Maybe you’ve snorkeled in cenotes in Mexico, but have you caved in the Caribbean? My husband and I recently had the chance to cave - or spelunk - in Curacao and had such fun. Today, I’d love to share the secret, that cave exploring is a fantastic activity to add to your Caribbean vacation - and which many people aren’t aware of. Bonus: It’s a great way to beat the heat on a day when you want to get out of the sun. Although some of these caves can get pretty hot. Here are some of the best ways to explore the subterranean world of the Caribbean.
Green Grotto Caves, Jamaica
It’s the algae on the walls that give these caves their name - and you might recognize it as a film location from James Bond’s Live and Let Die. There’s an entire world under here, with an underground lake, chambers once home to Amerindians and even the remains of a 1980s nightclub (really!).
Crystal Caves, Cayman Islands
Get a three-in-one cave special at this network of caverns outside the village of Northside. Explore the open-ceiling cave, a lake cave and a roots cave. The best way to experience the sites is via one of the 1.5-hour tours that take place each hour between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Cueva de las Maravillas, Dominican Republic
Archaeology buffs shouldn’t miss this one, nicknamed the “Cave of Wonders.” Marvel at the 500-plus Amerindian petroglyphs, which date back several millennia. Take a 35-minute guided tour through the otherworldly cave system, located 80 feet below ground. If you cannot walk down into the cave, there’s an elevator.
Harrison’s Cave, Barbados
Harrison’s Cave is an excellent choice for first-time spelunkers. It was discovered by Thomas Harrison in the 1700s and is today a popular public caving spot. Choose the 1-hour tour that shows off most of the 1.4-mile cave system, or the 3.5-hour Eco Adventure Tour for an up-close experience (complete with helmets, headlamps and knee guards). Ask your guide to point out the cool speleotherms (they look like straws).
Hato Caves, Curacao
The stalactites and stalagmites of these coral limestone caves are named for their distinctive shapes, including the Sea Tortoise and Sleeping Giant. Learn about the 790-foot-long, 53,000-square-foot cave system’s history on the 45-minute tour. You might even see a rare bulldog bat or two. Keep an eye out for ancient cave drawings on the cave walls - some of the etches may be up to 1,500 years old).
Three Caves, Belize
Spend the day exploring three spectacular caves set in Belize’s jungle and you’re to feel a bit like Indiana Jones. Take the elevated bridges to the Open Air Cave, then continue on to the largest cave, the Jaguar Paw Cave. Next, hop on an inner tube and float through narrow passageways to get to the Darknight Cave. Coolest part? Some of the paths you’ll take were trodden on by ancient Mayans.
Norman Island Caves, BVI
Set off to the 600-acre, uninhabited Norman Island for a Treasure Island-esque experience. The isle is said to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous book, and while you may not find any gold doubloons, you’ll find plenty of colorful marine life that’s just as marvelous. The caves, at sea level in Privateer Bay, are great swimming and snorkeling spots.
Ready to see another side of the Caribbean? Let’s chat.