Caribbean Adventure Vacations
It takes a great deal of time and dedication to get into the best shape of your life — at the gym, in the pool, on the bike, running, watching your diet and counting calories. You have just come in after a long run and your mate, who just came before you from the gym, hands you a cool smoothie and says, honey, let’s go down to the Caribbean for a well deserved vacation. – Roy Taylor
You are not blowing it on a food-fest vacation. You are thinking of typical jaunts down to the Caribbean, standing in line for calorie enriched buffets, lazy days on the beach drinking sweet rum concoctions and trying to work off weight gain on the dance floor. Today, more Americans are eating healthy and exercising. Healthy lifestyles do not stop at the kitchen and gym. They continue during vacation.
The Caribbean islands, from the days of Hollywood celebrity getaways to Jamaica, jet-setters to Aruba and gambling weekends in Cuba and Bahamas, has catered to the food-binging and alcohol-induced conga line crowd. Times are changing.
All across America, people are spending more weekends running marathons, cycling centuries and swimming open-water Ironman Triathlons. More of us are turning to adventure vacations. For someone in the best shape of their lives, an hour in a crowded resort gym is not enough. They are looking for vacations built around an endurance activity with great vacation trimmings on the side. They want to feel the burn, collect the trophy and relax by the pool afterwards.
Arguably, the explosion of Caribbean adventure vacations commenced in 1985 with Jake’s Off-Road Triathlon in Jamaica. His triathlon started as a thank you activity for the Peace Corp and has grown ever since.
Named one of the “5 BEST OFF-ROAD RACES” by Triathlete Magazine, Jake’s Off-Road Triathlon is located at Treasure Beach in St. Elizabeth Parish, along the beautiful and unspoiled south coast of Jamaica. The race is limited to 150 International and Jamaican participants. Competitors race within the tiny Jamaican community of Treasure Beach, which turns out to welcome and support them. You will enjoy great Jamaican food and drinks, classic t-shirts, reggae parties on the beach, unforgettable sunsets and the warmth of the Jamaican people.
The Reggae Marathon in Negril, Jamaica came about five years later and Jamaica Reggae Ride followed another five years later with bike rides from Negril to Port Antonio. These are carefully planned events, not “roughing it” vacations. The Jamaica Reggae Ride is an all-inclusive arrival airport-to-departure airport service. Staff pick cyclists up at the arrival airport, transport cyclist luggage from hotel to hotel along the path, and take care of all the cyclist needs on and off the bike. Every morning, the cyclists only have to concentrate on scenic views, while riding 60 miles to the next hotel and discovering a new town in the afternoon.
The Reggae Marathon takes place along the pancake-flat roads of Negril adjacent to white sand beaches. Participants roll out of beautiful beach hotels and stroll over to the start of the run. The 13.1-mile course loop starts and finishes steps from the beach alongside Negril’s famous “seven-mile” white sandy beach. Full marathoners run the course twice.
Views of the sand, sea, and lush greenery are gorgeous. The live reggae bands positioned every few miles, sidewalk sound systems and cheers from the locals are unlike any marathon in the U.S. or Europe. That keeps you motivated. At completion, you rest, rehydrate, line up for a free massage and take a quick dip in the ocean.
Caribbean cycling is phenomenal. On their own, cyclists can ride around small islands like Barbados in a day before lunch or participate in events such as La Vuelta and circumnavigate the 300+ miles of Puerto Rico’s coastlines. If mountain biking is your thing, go to Nevis Adventure Tours/GreenEdge Bike Shop. Reginald can plan a mountain or hiking tour of Nevis, St. Kitts or both.
If you are looking for something shorter and sweeter, St Lucia has Bike St. Lucia’s, 8 miles of custom mountain bike trails situated on the infamous Anse Mamin Plantation, now part of Anse Chastanet Resort grounds. Ride mountain bikes amongst an abundance of tropical vegetation and 18th century historical plantation ruins, on trails designed to accommodate both the first time and experienced riders on Cannondale suspension bikes. There is a skill course training area adjacent to the 5,000 square foot Bike St. Lucia facility where riders can learn or brush up on off-road riding skills.
If riding trails 180 miles across Jamaica in three days is too tame, how about cycling across a continent, albeit the thinnest section. We can do this riding across Latin America, but as Tina Turner said in Rolling on the River, “You see we never ever do nothing/Nice and easy/We always do it nice and rough.”
Nice is going across Panama via the Panama Canal/Transcontinental Bike Tour. The tour explores the Isthmus of Panama, from Panama City on the Panama Canal to the rainforest, around the beautiful Casco Viejo (Old Town) on the Panama Canal Railway to the Caribbean and back along the Panama Canal trails with stops at the fascinating Gatun Locks. Cyclists can watch immense ocean ships passing through the Canal and then ride through the Soberania National Park.
Rough is going across Costa Rica in the “Toughest Race in the World”, La Ruta de los Conquistadores, the country’s premier mountain bike race and one of the most difficult athletic events on the planet. The world’s original multi-day fat-tire stage race, La Ruta is the “Grandfather” that created and inspired this worldwide genre. It is still the most loved, feared, and respected bike race of its kind.
If endurance is your game, but running, cycling or swimming is too much like training, how about hiking up to Boiling Lake in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica. Located east of the town of Roseau, it is the second largest boiling lake in the world. Having grayish-blue water at a perpetual 100 Degree Celsius, the lake is a boiling cauldron spewing steam from the mountains. It constantly reminds you that eleven volcanoes form the island of Dominica.
Hiking 16 miles up a rugged and mountainous rainforest trail to the Boiling Lake in one day is deceitfully easy in the beginning, when the trail slopes along a relatively gentle stretch of terrain, winding through the shadowy quiet of the rainforest. Then after crossing a stream and an enjoyable drink of cold, crystal clear water, trail demeanor changes to steep inclines and declines with mud, rocks, boulders, water, heat, humidity and steps!
Countless wet-slick, moss covered stair step logs laid into the steep path or directly into rock. So many steps are hewn up and down into the near vertical inclines that this hike is way up on the Difficulty Scale. This adventure is definitely a bucket list item.
In many situations, Caribbean adventure vacations are more cost effective and higher value than purely relaxing Caribbean vacations. For example, on the Jamaica Reggae Ride, you see the whole island and one of the most pristine coast lines, only interrupted by views of small towns and historical mansions. Without paying for a single tour or stopping at overpriced gift shops, you enjoy the experience of a life time and don’t have to worry about shedding 10 pounds later.
After riding across the island of Jamaica or along the Panama Canal or walking the streets of the Caribbean side of Limon, Costa Rica, you don’t want a tourist shirt. You want an athletic cut, sports Jersey. KnightsofMobay Apparel has started a line of Caribbean and African jerseys. Whether you climbed to the top of Kilimanjaro or cycled around Puerto Rico, you can now leave those scratchy tee shirts alone and get a beautiful jersey to proudly wear during your next running event or cycling tour.