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12 Under-the-Radar Gems Only Found in the Caribbean

The Caribbean is beloved for its beautiful beaches, sand, surf, and sunshine, but that's just part of its glory. Here, we highlight some of the islands' lesser-known bragging rights.

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Blue hole in the middle of CaribbeanGummyBone/Getty Images

You’ll love these wonderful hidden Caribbean treats

If you’re looking to book a much-needed winter getaway where you can lounge by the warm water and soak up the sun, look no further than the Caribbean. The Caribbean is home to several gorgeous islands to visit year-round (yes, even for a warm Christmas!) that are just waiting for you to explore. Before you book your trip, read up on these under-the-radar gems that are sure to take your Caribbean vacation up a notch.

Puerto Rican beef and plantains Mofongo meat dish. Puerto Rico food culture. Mofongo is a typical meal with fried cooking bananas as its main ingredient. Plantains are picked, fried then mashed.Maridav/Getty Images

Mofongo

Puerto Rican cuisine delights foodies from everywhere, and the island’s quintessential dish is Mofongo. The exotic-sounding dish is actually quite rustic; it’s made of fried green plantains seasoned with sofrito, (sauce of tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, and herbs) soaked in stock and served with a protein like lobster or pork. Mofongo was influenced by the African slaves who were brought to the island. Don’t miss these beaches with the clearest water in the world.

Belize, Lighthouse Reef, boat moored at Blue Hole, aerial viewSchafer & Hill/Getty Images

Blue Hole, Belize

Only on the tiny island of Caye Caulker will you find the Blue Hole, Belize’s famous underwater sinkhole that’s more than 1,000 feet across and 450 feet deep. It’s a trek to get there, but it’s worth it to dive the reef and view the bull sharks, nurse sharks, and giant grouper along with stalactite and stalagmite formations. By the way, this is the ideal vacation for you, according to your zodiac sign.

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Green Market, Trinidad

Trinidad is known for its carnival, but the Green Market in Santa Cruz is really special, too. Situated on ¾ of an acre in the historic San Antonio Estate, the market is part of a five-acre working farm and was designed with low-impact architecture to blend into the natural landscape. The market not only encourages entrepreneurship for farmers and artists, but it’s also a community hub where family, friends, and neighbors can catch up with one another and relax in an environment lush with greenery. Shoppers can find the finest produce, specialty food items, arts and crafts, flowers, plants, and more. Check out these mini-vacations that won’t break the bank.

Dominica Boiling LakeJoseph Thomas Photography/Getty Images

Boiling Lake, Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica

This terrain is not for rookies: It’s a six-hour by foot round trip over tough terrain to visit the Boiling Lake. But it’s worth the sweat to experience the rainforest. Along the way, expect to hear and see birds and rare tropical animals. You’ll pass the Valley of Desolation, which showcases hot steam of multiple hues, sulfur deposits, boiling mud, mini-geysers and fumaroles, montane forest, and elfin woodland. Boiling Lake is the world’s largest boiling lake—it resembles a cauldron of bubbling greyish-blue water, and is usually enveloped in a cloud of vapor. At 200 feet wide, no one knows how deep it is. (Swimming is not recommended.) The trail, the most spectacular in Dominica, is only for the experienced hiker accompanied by a local guide. You’ll also want to check out these gorgeous photos of naturally pink lakes around the world.

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Sulphur Springs, Soufriere, St. Lucia

Don’t be surprised if someone tells you that you look ten years younger after you’ve bathed in these mineral waters that locals swear are magical and medicinal. Paint your face and body with the mud, then soak it off in the hot baths. The experience is said to reduce stress, detox the body, and alleviate multiple skin conditions. The baths are in St. Lucia’s largest botanical gardens. After you book your trip, read up on these hidden travel gems that are way cheaper offseason.

