The Caribbean has plenty to get you active, and with water everywhere it’s no wonder aquatic sports are a big draw for many vacationers. But you’ll also be seduced by fun on land, like hikes through rainforests and up volcanoes, or even a round of golf on a famous course.
Boating & Sailing
The Caribbean is a first-rate sailing destination – boats and rum-sipping, salty-skinned sailors are everywhere. On many public beaches and at resorts, water-sports huts rent out Hobie Cats or other small sailboats for near-shore exploring. Many sailboat charter companies run day trips to other islands and offer party trips aboard tall ships or sunset cruises on catamarans (usually complete with Champagne or rum cocktails).
The region is one of the world’s prime yachting locales, offering diversity, warm weather and fine scenery. The many small islands grouped closely together are not only fun to explore but also form a barrier, providing relatively calm sailing waters.
The major yachting base is Tortola on the British Virgin Islands (BVI); the Bahamas, Grenadines and BVI are the most popular island groups for exploring by yacht. Other yachting bases include Antigua, Grenada, Guadeloupe and Martinique.
Highlights include the following:
Anguilla Prickly Pear is a super-secluded mini-Anguilla with 360 degrees of flaxen sand reachable only by boat.
Antigua & Barbuda Yachting base. Dickenson Bay is a popular anchorage with resorts ashore and a good beach, while English Harbour is a historic and premier yacht harbor.
The Bahamas Yachting base. The Abacos is the self-proclaimed ‘Sailing Capital of the World’ so take time to tool around the Loyalist Cays with a rental boat. The Berry Islands are a yachtie’s heaven, untouched by tourism. Explore the 365 Exuma Cays at your leisure with a rental boat.
British Virgin Islands Sailing here is a top Caribbean activity thanks to steady trade winds, hundreds of protected bays and an abundance of charter boats. Tortola is the charter boat capital of the Caribbean.
Dominica Experience the watery side of the jungle on a silent glide by boat on the Indian River.
Dominican Republic Parque Nacional Los Haitises operates boat trips. Take a whale-watching tour around Bahía de Samaná to see 30-tonne humpbacks or visit Bahía de Las Águilas, best reached by boat. Catamaran sailing trips frequently travel between Cabarete and Sosúa.
Haiti Boat trips from Grand Goâve to remote and pristine beaches on the southwest peninsula.
Jamaica Montego Bay, Kingston, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio are all major ports for yachts. Catamaran charters are available from northern resorts.
St Kitts Has a new superyacht harbour at Christophe Harbour in southern St Kitts.
St Lucia Yachting base. Popular ports and anchorages are Rodney Bay, Marigot Bay and Soufrière. Take a day trip by boat up the beautiful west coast of the island.
St-Martin/Sint Maarten Yachting base. Popular ports include Marigot, Anse Marcel and Philipsburg.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Yachting base. Sailing the Grenadines is a top Caribbean activity. Bequia is one of the Caribbean’s best small islands and a lovely anchorage for yachts. Union Island is a popular anchorage with a busy harbor.
Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad’s Chaguaramas peninsula is lined with yacht harbors and full-service marinas that are popular refuges during hurricane season.
Turks and Caicos These little islands are popular stops between the Bahamas and the Eastern Caribbean.
US Virgin Islands Sailing here is a top Caribbean activity.
There’s good deep-sea fishing in the Caribbean, with marlin, tuna, wahoo and barracuda among the prime catches. Charter fishing-boat rentals are available on most islands. Expect a half-day of fishing for four to six people to run to about US$400. Boats are usually individually owned and, consequently, the list of available skippers tends to fluctuate.
Highlights include the following:
The Bahamas The Biminis were good enough for Hemingway!
Cayman Islands There are many charter boat operators on Grand Cayman; blue marlin is a big catch.
Cuba Cayo Guillermo boasts more Hemingway-standard fishing.
Dominican Republic Resorts in Bávaro and Punta Cana organize trips and cook the catch.
Jamaica Montego Bay, Negril ad Ocho Rios resorts organize trips and cook the catch.
Puerto Rico La Parguera Fishing Charters runs out to some of the world’s best marlin and mahi-mahi runs.
St Lucia Billfish, marlin and yellowfin tuna can be caught from November to January, and wahoo and dorado from February to May. Vigie is a good place to get on a boat.
Trinidad and Tobago Charter boats offer deep-sea fishing from Tobago’s Crown Point.
Turks and Caicos The country’s biggest fishing competition, the Grand Turk Game Fishing Tournament, gets underway at the end of July. Providenciales is the center for sport-fishing.
US Virgin Islands Deep-sea fishing charters depart from the St Thomas port of Red Hook.
The Caribbean has some of the world’s most beautiful and challenging golf courses, where both major and local tournaments are held throughout the year. Green fees vary greatly, from around US$30 at smaller courses to US$200 and more, plus caddy and cart, at the renowned courses. Club rentals are easy, but serious golfers tend to bring their own.
