Without a doubt, inviting beaches lapped by aquamarine waters are the main lure for many cruisers arriving at Western Caribbean destinations like the Cayman Islands, Jamaica or Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Tempting stretches of sand include Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman, Playa Linda in Cancun and Tabyana Beach on the Honduran island of Roatan.
The Cayman Islands are considered by many to be the birthplace of recreational scuba diving; the sport can be traced to the opening of the Caribbean’s first dive shop on Grand Cayman in 1957. There are more than 200 marked dive sites in these warm, calm waters. You also can snorkel with stingrays at Stingray City.
In Mexico, the Great Mayan Reef near Cozumel is another diving and snorkeling hot spot, home to more than 500 species of fish and sea turtles. At Xcaret, a nature preserve near Playa del Carmen, visitors can embark on an underwater tour of the coral reefs and intricate cave system. Favorite destinations beyond the beach on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula include the ancient Mayan cities of Tulum and Chichen Itza, the pools of water called cenotes at Chac Tun Caverns and the quaint, pedestrian-only shopping street of Fifth Avenue in Playa.
Jamaica has its share of beautiful beaches, but inland aquatic attractions also lure visitors. Climb Dunn’s River Falls, 900 feet of cascading water surrounded by lush forest, or ride a long bamboo raft down the Martha Brae River. Rum distillery tours, four-wheel drive adventures, horseback rides on the beach and even bobsled runs are other popular diversions in Jamaica.