Caribbean Swimming Holidays

By: Sarah Woods

October 8, 2014

Dozens of open water swims offer adventurous souls the opportunity to see the Caribbean islands from the sea. With so much scenic shoreline to choose from, we’ve narrowed down the search to find the best Caribbean swimming spots for some aquatic sightseeing.
Caribbean Swimming Holidays | Turtle in Barbados

In the Caribbean’s clear waters you can see plenty of exotic marine life like this turtle © Ben Ramirez/Flickr

Few regions present such a seductive proposition to swimmers than the Caribbean, where the numerous islands of the West Indies, and adjacent coasts, offer more than 2.5-million km² of gin-clear, sparkling, warm waters. Deep azure troughs, gentle lapping shallows and many gulfs and bays characterize the waters of the Caribbean Sea, where large, migratory schools of fish, turtles and a total of 54,000 km² of coral reefs contain around 700 species of reef marine-life. Around 90 species of mammals live in Caribbean waters, including sperm whales, humpback whales, dolphins, seals and manatees. Several types of sea turtle also inhabit the Caribbean region, so a simple swim could turn into an amazing adventure amongst loggerhead, green turtle, hawksbill, leatherback turtle, Atlantic Ridley and Olive Ridley – a truly spectacular dip!

Caribbean Swimming Holidays | Dolphin under water
Dolphins are just one of 90 mammals that inhabit the Caribbean waters © RichardALoc/iStock/Thinkstock

So whether you want to swim from Point A to Point B, circumnavigate an island, or undertake a cross-island swim between two palm-scattered atolls, there’s certainly a Caribbean swimming route for you. What’s more: the warm year-round water temperatures are reliably consistent, rarely falling below 21C°. Dive into the Caribbean Sea anywhere in the heady highs of mid-summer and it’ll be like taking a dip in a bath-like 29C°.

Caribbean Swimming Holidays | Snorkelling
The Caribbean is the perfect jump off point to try some cross island swimming © Caribbean Tourism Organisation

With its thousands of islands, the Caribbean region offers some sublime island-to-island swims. The Antigua and Barbuda area has 37 islands; there are 39 islands in Grenada; Barbados has a 34 km island; Trinidad & Tobago has 21 Islands; Jamaica has 26 Islands; and the islands of region of St Lucia total 17.

Caribbean Swimming Holidays | Buccaneer Cove, Antigua

Sublime swimming along Buccaneer Cove in Antigua © Nigel Pilgrim/Flickr

In Antigua, the annual Marlin Blue Water Open Water Swim takes place in late October at Buccaneer Cove and includes 500m, 2,500m and 5,000m distances, along with a competitive 500m relay race. With a beach for every day of the year, Antigua offers sublime swimming conditions, stunning views, gentle sea breezes and waters so clear that you can always see the sand-bed – however deep you swim. Open swimmers in this popular event range from seven to 70 years of age. Swimmers must swim without any equipment or aids, such as snorkels, fins or wetsuits – a swim cap, nose clip and earplugs are as high-tech as it gets.

Caribbean Swimming Holidays | Beach of the Maracas Bay, Trinidad

The beach of the Maracas Bay plays host to the popular annual Open Water Swim competition © tane-muhata/iStock/Thinkstock

Unlike many of the Trinidad’s northern beaches, Maracas Beach is protected by a deep bay, and is considered one of the most beautiful stretches of curvaceous coastline on the island. Here, in beautiful calm waters just a stone’s throw from the capital city Port-of-Spain, the annual Maracas Open Water Swim is celebrated in September as one of the oldest open water swimming events in The Americas. A mixed crowd of local and visiting swimmers get involved in this all-day swimming event, including tourists from Grenada, US, Canada and Scandinavia. In last year’s event, a gentleman from Florida was honoured as the oldest swimmer at age 83 – he finished 112th of the 146 swimmers, proving that it’s never too late to dive in!

Caribbean Swimming Holidays | Carenage in Grenada
Bird’s eye view of Carenage in Grenada © Medioimages/Photodisc

For a great point-to-point open swim, try the Grenada Cross-Harbour Swim, held annually in March on the island’s famous, history-rich Carenage, where hundreds of storied ships have arrived over the centuries. Some 70 swimmers take part in this magnificent swim to the soft sands of Grand Anse beach where a welcome party awaits – complete with cheers, applause, garlands, delicious food and great music. Step ashore in the mid-afternoon sunshine to receive a medal or a memento of your swim. You’ll be photographed for posterity too, though most people join the Cross-harbour Swim for the simple thrill of sightseeing Grenada from the sea.

Caribbean Swimming Holidays | Carlisle Bay
Carlisle Bay in Barbadosis a massive hotspot come October © Chang Wong/iStock/Thinkstock

In Barbados, the freedom and excitement of open water swimming has surged in popularity in recent years – with the island’s Open Water Festival in Carlisle Bay in late October a major tourist draw. All skill levels are welcome to take part from elite swimmers to recreational dippers, with the day’s swim ending with a music-filled beach BBQ and DJ set on the sands. Join the party atmosphere in front of the Copa Cabana Beach Bar – last year’s entries hailed from as far afield as the UK, Colombia, Canada, Venezuela, Finland and Trinidad. Some swam with underwater cameras as they were joined by a number of turtles and hundreds of vari-coloured fish.

Caribbean Swimming Holidays | School of tropical fish

Have your underwater camera ready to capture scores of exotic fish that will accompany you on your swim © Hoatzinexp/iStock/Thinkstock

St Lucia is home to a beautiful coastline with Choc Bay one of its most impressive sweeps of sand, fringed with swaying coconut palms and tranquil waters along the island’s north-western coast. A premier spot for Caribbean swimming, Choc Bay’s translucent waters ensure a peaceful setting for casual dips and competitive swims alike. St Lucia’s other swimming hotspot is the landmark isle of Pigeon Point, connected to the mainland by a causeway. Here, deep, turquoise waters play host to an Open Water swimming event in March and September each year. Hundreds of swimmers take part, with Stand Up Paddlers and kayakers tagging along too. Choose from a short swim, or a longer scenic stretch. One participant describes how, in last year’s event, he swam on his back around a palm-hemmed spit of coast, surrounded by red, blue and orange fish while seabirds flew overhead. The swim of a lifetime.

Header image © Trinidad and Tobago Tourist Authority

Virgin Atlantic operates flights to the Caribbean from London Gatwick. Book your flight today.

Have you experienced any of these Caribbean Swimming spots? Let us know in the comments section below.

Sarah Woods

Sarah Woods

Award-winning travel writer, author & broadcaster Sarah Woods has lived, worked and travelled in The Caribbean since 1995. She has visited resort towns, villages and lesser-known islands where she has learned to cook run-down, sampled bush rum, traded coconuts, studied traditional medicine, climbed volcanoes and ridden horses in the sea. Sarah is currently working on a travel documentary about the history of Caribbean cruises.