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Beyond the Beach: Exploring Caribbean Cities

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Vintage green car in the street of Havana, Cuba

Travellers generally go to the Caribbean for the beach, but the cities of the islands are not to be neglected. Beyond the sand and surf, there are tropical towns bursting with the tastes, sounds, and sights of vibrant cultures. From the laid-back vibe of the reggae scene to the bustling marketplaces, these Caribbean cities should make it to the top of your tropical to-do list. 

  • Havana. Although Cuba’s capital has not been particularly accessible in recent decades, the gates to Havana are once again cracking open for Western tourism. If your heart is set on Havana, you can find your way to this classic Spanish Caribbean metropolis. Havana is famous for its historic Spanish architecture, and offers plenty of cultural experiences for the interested traveller, such as theatre, dance, and musical concerts.

    Spanish building in Havana

  • Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo looms so large in the minds of Dominican Republic’s diasporic population that the entire country is often referred to simply as Santo. It’s little wonder that this city has achieved such fame for itself. The capital is a sprawling, close-quartered collection of typical Latin Caribbean homes and business ranging from the government offices of past centuries to the cruise terminals of today. People visit Santo for the shopping, the gardens, the food, and of course, the Latin culture.

  • Nassau. The long and colorful history of Nassau is reason enough to visit the island-wide metropolis. At one time, Nassau was a “pirate republic,” housing a thousand pirates and providing room enough for their escapades in the Bahamas. Later, it became haven for Revolutionary War Loyalists. Today, it is a bustling tourist town filled with not only the quaint, pastel-colored colonial beach houses, but also attractive dining, shopping, and nightlife entertainment.

    Young women sitting on a restaurant

  • Wilemstad. Speak with anyone from Curacao, and they will tell you wistfully of their beautiful island and its homey appeal. In fact, the capital city, Wilemstad, is considered to be the very quintessential heart of Dutch Caribean culture. The city is best known for the string of colorful Dutch buildings that line its harbor, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Beyond these beautiful buildings lie more architectural wonders, plus a variety of newer developments such as many casinos and nightlife venues.

  • Marigot. Although it doesn’t have the distinction of being on one of the Caribbean’s largest cities, Marigot, Saint Martin is worth a visit. The town grew up around Fort Louis, a pre-revolution era fort commissioned by France’s last king himself. Left to its own devices for a full century prior to the late 1900s, Marigot is now considered an asset of tourism for France. Walk its historic streets and you will lose yourself among art galleries, fashion-forward shopping, and hidden French bakeries.

    Blue wooden window
Cultural immersion should always be a part of travel, even in areas characterised by natural wonders and modern entertainment. This is especially true in the Caribbean, where you can always find a surprising blend of European, Latin, African, and North American influences. Each island brings something new and different. Your only challenge will be deciding which city to visit.




Breana is an American expat living in the Dutch Caribbean. Graphic Designer and writer from sunny Arizona, she has travelled around the Caribbean, Mexico, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and most of the U.S. You can also follow Breana and her adventures together with her husband, at 3rdculturewife.com.