Most major islands have at least one course. Highlights include the following:
The Bahamas Grand Bahama has several top courses open to the public.
Barbados Several links, including Barbados Golf Club in Durants.
Dominican Republic Bávaro and Punta Cana are noted for their courses.
Guadeloupe St-François has an excellent public course.
Puerto Rico The Caribbean’s classiest courses cluster around Dorado and Isabela.
St Kitts & Nevis Four Seasons Golf Course on Nevis.
St Lucia St Lucia Golf & Country Club.
Verdant peaks rise high above dramatic valleys, volcanoes simmer, waterfalls rumble in the distance and rainforests resonate to a chorus of birdsong. Most people come to the Caribbean for the beaches, but many islands draw hikers seeking rugged terrain and stunning mountain vistas. Of course some just hike the beautiful beaches.
Highlights include the following:
Antigua & Barbuda Hikes around Shirley Heights on Antigua, including Carpenters Trail, have beautiful views of English Harbour. Mt Obama and Signal Hill also offer great views.
Aruba Roam around Arikok National Wildlife Park for fabulous views of the windswept coast, desolate beaches and wild goats, not to mention the refreshing Natural Pool.
The Bahamas Search for blue holes while avoiding the mythical chickcharnies on hikes in the pristine Androsian forests.
Barbados The Barbados National Trust leads guided hikes. Hike through botanic gardens in central Barbados.
Bonaire Washington-Slagbaai National Park has hiking trails through its desert landscape, with a good chance to spot pink flamingos congregating in the salt marshes.
British Virgin Islands Take watery hikes at the aptly named Baths, wading around boulders and through grottoes at sunrise.
Cayman Islands On Cayman Brac, the Lighthouse Footpath offers fabulous Caribbean vistas and glimpses of nesting booby birds, while Bight Rd bisects the National Trust Parrot Reserve. On Grand Cayman, the Mastic Trail is also rich with birdlife.
Cuba The best hikes are to be found at Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt in Guantánamo province, Topes de Collantes near Trinidad, and Valle de Viñales near Viñales.
Curaçao Near the island’s west end, Christoffel National Park has eight different hiking trails, including one to the island’s highest point at Mt Christoffel.
Dominica The hiking king of the Caribbean. Take an easy rainforest loop trail or hire a guide for an arduous trek. Morne Trois Pitons National Park has trails to Boiling Lake through ancient rainforest and Waitukubuli National Trail is a challenging long-distance hike.
Dominican Republic Cabarete has canyoning trips. At Jarabacoa, climb Pico Duarte and navigate its trek-filled parks or take canyoning trips at Rancho Baiguate.
Grenada Grand Etang National Park has a volcanic lake and plenty of hiking trails, or hike around the island microparadise of Petit Martinique.
Guadeloupe Hike well-marked rainforest trails to Chutes du Carbet. Rainforest hikes to Grand Étang offer views of a smoldering volcano, or hike to the misty summit of the active volcano, La Soufrière. Walk the tiny island of Terre-de-Haut, with its soaring central peak and multiple excellent hikes.
Haiti Parc National La Visite offers excellent hiking southeast of Port-au-Prince, down towards the Caribbean coastline near Jacmel.
Jamaica Hike past coffee plantations to climb Blue Mountain peak, or go deep off-trail into remote Cockpit Country.
Martinique Walk the foothills of the volcano Mont Pelée, exploring the soaring interior. Hike the dramatic and pristine 20km trail along the northern coast, from Grand-Rivière to Anse Couleuvre.
Montserrat Grab the chance to spot rare endemic critters like the Montserrat Oriole (the national bird) on hikes through the rainforest
Puerto Rico Hike the dry forest in Bosque Estatal de Guánica to experience one of the most unique climates in the Caribbean. At Culebra, there’s a 2.5-mile hike from Dewey to idyllic Playa Flamenco, then explore the rainforest trails and misty waterfalls of El Yunque.
Saba Has an expanding network of steep hiking trails, including the 2017-established Elfin Forest Trail, which branches off from the Sandy Cruz Trail close to Hell's Gate, and provides an alternative summit route to the Mt Scenery Stairway Trail.
Sint Eustatius Hike the Quill, climbing the extinct volcano, then winding your way down to the bottom through rainforest.
St-Barthélemy Explore the island’s dramatic vertical peaks and score killer views of the sea below.
St Kitts & Nevis Hire a guide for the strenuous volcano hike to the crater rim of Mt Liamiuga on St Kitts or of Mt Nevis on, yes, Nevis, or opt for a less demanding walk through gorgeous foothills.
St Lucia Gros Piton is an amazing climb. Hike to see parrots around inland park Millet Bird Sanctuary. Don’t miss the Tet Paul Nature Trail at Soufrière.
St Vincent & the Grenadines The Vermont Nature Trail (St Vincent) takes you through thick rainforest. There’s also a cross-island route around volcanic La Soufrière.
