Falmouth bay - View from Shirley Heights, Antigua (Shutterstock)
List 27 August

12 alternative Caribbean must-dos

Leave the beach lounger behind! Unearth the little-known treasures of the Caribbean with the help of these tip-offs...

1. Diving the drop-offs of Little Cayman

Hawksbill sea turtle, Grand Cayman (Shutterstock)
Hawksbill sea turtle, Grand Cayman (Shutterstock)

Plunging from 6m to 600m, the vertical drop-offs of North Wall, Grand Cayman and Bloody Bay Wall are encrusted with corals and sponges.

2. Cockpit Country, Jamaica

Sky over Jamaica's Cockpit Country (Shutterstock)
Sky over Jamaica's Cockpit Country (Shutterstock)

So dangerous in the 18th century that English soldiers named it The Land of Look Behind, Cockpit Country is a picturesque range of eroded 90m-high limestone hillocks, shaped like a shaggy green egg-tray.

3. The Citadel, Cap-Haïtien, Haiti

Approche de la citadelle (Flickr Creative Commons: Rémi Kaupp)
Approche de la citadelle (Flickr Creative Commons: Rémi Kaupp)

A brooding fortress that makes a mountaintop look square. 20,000 died building it between 1804 and 1817 to protect newly-independent Haiti from the French.

4. Willemstad, Curaçao

Willemstad, Curacao (Shutterstock)
Willemstad, Curacao (Shutterstock)

The buildings of Willemstad are reputedly painted in so many colours to spare the headaches of a governor who could not bear whitewash in the tropical sun.

5. Calypso tents, Port of Spain, Trinidad

Port of Spain, Trinidad (Shutterstock)
Port of Spain, Trinidad (Shutterstock)

Spend an evening with an interpreter, listening to the latest calypsos: songs of social satire on politics, corruption, life, love, the universe and everything, all set to a delightful, lilting rhythm.

6. Nelson's Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua

Nelson's Dockyard (Shutterstock)
Nelson's Dockyard (Shutterstock)

Horatio himself reportedly hated the place, but now this is a beautifully restored 18th century British naval dockyard (and still a working yacht harbour).

7. Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico

Arecibo Observatory (Shutterstock)
Arecibo Observatory (Shutterstock)

The largest radiotelescope in the world, Cornell University's 80,000sqm satellite dish is set in a limestone sinkhole, and helped discover pulsars and quasars. James Bond had a bad day here in Goldeneye.

8. Sir Francis Drake Channel, British Virgin Islands

View to Marina Cay and Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands (Shutterstock)
View to Marina Cay and Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands (Shutterstock)

The BVIs are set astride this spectacular channel, which offers some of the finest sailing in the region. Fringing islands have superb anchorages, beach bars and isolated strips of sand.

9. Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico (Shutterstock)
San Juan, Puerto Rico (Shutterstock)

An incredibly pretty restored colonial city, with cobbled streets and traditional buildings – best enjoyed after the cruise ships have left.

10. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Parque Colon, Santo Domingo (Shutterstock)
Parque Colon, Santo Domingo (Shutterstock)

Colonial City is the oldest city in the New World, with graceful Spanish colonial buildings dating back to 1510, including the oldest cathedral in the New World and the home of Columbus's son, Diego.

11. Brimstone Hill, St Kitts

Brimstone Hill Fortress (Shutterstock)
Brimstone Hill Fortress (Shutterstock)

An immense, Unesco-listed restored fortress atop an outcrop, with armouries, magazines, bastions and cisterns in burnt black stone.

12. Asa Wright Nature Centre, Trinidad

Asa Wright Nature Centre, Trinidad (Shutterstock)
Asa Wright Nature Centre, Trinidad (Shutterstock)

Dawn on this huge veranda is a twitcher's paradise – reliably 25 exotic species before breakfast, sometimes 40: bellbirds, hummingbirds, tanagers, toucans, honeycreepers...



Main image: Falmouth Bay – View from Shirley Heights, Antigua (Shutterstock)