TRAVEL
02/28/2017 12:02 am ET Updated Mar 15, 2017
PRESENTED BY ROYAL CARIBBEAN

8 Caribbean Natural Wonders You Have To See To Believe

Next level travel, right this way.

There’s no better time than the winter for a warm tropical getaway, and there’s no better destination than the Caribbean islands. Home to some of the most unique and inspiring scenery this side of paradise, the Caribbean is the perfect sensory feast for anyone who needs to hit refresh during the cold winter months.  

That’s why we’ve teamed up to talk itineraries with global cruise line Royal Caribbean. We’ve mapped out the eight natural wonders that will steal the show on your next island-hopping adventure, because it’s time to swap out those winter blues for the bright blue skies of the tropics!

Escape the winter time blues with a Royal Caribbean adventure, and visit some of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the Caribbean. Visit Royal Caribbean to explore itineraries and find out how you can trade the ordinary for the extraordinary. 

1. Hike The El Yunque Rainforest

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Any real world tension will melt off of you as you hike through the lush rainforest located on the windward side of Puerto Rico’s El Yunque mountains. This rain forest receives more than 120 inches of rainfall annually, making its lush environment a perfect home for more than 240 native trees, 50 varieties of colorful orchids, and an abundance of birds, butterflies and tree frogs.

But it’s the waterfalls you’ll really want to experience as you hike through the rainforest. La Coca Waterfall was once thought to harbor the legendary Fountain of Youth, and this hidden gem is still a salve to the senses. Experienced hikers should check out La Coca Trail, which crosses several rivers and waterfalls, where you can cool off with a quick dip. There are plenty of hiking trails throughout El Yunque, and some are less steep that La Coca. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes that can handle the muddy conditions, and bring plenty of water! And while it rains up to four times a day here, these are warm and pleasant rain showers that bathe the rainforest in a dewy light and enhance that fresh tropical scent that you just can’t get from a mainland winter.

2. Dive Into The Cenote Azul

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This underwater labyrinth was formed by collapsed limestone bedrock and ancient tree roots. The largest cenote on the Yucatan Peninsula, the Cenote Azul is located just south of the popular destination of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico and makes a great day trip for the whole family.

Shockingly clear freshwater fills the Cenote Azul, which stretches 300 feet deep and hundreds of feet wide, causing a topsy-turvy effect that some divers equate to drifting in space! Exploring the cenote by dive will reward adventurers with glimpses of ancient stalactites, stalagmites and a few Mayan artifacts (the Maya believed these underwater caves were passages to the underworld). This is also a great spot for a swim or kayak in the clear waters.

3. Explore The Pekelmeer Salt Flats

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Outside of Kralendijk, Bonaire, you’ll come upon an otherworldly site: massive pink pools lined by bright blue shallows. This is Pekelmeer, which translates to “salt lake” in Dutch. But you’ll first spot the mountains of dried salt that form giant white pyramids around the sanctuary. Be sure to take some of Bonaire’s world famous sea salt home to give your meals a taste of the islands after your trip.

And you’ll also want to check out Pekelmeer for its amazing flamingoes. As one of only four areas in the world where flamingos breed, Pekelmeer sees thousands of these pink beauties snacking on the pond’s brine shrimp. The red carotenes found in the shrimp turn the birds even pinkier, causing the Caribbean flamingo to be the most colorful of its species.

4. Float On The Martha Brae River

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Enter another world when you hop aboard a bamboo raft to weave through the Jamaican jungle on the Martha Brae River. Just a few minutes away from the town of Falmouth, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. During your three-mile journey, look for local fruits such as colorful ackee, breadfruit and calabash dangling from the trees that arch over the water. Your guide may tell you the story of the river’s namesake, Martha Brae, who local legend describes as an Arawak witch who lived on the riverbank and led Spanish treasure hunters to their watery demise. These bamboo rafts were once used to transport sugar up river, but they have since become a favorite activity of adventure travelers looking to get off the beaten path.

5. Indulge In Sulphur Springs Park

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Steam rises and the mud boils at the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano, a stunning day trip south of Castries, St. Lucia. Walk along Sulphur Springs Park to get an up-close look at the active geothermal area that emerged around 35,000 years ago. Outside of the springs there are warm sulphuric springs that are safe for bathing. The ground’s rich minerals include iron, calcium oxide, sulphur, copper oxide, carbon and magnesium. Rumored to have skin-healing properties, take advantage of nature’s own spa after a walk through Sulphur Springs Park as a great natural detox!

6. Explore The Alice in Wonderland Reef

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Curacao is known as a great scuba destination with plenty of shallow water reefs. Explore Playa Kalki—nicknamed Alice in Wonderland—for a particularly special dive. This rainbow coral wall is alive with giant lobsters, hawksbill turtles, spotted eagle rays and squirrelfish. Divers can explore the limestone-rich underwater cliffs and the panoramic views of ocean life at its finest.

7. Swim In Trafalgar Falls 

Twin waterfalls emerge from the luscious green mountains after a 20-minute drive from Roseau, Dominica, and a short hike through the west side of Morne Trois Pitons National Park. Feel the mists tingle your skin as you debate which cascade to frolic under first. The higher waterfall called “Father” descends into hot springs and the lower waterfall called “Mother” flows into a colder natural basin. If you left your swimsuit behind, you can stay dry on the viewing platform and still absorb the serene landscape — a perfect backdrop for envy-inducing vacation photos! 

8. Wander The Carambola Gardens

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Take a walk on the wild side near Roatan, Honduras, where more than 40 acres of tropical flowers, spices and medicinal plants grow undisturbed in this stunning natural habitat. Vibrant star fruit trees appear along the jungle trails of the Carambola Botanical Gardens, where sweet-toothed trekkers search for the renowned “Chocolate Tree” among the ferns. Enjoy the jaw-dropping panoramic views of the mountain at the summit of Carambola Mountain, where you’ll see the world’s second largest reef spread out below you. Then there’s the sheer cliff known as the “Iguana Wall,” where several species of iguanas and parrots can be seen frolicking. It’s hard to think of a place with more concentrated beauty than the Carambola Gardens.

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