The Caribbean is known for crystalline waters, saccharine sunsets and lazy days. For those looking to bite off a little more, however, will be amply rewarded with 12-mile kitesurfing rides, impossibly high zip-lines, unclimbed boulders, monster waves and adventures galore.
Monster Waves at Tres Palmas Beach – Rincon, Puerto Rico
The beaches of Rincon, Puerto Rico, a wave-kissed area on the western shore, are famed for their surf. Some breaks there are renowned for being gentle on beginners. This is not so at Tres Palmas, a name known and feared by all serious surfers, which regularly sees monster 30-footers. When storms roil the Atlantic, huge swells barrel toward Rincon and produce the kind of conditions that big-wave riders remember for years. Tres Palmas is only viable when the swells reach 10 feet or higher, though, so surfers must be patient.
Even though the right-leaning break is far off shore, a sharp reef lies under the glassy blue behemoths. This, combined with the powerful waves, leads one surf website to classify Tres Palmas as a “kamikaze only” beach.
The World’s Tallest Zip line – La Cordillera Central, Puerto Rico
La Cordillera Central, the jungle-covered spine of mountains that dominates the island of Puerto Rico, is an adventurer’s haven. Among other gems, it is home to the world’s tallest and second longest zip-line, known as La Bestia. “The Beast,” to English speakers, soars a whopping 900-feet above the forest floor and clocks in at 4,745 feet long, nearly one mile. Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park, which opened in 2010, located in the town of Orocovis, just a 1-hour drive from San Juan, is The Beast’s home. Riders strap into a body harness while facing the ground in Superman position. Then, after stepping off of the upper platform, they embark on a high-speed, 2-minute run over a deep, beastly gorge.
12 Uninterrupted Miles of Kitesurfing – Barcadera, Aruba
Aruba’s white sand beaches and crystalline blue waters tantalize wind-addicted riders the world over. Calm seas, powerful winds and sheltering reefs make for ideal conditions basically all year long. Hurricanes rarely menace the island and the trade winds, which blow at 15- to 20-knots, are nearly as reliable as the hot sun. The stable conditions provide ultra long rides that are hard to find in other world-class destinations, where riders must tack back and forth for various reasons.
On a good day, a rider aided by the offshore trade winds can cruise for 12 uninterrupted miles. Most kitesurfers set out from Barcadera, in the middle of the western shore, and point their boards north. Some stop at Fisherman Huts, a midway point, or continue all the way to the northern tip of the island, at Arashi. The powerful winds, however, require a rescue boat to be at hand. With a few badly timed mistakes, a wayward kitesurfer could end up dangerously far from land.
Climbing the Pitons – Soufriere, St. Lucia
The Pitons of St. Lucia are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, treasured for their beauty and biological inhabitants. Those in the know, a fairly small number of travelers indeed, value the twin peaks as a hiking objective, too. Not many Caribbean islands boast super steep mountains that rise nearly 2,500 feet from the sea, and few people have climbed to their summits. The peaks, 2,620-foot Gros Piton and 2,460-foot Petit Piton, which give the name to the local beer, Piton, lie on the island’s western coast, near the towns Soufriere and Choiseul.
They are so steep that Petit Piton, the shorter of the two, is only 1 kilometer in diameter at its base; the other is just 3 kilometers. The eroded volcanic cores, swathed in thick jungle, take about three hours to climb, affording expansive views of Martinique and St. Vincent along the way.
Bouldering Untouched Rocks – Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
It’s easy to see why Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands, has quietly become a bouldering hot spot in the past couple of years. The island has barely been explored by climbers even though it’s home to mazes of high quality granite blocks, many of which are still unclimbed. No, the hot and humid conditions are not perfect for bouldering. They are good enough, however, and surely worth enduring for sculpted seaside boulders, sublime sunsets and scads of first-ascents-in-waiting. In some places, soft sand provides a landing so cushioned that crash pads aren’t necessary.
The Baths, a large cluster of boulders on the southern shore, is the best-known area, though at least two others, Spring Bay and Devils Bay, are within easy walking distance. Many problems are low angle slabs with razor crimps; plenty more feature wild ridges, cracks and arêtes. Several hundred problems, many into the double digit V-grades, have been established on the island. Those who are willing to wander and scout out new stones can unearth many, many more.