Seeking new highs and pushing your limits on thrilling hiking and biking shore excursions in the Caribbean
Ihad spent four days surrounded by water. On it. In it. Gazing out at it as I lay sprawled on a beach.
Why should I be surprised? I did choose a Caribbean cruise, and this means magical days in the embrace of clear blue waters. This likely is the primary reason most people choose ( just as I had) a Caribbean itinerary. I cruised with a group of active friends on a Southern Caribbean voyage on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, and we certainly aimed to enjoy our time on the sands and splashing about in the sea. But, after four straight days of it, we needed a change of pace. Plus, the islands we visit on Caribbean cruises have plenty of other natural wonders to attract thrill-seekers.
So, after snorkeling here, hanging at the beaches there, and a couple of days at sea play- ing in the pools and on the surfing simulator, we opted for a hike in Curaçao’s Shete Boka National Park to explore the stunning limestone bluffs and caves. The hike is easy, but we enjoyed spending time in a more remote and rugged place away from the crowds. Waves crash against the coastline and into the caves, and centuries of the water action has created beautiful blowholes that burst forth from the ground as mini geysers and waterfalls. The park is filled with seabirds that glide through the long inlets that form the coastal region and winding trails and viewing platforms that overlook the cliffside to the sea.
The five-hour hiking tour on sun-splashed Curaçao was simply thrilling. If you’re a cruiser who loves to mix things up with some challenging activities that stray off the main beach- bound path, you can seek out these best hiking and biking excursions in the Caribbean. They’re sure to get your adrenaline pumping and will likely leave you sweat-soaked but smiling.
THE PLACE: BELIZE
The Experience: Jungle biking at Bacab EcoPark. You ride a trail alongside the Belize River in fairly dense jungle, with the chance to spot howler monkeys, iguanas, and exotic birds as you pedal in this wild environment filled with lush plant life.
The Details: Several major lines have a version of this tour, offering this moderately challenging excursion on their cruises to Belize, and the bike ride is about one hour. The tour often includes a lunch and free time at the adventure park, which offers a pool area.
THE PLACE: NEVIS
The Experience: Mountain biking, hiking, and climbing. Nevis is a gem of a destination, with amazing pristine wilderness, and its residents are among the top biking enthusiasts in the Caribbean. Luxury cruise lines like Crystal Cruises, Silversea Cruises, and Windstar Cruises make calls in Nevis, and you can find bike tours that fit all ability levels.
The Details: Nevis Adventure Tours (nevisadventuretours.com) offers biking and hiking tours up Nevis Peak (3,232 feet), as well as waterfall hikes through the jungle and plantation ruins. Its cycling tours explore the island, going through the village of Newcastle and a series of historic plantation sites. The biking tours may cover sections of paved roads and unpaved trails and can last between two and five hours.
THE PLACE: DOMINICA
The Experience: The challenging Middleham Falls jungle hike travels through the northwest region of the island’s Morne Trois Pitons National Park. The park has UNESCO World Heritage status, and its signature feature is the beautiful Morne Trois Pitons mountain.
The Details: Carnival Cruise Line’s four-hour excursion goes through the park’s forest, with trails that cross rivers and have you scrambling up rock in sections before reaching the stunning waterfalls, where you can take a plunge to cool off.
THE PLACE: VIRGIN GORDA
The Experience: Hiking at Gorda Peak National Park. The highest point on this British Virgin Island, Gorda Peak reaches 1,370 feet high. The park is located in a Caribbean dry forest climate and is home to rare and endangered plant species, as well as the endemic Virgin Gorda gecko, one of the smallest lizards in the world.
The Details: Smaller cruise ships like those from Windstar Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club, and Star Clippers make regular stops at Virgin Gorda. You also can ferry over from Tortola if you are on cruise ships that make a stop there. The hike can be done independently by getting a taxi to the trailhead on North Sound Road (about four miles from the cruise pier). The moderate hike takes less than an hour to get to the summit and gives chances to see hermit crabs, butterflies, and, of course, amazing views of the island and sound. You’ll still have time to go play at the famous Baths beach area, too.
THE PLACE: ST. LUCIA
The Experiences: St. Lucia is the most mountainous of the Caribbean Islands, meaning you have a buffet of options once you come ashore on your cruise visit. Bikers at Anse Mamin Plantation can pump the pedals on 12 miles of jungle trails, and hikers can choose to summit Gros Piton or Petit Piton or explore the rainforest on Jacquot Trail.
The Details: BikeStLucia.com offers a Jungle Biking Adventure to suit riders of all levels, and you get to ride through lush jungle on single-track trails, past old sugar mills on the 18th-century property. Carnival Cruise Line features Jacquot Trail Hike excursion that takes you through a rainforest to spot exotic birds and plants. The Pitons are the national symbol of St. Lucia. Private guided Pitons hiking tours are abound. You can choose which of the peaks you want to conquer. Gros Piton is the taller of the twin peaks but easier to scale. Either way, you get amazing views and bragging rights.
THE PLACE: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The Experience: Hiking enthusiasts will love the chance to take on the challenging 27 waterfalls of Damajagua in the Northern Corridor Mountains in Puerto Plata, a series of hidden falls situated amid sugarcane fields, all while getting the chance to play in the unique natural playground of the falls.
The Details: This adventure is ideal for cruisers on ships visiting Amber Cove. The hike up takes less than 90 minutes. On the way down, you can choose to jump, slide, swim, and frolic in pools, waterfalls, and canyons.
THE PLACE: ST. MAARTEN
The Experiences: Bike ride through Philipsburg or a scenic coastal hike. Learn about the history of the capital town from a bike seat or leave the crowds behind for a rugged bay-tobay hike along the coast.
The Details: Find the “Historical Philipsburg Bike Tour” for a three-hour ride suitable for all riding levels. This guided tour hits all the top points of interest, including Fort Amsterdam and the courthouse. Seeking a bigger challenge? Most major cruise lines offer excursions to hike the coastline along single-track trails, visiting Guana Bay Beach and the rocky beach at Geneve Bay. Along the way, you get jaw-dropping views of the seas, Pelican Rock, and St. Barts.
THE PLACE: ST. KITTS
The Experience: Climbing Mount Liamuiga is a strenuous hike that is sure to please avid hikers/climbers. The dormant volcano rises to almost 3,800 feet, and you traverse thick rainforest terrain on the way to reaching the edge of the crater near the peak.
The Details: Royal Caribbean offers this excursion on St. Kitts and warns that it is indeed a strenuous hike that covers six miles up and down the slopes. It can be truly taxing, but the views and sense of accomplishment are your payoff.
Bikers at St. Lucia’s Anse Mamin Plantation can pump the pedals on 12 miles of jungle trails, and hikers can choose to summit Gros Piton or Petit Piton or explore the rainforest on Jacquot Trail.
A view from the top of Gros Piton overlooking Petit Piton in St. Lucia
Clockwise: View of Leverick Bay from Gorda Peak National Park; Emerald Pool and waterfall on Morne Trois Pitons National Park; jungle biking in Bacab Eco-Park
St. Kitts Mount Liamuigs