Five Adrenaline-Filled Trips in the Caribbean

From riding waves to free falling into jungle canopy, the Caribbean is packed with outdoor thrills.


Picture the Caribbean and what typically comes to mind is lounging on white beaches, pina colada in hand. And while this is certainly the place for chilling out, you can also score big thrills. There are plenty of ways to jump— or rappel, snorkel, kayak, kite- board or surf—out of your comfort zone for a bigger adventure. After all, a little bit of adrenaline goes a long way toward making any Caribbean getaway much more memorable. Besides, that colada will always be waiting for you upon your return.

Swim with Humpbacks off Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos

Grand Turk, the largest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, is a stop along a whale super-highway leading to an offshore breeding and birthing grounds called the Silver Banks. When the captain of the Oasis Divers’ snorkel tour gives the command, leap into the water and just start kicking. Once the bubbles from your splash-in clear, you’ll behold one of nature’s most marvelous wonders. Responses to encountering these jumbo-sized mammals range from speechless awe to tears of joy. Whatever you’re feeling, keep your legs moving because these big animals swim fast.

Rappel in Belmopan, Belize

Only the first few feet of the descent feel truly dangerous—as if you’re free falling into nothingness. Then the harness catches on the descent line. You breathe. You look around and realize that the vista from 200 feet above the Belize rainforest canopy is stunning. You feed rope through the carabineer to control the speed of your drop into Actun Loch Tunich sinkhole. It’s all perfectly calming—just don’t look down.

Kayak a Bio-Bay in Fajardo, Puerto Rico

The only rule of hunting bioluminescence is: The darker the night, the better. Bioluminescence, or biolume, is a neon light certain creatures emit. In the ocean, the organisms are microscopic, so dipping a paddle into the drink stirs up thousands, even millions of dinoflagellates reacting to the movement. Biolume is easiest to see in bio-bays formed when water rich with these organisms stays in a concentrated area unimpeded by tidal exchange. Fajardo, a city on Puerto Rico’s northeast tip, has just such a location. For the best experience with this green and blue light, join a kayak tour on a night with no moon.

Kiteboard in Cabarete, Dominican Republic

In Cabarete, those staying for last-call on the water are usually kiteboarders. Conditions here follow a consistent pattern, and since surf is best in the early morning, that crowd hits the hay early. The wind starts to pick up in the early afternoon, so kiters don’t gear up until after lunch. The reliable conditions also make this beach city one of the best places to learn to rig a kite and ride the waves. The Laurel Eastman Kiteboarding School will hook you up with gear and the know-how. Next thing you know, you’ll be body-dragging—that is, letting the kite power you across waves sans board—and having so much fun, you won’t stop laughing. And don’t worry, it’s just as entertaining with the board.

Surfing in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Timing is everything in surfing, so good instruction up front is key. Guides at the Mono Loco Surf School begin with theory in the classroom, so you understand the whys behind riding waves. Then in the water, nothing is more helpful than a pro shouting “now” when it’s time to pop up and find your balance on the board. Plus, the idyllic location of Bocas del Toro in Panama—an area more chilled out and undeveloped than the neighboring eco hotspots in Costa Rica—does wonders for the psyche.