When it comes to your dream Caribbean vacation, are you less a beach bum, and more an adrenaline junkie? In addition to the region’s stunning beaches, the Caribbean also boasts some of the most heart-pumping destinations. Think exploring the depths of the earth in unground caves and underwater sinkholes, or swimming around sunken ships with barracudas. So to get your heart rate higher, we’ve rounded up the most iconic adventurous Caribbean destinations for your bucket list.
Spelunking in The Cockpit Country, Jamaica
The Caribbean boasts many stunning unground caves, featuring pristine pools and fascinating rock formations. Some spots prove easily accessible with a quick stroll. But others require more daring, such as Jamaica’s complex underground cave network. The island has over 1,000 cave systems, mostly concentrated around the porous western Cockpit Country region. Many can only be accessed by expert cave climbers like the Windsor Great Cave and Dromilly Cave — both athletic feats for any true spelunking aficionados. However, these system should only be explored with experienced local guided tours, like the Jamaican Caves Organization.
Shipwrecks and Barracudas at Kittiwake, Cayman Islands
Colorful and otherworldly, the Caribbean’s iconic coral reefs have made the region an essential spot for avid scuba divers. But the sea floor is also littered with ghostly shipwrecks that have become habitats for tropical marine life. The mammoth shipwreck of the USS Kittiwake in Grand Cayman makes a spectacular example. In 2011, the decommissioned navel ship was sunk near Seven Mile Beach to create an artificial reef. The vessel is now home to various species, including horse-eye jacks, green eels and a few barracuda. And the clear blue waters surrounding the site usually means excellent visibility for experienced snorkelers and scuba divers.
White Water Rafting on Río Yaque del Norte, Dominican Republic
If your searching for serious bragging rights on your next Caribbean vacation, consider a heart-pounding trip white-water rafting along the Río Yaque del Norte. Located in the Dominican Republic, the Yaque del Norte is the longest river in the Caribbean, running 185 miles. The routes offer intense Class II, III and IV rapids, with many churning channels and twisting bends. Memorable moments include a section of whirling cascades fondly known as “the toilet” and a breathtaking 12-foot vertical drop known as the “Mike Tyson.” Visitors can access tour operators and rent equipment at the small village of Jarabacoa. Popular tour group Rancho Baiguate is also known for arranging tours through the river’s most challenging sections.
Biking Tinker Trail, St. Lucia
It’s not everyday you can follow the trail of a champion BMX and cross-country mountain bike racer. Serious riders can head to St. Lucia to enjoy scenic views along the world-class Tinker Trail, designed by champion Tinker Juarez of the Volvo-Cannondale racing team. Cutting through lush forest, the specially designed trail gets the blood pumping with steep uphills and tight switchbacks. And the top, you can celebrate your victory by ringing Tinker’s bell, while taking in stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Visitors can ride the famous trail through Bike St. Lucia at the Anse Mamin Plantation, where they also run more intermediate routes as well.
Diving Blue Hole, Belize
Belize’s legendary Blue Hole first became world-famous when Jacques Cousteau explored its depth in 1972 for his TV show “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” He declared the perfectly circular underwater sinkhole as one of the best diving spots in the world. And it’s no wonder, with depths that plunge 410 feet. Located 50 miles offshore among the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the Blue Hole requires a minimum depth of 100ft. So only certified advanced and experienced divers should attempt the deep descent. Those who go may get a sneak peak of Caribbean reef sharks. Deeper down, divers are surrounded by massive rock formations dating back to the Ice Age.
Windsurfing in Aruba
Not content to stay by the sidelines at the beach? Then battle the elements with some epic windsurfing. Year-round trade winds make Aruba one of the most ideal windsurfing spots in the world. Every summer the island hosts the annual Hi-Winds Windsurfing Pro-Am Grand Prix World Cup event, attracting international champions to test their metal. Malmok Beach and Fishermen’s Huts prove the most popular windsurfing spots on the island. Though experts should also try Boca Grandi along the eastern side, where the strong current moves out to sea, and on-shore waves rise from 30 centimeters. The most challenging wind speeds occur around May, June, and July, when they are at their highest average of 20 to 25 knots.
Canyoning in Dominica
For avid canyoneers, Dominica must seem like a natural tropical playground, thanks to the island’s unique geological features. The small island is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking canyons, where rivers and waterfalls lace through dense lush rainforest. Tours through the iconic Ti’tou Gorge are available just 40 minutes outside the capital Roseau. Here visitors can climb waterfalls, swim through pristine pools and rappel down steep rock faces.