Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

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Caribbean

5 Best Western Caribbean Cruise Destinations

Chankanaab Park
Chankanaab Park is a popular shore excursion on Cozumel. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Western Caribbean islands are popular destinations for cruises in part because they have some spectacular attractions and excursions.

Some definitions of the western Caribbean includes Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), Puerto Rico and Turks and Caicos, but cruise lines usually include them as part of their eastern Caribbean itineraries.

Some or all of the following five major islands are included in many western cruise itineraries. They are:

  1. Cayman Islands
  2. Cozumel
  3. Jamaica
  4. Puerto Rico
  5. Roatan

The most common departure ports are Miami, FL; Tampa, FL; Galveston, TX; and New Orleans, LA. Other destinations on western Caribbean cruises that are less common include Belize City, Colon Panama and Costa Maya.

Cayman Islands

Stingray City
Stingray City; photo © Lawson Wood

Grand Cayman receives 10 times as many cruise visitors as people who visit there for hotel and resort vacations.

The island is most famous for two major attractions—Seven Mile Beach and Stingray City. Another popular attraction is the Cayman Turtle Centre.

Seven Mile Beach, often named as one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, is within quick walking distance of the cruise port at George Town, capital of the Cayman Islands.

The beach also is home to most of the major hotels and resorts on Grand Cayman.

Stingray City is one of the best Caribbean excursions because visitors get to interact with friendly stingrays that have become used to contact with humans.

The stingrays live on a sandbar where visitors can jump off boats in snorkeling gear and stand or swim in about three feet of water while watching the stingray glide past—and sometimes touch them with their wings.

Cayman Turtle Centre says it breeds 8,000 green sea turtles and attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year.

Cozumel

Cozumel is the largest Mexican island and located off the eastern coast of the country. It is often ranked as one of the best Caribbean islands.

It also receives a massive number of cruise visitors because of the ambiance at San Miguel, the Cozumel cruise port, as well as its beaches, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Visitors can take a ferry across the water to tour Playa del Carmen, a large Mexican city with excellent shopping along its lengthy Fifth Avenue.

Jamaica

Negril Jamaica beach
Negril Jamaica beach; © Jamaica Tourist Board

Jamaica is a lush island with a distinct local culture that attracts both cruise visitors and long-term stays.

Unlike the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Jamaica receives more visitors who stay than people who visit by cruise. It has five small cruise ports at Falmouth, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Port Royal and Port Antonio.

Jamaica is one of the best islands in the Caribbean to visit for all-inclusive resorts that provide so much food and entertainment that few people leave the resort property.

The island also is home to a famous Caribbean excursion at Dunn’s River Falls, 600 feet of cascading waterfalls that visitors can climb as part of a daisy chain.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan is capital of this U.S. island territory, a popular cruise stop and also an embarkation port for both western and southern Caribbean cruises.

This large island has numerous attractions in its own right, especially Old San Juan. It is the city’s historical district with large forts, cobblestone streets and centuries-old buildings.

Some people also combine a brief overnight visit to San Juan with a cruise.

Roatan

This small but up and coming island on the coast of Honduras is attracting more and more cruise ships. It has two active cruise ports at Coxen Hole and Mahogany Bay.

Roatan has the second largest coral reef in the world, which creates many opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Things to do include zip line jungle canopy tours, Roatan Tropical Butterfly Garden, horseback riding, deep diving submarine, glass bottom boat, sailing and diving tours.