When it comes to the quintessential beach vacation, the Caribbean does it right. Although the sun, sand and surf are vacation-perfect, adventure tours are the newest cool with a cornucopia of choices from zip lining and bird watching to riding the rails. “The ranks of visitors to the Caribbean who describe themselves as adventure seekers are increasing, “said Hugh Riley, secretary general, Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), “that’s not to say there aren’t those who still prefer a fly & flop vacation but we’re also been paying attention to what the research is saying about travelers who mix a healthy dose of adventure with Caribbean relaxation.”
A powerhouse of adrenalin-charged thrills and chills, the Caribbean is inviting agents to sell the islands away from the resort, at least for an afternoon. “More of our destinations are offering a variety of water-based activities that require a little more exertion than maneuvering an air mattress in a pool although frankly, that sounds great right now. We’re not kidding when we say ‘Life Needs the Caribbean’,” adds Hugh Riley, secretary general, CTO.
Dubbed the “Sugar Train”, St. Kitts Scenic Railway uses the same tracks that were built in 1912 to carry cane from the plantations to the factory in Basseterre. Today, the train passes Brimstone Hill and along the slopes of Mt. Liamuiga while a choir sings folk tunes and sugar cakes are served. “My personal favorite part is when the schoolchildren get so excited to see the passing train that they wave at the passengers, “ said Senator Ricky Skerritt, minister tourism,” this is the most authentic example of genuine Kittitian hospitality you can get.” www.stkittstourism.kn
Inspired by an old-fashioned steam locomotive, Grenada Discovery Train is a red trolley that makes its way through the narrow streets of St. George’s. Wrapping up at the cruise terminal, passengers are given admission tickets to several attractions they can explore on their own. www.grenadadiscoverytrain.com
Boats & Buses
At the Westin St. John Resort, “Island Hopper” is water-infused fun for the entire family. Under the watchful eye of an on-site Boating Butler, the vacation package tempts with travel aboard a comfy catamaran for smooth sailing between the three islands in the USVI. “Our guests create their own adventure hopping from St. John, the greenest island to the bustling mega resorts of St. Thomas and the off-the-beaten-path feel of St. Croix,” said Mike Ryan, general manager. For travel through December 17, the package offers a gratis night and $150.00 food and beverage credit when five nights are booked. www.westinresortstjohn.com/
In St. Maarten, “Da Party Bus” is a spirited affair for the pretty party people who like to stay up late. Tours include a “2 for 1 Tuesdays” that pours two for the price of one at bars along the way and a “Day in Philipsburg” that adds shopping to the mix. “ We offer something for everyone in a fun, relaxed and safe environment that offers vacationers the chance to experience all that St. Maarten has to offer,” said Anastacio Baker, owner. Compliments of Da Party Bus, revelers on each tour can win a return trip to the island. www.thestmaartenpartybus.com
A Natural High
Every day, the scarlet ibis flies to nearby Venezuela to feed and then heads back to Trinidad in the afternoon. Watching the national bird return to roost in the mangroves with their red plumage blazing is a sight to behold. Where the Caroni River meets the Gulf of Paria, bird watchers flock to the Caroni Bird Sanctuary where aboard a jetty , couples can say ‘I Do’ at a wedding ceremony in the heart of the swamp. www.nananecotours.com
At speeds of up to fifty kilometres per hour, flying high on a Zipline Canopy is as Jamaican as a plate of lip-searing jerk or a reggae band getting down on a street corner. For travelers staying in Montego Bay, one of Island Routes most popular tours is an intricate system of harnesses and pulleys on horizontal traverses high above breathtaking vistas of the island. www.islandroutes.com.
Up Up & Away – Zipping Tidbits (courtesy: www.usatoday.com/travel/ )
- Closed-toe shoes with secure backs will keep your feet protected during the tour.
- Bring hiking shoes since most tours include a walk through the jungle.
- Skirts and high-cut shorts do not work well with the harnesses, nor do shirts that expose the belly.
- Leave long jewelry at the hotel because it can get tangled in the harness.
“Summer afternoon, summer afternoon, “observed esteemed writer Henry James, “to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” All about lazy summer afternoons, the Caribbean is also a mecca for golfers who flock to the many green courses for a sunny afternoon of play. Even if you can’t tell a 9-iron from a waffle iron or a birdie from a bogey, teeing up with a calm breeze at your back and sinking a putt from twenty-five feet is what golfing bragging rights are all about.
Leaders of the Tee World
In St. Kitts, tourism minister Richard (Ricky) Skerritt knows a good course when he plays one. A member of the Royal St. Kitts Golf Club, the Senator is also an avid golfer. “I like competitive activities so my ideal vacation has to have a golf course, the sea and plenty of sunshine. “ In addition to the Royal St. Kitts managed by the Marriott and the Four Seasons Golf Club across the channel in Nevis, plans are underway for a course at Kittitian Hill and at Christophe Harbour. “Golf tourism is a key niche market that St. Kitts has targeted for growth,” added Richard (Ricky) Skerritt, minister tourism. Referring to the 54-hole St. Kitts-Nevis Admiral’s Cup Pro-Am Tournament slated for Feb 2-6, 2014, he added “this hallmark tournament continues to help us attract visitors from the golfing community as we ramp up marketing efforts internationally to support all the courses.” With holes facing the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, The Royal St. Kitts was the first Caribbean golf course to earn Audubon Certification for its environmental practices and is a coveted haven for native and migratory birds. www.royalstkittsgolfclub.com, www.stkittsmarriott.com, www.fourseasons.com.
At the Ritz-Carlton in Montego Bay, ‘Golf All-Inclusive & 54 Holes In Rose Hall ‘- for travel through December 31 – tempts with unlimited play on The White Witch course, one round at Cinnamon Hill where the Bond movie “Live and Let Die’ was filmed, cart, caddy and club storage . www.ritzcarlton.com. http://cinnamonhilljamaica.com.
No Holes Barred
Inviting with a trio of meticulous courses and GPS-equipped golf carts, Sandy Lane in Barbados is golfing nirvana. With five lakes and a Tom Fazio design, The Country Club is a 72 par, 7,060-yard course with postcard-perfect views of the Caribbean Sea. Also Fazio-designed, The Green Monkey is an ultra-exclusive 72 par; 7,343-yard course carved from an old limestone quarry and the Old Nine meanders through the Sandy Lane estate with 3,345 yards, par 36 and snug fairways. www.sandylane.com.
In Jamaica near the town of Mandeville, the Manchester Club is the oldest course in the Caribbean. Founded in 1865, the course is still in operation with sand traps and bunkers at 2, 0000 feet above sea level. http://visitjamaica.com.
Golf 101 –The Bucket List
- Birdie: A score of 1 under par.
- Bogey: A score of 2 over par.
- Eagle: A score of 2 under par.
- Par: The number of strokes it should take to get the ball into a particular hole.
- The Rough: The longer grass on each side of manicured fairways.