Trinidad & Tobago Hike to waterfalls big and small from Brasso Seco or Salybia.
US Virgin Islands Virgin Islands National Park on St John is a regional hiking highlight with 20 cool trails, including ones that lead to petroglyphs, sugar-mill ruins and isolated beaches rich with marine life.
You can rent kayaks across the Caribbean. Explore beach-dotted coasts, wildlife-filled mangroves and more. Many tour companies now offer kayak adventures, some at night in bioluminescent waters.
Antigua & Barbuda Kayak around the Robinson Crusoe islands off the east coast of Antigua.
Aruba Kayak through mangroves and old pirate sites with Aruba Kayak Adventure.
The Bahamas The Exuma Cays offer endless exploration for kayakers. Lucayan National Park on Grand Bahama has mangrove swamps and blue holes; Grand Bahamas Nature Tours offers kayak tours with naturalist guides.
Bonaire The Mangrove Info & Kayak Center offers highly recommended tours through mangroves.
British Virgin Islands Foxy's rents clear-bottom kayaks on Jost Van Dyke and offers night tours.
Cayman Islands Kayak tours depart from the North Side to explore the mangrove swamps, Starfish Point, and/or the magically luminescent Bio Bay.
Dominica The Soufriere/Scotts Head Marine Reserve is popular for excursions.
Grenada Conservation Kayak explores Grenada’s shores and mangroves.
Montserrat The only white-sand beach, at Rendezvous Bay, is best reached by kayak.
Puerto Rico Island Adventures on Vieques leads tours of the bay; Vieques Adventure Company has totally transparent kayaks that let you see the action.
Trinidad & Tobago Kayak around Tobago with SUP Tobago, explore Trinidad’s Caroni or Nariva Wetlands with Paria Springs.
US Virgin Islands Night tours through the bioluminescent Salt River Bay on St Croix.
Except for Barbados, which is further out into the open Atlantic, the islands of the Eastern Caribbean aren’t really great for surfing. Once you head north and west, however, you can find surfable swells.
In late summer swells made by tropical storms off the African coast begin to race toward Barbados, creating the Caribbean’s highest waves and finest surfing conditions. The most reliable time for catching good, high breaks is September to November.
Among the highlights:
Barbados At Silver Sands there are good south-coast breaks and a fine surf school. Soup Bowl is a legendary east-coast break at Bathsheba.
British Virgin Islands Apple Bay has good surfing on Tortola’s north coast.
Dominican Republic The best waves – up to 13ft (4m) – are to be found at Cabarete, breaking over reefs on Playa Encuentro.
Guadeloupe Le Moule has hosted the world surf championships.
Jamaica Bull Bay and Boston Bay boasts the best surfing in Jamaica.
Martinique Presqu’île du Caravelle has several excellent beaches for surfing and a small but growing surfer presence on its north coast.
Puerto Rico Rincón is well known for perfect tubes and a Beach Boys song.
Trinidad & Tobago Tobago’s Mt Irvine has a mini surf scene; Trinidad’s Sans Souci and Blanchisseuse are popular with local surfers.
US Virgin Islands Hull Bay is St Thomas’ most popular break.
Windsurfing & Kitesurfing
The favorable winds and good water conditions found throughout the Caribbean have boosted the popularity of windsurfing and kitesurfing. Activity outfits, resorts and vendors rent out equipment and offer lessons to first-timers at many islands in the region.
Antigua and Barbuda Antigua’s Jabberwock Beach and Nonsuch Bay for kitesurfing.
Aruba Hadicurari Beach, better known as the Fisherman Huts, is the island’s top spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing, but those in the know escape the crowds at Boca Grandi.
Barbados Set on one of the hemisphere’s premier spots, deAction Beach Shop at Silver Sands is run by windsurfing legend Brian Talma.
Bonaire Lac Bay has fabulous windsurfing year-round, while kitesurfers ride the wind at Atlantis Kite Beach.
British Virgin Islands Anegada hosts a kitesurfing school for novices and experienced enthusiasts alike.
Cayman Islands Kitesurf Cayman sets up its operation near Barkers Beach on Grand Cayman.
Curaçao The island's top spot for windsurfing is the smooth and breezy waters of the Spaanse Water, a large inland bay.
Dominican Republic Cabarete and Las Terrenas are both excellent areas.
Haiti The Boukan Guinguette kitesurfing camp in Môle Saint-Nicolas is remote but tremendous.
Martinique Pointe du Bout offers top conditions and a good school.
St-Barthélemy Grand Cul-de-Sac's sandy beach is one of the island's top spots for water sports including windsurfing and kitesurfing.
Trinidad and Tobago Radical Watersports at Pigeon Point are Tobago’s kitesurf experts.
Turks and Caicos Long Bay Beach is a prime kite-surfing destination
US Virgin Islands The North Shore beaches on St John, especially Cinnamon Bay.