There’s no shame in laying poolside for a week with no plan other than to read paperbacks and sip rum punch. But lounging too long can make you more restless than relaxed. Fortunately, the Caribbean is blessed with an abundance of natural superlatives sure to boost any adventurer’s solar energy.
Birders and hikers flock to the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad (809-667-4655). The sanctuary is also a study center and a hotel. Guests can hike the terrain for free, then take in the view on the verandah.
The Virgin Islands National Park on St. John (809776-6201) offers several guided tours through its 22 marked hiking trails. Ranger- assisted treks can take anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours. The cost is $8-$15, or explore on your own for free.
Fern Gully’s free three-mile walking area outside Ocho Rios, Jamaica (800-233-4582) is lined with 600 species of ferns. For a little aroma therapy, Jamaica also has more fragrant botanical gardens.
The sprawling El Yunque National Forest outside San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the only rain forest operated by the U.S. National Park Service (800- 223-6530). There are navigable paths that lead to ponds for a refreshing dip. On the island’s northwest end, Rio Camuy Cave Park (787-893-3100) is a spooky maze of deep water and towering stalagmites. Admission is $10.
Martinique’s Les Gorges de la Falaise (800-3914901) are laced with wet, rocky trails that lead to cascading pools and a waterfall near the base of Mount Pelee in the north country. The cost is $10.
MINERAL SPRINGS AND NATURAL POOLS
The sulfur waters of Diamond Falls and Mineral Baths near Soufriere, St. Lucia (800-456-3984),
change color from yellow to green to gray and are surrounded by a lovely botanical garden. Visitors can take a dip for around $5.
The granite boulder coves that form the Baths of Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands, are reachable by boat tour, mainly from Tortola (800-835- 8530). The waters off the southwestern tip of the island challenge swimmers who want to explore the shimmering depths for great snorkeling and “rock” climbing. Boat tours start at $65.
The country of St. Kitt’s & Nevis is Alexander Hamilton’s birthplace and home to the hot springs and ruins of the Bath Hotel and Spring House (800-582-6208) outside Charlestown, Nevis. The thermal sulfur baths were once a sybarites playground. Now they are open to all for a mere $3.
Lush Dominica is deeply exotic, and the bubbling waters of Pacillote Wilderness Retreat outside the town of Roseau are a soothing retreat in the thick jungle, at no cost. And the hotel (809-448-2287) is minutes from the cool cascades of Trafalgar Falls.
At St. John’s Virgin Islands National Park Snorkeling Trail at Trunk Bay (800-372-USVI), snorkelers can follow long stretches of reef trails where schools of iridescent parrotfish swarm around hard coral. The trail is free, and is open daily.
Flipper fans can swim the waters off Providenciales, Turks and Caicos (800-241-0824) in search of JoJo, a wild Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin who frequently visits undersea visitors. Snorkelers have been known