Move to the Caribbean beat

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iol travel oct 31 st lucia REUTERS Water levels in South Africas largest estuarine lake are rising rapidly after some of the heaviest spring rains in 15 years. File photo: Reuters

What's the attraction?

So you think getting on and off a sun lounger is all the activity that's to be had in the Caribbean? Wrong - these islands are the place to get moving, whether you're the seriously sporty type or just fancy some time off the beach. Rainforests and mountain ranges, coral reefs and warm seas provide a natural playground for thrill seekers, from hikers and bikers to wind- and water-sports fans. Meanwhile, holiday resorts are booming with sports academies offering top-quality training for visitors old and young, and boot camps and wellness retreats dedicated to rebuilding the body beautiful. In fact, you may find you don't have time for lying around after all.

Wild instincts

Ride the rapids of the Rio Yaque del Norte in the Dominican Republic with the Jarabacoa Gold Company (001 829 838 4653; jarabacoa gold.webs.com; US$75/R600), a guided white-knuckle ride, that features a 12ft vertical drop known as the “Mike Tyson”.

See Jack-in-the-Box Gully, a pocket of Barbados's rainforest, from 100ft up in the treetops with Aerial Trek Zipline Adventures (001 246 433 8966; aerialtrek.com; B$92).

Five treks to follow

Dominica's new Waitukubuli National Trail (001 767 266 3593; waitukubulitrail.dm) is a 115-mile route from Scott's Head to the Cabrits National Park. In Puerto Rico, you can climb up to the cloud forest on the Mount Britton Trail in the El Yunque National Forest (001 800 832 1355; fs.usda.gov). Tiny Saba island (001 599 416 3295; sabapark.org) is only 13sq km, yet its hiking trails visit near-deserted eco-systems, rainforests and volcanic peaks. In Guadeloupe, there are more than 300km of trails to follow in the National Park (001 590 80 86 00; guadeloupe-parcnational.com) and along its coastline. Or, why not keep your eyes peeled for the rare Saint Lucia parrot on the island's 2.5-mile Des Cartiers Rain Forest Trail (001 758 454 5589; malf.com).

On the move

The saddle of a bicycle or even a horse offers an active way to see the sights. Get pedalling on the new “Cycle the Backroads of Cuba” package from Explore (0844 499 0901; explore.co.uk), a 16-day tour that calls at Havana, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba and Baracoa. Or trot along to the Nevis Equestrian Centre (001 869 662 9118; nevishorseback.com; from US$55) for horseback tours of the island's beaches and historic landmarks.

Body and soul

Get in shape in the sun at The BodyHoliday in Saint Lucia. This luxury resort on Cariblue beach offers a daily spa treatment for all guests, with an all-inclusive programme of guided walks, gym sessions, yoga and watersports - plus healthy meals in between.

In the Turks & Caicos, “The Art of Attention” offers a study of the mind, body and heart through daily Hatha yoga, meditation and breathing at Parrot Cay (001 649 946 7788; comohotels.com).

Better wetter

Learn to kite-surf at the Lost Boys (001 345 927 0225; lostboyskitesurfing.com) on Little Cayman, a new centre dedicated to the sport.

Or track down lionfish in Bonaire with Buddy Dive (001 599 717 5080; buddydive.com; £75), where you can learn how to stop these striped predators destroying reefs on a one-day course.

Who said that?

“An active mind cannot exist in an inactive body” - General George S Patton

“All I can say is: Yo, Jamaican sprinters, taking over the world” - Usain Bolt

“It's good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling” - Mark Twain

“You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She's 97 today and we don't know where the hell she is” - Ellen DeGeneres

Child's play

The Caribbean offers much more than building sandcastles. Seamanship, and life-saving are among the essential skills taught to seven- to 15-year-old budding sailors at the Anguilla Youth Sailing Club (001 264 584 7245; sailanguilla.com; US$150 for 12 hours tuition), where instruction for holidaymakers can be organised on request.

Tomorrow's sports stars can pick up football, cricket and basketball tips at the new sports camps for children aged seven to 16, taking place from April 2013 at Jake's (001 877 526 2428; jakeshotel.com), on the south coast of Jamaica.

Point scoring

Brush up on your skills at one of the sports academies popping up at resorts across the region. The former women's tennis world No 1 Tracy Austin will join a formidable list of pros to offer instruction to skilled adult players at Curtain Bluff (0800 051 8956; curtainbluff.com) in Antigua, from 29 April to 3 May 2013.

Golfers should head to Tobago to try out the 18-hole PGA-designed course at the new Magdalena Grand Beach Resort.

Insider information

“The Caribbean offers some rather surprising and unusual activities for its visitors. Try the bobsleigh in the Mystic Mountains of Jamaica, inspired by the famous Jamaican Olympic bobsleigh team. This custom-designed hi-tech sled will whiz you down a 1,000-metre long track.”

Katherine Hobbs, product manager at Caribbean specialist tour operator Caribtours (020-7751 0660) caribtours.co.uk) - The Independent

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