Western Caribbean Cruise itineraries transport you in luxury to exotic tropical destinations and off-the-beaten-path places such as Belize City, Roatan and Progreso. Beautiful beaches and jungle-covered mountains provide excellent eco tours while Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula offers ancient Mayan ruins and cool freshwater cenotes (sinkholes).
Here’s our informative guide for cruisers, covering the 10 best Western Caribbean Cruise ports of call. We include highlights, popular shore excursions and things to see and do independently if you don’t want to join an official cruise shore excursion.
All you have to do is find the ports of call you most want to visit and then book a Western Caribbean Cruise that combines them all!
Cruise shore excursions in Cozumel
The island of Cozumel is perfect for enjoying beach, catamaran or sail-and-snorkel tours. Self-drive jungle jeeps, ATVs and dune buggy tours are a fun way to explore the island with a stop for tequila tasting and time relaxing at the beach.
Shore excursions also visit Chankanaab National Park with the chance to enjoy a dolphin encounter. Longer guided tours take in the archaeological Mayan Ruins at Tulum by ferry and minibus.
Independent Activities in Cozumel
On Cozumel, the main things to do within walking distance of the port are shopping and dining. However, if you share the cost of a local taxi with other cruisers, the island has plenty to offer. The San Gervasio Mayan Ruins, Chocolate Factory, Tequila Tasting experience and local beaches are all just a short drive from the port.
Cozumel Travel Tip!
Cruisers with children can book a Day Pass to a private beach club or water park on Cozumel from around $24.
Cruise shore excursions in Grand Cayman
The gorgeous island of Grand Cayman offers some unique cruise shore excursions including snorkeling and diving over a sunken WW2 wreck or swimming with stingrays. Turtle Farm Tours present butterflies, sharks and other native wildlife and visitors get to handle newly hatched turtles.
Also Check: 20 Things to Do in Grand Cayman During a Cruise
There are many boat trips available in Grand Cayman including catamarans, glass bottom boats and sailboat tours or book a place on the Trolley Roger Train for a scenic tour of Georgetown.
Independent Activities in Grand Cayman
Grand Cayman has upscale shops and art galleries to browse around near the port in this banking mecca. For a longer leg-stretch, head to Seven Mile Beach on foot or by local taxi. This stunning white sandy beach has many watersports on offer. Alternatively, just sit and relax with a long fruity drink at one of the luxury resorts that overlook the beach, such as the Ritz-Carlton.
Grand Cayman Travel Tip!
Pick up a delicious Caribbean Rum Cake as a souvenir. You’ll find them in most gift shops on Grand Cayman. Boxed and wrapped, they stay moist for weeks.
Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico
Cruise shore excursions in Puerto Costa Maya
Shore excursions in Costa Maya are mainly focused on sandy beaches and watersports in the clear blue Caribbean Sea. Go snorkeling, swim with dolphins or enjoy sailing on a private catamaran tour.
Also Read: Costa Maya Mexico, Here’s What You Can Do
Get to know more about the area with a City Walking Tour or opt for a Culinary Tour which explores Mexican history and cuisine with tastings! The Chaccoben Mayan Ruins and the amazing Lake of Seven Colors are well worth visiting as part of a cruise shore excursion.
Independent Activities in Puerto Costa Maya
Costa Maya cruise port has a modern shopping center which includes a plaza with saltwater pools and swim-up bars – a great way to escape the heat! Local taxis will take you to some of the archaeological sites in the area.
Puerto Costa Maya Travel Tip!
The Dzibanche Mayan Ruins are one of the few sites where visitors can still climb up the impressive temple pyramid.
Cruise shore excursions in Roatan
White sandy beaches, cultural attractions and a warm welcome from locals make the island of Roatan a top choice for visitors on a Western Caribbean Cruise. Dive and snorkel in pristine waters on the world’s second longest barrier reef, swim with dolphins or take a tour of the local Iguana Farm, one of the top attractions in Roatan.
Gumbalina Park packs in local wildlife, monkeys, birds, tropical gardens and a beach. Cultural tours include a scenic drive, boat trip through the mangroves and an ancestral dance performance by Native Black Carib Indians wearing colorful native costumes.
Garden lovers will enjoy a shore excursion to the 40-acre Carambola Botanical Gardens with trails winding through lush greenery.
Independent Activities in Roatan
Cruisers exploring independently will find plenty of duty-free shopping at the Town Center in the Port of Roatan. Handmade arts and crafts, local pottery and stunning underwater photos by Shawn Jackson make fabulous souvenirs of your visit. There are plenty of beautiful beaches nearby, including Mahogany Beach, which is reached by aerial chair lift!
Roatan Travel Tip!
If you like seafood, you’ll love Roatan cuisine. Try tapado, a rich and hearty stew of seafood and root vegetables cooked in coconut milk. Wash it down with an icy Port Royal beer.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Cruise shore excursions in Jamaica
Jungle-clad mountains, rushing rivers and sugar plantations can all be experienced on shore excursions from Ocho Rios. One of the most popular organized tours is to Dunn’s River Falls, just a short drive from the port. Wear swimwear and scramble 600 feet up the rocks in the rushing waterfall.
Worth Reading: 20 Things to Do in Ocho Rios, Jamaica for Cruisers
Alternatively, stay dry and watch from the open viewing platforms! Jeep tours, river rafting, zip-lining, snorkeling, ATV-ing and distillery tours can all be part of your fun Western Caribbean cruise to Jamaica. You’ll definitely hear the reggae beat and Bob Marley tunes everywhere!
