AD­VEN­TURE TIME!

Seek­ing new highs and push­ing your lim­its on thrilling hik­ing and bik­ing shore ex­cur­sions in the Caribbean

Porthole Cruise Magazine - - The Insider - BY JOHN ROBERTS

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

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