Beyond the Beach: Action & Adventure in the Caribbean

Explore the bounty of the Caribbean on five islands that offer heart-pumping action and activities in addition to beautiful beaches.
By: 
Jill Fergus

A knockout beach is certainly at the top of the list for couples honeymooning in the Caribbean. To be sure, these sun-drenched tropical isles have plenty of sugar-soft strands where you can swim in crystal-clear waters and lounge under colorful sun umbrellas. But even the most die-hard beach-lovers can’t resist the temptation to slip into their sarongs and shorts and explore the rest of the island. Perhaps you’ll discover a historic plantation, a cascading waterfall in the rainforest or fabulous fine dining at a West Indian restaurant. These five islands more than fit the bill, offering loads of actvity options beyond just fun in the sun (though there’s plenty of that too!).

sugar beach in st lucia
Photo courtesy of Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort

St. Lucia

This volcanic island has beautiful bays and secluded coves but one of the most celebrated beaches is Anse des Pitons (also known as Sugar Beach) on the southwestern coast, between the marquee tree-carpeted Gros Piton Mountain and its smaller sister peak, Petit Piton.

What to Do: Head into the lush rain-forest — hike or bike amid mango and guava trees to mineral-filled sulphur springs (remember to bring your bathing suit). In Castries, the island’s capital, check out the 100-year old market selling colorful produce, spices and handicrafts, including soaps milled with the island’s volcanic waters and woven table accessories. St. Lucia also has plenty of out-of-this-world dining options including the hilltop Dasheene restaurant in the shadow of the pitons serving West Indian-inspired dishes like rack of lamb with coconut risotto and curry sauce. Boucan, at the hotel chocolat is another standout. Mingle with locals while enjoying a casual seafood meal at the friday night fish fry in anse la raye.

Where to Stay: Set on its name-sake gleaming white sand strand sits the super stylish Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort. the comfortable and chic resort offers waterfront suites, the colonial great room restaurant, the hip cane bar and the rainforest spa set high in the mountain with thatch-roofed treatment villas (room rates start at $440 a night; viceroyhotelsandresorts.com).

sugar beach rainforest spa in st lucia
Photo courtesy of Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort 

Turks And Caicos

Grace Bay Beach on the island of Providenciales is not just considered one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beaches but also one of the world’s top strands. And once you stroll along its powder-soft sands and take a dip in its aquamarine waters, you’ll no doubt agree.

What to Do: The Turks and Caicos archipelago (comprised of some 40 islands) is a veritable underwater paradise, and its coral reefs teem with all manner of eye-popping marine life. Snorkelers can sign up for a half-day catamaran cruise, visiting spectacular offshore sites, while scuba divers can join exciting excursions to protected areas like the Princess Alexandra Marine Park to get up close and personal with reef sharks, bottlenose dolphins, spotted eagle rays and hawksbill turtles. Stop by Da Conch Shack, a funky, open-air restaurant whose all-conch menu features dishes like conch ceviche and conch fritters served with pitchers of Turk’s Head beer. For late-night fun, there’s a casino and taverns with live music.

Where to Stay: At the elegant, all-suite Grace Bay Club enjoy a frothy piña colada at the open-air Infiniti Bar, seared foie gras with grilled mango in the Anacaona restaurant and a frangipani body wrap in the Anani Spa. Book into the adults-only area for a more romantic experience. Bonus: The rooms have ocean views (room rates start at $995 a night; gracebayresorts.com).

grace bay club in the turks and caicos
Photo courtesy of Grace Bay Club

Nevis

At approximately four miles, pretty Pinney’s Beach on the western coast is the island’s longest and most popular strand. Lesser-known but equally as beautiful are Cades Bay, Oualie and Nisbet beaches.

What to Do: One of the best ways to get around the circular-shaped island is on two wheels — sign up for an easy-going two-hour bike tour of Nevis’s old sugarcane plantations. Or put those Spinning classes to real-world application and challenge yourself with one of the trails up 3,232-foot mist-shrouded Mount Nevis. In the capital of Charlestown, stroll the streets lined with historic 18th and 19th-century Georgian houses and brush up on your American history with a visit to the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, who was born on Nevis in 1757. Golfers will want to hit the 18-hole Robert Trent Jones-designed course.

Where to Stay: On Pinney’s Beach, the Four Seasons is a gorgeously revamped full-service property with elegant West Indian-style rooms, stellar attention to detail and a pampering spa — it’s also next door to rustic Sunshine’s Bar, known for its “killer bee” rum cocktails (room rates start at $375 a night; fourseasons.com).

candlelit reception at the four seasons in nevis
Photo courtesy of Don Riddle for Four Seasons

Barbados

This former British outpost with afternoon tea and cricket matches is chock-a-block with glorious beaches. Along the Platinum Coast on the island’s western side is Payne’s Bay; Cattlewash on the rugged east coast is another favorite.

What to Do: Spend the morning shopping in the duty-free stores in the capital of Bridgetown, then lunch (try the flying fish sandwich) at the Waterfront Café overlooking Parliament, a stately 1871 Neo Gothic building. Take a drive through the lush hilly interior known as the Scotland District, stopping at cozy watering holes housed in old Bajan cottages where locals come to socialize. To see how the island’s most famous spirit is made, take a tour at the Mount Gay Rum factory, said to be the oldest distillery in the world, dating from 1703.

Where to Stay: The pastel-pink Fairmont Royal Pavilion sits on a half-mile stretch of Alleynes Beach. The 40-acre Platinum Coast property features 72 ocean-view rooms, meticulously landscaped gardens and afternoon tea served daily (room rates start at $649 a night; fairmont.com).

fairmont royal pavillion in barbados
Photo courtesy of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

St. John

Most of St. John is a national park, so it’s the greenest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands and the most eco-friendly. Some of its postcard-perfect beaches include Hawksnest, Cinnamon Bay and snorkeler’s paradise Trunk Bay.

What to Do: The island is ringed with 22 hiking trails; the most popular is Reef Bay, a three-mile trek through tropical forests (keep your eyes peeled for bananaquit birds). Stock up on breezy sarongs and locally painted watercolors in the charming town of Cruz Bay. And if you crave more shopping, hop the ferry to neighboring St. Thomas, a duty-free hub with everything from perfume to luxury watches. Back on St. John, start your evening early with happy hour at Woody’s, a pint-sized saloon that attracts just about everyone on the island with its potent rum punches and laid-back attitude.

Where to Stay: The 282-room Westin Resort, on Great Cruz Bay has activities like watersports and tennis; it can also arrange day cruises to the British Virgin Islands’ Jost Van Dyke island, home of Foxy’s famous beach bar. Don’t forget your passport! (room rates start at $449 a night; westin.com).

breakfast with a view at westin st john
Photo courtesy of The Westin, St. John Resort & Villa