thomson jet riderSt. Thomas Jet Riders

By Melanie Reffes

From a trek and a triathlon to soaring high on a zip line, kicking your cardio into high gear is as much a part of a Caribbean holiday as a lazy afternoon on a hammock. Vacation envy is no longer just about tan lines (or the lack of them).

Keeping active runs the gamut from biking in the Blue Mountains and swimming the channel between St. Kitts and Nevis to cavorting with the sharks in St. Thomas. Escaping winter’s wrath is as easy as swapping the pine trees up north for the palm trees in the sunny Caribbean and with the mercury dipping to record lows, a holiday in the sun is the winter rite of passage for every Canadian worth his ( or her ) sea salt.

Zip Tripping

Using a motorcycle-style nozzle, adrenalin-seekers climb up, dive down and hover over the waves on Jet Riders in St. Thomas. Although once a toy for the rich and famous, the water-propelled jetpack is now a vacation must-do for Joe Anybody with a thirst for adventure. Flight instructors teach the basics and within 15 minutes the daring are up, up and away. ”Our warm climate, versatile landscape and beauty have made the United States Virgin Islands a leader in adventure travel,” said Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner tourism, “whether testing water-propelled jetpacks or zip-lining over the tropical rain forest, our many adventure offerings allow travellers to push themselves.”

Also in St. Thomas, Tree Limin’ Extreme is a zip line park high in the forest of St. Peter Mountain. With six lines, two sky bridges and eight aerial platforms, the vistas are eye-candy for photographers who on a clear day can see as far as Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. “Come experience our singing Rasta guides, our history and of course the adrenaline filled tour itself, “said Julie Eaton-Bryan, owner,” after all, it is da island ting.”

loterie farmSt. Maarten Tourism Bureau

Popular for all-night casinos and duty-free shopping, St. Maarten is also on the A-list for excitement groupies who soar through the trees at Pic du Paradis; the highest point on the island at 455 metres. Snuggled in the hills, Loterie Farm boasts the island’s only zip-lining course that includes Ti’Tarzan for kids, FLyZone for adults and FLyZone Extreme for those who like to push the envelope. For an après-zip treat, Hidden Forest Café serves tapas treats and crafty cocktails.

deep water cayDeep Water Cay


Something Fishy

Once a bone-fishing lodge, Deep Water Cay in the Bahamas opened in 1958 by the owner of Field & Stream magazine. On a cay off the coast of East Grand Bahama, today it’s a boutique resort coveted by angling aficionados who come to attract the elusive bonefish. “Fly fishing is a challenging sport,” said Buzz Cox who traded the cold winters of Maine and is now the resort’s general manager. “Our guests want high adventure in their lives so they come here to fish in the sea and dive in the blue holes.” 

shark encounterCoral World Marine Park

Swimming with sharks is the big draw at the Adventure Center at Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott in St. Thomas. The ‘Shark Encounter ‘at Coral World Marine Park is one of many tours included in the ‘Family Island Adventure ‘package available through August 31. “This is a spine-tingling, pulse-pounding attraction that allows travellers to get up-close and personal with a dozen sharks without any cages or barriers,” said Mark McKellar, director operations, Adventure Center, “after donning your mask, snorkel, and weight belt, you climb into the Shark Shallows Pool which is home to black-tip and nurse sharks and accompanied by your guide you’ll observe sharks and barracudas from as close as two feet.” Nightly rates starts at US $224, per room and includes a $200 credit for the Adventure Center. 

In the Turks & Caicos Islands, Blue Haven is the first and only resort with an adjacent marina in Providenciales, or Provo as the locals call the main island. “We appeal to travellers who prefer to stay active while on vacation,” said Ingo Reckhorn, director marketing. “With our 78-slip marina, the resort is ideal for those who favour a boat to a beach chair.” On-property, Big Blue Tours offers deep sea fishing trips and kayaking excursions. For the less adventurous, there are plenty of hammocks on the beach and lunch at the Salt Bar & Grille. 

For those up for a challenge, Nevis is the place to be for the Cross Channel Swim on March 30. Organized by the Cycle & Triathlon Club, the four-kilometre swim from Oualie Beach in Nevis to Cockleshell Beach in St. Kitts is now in its 12th year. “Because this is both a race and a challenge, we allow fins, masks, snorkels and wetsuits for the non-racers,” said Winston Crooke, founder. “We are very stringent on water safety and use kayaks, jet-skis and the local coast guard as support.” 

A Natural High

Through picturesque coffee plantations and past tumbling waterfalls, Blue Mountain Bicycle Tours take cyclists to the un-touristy side of Jamaica. With offices in Ocho Rios and Toronto, BM Tours are the leaders in trips up and down the mountain peaks. “A large percentage of our participants are Canadians,” said Orlando Dawkins, marketing director. “We find them to be more adventurous, in-tune with community tourism and excellent riders.” Breathtakingly beautiful, tours cover a distance of up to 29 kilometres although most of it is downhill and delightfully suitable for novice cyclists. “No longer is Jamaica viewed as just a stretch of white sandy beach; tourists are way more interested in satisfying their appetite for adventure and are demonstrating the desire to experience the splendour of Jamaica,” adds Orlando Dawkins, marketing director. For the brave and the brazen, “Ultimate Coyaba Challenge" is a 45-minute bike ride, a walk down 177 steps that overlook the waterfalls and a climb back up. For spectators (or really good cyclists), Fat Tyre Festival from February 15 to 22 is an exhilarating race through Ocho Rios.

In St. Lucia, jungle biking is the ultimate cool at Anse Chastanet Resort with the ‘Amazing Adventure’ package for singles, families and couples. Including meals, airport transfers and a host of activities from kayaking and hiking to jungle biking at the Anse Mamin Plantation, the package is available year round. 

“Whether it’s biking, snorkeling, zip-lining, horseback riding, kiteboarding or climbing the Pitons, there is no shortage of adventure in St. Lucia,” said Tracey Warner-Arnold, deputy director, St. Lucia tourist board. “Airlift from Canada will remain steady in 2014 with service from Toronto and Montreal on Air Canada, Toronto on WestJet and Toronto and Montreal on Transat Tours.”


Rules of the Biking Trail

ansechastanetBM Tours

• Control Your Bicycle: Obey all speed regulations and ride within your limits.

• Leave No Trace: Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones. When the trail is soft, consider other riding options.

• Yield Appropriately: Do your utmost to let your fellow cyclists know you’re coming; a friendly greeting or bell ring are good methods. Bicyclists travelling downhill should yield to ones headed uphill, unless the trail is clearly signed for one-way or downhill-only traffic.

• Never Scare Animals: Animals are easily startled by an unannounced approach, a sudden movement or a loud noise. Give animals enough room and time to adjust to you.

• Plan Ahead: Know your equipment, your ability and the area in which you are riding and prepare accordingly. Always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear.