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CARIBBEAN SPORTS AND ACTIVITIES

Spectacular Sunsets

Most Caribbean days draw to a close with a thrilling blaze of tropical colors. Enjoying the sunset is an island obsession, so pick your spot with care (and try to arrive early). In St. Thomas, Paradise Point and a bar named, appropriately enough, The Bar, offer romantic sunset viewing. Below in the city where shoppers hustle to pick up a few last bargains before the boutiques close their doors, the lights trickle on one by one, competing with a deepening sunset the color of a blooming hibiscus.
On the western reaches of Jamaica, lovers end their day in Negril at Rick's, one of the most famous sunset bars and restaurants in the Caribbean. Nearby, divers plunge off the cliffs to hearty cheers from onlookers. When the sun dips low, however, the crowd turns its attention to the west and to a blaze of color that marks the end of another day in paradise.

Activities

You want activity. Spirited watersports. Pulsating nightlife. Hedonistic delights. Your mate wants leisure time. Days spent under a coconut tree. Nights lulled by trade winds and the rhythm of lapping waves, as the moon rises over a silver sea.

In the Caribbean, you both will be happy. Whether your idea of a romantic getaway brings to mind a fiesta or a siesta, this sprawling region delivers. Year-round warm weather makes possible the sensual delights for which the islands are known. Slip out of bed for a midnight dip in a private plunge pool or jog side by side on a sandy beach as the first rays of light illuminate the sky. Even during the winter months, the only goosebumps you'll experience are ones your lover delightfully produces.

Activities on each island vary with its size and atmosphere. Pick one of the bigger destinations like Jamaica, St. Thomas, Grand Cayman, Puerto Rico, St. Martin-Sint Maarten, or Nassau for your choice of nonstop fun. For plenty of peace and quiet, head to one of the smaller isles such as Anguilla, known for its fine dining; St. Barts, recognized for its unique European atmosphere; Tobago, rich with natural delights; or Nevis, a tropical paradise that's been discovered by few.

Scuba & Snorkeling

The clearest water for these activities is generally found around those islands without rivers or steep hills to create runoff. Add underwater features, such as coral reefs and walls or submerged shipwrecks, and you have a diver's paradise. Among the best dive destinations in the Caribbean are the Turks and Caicos, the Cayman Islands, and Bonaire.

Golf

Golf courses are popping up like hibiscus blossoms throughout the region. The top choices are Puerto Rico and Jamaica, each offering championship courses designed to keep even the most dedicated golfer happy. You'll also find courses on St. Croix, St. Thomas, Nevis, St. Kitts, Aruba, and Barbados.

Tennis

Top tennis facilities are available in resorts on Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Antigua, and St. Croix.

Windsurfing

Windsurfers will find excellents spots in these warm waters. Aruba is the top windsurfing destination in the Caribbean due to ever-present trade winds. Puerto Rico also offers windsurfing (taught by a former member of the US Olympic Team) as well as the BVI, home of an annual international tournament.

Sailing

The Caribbean Sea around the British Virgin Islands is a sailor's paradise. Opportunities abound for voyages of all durations and beginners are reassured by the fact that one is seldom far from land. The Moorings (800-521-1126 or 284-494-2332) and other services catering to the sailor are numerous here as well. Other top sailing destinations are Antigua and St. Martin-Sint Maarten.

Shopping

Those who are ready to shop-'til-they-drop should head to the US Virgin Islands for the Caribbean's highest duty-free allowance. Shoppers in St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John can bring back more goodies (twice as much as some Caribbean islands) without paying duty. Other shopper's delights are Nassau (Bahamas), St. Martin-Sint Maarten, and Grand Cayman.

Beaches

White Sand Beaches

Caribbean sand comes in all shades (ranging, literally, from black to white -- and even pink in some areas). If your vision of paradise includes chalk-white beaches, head to the Turks & Caicos, Bahamas, St. Thomas, St. John, Antigua or Anguilla.

