By: Gel Evangelista
The Caribbean is best known for its white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and stunning ocean life that you can see when snorkelling or scuba diving. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for you if you’re into history. The Caribbean has seen the Spanish, English, Dutch, French, and many more settled here. So, remnants of forts and colonial architecture can be found throughout the Caribbean. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most notable sites that history buffs should have on their Caribbean itinerary!
Fort Charles, Port Royal, Jamaica
Starting off in Jamaica, Fort Charles dates all the way back to 1650 – 1660. It was the first fort constructed in the city of Port Royal on the spit of land below the Jamaican capital Kingston, on the south of the island.
Port Royal itself is a pretty cool place to visit too. Once considered the wickedest and richest city in the world, it was established by the Spanish in the 16th century and was the largest city in the Caribbean for a time – before it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1692. Sunken Pirate City is also a great place to visit nearby!
Discovery Bay, Jamaica
Another of Jamaica’s top historical notable sites is Discovery Bay. Why’s it called that; you may be wondering? Well, Discovery Bay is said to be the first spot where Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean (although others will tell you it’s Sevilla La Nueva, also in Jamaica).
Discovery Bay is, in fact, an entire town, not just a bay, and there’s plenty of stuff to see here. Most interesting for history buffs will certainly be Columbus Park, a historical and archaeological park with stunning ocean views.
Fort Rodney, Pigeon Island, St. Lucia
The hilltop Fort Rodney is one of the most exciting attractions on St Lucia’s north shore. When it was constructed, the fort was intended to give a view of the bay and protect against marauders. Today though, you don’t need to worry about the second part and just enjoy the sweeping views of Rodney Bay.
Fort Rodney is a popular hiking spot in Pigeon Island National Park, so don’t forget your walking boots!
Morne Coubaril Estate, St. Lucia
The Morne Coubaril estate used to dominate St. Lucia. Formerly used to produce sugar cane syrup, cocoa, and processing coconuts, now you can visit the on-site museum to see exactly how they plantation worked. The traditional huts mean you can capture a snapshot of life at the estate, before wandering round in beautiful botanical surroundings.
Nowadays, these notable sites are so much more than just a museum. On offer, you can enjoy waterfall hikes, zip-lining, and horseback riding. Therefore, it’s a great place for history buffs to come with their families as there’s plenty to do if the kids aren’t quite as into the historical side as you are!
National Theatre of Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica
Not dating quite as far back as some of the colonial forts and towns on this list, San José’s National Theatre of Costa Rica is a neo-classical building widely considered to be the most beautiful in the whole of the Costa Rican capital. The interior is filled with priceless murals and paintings, with the ceiling considered to be one of the 10 best in the world.
You can do a self-guided tour of the theatre, or if you’re really into the arts, why not book a ticket to a show?!
Liberia, Costa Rica
Liberia is the capital of the Guanacaste region and it’s not a city for fancy restaurants and boutique shopping. However, history buffs: you’re in luck! The town has developed over the years, but it’s still considered a colonial town and is full of whitewashed buildings.
What you’ll really want to see though is the notable sites of an epic battle from back in 1856. Deep inside the Santa Rosa National Park is the scene where filibusters who wanted to enslave Costa Ricans were repelled by Tico troops. This short battle resulted in the freedom of many Costa Ricans.
Panama Viejo, Panama City, Panama
Panama City was the first city in the Pacific established by Europeans. It was the jumping-off point for exported gold for over 150 years until it was sacked by Captain Henry Morgan in the second half of the 17th century.
The ruins of Panama Viejo are still a must-see in the city and take you back to a time when the Spanish were just settling in the new world. When the city was sacked, it was moved a little further down the coast to our next spot on the list…
Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
The historic centre of Panama that hasn’t been razed to the ground is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Rather than a museum or attraction, it’s a piece of living history where you can admire the colonial architecture from the indigenous art galleries, jazz bars, and fine chocolate shops that now inhabit these beautiful old buildings.
Mount Vernon Plantation, St. Maarten
This historical park housed the plantation which gave St. Maarten its wealth during the years of colonialism and early independence. The two acres set in a green valley were where sugar, rum, and a number of spices were produced and became the backbone of the island’s economy. Enjoy exploring and walking between the old mills and buildings that dot the plantation.
Soualiaga Museum, St. Maarten
Make things easier by booking a tour with Rainforest Adventure when you’re in St. Maarten, where you can tailor your trip to your interests. The Emilio Wilson Museum is the starting point for many St. Maarten tours, and it gives you the opportunity to enjoy a living museum, purchased and re-purposed by the grandson of one of the slaves who used to work on the plantation.
There are other attractions nearby including the Sky Explorer chairlift, downhill schooner, and ziplining across the valley. For more tips and attractions guides for the whole family, check out Trip101 and The Vacationist by Rainforest Adventures.