The Essential Eight

Had enough paradise? Add some intensity to your Caribbean life list.

Feb 1, 2004
Outside Magazine

Kayak the Exuma Cays Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, in the Bahamas, spans 176 square miles of reeftop emerald water that laps the marine caves and white-sand beaches of hundreds of undeveloped limestone islands. Shallow, calm seas are perfect for paddling, snorkeling, and swimming. Do all three on a nine-day trip with Ecosummer Expeditions. ($1,695; 800-465-8884,

Climb Pico Duarte More travelers each year are tackling the Caribbean's tallest peak. At 10,414 feet, the rocky summit of Pico Duarte rises up from the tropical lowlands of Armando Bermudez National Park, along the Dominican Republic's Cordillera Central. Iguana Mama runs a three-day, 29-mile mule trek to the top. ($450; 800-849-4720,

Hike to Boiling Lake Deep in the heart of Dominica, hot magma warms the rocks and pushes volcanic gas through vents to keep one of the world's largest boiling lakes at an eerie, gray simmer. Getting there requires a muddy three-hour rainforest slog on seldom-signed paths. Reserve a guide through Ken's Hinterland Adventure Tours. ($40; 767-448-4850, Swim in Mosquito Bay Every night, a bright concentration of bioluminescent organisms lights up Mosquito Bay, on the south side of Vieques, just east of Puerto Rico. Paddle 15 minutes from shore with Blue Caribe Kayaks, then jump overboard for a glow-in-the-dark swim. ($23; 787-741-2522,

Sail the Grenadines The unspoiled Grenadines—30 small islands, 24 of them uninhabited, from St. Vincent to Union Island—have long been favorite waters of the yachting elite. Now you can sail them without chartering an entire boat: Reserve one of five cabins aboard Setanta Travel's 56-foot luxury catamarans for a seven-day cruise. ($3,990 per week per cabin, double occupancy; 784-528-6022,

Dive the Bloody Bay Wall Just off Little Cayman's north shore, the seafloor takes a half-mile-deep plunge along Bloody Bay Wall, where you're sure to spy huge eagle rays and hawksbill turtles. Paradise Divers offers two-tank boat dives. ($80; 877-322-9626,

Kitesurf Aruba Plan a pilgrimage to Aruba's arid eastern shore, where 80-degree water and consistent winds make Boca Grandi the ultimate surf zone for seasoned kiters. Vela's Dare2Fly offers a three-day introductory course in calmer waters ($350; 800-223-5443,

Fish the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve In the protected white-sand flats on the south side of 90-square-mile Ascensi—n Bay, in the Yucatán, bonefish run wild. Sign on for a week of guided fishing, eating, and lodging at the funky, thatched cabanas of Cuzan Bonefish Flats. ($1,999 per person, double occupancy; 011-52-983-83-403-58,

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