Enjoy a Vacation in Caribbean National Parks
By Jennifer Smith
Most travelers are familiar with their home country's national parks system, but the Caribbean's parks get relatively little notice. From the many national parks throughout the Dominican Republic to the world's second longest barrier reef in Belize, there are a wide range of natural activities and sights to delight all ages.
Want to spend an afternoon underwater, swimming with the fish? What about a morning watching beautiful tropical birds awaken? Or an evening gazing at the sun setting over mountains? You can do all of this in the national parks found throughout the Caribbean.
Travelers looking for a place to stretch their legs can find just what they're looking for among the Caribbean islands. With so many different island terrains, doing a bit of island exploration is never dull.
The famous Trois Pitons in Dominica offer picturesque splendor, while the geysers in the interestingly-named Valley of Desolation will delight visitors. Dominica is well-known for its incredible nature and relatively untouched physical surroundings.
You'll find the Dominican Republic's highest peak, Pico Duarte, in the Cordillera Central mountain range, which is located in The Madre de Las Aguas protected area. At more than 10,000 feet tall, Pico Duarte is the tallest mountain in the Caribbean. Of course, mountains aren't all you'll find on the Dominican Republic. The ancient solenodon, a mammal which first appeared 30 million years ago, now lives only on this island.
Rincon de la Vieja, or Old Woman's Corner, is another unique park in Costa Rica for vacationers interested in sights with heights. The volcano is said to be named for an old lady in Guatuso tribal lore who is, in some stories, angry, but in others is a kind old lady whose cooking fires send up the smoke for which the peak is known. This volcano is known to bubble and steam even now.
Aruba offers an entirely different kind of island terrain in its Arikok National Park. Don't forget to pack some extra water when exploring this desert island. Aruba is unique in the Caribbean and is known for its divi divi trees, aloe, and unusual animals.
Rainforests can be found at the other end of the terrain spectrum, and the most well-known is probably Puerto Rico's El Yunque, the only rainforest within the U.S. National Parks system. Vacationers can explore the forest and see sights like no other. Incredible animals and plants also flourish in this beautiful spot.
While some travelers may be content to stay on land, others enjoy time spent exploring beneath the waves. Fortunately, the Caribbean is full of incredible underwater sights, from sunken ships to amazing sea creatures.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize is just one of many areas full of underwater treasures. Snorkel off of the world's second-largest barrier reef during your stay in this unique vacation hideaway. Make sure to check out the world-famous blue hole, where the bottom suddenly drops to more than 300 feet in a nearly-perfect circle.
Saba's National Marine Park was established in 1987 to help preserve Saba's natural underwater beauty. What makes this preserve unique is that the tiny island did not establish the park to repair an already-damaged environment, but to stop any damage from occurring, so these pristine reefs offer something truly one of a kind.
Curaçao also has a marine park in which snorkelers and divers can take in picturesque shipwrecks covered in coral. With almost 1,500 acres of marine park to explore, it's hard to go wrong!
Although Caribbean islands share many characteristics, each has its own terrain and culture, making the Caribbean a diverse place. Planning to explore the islands? Take a look at what their national parks have to offer.
Jennifer Smith writes for Curacao-Guide.info, PuertoRico-Guide.info, and other Segisys travel Web sites.
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.