Horseback riding along a tropical beach seems like a surreal scene straight out of a Hollywood movie. Yet, you can turn this dream into a reality in the Caribbean.
There are stables and riding schools on several islands that offer tours on some of the region’s most beautiful coastline as well as rides in the sea. Here is a sampling of 8 great places to start:
1. Cayman Islands.
Barker’s National Park, located on the northwest of Grand Cayman, is hands down one of the most popular places to horseback ride in the Caymans. Scrub brush and dense mangroves line the oftentimes deserted 4-mile-long white sand beach, creating the perfect setting for carefree picturesque rides. Stables in the area, such as Pampered Ponies, Spirit of the West and Cayman Horse Riding offer guided beach rides, sea swims and even moonlight equine strolls, in groups or private tours, usually lasting for 1- to 2-hours at a time. Ponies.ky, www.seahorses.ky, caymanhorseriding.com
2. Puerto Rico.
Isabela, a wildly rugged and beautiful region on the island’s northwest coast, is home to Tropical Trail Rides. “We offer a two-hour horseback ride on Paso Fino (fine gate) horses along secluded beaches, tropical forests, beach caves and more,” says Craig Barker, who owns and operates the business with wife, Michelle, former Californians who visited Puerto Rico and never left. “In fact, the secluded beach we take a break on is called Survival and it has several large caves that our guests can briefly explore. Tropicaltrailrides.com
3. St. Maarten.
Ride along the beach at Cole Bay or treat your horse, and yourself, to a cool swim in the ocean. Lucky Stables at Seaside Nature Park offers several tours. For example, the 1-hour trip stops at a lookout point where on a clear day Saba and St. Eustatius are visible in the distance. There’s also a Champagne Sunset Ride, complete with a campfire stop for roasting marshmallows. “The horses are born and bred at Seaside Nature Park, so we know them right from the moment they are born,” says Cloty Tavernier, reservations and tours manager. Seasidenaturepark.com
Nearby beaches, plus forested trails and mountain slopes are all destinations for guided rides from the Nevis Equestrian Centre. The most popular is the 1.5-hour Beach n’ Trail, an ideal family jaunt for those aged 6 years and older, which starts with a ride through a coconut grove down to a secluded beach. From there, it’s back along a trail where riders pass Nelson’s Spring, a freshwater lagoon where old-time clipper ships once stopped to replenish. Owners John and daughter Erika, who gives riding lessons and coaches ‘Special Olympians’, offer a total of 10 tours including private, sunset and extended rides. www.nevishorseback.com
Combo sea and shore rides are spectacular at the Springhill Riding Club and Trail Centre, also called the Antigua Equestrian Centre, near Falmouth Harbour. One is the Valley Trail and Swim which takes approximately 1.5 hours. “This trail consists of a ride around the local valley, before a wade through the sea followed by a bareback paddle/swim on the horses,” says Susannah ‘Susie’ Adderson, yard manager. For more experienced riders, the 2-hour Rendezvous Bay Trail and Swim features a trek both up and down the mountain to beautiful Rendezvous Bay, followed by a controlled canter in the surf and bareback paddle/swim. www.antiguaequestrian.com
Buccoo Bay, located on the island’s leeward coast, boasts a mile-long white sand beach and calm waters thanks to a large reef offshore. This is the setting for Being-with-Horses 2-hour Swim and Trail Combination ride, which takes place daily from 9-11 a.m. and 3-5 p.m. “Swim and Trail is definitely a once in a lifetime experience,” says Veronika Johanna Danzer-La Fortune, who founded Being-with-Horses and the non-profit, Healing-with-Horses. Built on the belief that happy horses have happy riders, all the animals have 14-hours of free roaming each day, daily ocean swims, and eat all the grass they want. www.being-with-horses.com
See a little bit of everything on the 2-hour Northeast Coast & Sand Dunes tour offered by Rancho Notorious, in Boroncana, on the north end of the island. There’s a ride through the ‘Cunucu’ or open countryside to fine white sand dunes. Galloping is allowed for experienced riders, something not always offered on horseback riding tours in the Caribbean. The 1.5-hour Cool Paradise Tour, offered by The Gold Mine Ranch, on the island’s northeast coast, passes by sights such as the Shark Bay, Budui Beach and Baby Natural Bridge. www.ranchonotorious.com, www.thegoldmineranch.com
Trade a beach for an in-land water experience on a 2-hour ride out of Banana Bank Horses & Belize Jungle Lodge, in Belmopan. There are miles of trails, both easy and those with more rugged terrain, under the cool canopy. The staff are excellent matchmakers, pairing riders with one of a hundred thoroughbred and quarter horse mixed breeds. A day-long ride (4- to 5-hours), complete with a picnic lunch, is the best to experience water, such as riverside trails and the beautiful Roaring River area. www.bananabank.com