Exploring the Eastern Caribbean

Explore \eks-plore\ v. 1. to investigate, study, or analyze: look into 2. to travel over (new territory) for adventure or discovery.

RCL Explorer docked at St. Thomas

As much as my husband and I enjoy Key West, we have a soft spot in our hearts for the Eastern Caribbean islands, each of them gems in their own right. In 2003, We were fortunate enough to explore Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and the Bahamas on a seven-day cruise

Our first stop is San Juan. We opt to kayak the San Spiritu River, a calm river northeast of Puerto Rico’s capital city. Chattering monkeys and squawking parrots greet our small tour group as we paddle along, surrounded by the greenery of El Yunque Rainforest. I spy two manatee in the water and an iguana in the trees. What a wonderful start to our Eastern Caribbean experience!

Whimsical water feature outside a shop

St. Maarten/St. Martin is our next destination. It’s a unique island, ruled on one side by the Dutch and the other by the French.

We shop on the Dutch side, grabbing incredible bargains on cameras, linens, and rainbow topaz jewelry. The Belgian chocolate is delicious. Don’t plan to bring any home with you, though. It’s not a good traveler.

On the French side, there are beautiful beaches (including a nude beach if you’re so inclined). We visit a butterfly farm, where I get my first glimpse at the elusive blue morpho butterfly.

My lamb isn’t too baa-d, is it?

Days at sea gives us an opportunity to explore the ship. We play mini golf, learn how to make towel animals, make friends with our dinner mates, and take in the nightly shows. There’s so much to do, but we spend part of each day simply sipping a cool drink and taking in the stunning Caribbean views from our comfy spot in the Solarium hot tub or pool.

St. Thomas is another port. We venture out on our own today, the taxi ride through the hills to Magen’s Bay Beach a bit like a roller coaster ride without the safety of the rails! We arrive early, so the beach isn’t crowded. I soak in the crystal blue water. It’s heavenly.

Magen’s Bay Beach, St. Thomas

We leave the beach before I turn too pink, travel down the windy road into town, and then take a tram up to Paradise Point, St. Thomas’ lookout point. The blues of the Caribbean mix with the vibrant tropical flowers and trees. Everything is lush and beautiful.

 Leaving St. Thomas

For our last day of sun, sand, and water, we join a friendly group on a booze cruise to Pearl Island away from the busy commercialism of Nassau. We enjoy a spicy lunch and rum drinks as we wade in the warm waters. Later, we explore the island’s tiny lighthouse and look at the seashells. The boat trip back to the ship includes music and dancing, and puts us in the mood for a fun last night at sea before returning to reality.

I enjoy our getaways to Key West, never tiring of its natural beauty and its people, but cruising is a wonderful way to learn which destinations may hold promise of an extended holiday to suit your needs. I’d definitely like to visit St. Thomas again, perhaps while vacationing in nearby St. John–secluded and romantic.

Oops, gotta go! I hear the blender whirring and steel drums playing in the kitchen. Time for a margarita moment or two. Until next time…

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