Places with photo galleries in Caribbean
The southern part of Bonaire is flat, arid, very lightly populated and with a rugged coastline. But it holds many interesting sights and landmarks important to Bonaire's history that can be enjoyed by following a southern loop along the coastline (we recommend renting a scooter, the most flexible option). It shouldn't take more than an hour to circle the entire loop without stopping, but all the fun IS stopping and exploring along the way. Starting by the east leg of the loop, the road goes through thorn bushes and giant cacti territory with goats roaming everywhere. It then follows Lac Bay and some mangrove areas where flamingos can often be seen, down to the beach at Sorobon, a windsurfers favourite. The rest of the leg until the southernmost point is as barren as it gets. Then start appearing the yellow rocks pointing to dive sites on the west coast. Inland, the pans are a surprising sight, especially at sunset, with their pink lakes and bright white mounds of salt. Salt harvesting has been a major industry in Bonaire for many centuries. At first, the hard work was done by slaves, and the obelisks and huts are a grim reminder of these times. The four different-coloured obelisks along the coast used to direct the ships to the proper areas for loading salt, while the tiny huts sheltered the slaves after a long day of work (it's almost impossible to imagine they crammed six of them in such a small space). And we're back to modern times at the end of the loop when the road goes by the airport and re-enters Kralendijk.
Cienfuegos is a cool harbour town. Though it is semi famous for its French architecture, which has earned it UNESCO World Heritage Site status, it doesn't have the cuteness of Trinidad or the grandeur of Havana. Luckily this means the tourist hordes skip this easy going town, letting those who are interested in the "real Cuba" explore the place in peace. The back streets behind the historical centre of Parque José Martí have real character and charm. Here people hang out and gather on their front steps and porches and there are small shops selling, well, not much. The beautiful waterside setting can be enjoyed along the Malecón, which leads on to the spacious neighbourhood of Punta Gorda. Come here to savor Cuba and Cubans.
You probably have some cliche idea of how Havana should be: Decayed colonial buildings, grand old American cars cruising down tree lined broad boulevards, old fat cigar smoking men resting in the shade, young beautiful Latinos chilling on balconies with salsa music pumping in the background. And yes, it is just like that - and more. The old historical centre, La Habana Vieja, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been done up finely to the delight of the many tour groups. Away from the tourist pleasing historical centre, every street looks - and feels - like a movie set. Dilapidated houses with old American car (wrecks) parked out front, kids playing baseball outside empty-shelved government shops, a complete lack of billboard adverts but, in their place, worn walls painted with colourful revolutionary slogans (Socialismo o muerte = Socialism or die) and images of national heroes like Che Guevara and José Martí. Funnily enough, you hardly ever see a picture of the Castro brothers.
Tiny Trinidad defines charm. Cobblestoned streets, pretty pastel-coloured colonial houses, and a cute palm fringed town square; it is no wonder Trinidad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and every traveller's darling. Some past sugar baron villas have been restored and turned into museums, while the streets leading up to Plaza Mayor are filled with small restaurants, art galleries and casa particulares. At the outskirts of town, green hills arise and the warm Caribbean ocean is only a bicycle ride away. Despite the bus loads of tourists visiting every day being dragged around the few central squares with the accompanying town touts in tow, the atmosphere remains relaxed and slow. The further you venture from the historical centre, the more potholed the cobblestoned streets become and the more lively the street scene gets. Here the houses remain prettily pastel coloured but they are more derelict and with plenty of old folks hanging out simply watching the world go by.
The green lush valley at Viñales, Valle de Viñales, is truly unique and a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the remarkable landscape. Tobacco, coffee, sugarcane, banana and pineapple are grown on flat red soil farmland at the foot of big limestone knolls, so called mogotes, which rise dramatically into the air. Palm thatched barns dot the otherwise green carpet of fields and plantations, which are connected by a network of trails only passable on horseback or foot. There several caves in the area that can be visited, both tourist caves (Cuevas de San Miguel and Cuevas del Indio) and on your own (Cueva de la Vaca, Cueva de Palmerito). To reach some of the more far fetch sights in the valley, a local guide will be useful. Otherwise, local farmers are friendly and happy to point you in the right direction.
Long Bay Beach is also known as Seven Mile Beach, though it’s only a bit longer than four mile. Anyway, this pretty ribbon of white sand and blue waters is one of Jamaica’s most famous beaches. Unfortunately, that also means all-inclusive resorts, hordes of sun tanning tourists, nondescript beach cafes, and never ending offers of massage, ganja, hair braiding, and more ganja. It’s for sure a spectacle and seems to attract a certain kind of tourist, so it might not be for everyone.
San Juan is more a patchwork of different neighbourhoods than one big city. Tourists will probably spend most of their time in overly cute Old San Juan (Viejo San Juan) with its cobblestone lanes, pastel coloured colonial houses, and historical forts. However, Old San Juan is much more than the tourist blocks near the cruise ship terminal. In the back lanes you can find cool cocktails bars and wonderful local eateries which serve rich Creol food. The infamous slum La Perla, which lies squeezed in by the city walls of polished Old San Juan and the Atlantic Ocean, is a peek into Puerto Rico's dark side, but take care down there. The posh neighbourhood of Condado, with its long beach and Atlantic surf, is where the rich hang out. Further East right next to the airport is Isla Verde with equal nice surf beaches, this is the playground for the people. Calle Loiza is also worth a look, an upcoming area for San Juan's trendy community (think tattoo parlors, salad/cocktail bars, and designer T-shirts).
Not much is expected of Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side, it's therefore a pleasant surprise to discover a fine little town. The "downtown" at the waterfront is a colourful mess with narrow bumpy streets. Many shops in first and second row from the bay cater to cruise ship folk (how many jewelry shops and casinos do they need), but there are interesting buildings squeezed in, like the wooden Methodist church. Even the long city beach isn’t too bad. Crowded on cruise ship days, deserted at all other times.
The northwestern side of Tobago is studded with beautiful bays with long sandy beaches. Some beaches are developed and have facilities – as they call it here – i.e. snack bars and toilets, while others are pretty close to deserted. Rent a car or scooter and take a trip along the coast and just pick the beach you like most.
The photo gallery will show you all the beaches: Pigeon Point Beach, Buccoo Bay Beach, Grange Beach, Stonehaven Bay Beach, Turtle Beach, Englishman's Bay Beach, Parlatuvier Bay Beach, Bloody Bay Beach.