in the Caribbean was shaped by other cultures, the confluence of African, Caribbean, and French influences gives Martinique a special feel. This tiny island located in the center of the Lesser Antilles is still an overseas region of France—a connection that’s palpable everywhere you go. In capital city Fort de France, don’t miss the Schoelcher Library, a cast-iron building that was built in France in the late 1800s and shipped to Martinique, piece by ornate piece. The Jardin de Balata is a private botanical garden located on the Route de Balata about 10 km outside of Fort-de-France. And in the resort town of Trois Ilets, an open-air museum educates visitors on the country’s colonial-era history of slavery, when Africans were forced to work on sugar plantations during the colonial era. But perhaps the best way to experience the unique mix of cultures this island has to offer is through its cuisine. From fine-dining restaurants run by French-trained chefs to world-renowned Créole cuisine, you’ll get a taste—both literally and figuratively—of this country’s rich and distinctive history.
The scuba and snorkeling scene: One of the most popular dives on the island is the legendary Rocher du Diamant (Diamond Rock), on the south of the island. This dive spot is filled with mysterious formations—from caves to arches that are sure to impress. Anses d’Arlet (a.k.a. Arlet’s Coves) is another dive and snorkeling spot not to be missed: You can scuba or snorkel in both spots if you’re on Windstar’s Blue Waters of the Leeward Islands cruise, which stops in Martinique.
Experience Martinique on Windstar’s 14-day Star Collector: Leeward & Windward Caribbean Havens Cruise.
The island: This former British colony in the eastern Caribbean is an independent British Commonwealth nation—and it still has enough British traditions to be called “Little England” by many. When the first English ship touched the island in 1625, it was claimed on behalf of King James I—and within a few years, much of the land was deforested to make way for tobacco and cotton plantations. These days, the interior of the island is still quite lush, with plenty of wildlife and botanical gardens amid the large plantations. And while this island used to be a hideaway for the elite (it has the most luxury properties per square mile in the Caribbean) its 70 miles of stunning beaches, Bajan food (an eclectic mix of African, Caribbean, West Indian, and European cuisine), and its rum now draws an eclectic mix of travelers.
The scuba and snorkeling scene: With more than 200 shipwrecks, it’s easy to see why Barbados is a scuba diver’s dream. The Pamir and Friars Crag wrecks are not to be missed—especially the relatively shallow Pamir if you’re a new diver. The thriving, colorful coral attract parrotfish, rays, and sea turtles— perfect for divers and snorkelers alike. Check out Windstar’s epic Grand Caribbean Adventure.
Discover Barbados on Windstar’s one-of-a-kind 35-day Star Collector: Grand Caribbean Adventure Cruise.
The island: Roughly 200 miles east of Puerto Rico, this small island is actually divided into two parts: Saint Martin, which is a French collectivity and Sint Maarten, a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Adding to the island’s multicultural history is the fact that Christopher Columbus claimed the island for Spain on his second voyage to the Americas, landing on St. Martin’s Day (and naming the island in honor of the saint). Yet soon after, both France and the Netherlands claimed the island as theirs and have peacefully shared the small country since 1648. As a result, you can experience both cultures without having to go more than a few miles, all in the context of local Caribbean charm and a tropical paradise backdrop.
The scuba and snorkeling scene: No matter which side you choose—the French or the Dutch—there are plenty of snorkeling and scuba sites to explore. On the Dutch side, don’t miss Mullet Bay Beach, a sandy stretch of coastline with clear, turquoise waters and a wide variety of sea life. On the French side, head for Creole Rock—a small island just north of Grand Case where you’ll find stingrays, angelfish, parrotfish, barracudas, and sea turtles. For diving, the south and south east sides of the island feature rocky, coral-encrusted reefs, colorful marine life and numerous wrecks. The island is particularly well-suited to beginner and novice divers, with most sites offering shallow, sheltered conditions perfect for learning or improving skills.
Windstar’s 7-day Classic Caribbean Cruise begins and ends in St. Maarten.
The island: This large Caribbean island located in the West Indies was ruled for centuries by the Spanish. Yet during the brief Spanish-American War in 1898, U.S. armed forces occupied Puerto Rico—and under the Treaty of Paris that formally ended the war, Spain ceded the island to the U.S. Today, Puerto Rico’s 270 miles of beaches and vibrant culture inspires people from around the world to visit. In the vibrant capital city, San Juan, you’ll experience a gastronomical delight: Puerto Rican cuisine melds Taino Indian (the native Puerto Ricans), African, Spanish, and U.S. influences to create popular traditional dishes such as arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), tostones (twice fried plantain slices), and flan de queso (cream cheese dessert). And no matter where you go, the country’s myriad forms of music, tropical lushness, and some of the friendliest and most joyful people of the Caribbean will help you get a true sense of what makes Puerto Rico so special.
The scuba and snorkeling scene: With hundreds of miles of shoreline and countless islets and cays, Puerto Rico is an incredible destination for scuba diving and snorkeling. Experienced divers flock to Desecheo, Mona Island, and “The Wall” near La Parguera. If you’re a newbie diver, Vieques’ Mosquito Pier offers a great, easy shore dive to help you hone your new skills. For snorkeling, don’t miss the keys near Fajardo on the east coast, with several atolls, reefs, and islands teeming with tropical fish and reefs.
Discover the wonder of Puerto Rico’s coast on Windstar’s Windward Islands Surf & Sunsets Cruise.
Windstar Cruises offers spectacular small ship journeys to these magnificent destinations and makes it easy to get out discover the local wonders. Discover more at windstarcruises.com or by calling 844.485.5239.