Here are the prime pirate hangouts of the Caribbean islands you need to explore…
If your favourite Pirates film is Curse of the Black Pearl (aka it’s all about the ship) – make a beeline for Barbados, where you can explore shipwrecks off the coast of the island. The waters around Barbados are packed full of coral reefs and wrecks for scuba divers to spot, with Carlisle Bay being the number one location for shipwrecks. There are also offshore caves in the area where buccaneers are said to have stashed their loot.
If you prefer being above the waters, join one of the many Jolly Rodger ship tours from Bridgetown, which offer everything from pirate party cruises and family trips, to shipwreck snorkelling tours.
Known as the ‘Hawaii of the Caribbean’, St Lucia’s stunning tropical landscape was made for swashbuckling-style adventures. There’s everything from dense rainforests and soaring mountains to sparkling waterfalls and secret coves. It’s no wonder that pirates rated the island as their hangout of choice.
Pigeon Island is a former pirate base turned national park. It’s full of vine-wrapped ancient forts and crumbling ruins dating back to the 1800s you can explore. Plus, there’s an old lookout point at the top of the fort where you can get views over the north-west coastline, and lots of hidden beach coves where you can search for buried treasure.
Stay at the Royalton St Lucia hotel in the aptly-named Smugglers Cove, to enjoy its luxurious setting and a private white-sand beach. Or, join our Black Magic pirate sailing excursion and spend the day living the pirate life on board a replica 16th-century galleon. You’ll sail along the west coast of St Lucia past the amazing Piton Mountains, learn to fire black powder cannons and take part in a treasure hunt. You’ll even be able to walk the plank if you dare.
Back in the day, bandits used Aruba as their main base for ambushing gold-carrying galleons from Spain. Pirates were a real problem in 17th-century Aruba, and to stop them, the Dutch built military tower Fort Zoutman in the capital city, Oranjestad. It’s the oldest structure on the island and is now a tourist attraction you can visit, with stout walls, colourful architecture and heavy cannons to explore. Museo Arubano nearby will give you a rundown of the island’s swashbuckling history, too.
You can also visit one of the places where pirates struck gold – the Medieval mine at Bushiribana. It’s a 15-minute drive from Palm Beach and more than three million pounds of gold was excavated from the area.
The Jamaican town of Port Royal, near Kingston, was once the pirate capital of the Caribbean – attracting famous pirates like Henry Morgan and Christopher Myngs. Today, the infamous pirate port is more of a quiet fishing village, but it’s still a must-visit if you’re a buccaneer buff, with a Maritime Museum and old fort to see. The town was destroyed by an earthquake in the 17th century, but there are plans to refurbish and restore it to its former glory.
Montego Bay, Jamaica’s second largest city, is another former pirate hangout and playground for the rich and famous. Here you’ll find Round Hill Fort, an 18th-century citadel, which protected the harbour from pirates and offers amazing views of Montego Bay and the city. There’s also Bloody Bay Beach in Negril, where John Rackham, commonly known as Calico Jack, was captured. Stay at the ClubHotel Riu Negril and you’ll be footsteps away from the powder white sand of Bloody Bay Beach.
Cuba is where you’ll find the best rum-based cocktails to enjoy along with a backing track of smooth salsa rhythms. You can visit the Havana Club Rum Museum in Cuba’s capital to learn all about the production processes and, of course, taste some too. Or, you can skip the learning bit and head to Café La Barrita – an old Barcardi distillery turned trendy bar where you’ll find some of the best Mojitos on the island.