Caribbean experiences – 8 of the best
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Caribbean experiences - 8 of the best

Here is a fast and fabulous guide to some of the most memorable experiences in the Caribbean to flag on your bucket list.

The mix of cultures and races give the islands of the Caribbean a unique style in cuisine, music, architecture, customs and language. Whether you are climbing the Pitons in Saint Lucia, drinking rum with locals in Barbados or listening to the sounds of steel pan in Trinidad, the Caribbean is jam-packed with an rich array of varied experiences and activities. Here are eight of the best...

KICK BACK ON THE CAYES – Belize

"Take it easy and be happy," the locals are likely to say when you first arrive on Caye Caulker, a tiny island in the Belize Caribbean. Situated on a reef of some 200 cayes, and blessed with a fascinating mix of Rastafarian, Garifuna and Creole culture, Caye Caulker offers a Caribbean experience at its most laid-back and affordable best. Only seven kilometres long and 600 metres at its widest point, you can stroll the bougainvillea-lined sandy lanes barefoot in under ten minutes.

Once the hangout of pirates, Caye Caulker’s main industries today are lobster-fishing and its own special brand of locally-run tourism. If you tire of watching the frigate birds wheel in lazy circles from your hammock there are plenty of activities to tempt you away, including sailing trips on a reef second only in size to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, observing manatees (dugongs or sea cows), diving the Blue Hole, a day boat trip to the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha and a sunset drink down at the Lazy Lizard.

EAT JERK CHICKEN – Jamaica

An essential travel experience in any country is eating its signature dish, and on Jamaica that means jerk chicken or pork. Jerk chicken is believed to have been conceived when the Maroons introduced African meat-cooking techniques to Jamaica, which were combined with native Jamaican ingredients and seasonings used by the Amerindians. At most ‘ jerk centres’ - as they are known here, the recipe for jerk sauce is a closely guarded secret, but it usually contains peppers, onions, pimento, ginger and chilli.

One of the best places to go is Scotchies, an unassuming thatched-roofed joint on the outskirts of Montego Bay, where a reggae soundtrack combines with delicious aromas that waft on the balmy tropical breeze. Rows of chickens are splayed flat and whole backs of pig sizzle in jerk marinade over a low fire of pimento wood, which introduces a strong distinctive smoky flavour to the meat and a cool mix of locals and visitors rub shoulders at rustic tables opening tin foil parcels of tasty jerk chicken or pork accompanied with rice and peas, sweet potatoes or yam.

WANDER BACK IN TIME – Dominican Republic

A trip to the Dominican Republic would not be complete without a visit to the vibrant capital, Santo Domingo. This Old Spanish colonial city founded by Bartholomew Columbus (brother of Christopher) in 1496, was designated a UNESCO site of World Heritage Importance in 1990. It contains many of the oldest buildings in the Americas, and wandering its labyrinth of narrow streets will reveal the New World's first church, the oldest street, nunnery, monastery, library and university.

The weathered stonework, heavy iron-studded doors and beautiful colonial balconies are testimony to the grand style in which Columbus and the early colonists lived. From a stone seat in the battlement wall of Fortaleza Ozama - the oldest fort, you can gaze over an impressive armoury of cannons aimed over the Ozama River and the anchorage where Columbus once weighed anchor.

VISIT A RUM SHOP - Barbados

Though small in size, in the world of rum Barbados is huge. In fact, Bajans were the first to concoct this hearty cane liquor in the mid-17th century. Found in every village and town and at almost every crossroads or street corners where people pass by, are the island’s colourful rum shops. Part pub, part convenience store, part social centre, these sugar-cane shacks are the best places to enjoy a rum with your friendly neighbourhood Bajans.

Along Baxter's Road just north of the capital Bridgetown, you'll find a concentration of watering holes where sidewalk vendors fry up fish and the drinks flow freely late into the night. On the outskirts of town, amid the palm-fringed turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea is the Mount Gay Rum Visitor’s Centre - where the world's oldest rum brand was born over three centuries ago.

ENJOY THE CALYPSO BEAT – Trinidad & Tobago ...


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