Nude Beaches

The clothing-optional beaches are of two types. There are the resort beaches where nudity is encouraged (and, in a couple of cases, even dictated) on a separate, specified area of the shore. These locations tend to be safe and somewhat crowded but close to amenities like food, drink, tables, and restrooms. Look to the French islands, such as St. Martin, and Jamaica (especially Negril) for resorts featuring nude beaches. The other type of nude beach can be found on many islands where access to undeveloped, isolated beaches means that nudity is more-or-less tolerated. While this may seem to be the more romantic of the two types, that on some islands, such as St. Lucia, public nudity is actually illegal.

Tropical Delights

Within the Caribbean, landscapes can range from desert to jungle, with everything in between. Even more surprising is the fact that some islands include both desert and rain forest climates. However, if your Caribbean adventure must be back-dropped by tropical splendor, head to Jamaica or St. Lucia for lush scenery punctuated by brilliant hibiscus and bougainvillea and every imaginable tropical fruit and vegetable. Every island has wonderful beaches to walk on hand in hand.

Culture

Although all islands boast a rollicking Caribbean spirit, their cultures also borrow heavily from their founding fathers. Visitors who would rather remain in the US and skip the hassles of passports, immigration cards, and currency exchange can choose Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands: St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix.

Dutch architecture creates picturesque waterfront communities in Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. A rich Spanish heritage pervades the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, the Cayman Islands, and the Turks and Caicos still operate as British dependencies. In the former British colonies; the Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaic; the British influence is still strong. Driving is on the left side of the road and the Royal Family is seen smiling back from postage stamps.

Adventures

Get Set to Get Wet

Every Caribbean island is surrounded by miles of liquid paradise. Whether you prefer a leisurely afternoon paddle aboard a sea kayak to a pristine beach or a night dive to look at fluorescent marine creatures in a sea as warm as a bath, the Caribbean has the spot for you.
Scuba diving is a top activity throughout many of these islands. Here, the two of you can swim hand in hand through waters as clear as white rum and enjoy visibility that often tops 150 feet. Travelers are drawn by reef dives, with coral heads dotted with sea flora and fauna as colorful as gumdrops, and wreck dives to explore the remnants of old pirate ships preserved in these warm waters.

And if the two of you don't yet scuba but would like to learn a new sport together, now's the chance. Many hotels offer resort courses and, after a lesson and some practice in the pool, you and your mate can share your virgin dive offshore the same afternoon.

Or, you can act out your Jacques Cousteau fantasies with a snorkel trip. With just a few minutes of quick instruction, you're ready to take a peek at the marine world just offshore. One of the Caribbean's most popular snorkel sites is Stingray City in Grand Cayman. Here you can stand in about four feet of water and hand-feed southern Atlantic stingrays that nuzzle against you as gently as kittens. Another popular snorkeling spot is at Buck Island Reef National Monument in St. Thomas. Here, in about 12 feet of water, swim hand in hand as you follow a marked trail for a self-guided tour of this undersea world.

On Land

Often portrayed as a destination for water-lovers, the Caribbean presents myriad outdoor challenges on land as well: cycling, hiking, golfing, tennis, parasailing -- just about any type of warm-weather sport imaginable. The pace goes from mild to wild -- whatever the two of you choose.

One of the most challenging activities in the islands is an all-day hike up St. Kitts' Mount Liamuiga. Climb this dormant volcano all the way to the mile-wide crater rim to view a spectacular cloud forest and steaming sulphur vents in the volcanic region. The hike is a tough one, so come prepared with very good walking shoes and a can-do spirit.

Is biking more your speed? Grab your partner and a mountain bike and head for the challenges of Jamaica (where you can tour the lofty Blue Mountains on guided rides) or the ease of flatter islands like Little Cayman.

