When you fantasize about a tropical getaway, what comes to mind? For many of us, it conjures images of turquoise waters, white sands, and palm trees swaying in the breeze. But that’s an oversimplification, of course. Just as no two sun-soaked tropical destinations are the same, no two travelers are the same—not every vacationer wants to spend their entire trip lying on the beach doing nothing.
Enter UnCruise Adventures, a small ship cruise line committed to creating transformative and enriching experiences for guests. For the past 25 years, UnCruise has been transporting travelers to places big ships can’t reach. Plus, their engaging guides, who are experts in their sailing areas, lead guests on incredible adventures like exploring ancient ruins, coming face-to-face with howler monkeys on a rainforest hike, or swimming alongside giant manta rays.
With so many enticing journeys within the UnCruise portfolio, it can be hard to choose among them when planning a tropical escape. Each one promises active adventures for those who need a little more stimulation, but they also offer plenty of room for relaxation for those who need it. Here’s how to select the best itinerary based on your unique interests and needs.
Belize and Guatemala for the history and culture buff
If you’re looking for a combination of culture, history, and fun in the sun, look no further than Belize and neighboring Guatemala. Don’t judge these destinations on their compact size–when it comes to choosing a location for a tropical adventure, it doesn’t get much better than access to Central American jungles and the Caribbean Sea. This voyage kicks off in the capital of Belize City and then skips along several picturesque cayes dotting the extraordinary Belize Barrier Reef. Next, the ship drops anchor in Livingston, Guatemala, a hilltop town full of Caribbean flair.
The breathtaking beaches and laid-back lifestyle aren’t Livingston’s only draw, however. It also happens to be one of the most diverse towns in Guatemala, which is one of the most diverse countries in Latin America. Expect stories, songs, and snacks during visits with local Garifuna women and artisans. A visit to Livingston will also be your first chance to learn about the mysterious Mayan culture during a visit to a women’s clinic and the Kekchi Mayan Women’s Bakery.
When you arrive in Punta Gorda, back in Belize, you can delve even deeper into Mayan history and culture. A trip to the ruins of Lubaantun, which in modern Mayan means “Place of Fallen Stones,” will illuminate how this culture once dominated this part of the world. It’s one of the most significant sites in Belize, comprising several structures, including ball courts.
Back in town, head to the market for a taste of ripe mango, local cassava, or warm tamales. It’s an ideal time to fuel up before setting sail for the final phase of your trip. You’ll stop at two different wilderness areas that promise hikes through lush jungles, world-class snorkeling, and plenty of wildlife viewing before returning to Belize City.
Costa Rica and Panama for the nature lover
Wildlife abounds in Costa Rica, where toucans and scarlet macaws peer out from a tangle of greenery. The country protects a quarter of its wild lands, contributing to its reputation as one of the world’s most biodiverse countries. You’ll find half a million species in an area smaller than the state of West Virginia.
After arriving in the capital of San Jose, set sail for the southeastern tip of the rugged and wild Nicoya Peninsula. Inside the Curu National Wildlife Refuge, find frog-eating snakes, hungry crocodiles, howler and spider monkeys, and even the blue morpho butterfly.
An invigorating hike through the jungle of the Osa Conservation Area is next on the itinerary. This isolated area stands out for its diverse and colorful plant and animal species. A whopping 2.5 percent of the entire planet’s biodiversity calls this area home—including all four of Costa Rica’s monkeys and 16 different species of hummingbird.
Next, it’s onto the islands of Coiba National Park and then the Gulf of Panama for some of the best birdwatching in the world. Finally, transit from ocean to ocean along the 48-mile Panamá Canal before disembarking in Panama City.
Hawaii for the swimming and water sports enthusiast
Golden beaches, technicolor coral reefs, and crystal waterfall pools—these are just some of the reasons Hawaii has become synonymous with paradise. Whether you dream of snorkeling alongside sea turtles, kayaking to a deserted offshore island, or even hopping aboard a whale-watching cruise, it’s all available here.
The adventure begins on the island of Molokai—famous for its white sand beaches and minimal tourist traffic—with a local welcome ritual and sacred waterfall hike with one of the island’s elder families. Then head to the tiny island of Lanai for lots of swimming, kayaking, or paddle boarding. Next, snorkel among the coral gardens of Maui that teem with life. Vibrant fish travel in schools while majestic sea turtles that glide through the clear waters. Then, as the ship makes its way towards Maui via the Humpback National Marine Sanctuary, you’ll get a front-row seat to a productive breeding ground for dolphins and whales.
After arriving on the Big Island, the clear and calm waters of the Kona Coast create the ideal conditions for a grand snorkeling finale. That evening, you’ll anchor at an offshore location for a night swim alongside giant manta rays. If all goes according to plan, you’ll have the honor to observe these impressive animals up close—sometimes even within inches.
A wide range of choices
Vacationers looking to escape to the tropics this winter should look to UnCruise for that perfect combination of adventure and relaxation. Plus, the casual atmosphere and small ship size (UnCruise’s smallest ship carries 22 guests, while its largest accommodates only 86) promises plenty of interaction with our expert guides and fellow passengers while still offering spacious decks and modern amenities.
The bottom line? Uncruise’s variety of itineraries—which also include Mexico, Galapagos, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest—offer something for active travelers of all types.