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The Eforea Spa, Hilton Barbados Resort, Bridgetown, Barbados

Eforea Spas are known around the world for their luxury and high-touch service, and the spa at the Hilton Barbados is the only one of renowned spas in the Caribbean. It also boasts a first you’ll want to experience for yourself: It is the only spa in the Caribbean that offers a quartz sand bed; a massage bed lined with heated sand. It’s used in a treatment said to be ideal for those feeling anxious, dehydrated, fatigued, or jet-lagged. The service incorporates “psammotherapy,” an ancient Greek treatment that uses warm sand to alleviate pain and fight fatigue and anxiety. Tell your therapist how much heat you prefer and let the quartz work its magic. The Caribbean is definitely on our list of summer vacation packages worth the money.

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Monkeyland, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Take a guided tour at Monkeyland in Punta Cana and get up close and very, very personal with squirrel monkeys to feed and play with them. The tour also includes a trek through the botanical garden and a visit to a coffee and cocoa plantation. Before you book your trip, read up on the hotel trends you can expect to see this year.

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Bob Marley Museum, Kingston, Jamaica

Reggae legend Bob Marley’s former home in Jamaica is a walk down music history lane and is a Jamaican Heritage Site. A guide will take you through the original rooms that have been preserved as the music legend left them—even his personal recording studio. There are also displays, including a life-sized three-dimensional hologram of Marley from the One Love Peace Concert in 1978 and his Grammy Lifetime Achievement award among other personal items that will give you a glimpse into the heart and home of the master musician.

Animal, Flower Cave in BarbadosAppreciative Snaps/Getty Images

Animal Flower Cave, Barbados

“The Animal Flower Cave in Barbados is my favorite spot because of how quiet, peaceful, and beautiful it is. Unlike many beaches, it’s not crowded with tourists, so you can really appreciate and enjoy everything it offers,” says Paula Dixon, who writes the CurlyHairAdventures blog. “Above the cave, watch and listen to the water crashing into the rocks. Inside, you can swim in the pools created by mother nature and hear the water trickling into the cave through a couple of openings. It is truly a unique experience that is not your typical swim at the beach,” she says. Looking to plan a romantic getaway? Check out the most romantic resorts in the world.

The Caribbean Junkanoo band. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images

Junkanoo, Nassau, Bahamas

Nobody is quite sure how Junkanoo, a celebration on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, started, but one thing’s for sure, it’s party time! You might hear that it originated with John Canoe, a West African Prince who bested the English and became the big man on campus, so to speak, in the early 1700s. Then there’s the rumor that it comes from the French. It’s also thought to have developed from the days of slavery. Wherever it came from, Bahamians love Junkanoo, with its colorful masks and costumes, stilt walkers and all manner of revelry. It’s three days of sheer fun, with singing, dancing, drums, cowbells, whistles, horns, and masses of people parading through downtown Nassau.

The Botanical Gardens, Nevis

The Botanical Gardens of Nevis, on the Montpelier Estate overlooking Mount Nevis and the ocean, are a marvel. There are five-acre gardens with tropical plants from around the world, dolphin and monkey fountains, cascades, water lilies, over 100 species of palm, orchids, roses, fruit trees, and more. Don’t miss the parrots in the Rainforest Conservatory that whistle and say Hello. Hungry? Head upstairs to The Oasis Bar and Restaurant for a spectacular view of the island and authentic Thai food.

Gastronomie FestivalMargaret Pattillo

Gastronomie Festival

Foodies take note: If you only know St. Martin as a beach and relaxation spot, you’re going to want to rethink the French Caribbean island. A newly launched annual dining festival in 2021 heralded the start of 2022’s Year of Gastronomy on the island. The now yearly festival of culinary delights offers “discovery” menus at 85 establishments, ranging from high-end restaurants to beachside eats. Those lucky enough to attend will have the opportunity to interact with top island and Michelin-starred French chefs over cooking demonstrations. It’s a truly delicious way to immerse yourself in St. Martin island life.