Endless Caribbean - Alternative Tourism in the Caribbean 1
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A Different World: Destinations for Alternative Tourism in the Caribbean

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Alternative tourism in the Caribbean provides a meaningful experience for guests and supports local businesses. Keep reading this guide to find out how the Caribbean is using sustainable tourism niches to adapt to your needs and interests.

Travelling to the Caribbean is a breath of fresh air that you never knew that you needed. The air is different, the atmosphere is laid back, the skies are blue, and the waters are clean. These are the attributes that make a tropical vacation in the Caribbean worth every cent. However, in recent years, there has been a strong push to create new and exciting experiences for visitors to the Caribbean.

The aim is to appeal to your needs as a visitor to our region and to make you happier. In addition to loving our beaches and gorgeous weather, there may be other things that you’re interested in. That’s why many Caribbean islands have been exploring and actively developing experiences in alternative tourism niche markets.

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Alternative Tourism in the Caribbean

Alternative tourism (sometimes known as sustainable tourism) is a form of tourism that focuses on specific interests that are not included in mass tourism efforts. In many cases, alternative tourism niches focus on social and cultural factors and thus provide a more authentic vacation experience. The Caribbean Tourism Organisation identified twenty (20) alternative tourism niche market profiles that are actively being developed in the Caribbean:

  1. Bird Watching: Opportunities to observe birds in the wild or in their natural habitat
  2. Charity: Volunteer programmes available to non-nationals
  3. Culinary: Hosting of food festivals and tours and a variety of dining options
  4. Cultural, Heritage and Historical: Historical, cultural and heritage attractions
  5. Cycling: Bicycle rentals and tours
  6. Diving: Various types of diving locations and certified dive operators
  7. Extreme Sports: High-intensity sports such as bungee jumping, paragliding, kiteboarding, land yachting, hang-gliding, caving and river rafting
  8. Festivals: National festivals and celebrations
  9. Fishing: Facilities for renting fishing equipment and boats for freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing
  10. Golf: Golf courses with at least 18-holes
  11. Health, Wellness and Spa: Spa or hotel and spa facilities
  12. Homestays: Opportunities to stay with a local family
  13. MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conference, Exhibition): Event facilities that can host at least 10 delegates
  14. Sailing: Boat charters, boat rentals and sailing classes
  15. Set Jetting: Film locations for regional and international movies
  16. Soft Adventure: Low-risk activities such as horseback riding, snorkelling and kayaking
  17. Sports: International spectator-sport events
  18. Trekking: Hiking and walking trails and expeditions
  19. Weddings and Honeymoons: Venues for weddings and honeymoons
  20. Wildlife: Opportunities to observe wildlife such as whales, dolphins and turtles

Bird Watching

Birdwatching in the Caribbean is a past time that is steadily growing in popularity. Thousands of people visit the Caribbean each year to observe birds in their natural habitat. And, this is a form of nature-based tourism which is possible because of the variety of birdlife and specific bird groups in the Caribbean. Many companies offer Caribbean birding tours to several destinations which have birding habitats, bird watching facilities and over 200 species of birds.

The top destinations for birdwatching in the Caribbean are Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/ St. Martin, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S Virgin Islands.

Charity / Volunteering

Volunteering in the Caribbean is an opportunity that allows locals and foreign tourists to share their skills for a great cause, as well as learn new skills. As a result, many organisations in the region offer volunteer, conservation, and charity programmes in many areas such as community, teaching, environmental, medical, building, research, human rights, legal.

The destinations for volunteering in the Caribbean are Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bonaire, the British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Eustatius, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands and the U.S Virgin Islands.

Culinary

The Caribbean is a foodie paradise that thrives on delicious meals, fresh food and talented chefs who are dedicated to their craft. Culinary tourism is a priceless experience that includes cooking with locals, cooking workshops, dining at restaurants, tasting sessions, food and beverage tours, harvesting fruits and vegetables, visiting farms, touring distilleries and shopping at food markets.

The top destinations for culinary tourism in the Caribbean are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saba, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Culture, Heritage and History

True appreciation of the Caribbean begins with experiencing the culture, heritage and history of the region. Cultural, heritage and historical tourism includes visiting and observing historic architecture, historic and heritage sites, national parks, monuments and landmarks, museums and exhibitions; and participating in historically significant celebrations and events.

Endless Caribbean - Culture, Heritage and Historical Tourism in the Caribbean
Image Credit: The Barbados Tourism Marketing, Inc

The best destinations for cultural, heritage and historical tourism in the Caribbean are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe , Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/ St. Martin, St. Vincent and the grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Cycling

Cycling in the Caribbean has grown in recent years thanks to growing interest in the sport, a renewed focus on healthy living and improved infrastructure. Biking and cycling routes and tracks, adequate signage, updated maps, bicycle shops for supplies and maintenance, bicycle rentals and bicycle tours.

Destinations for biking and cycling in the Caribbean are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Belize, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe , Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/ St. Martin, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Diving

The Caribbean’s dive environment, which is arguably the best in the world, consists of a variety of dive sites; various types of diving; healthy marine environments; availability of dive equipment; and certified dive operators. Dive destinations in the Caribbean each have these characteristics which appeal to dive travellers.

The best diving destinations in the Caribbean are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/ St. Martin, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Saba, Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Extreme Sports

Extreme sports, which can also be classified as hard adventure require some skill and experience. There are a few countries in the Caribbean that offer extreme sports which are not for the feint hearted. Sports such as kiteboarding, caving, white-water rafting and kayaking, zip-lining, rock climbing and bungee jumping are some of the extreme sports in the Caribbean.

