Caribbean Adventure Sports
If you think a Caribbean vacation is synonymous with lazing on the beach, think again. The islands can fill just about any adrenaline drug of choice: biking, hiking and leaping off waterfalls, to name just a few. Whatever your fitness level, an island of adventure awaits you in the Caribbean.
Swim With Stingrays
These graceful, prehistoric fish are known to burrow into sandy ocean floors, waiting for prey. But in the Grand Cayman’s North Sound, the local southern stingrays glide through water, sucking squid from your fingers and gently brushing your face with their wings. (Don’t worry, they don’t sting, unless you pull their tail or something.) A relatively shallow cut in the island’s reef system offers an ideal place to see the stingrays. Scuba divers kneel at 10 to 12 feet on the sandy ocean floor while snorkelers hover on the surface of the water or swim in a shallower location for a look.
Hike Boiling Lake
Who knew Dominica, in the Caribbean, was home to the second largest hot spring in the world? Known as Boiling Lake, a flooded fumarole (that’s a hole in a volcanic area) stands high up in the volcanic island’s Morne Trois Pitons National Park. A rugged 8-mile path to the hot spring begins in the village of Laudat and extends into the Valley of Desolation, a once forested area where steam vents, hot springs, mud pots and sulphur vents now bubble up from the ground. A guide is recommended for the treacherous 7- to 8-hour trek.
Bike Tinker's Trail
Within Anse Mamin, a 600-acre plantation on St. Lucia, is a 12-mile bike trail. David "Tinker" Juarez, a 2-time U.S. Olympic biker, helped design the world-class mountain bike adventure trail, which includes switchbacks and ridges on the way up a 900-foot peak on the island. At the top, celebrate by ringing Tinker's Bell and take in the 360-degree view of St. Lucia’s many mountains. Trails are marked by difficulty and trained instructors are available to help riders of all levels.
Explore the Cordillera Septentrional mountain range in northern Dominican Republic. Climb steep cliffs, rappel down canyon walls and glide through waterfalls -- a sport known as “cascading.” You’ll swim through rivers, walk up and slide down waterfalls and jump up to 25 feet into freshwater pools. Full- and half-day trips run out of the nearby town of Cabarete.
Dive with Sharks
If your bucket list includes the sight of a shark’s mouth this close to your face, your dream is as close as Nassau, Bahamas. Stuart Cove’s, a full service dive resort, offers a 2-tank scuba dive at sites where Caribbean reef sharks congregate. The first plunge takes certified divers along a steep underwater wall. Sharks swim alongside the group to a feeding site. On the second plunge, divers kneel on the sandy bottom in a semi-circle around a bait box, from which guides control the release of food using long poles. Watching the 5- to 8-foot sharks devour their feed is not dangerous; Caribbean reef sharks do not associate humans with food.
Kitesurf in Barbados
Kitesurfers have discovered what wave surfers have long known: Surf’s up in Barbados. Best time to visit is between December and June, when the big breaks coincide with the best winds. The island’s south coast is the main kiting spot; the easterly trade winds guarantee a consistent breeze year-round. At Silver Rock Beach, beginners can get up to speed on the glassy waters inside the island’s barrier reef system, while experienced kiters can catch surf breaks outside the reef.
Sea Kayak in the Bahamas
A mostly uninhabited archipelago made up of 365 islands, Bahama’s Exuma Isles stretch 130 miles southeast from Nassau to the Tropic of Cancer. The islands, formed from limestone carved by wind and water, are home to stingrays, starfish, anemones, sea turtles, lemon sharks and even the elusive bonefish. Kayakers can enjoy these natural harbors, pristine reefs and secluded beaches as they skim across the calm, crystal sea. Experienced sea kayakers can do a week-long, 50-mile trip through Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. Novice paddlers may want to take a day-trip to the red mangrove colonies and bonefish flats on the south side of Great Exuma, the largest and most accessible of the Exumas, at the far southern end of the chain.
Travel writer Trisha Creekmore has visited more than a dozen Caribbean islands, where she has been scuba diving with her share of sharks and stingrays.