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7 Best Eastern Caribbean Shore Excursions

El Morro fort is one of the major attractions at Old San Juan. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
El Morro fort is one of the major attractions at Old San Juan. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

The best Eastern Caribbean excursions offer more white sand beaches and more New World history than the western Caribbean.

The eastern Caribbean is more likely to have centuries-old forts and cities built by European empires. The best natural attractions have more to do with getting a better suntan. Following are some of the best eastern Caribbean shore excursions.

1. Old San Juan

San Juan, Puerto Rico, is one of the top Caribbean destinations, especially for eastern Caribbean cruises. The most famous and popular historical attraction is Old San Juan, which is within walking distance of where many ships dock.

The Spanish-built Old San Juan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest settlement in Puerto Rico. It is home to grand forts, centuries-old buildings, cobblestone streets and plenty of shops and restaurants. It’s one of the best walking around excursions in the Caribbean.

2. Nassau

The Bahamas are in the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Caribbean Sea, but the islands are destinations for many Caribbean cruises because of their convenient location near Florida cruise embarkation ports. The top destination in the Bahamas is the city of Nassau on New Providence island.

Like Old San Juan, it has a European colonial history dating back to the 17th century. Unlike Old San Juan, it has fewer major historical attractions, although it does have some worth visiting such as Fort Charlotte. What it does have is a massive tourism district and the Atlantis resort complex with a marine habitat, Dolphin Cay and Predator Lagoon.

3. Magens Bay Beach

Magens Bay beach
Magens Bay Beach is one of the most popular beaches among eastern Caribbean shore excursions. Credit: USVI Department of Tourism

Eastern Caribbean cruises also often go to the popular cruise port at Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Although it is famous for duty-free shopping, it also has one of the most famous beaches in the Caribbean at Magens Bay. Even better, the beach is only five miles from the cruise port, so the taxi ride is quick and cheap.

4. Philipsburg

It’s a matter of opinion, but I think Philipsburg on St. Maarten is one of the most convenient all-around cruise ports in the eastern Caribbean. Cruise passengers disembark at a massive open-air cruise mall.

From there, they can walk or take a quick water taxi to the city, which has a nice beach and boardwalk. Great Bay Beach isn’t the best beach in the Caribbean, but it’s one of the most convenient and one of the best right next to a major cruise port.

5. English Harbour

Antigua has 365 beaches or one for every day of the year. The beaches are good, but the island also has an interesting history. History lovers and families who want an educational experience for their children should consider going to English Harbour.

The British navy built a major naval base here in the 1700s and kept it in military use until 1889. It is now part of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, which covers 15 square miles. Still active, English Harbour is the only Georgian dockyard left in the world.

The dockyard is named after the legendary Horatio Nelson, the British admiral who was best known for a major victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars. Nelson commanded a ship at English Harbour.

6. The Pitons

St. Lucia has a pair of side-by-side dormant volcanoes called The Pitons. They offer great photo opportunities plus some interesting attractions such as volcano hikes and even volcano mud baths. My wife and daughter got their mud bath there. My son and I got our dirt on an ATV beach ride through some attractive countryside.

7. Swimming with Sea Turtles

Barbados has a popular attraction where snorkelers go swimming with sea turtles. These large turtles swim among visitors because they have become used to getting food from excursion operators.

The turtles also have become used to swimming within a few feet of snorkelers. These gentle creatures offer great opportunities for underwater photography.