The best places for extreme sports in the Caribbean are Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/ St. Martin, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Festivals

The Caribbean has hundreds of festivals each year, and thousands of people travel to the region to attend them. Festivals are a large part of Caribbean history and culture and are events that encourage participation. Some of the more popular types of festivals in the Caribbean are cultural festivals, music festivals, art festivals and craft festivals.

The best places for festivals in the Caribbean are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/ St. Martin, St. Vincent and the grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Fishing

Fishing tourism is another type of alternative tourism in the Caribbean that is categorised as a nature and ecotourism activity. It is an activity that attracts the attention of sports fishing enthusiasts. Fishing tourists who travel to the Caribbean tend to partake in different types of fishing and travel to different islands to find specific species of fish. The Caribbean has fishing facilities for both saltwater and freshwater fishing as well as fishing charters and equipment rentals.

The top places to go fishing in the Caribbean are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe , Guyana, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/ St. Martin, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Golf

Golf destinations in the Caribbean have 18-hole golf courses which attract golfers and spectators alike. All of the golf courses in the region benefit from sunny weather, warm climates, and naturally beautiful environments. The popularity of golf in the Caribbean has resulted in the development of quality golf courses, competitive events, golf resorts, and golf holidays.

Endless Caribbean -Golf Tourism in the Caribbean
Image Credit: Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

The best golfing in the Caribbean can be found in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/ St. Martin, St. Vincent and the grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Health, Wellness and Spa

Health, wellness and spa retreats in the Caribbean focus on inner wellness (including spiritual wellness) and physical wellness. Wellness tourism aims to improve the spiritual standing of the quest and includes techniques such as meditation, yoga, transition therapies, massages and ayurveda techniques, beauty treatments, detoxes and the consumption of organic food.

Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/ St. Martin, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Homestays

Homestay tourism is a form of alternative tourism that falls under the accommodation category. It involves guests staying in the homes of locals for the purpose of experiencing the way of life of the country they are visiting. The foundation of the homestay is the relationship and engagement between the guest and the homeowner.

Caribbean destinations which offer homestays are Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions)

Also falling under the category of alternative tourism in the Caribbean is MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.) Event facilities for meetings and similar events in the Caribbean are aptly located, easily accessible by various types of transportation, equipped with catering facilities and can host at least ten delegates. MICE tourism is a subset of business tourism and thus attracts companies, corporation, associations, and business travellers.

Destinations in the Caribbean with facilities to host events are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/ St. Martin, St. Vincent and the grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Sailing

Sailing tourism in the Caribbean is a popular pastime for nautical enthusiasts. Also known as nautical tourism or water tourism, it includes sailing holidays, island hopping tours, yacht charters, sailing classes, regattas and other sailing events. Additionally, destinations which promote sailing tourism have facilities for docking boats, leasing watercraft, refueling stations, weather and nautical guides and maintenance.

Best sailing destinations in the Caribbean are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/ St. Martin, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Set Jetting

Setting jetting is a unique form of tourism where people travel to a destination that was seen in a movie, film or series. Also known as screen tourism or location-vacation, set-jetting is an experience that allows guests to explore scenes from the show. Established set jetting destinations have tours, maps and articles on the shooting location.

The top set jetting destinations in the Caribbean are the Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten/ St. Martin, St. Vincent and the grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Soft Adventure

Soft adventures are low risk experiences which require little or no skills and experience. For example, in the Caribbean, there are several types of soft adventure. Examples include swimming, backpacking, horseback riding, island safaris and island tours and walking.

Endless Caribbean - Soft Adventure Tourism in the Caribbean
Image Credit: Jamaica Tourism Board

Popular soft adventure destinations in the Caribbean are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/ St. Martin, St. Vincent and the grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Sports

Sports tourism in the Caribbean consists of spectator sport events, individual participation, and group events. There are several sports in the Caribbean which attract visitors. The Caribbean’s weather encourages the hosting of sports events throughout the year. In addition, there are opportunities for international sports teams to train in the Caribbean.

Top destinations for sports in the Caribbean are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Trekking

Another type of alternative tourism in the Caribbean is trekking. Trekking is a walking activity based on travel by foot through remote areas. Often intertwined with hiking, it is often classified as an extreme activity because of the length of time it takes. Trekking in the Caribbean takes place in countries with routes that are over five hours long.

The top trekking destinations in the Caribbean are Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Bermuda, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Eustatius, St. Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Weddings and Honeymoons

The Caribbean is one of the most popular destinations for weddings and honeymoons. As a result, there are administrative and infrastructural systems in place to conduct marriages. One of the major advantages of getting married in the Caribbean is that weddings can be held at any time during the year.

Popular wedding and honeymoon destinations in the Caribbean are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/ St. Martin, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Wildlife

Wildlife tourism is another sub-category of nature-based tourism in the Caribbean that showcases unique fauna. The Caribbean has a diverse animal species which includes endangered species. As a result, there has been a focus on conservation activities which support the sustainability of nature and wildlife in the region.

Endless Caribbean - Wildlife Tourism in the Caribbean
Image Credit: The Bermuda Tourism Authority

The top destinations for wildlife tourism in the Caribbean are Anguilla, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, , Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, , Puerto Rico, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago; and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Research Sources

CBI Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Attracting Tourists from Europe
Caribbean Tourism Organisation: Developing a Niche Tourism Market Database for the Caribbean
Words in the Bucket: Sustainable Tourism in the Caribbean
Alternative Travelers: Sustainable Tourism in the Caribbean
Medium: The Major Role of Sustainable Tourism in the Caribbean
Kateřina Procházková: Alternative Tourism and Sustainable Development in the Small Island Caribbean

Images

Featured Image: Aruba Tourism Authority
Cultural, Heritage and Historical: Barbados Tourism Marketing, Inc
Golf: Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism
Soft Adventure: Jamaica Tourist Board
Wildlife: Bermuda Tourism Authority