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 Islands Information

Place: Caribbean National Parks
Explore the Outdoors in Caribbean National Parks
Want to spend an evening gazing at the sun setting over mountains? What about a morning watching beautiful tropical birds awaken? Or an afternoon underwater, swimming with the fish? You can do all of this in the national parks found throughout the Caribbean.

Although most travelers are familiar with their own country's national parks system, the Caribbean's parks get relatively little notice. From the National Marine Park in Saba to the Caribbean National Park and El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico, there are a wide range of natural activities and sights to delight all ages.

Unusual Terrain

Travelers looking for a place to stretch their legs can find it among the Caribbean islands. Doing a bit of island exploration is never dull with mountains, volcanoes, valleys, and plenty of other island terrains to take on.

Aruba offers an entirely non-tropical kind of terrain in its Arikok National Park. Be sure to pack some extra water for this desert island. Aruba is unique in the Caribbean and is known for its divi divi trees, aloe, and unusual animals.

The other end of the terrain spectrum includes rainforests, 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. Animals and plants flourish in this beautiful spot.

Dominica's Trois Pitons offer picturesque splendor, and the geysers in the Valley of Desolation will delight visitors. Dominica is also well-known for its incredible nature and relatively untouched physical surroundings.

The Madre de Las Aguas protected area in the Dominican Republic contains the mountain range called Cordillera Central and the island's highest peak, Pico Duarte. Pico Duarte is the tallest mountain in the Caribbean at more than 10,000 feet tall. 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 for vacationers interested in sights and heights. The Costa Rican 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. Even now this volcano is known to bubble and steam.

Aquatic Adventures

While some travelers may be content to stay on land, others want to explore beneath the sea. Fortunately, the Caribbean is full of incredible underwater sights, from sunken ships to amazing sea creatures.

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 off the coast of this Dutch island.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize is just one of many areas full of underwater treasures. Enjoy snorkeling off of the world's second largest barrier reef in this unique vacation hideaway. Water-lovers will want 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. This 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.

Although Caribbean islands share many characteristics, each has its own terrain and culture, making the Caribbean a diverse place. When you're planning to explore the islands, take a look at what their national parks have to offer.

Jennifer Smith writes for,, and other Segisys travel Web sites. © 2005, Interactive Internet Websites, Inc. Article may only be reprinted if it is not modified in any way, and if all links remain live.

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