Independent Activities in Jamaica
The town of “Ochi” has plenty of things to see and do for cruisers exploring independently. This former fishing village is friendly and safe for visitors to stroll around the shops, restaurants and beaches, although you should take the usual precautions against petty theft.
Walk along the Turtle River Park or visit Shaw Park Gardens and Konoko Falls. They are all within walking distance of the port, although it’s a steep uphill climb.
Ocho Rios Travel Tip!
Treat yourself to some Blue Mountain coffee beans, said to be the best in the world!
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Cruise shore excursions in Jamaica
Jamaica is a sizeable island and the only way to get a real taste of it is on an Island Tour with a local guide. Shore excursions from your cruise include river rafting, climbing Dunn’s River Falls or a private Jeep Tour.
Go snorkeling, zip-lining and horseback riding in this beautiful island. A fascinating Plantation Tour allows you to sample honey, fresh pineapple and raw sugarcane!
Independent Activities in Jamaica
Jamaica has some safety issues in the cities, so if you want to explore independently you should take a taxi. Go duty-free shopping or visit the pineapple plantation. Alternatively, take a taxi to Rose Hall and enjoy the private beach, lazy river and restaurant.
Montego Bay Travel Tip!
Cruise shore excursions in Progreso
Beautiful beaches, Mayan ruins, wildlife safaris and swimming in clear cenotes (sinkholes) can all be enjoyed on shore excursions in Progreso, Mexico. Take a City Tour and learn the history of Progreso or visit the historic city of Merida with its 500-year-old cathedral and plenty of shops.
History and culture combine on a tour to one of the Mayan archaeological sites including UNESCO-listed Chichen Itza with its Kukulkan Pyramid and Ball Court.
Independent Activities in Progreso
There’s a very long walk along the pier from the cruise ship and not a lot of local attractions in this newly added port of call. Enjoy some authentic Mexican cuisine in the local town or head to the beach.
Progreso Travel Tip!
One of the most unusual tours from Progreso is an ATV excursion to Misnebalam Ghost Town, said to be haunted, followed by time relaxing at a private beach club.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Cruise shore excursions in Playa del Carmen (Calica)
In the heart of Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen is a superb port of call on Western Caribbean Cruises. Endless shore excursions include swimming, snorkeling, boat trips, catamaran tours etc.
For something more unusual, take a trip to the caves at Rio Secreto with their amazing stalactites or take a guided tour to the Tulum Mayan Ruins overlooking the beach and blue Caribbean Sea.
Independent Activities in Playa del Carmen
You can spend hours exploring the 5th Avenue shops and cantina restaurants in Playa del Carmen before relaxing on the nearby beach. Local taxis will take you to some of the freshwater cenotes nearby. Take your swimsuit and snorkeling gear and enjoy a refreshing dip surrounded by nature.
Playa del Carmen Travel Tip!
Families will enjoy the award-winning Xcaret Eco Theme Park, which combines animals, nature and a model Mayan village. Just 5 miles from Playa del Carmen, it includes cool water activities including a Lazy River.
Belize City, Belize
Cruise shore excursions in Belize
Belize combines epic jungle experiences with the second longest barrier reef in the world. Snorkeling, scuba diving and helicopter tours to the Blue Hole are a must for those who love watersports, and they are surprisingly affordable in Belize.
Worth Reading: Things to Know When You Cruise to Belize
Exciting inland tours include cave tubing, rafting down a jungle river or zip-lining high above the rainforest. Hidden in the jungle are many fantastic Mayan ruins and pyramids, the most popular sites being Altun Ha and Xunantunich.
Independent Activities in Belize
One of the great advantages of exploring Belize City independently is that the official language of this former British colony is English! Most larger ships anchor offshore due to the shallow waters and cruisers have to use a tender (small motor launch) to get ashore.
Explore the Shopping Village on the waterfront with the usual diamond stores, colorful bars (look for the Wet Lizard) and a Belizean Chocolate Store for edible souvenirs. Belize City is not the most attractive place to stroll around, but it has a House of Culture Museum in Government House, a cathedral and rum factory.
You’ll also encounter plenty of street vendors selling everything from hair braiding services to horse and buggy rides.
Belize Travel Tip!
Most of Belize’s coastline is covered in mangroves so don’t expect to find any sandy beaches.
Key West, Florida
Cruise shore excursions in Key West
There’s so much to see and do in colorful Key West, so taking a shore excursion is the best way to see it all. Fishing charters, parasailing, snorkeling and diving trips are popular along with jet ski tours, bicycling, kayaking, glass bottom boats and tall ship cruises at sunset.
Cruise shore excursions include Audubon House and Gardens, Hemingway Home, the Butterfly Conservatory, Truman’s Little White House and the amazing Mel Fisher Maritime Museum with its collection of shipwreck treasures.
Independent Activities in Key West
Cruise ships dock near Mallory Square, the central hub of Key West. Street artists and performers entertain the crowds on the waterfront at the nightly Sunset Celebration in America’s southernmost city.
Stroll 2 blocks to the shops, art galleries and eateries along Duval Street or take the Conch Tour Train and enjoy the commentary as you pass all the historic sites and attractions. For a day at the beach, take a 3-mile taxi ride to sandy Smathers Beach.
Key West Travel Tip!
Most Western Caribbean cruises call in at Key West either on the outward or return journey. This remote waterfront community is much easier to reach by sea than overland, which involves a 160-mile drive from Miami on the two-lane Overseas Highway, often at speeds of 45mph or less!
Now you can book a Western Caribbean Cruise to your favorite ports of call!
Armed with all this information, it’s easy to book a Western Caribbean Cruise based on places to visit and things to do that appeal to your personal taste. Bon voyage!