How about something a little easier? The US Virgin Islands offer a whole range of milder pursuits. Save some energy for shopping on St. Thomas, where poinciana-covered hills overlook streets filled with some of the Caribbean's finest duty-free shopping stores. Eco-tourists especially enjoy St. John, where nature lovers can camp and hike in the national park that covers two-thirds of this unspoiled island.

Don't miss St. John's love bush, an indigenous species with slightly frayed leaves. Follow the local legend to test your love: pick a leaf and carve your and your mate's initials into it. Plant the leaf. If it takes root and grows, so will your love.

Sightseeing

Part of the fun of visiting the islands is soaking up their unique cultures. The best way to do that is to explore. Sign up for a guided tour or rent a car for the day and take a look at the local sights.

Don't forget -- driving is on the left in many islands!

The islands blossom with romantic sites, places where the two of you can feel like Adam and Eve in a tropical paradise. St. Lucia, a fertile utopia, is home of the Diamond Waterfalls and Gardens. Garden trails lead to a cascade that leaves a spray of "diamond" twinkles in the air. If you stop by on a Sunday, you can also enjoy a soak in the mineral baths originally built by French King Louis XVI for use by his troops.

The island of Jamaica is also known for its waterfalls and tropical splendor. Although the north coast's Dunn's River Falls is far more visited, on the island's southern reaches Y.S. Falls offers couples a much quieter paradise. Cascading in steps through tropical forest, the falls can be climbed with the help of a guide, then swimmers can enjoy clear waters under a canopy of fern.

Not every island is known for tropical lushness. Some are rugged reminders of the power of the elements and the raw energy of the sea. On the friendly Dutch island of Curaçao visit Boca Tabla, a sea cave carved by pounding Atlantic waves. Kneeling in the darkness of the grotto you can sneak a kiss while crystal blue waves surge within feet of you, roaring into the cave and back out to sea.

Nightlife

Casinos

The click of the roulette wheel and the ring of slot machines are being heard on more and more Caribbean islands. The top gaming destinations are Puerto Rico, Aruba, Bahamas (Grand Bahama, but especially Nassau), and Dutch Sint Maarten. More limited gaming is also found in the Turks & Caicos, the Dominican Republic, St. Croix, Curaçao, St. Kitts, and Antigua.

Most casinos open at noon and remain open until early morning. Many have dress codes which require semi-formal attire; leave the shorts, tank tops, and flip-flops in the room for your night at the tables. This is your chance to dress up and party. Note: In Puerto Rico you may be surprised to learn that alcohol cannot, by law, be served in casinos. You will find bars in each hotel, but no drinks are served on the casino floor.

Music

Music lovers will recognize the name of Bankie Banx, Anguilla's best known musician. The reggae singer is also the owner and operator of The Dunes Preserve, a charming bar and restaurant set up high above the seashore. Constructed entirely of recycled ship parts and driftwood, this open-air roost gives visitors the feeling they're visiting Robinson Crusoe. Every Friday night Bankie performs his lively tunes; at other times you'll find him behind the bar serving drinks.

There's nothing like the pulsating energy found in local bands to make your heart beat a little faster. Nightlife is usually pretty quiet on the island of Tobago, but once a week calypso and soca rhythms bring residents and vacationers out into the streets to dance. "Sunday School," held every Sunday in the community of Buccoo Village, is an open-air street party that doesn't get cranked up until near midnight. The two of you can move to a Caribbean beat and soak up the atmosphere at this unique island party.

Just Doing Nothing

"The number one activity is to do nothing," says Tom Lewis, general manager at Ocean Club in the Turks and Caicos. Located on the tranquil island of Providenciales, this resort recognizes that many travelers and especially honeymooners come to make their own fun. Here, island visitors enjoy all that lovers could want from a Caribbean getaway: peace, privacy, and mile after mile of pristine beach.

And those elements, enjoyed by you and your lover; ensure that any island getaway can turn into a romantic seaside tryst. No matter how the two of you define fun, your island in the sun is a surefire guarantee of romance.

 

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