Kayaking is a great way to see the Caribbean’s awesome marine life right at sea level. Calm bays, mangrove lagoons and rugged coastlines are some of the settings throughout the region where guided kayak tours take place.
Here is a sampling of ten to try when you’re in port:
BIOLUMINESCENT BAY, GRAND CAYMAN
Paddling through water that looks like it’s sprinkled with illuminated pixie ‘dust’ is the best way to describe the one-and-a-half to two-hour nighttime tours offered by Cayman Kayaks from the Rum Point Beach Club to this bay near Seven Mile Beach. The ‘dust’ is actually tiny single-celled organisms called dinoflagellates that emit light when the water moves. Book during a New Moon when the night sky is darkest and the bioluminescent brightest. www.caymankayaks.com
BONEFISH POND NATIONAL PARK, NASSAU, BAHAMAS
Take a two-hour guided tour of a portion of this 1280-acre marine park with Ultimate Tours Bahamas. On any given day, it’s possible to see lots of juvenile fish, sea cucumbers, sea stars and on a lucky day, a shark, stingray or turtle. This vast ecosystem also serves as a seasonal nesting site for shore birds, including herons, egrets, plovers, killdeers, Antillean night hawks and lots more. What makes this tour extra special is the Bahamian conch fritter making lesson at the end. ultimatetoursbahamas.com/nassau-tours.html
GRAND TURK, TURKS & CAICOS
Clear-bottomed two-person kayaks are the best way to explore the coast to Materson’s Point on this eco-tour with Oasis Divers. The underwater vista is especially incredible where the water is calm and shallow. Once at the point, there’s a guided hike ashore, where there are many seabirds. www.oasisdivers.com
FAJARDO BIO BAY, PUERTO RICO
Watch the water at night light up when taking this two-hour tour through the bioluminescent bay at Las Croabas, Fajardo, with Kayaking Puerto Rico. Guides point out not only marine life but the constellations above too. www.kayaking puertorico.com
MANGROVE LAGOON MARINE RESERVE, ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
Paddle through some of the 680 acres that makes up this protected area with VI Ecotours. The outfit’s most popular trip is a three-hour combination kayak, hike and snorkel adventure. Shallow water is almost aquarium-like for viewing fish. The hike portion takes place on the protected Cas Key, where guides lead paddlers to a rare geological blowhole. The company offers a night version of this tour complete with spooky ghost stories and pirate tales. Be sure to book this latter trip when there’s a full moon. viecotours.com
MARIGOT BAY & ROSEAU RIVER, ST. LUCIA
Start from the sheltered palm tree-lined bay that famous author James Michener once called the ‘most beautiful bay in the Caribbean’. Then paddle into the Roseau River where a canopy of mangroves provides sunshade and sights like seabirds on this narrated tour with DFH Kayaking. It’s often possible to stop and snorkel along the way. www.dfhkayaking.com
SIMPSON BAY LAGOON, ST. MAARTEN
Megayachts and mangroves are sights to see on this easy two-hour guided paddle with Tri-Sport Tours & Rentals. Start with an orientation briefing at Kim Sha Beach in Simpson Bay. Then, pass under the bridge into the Simpson Bay Lagoon, the largest saltwater lagoon in the Antilles, and right by big beautiful yachts en-route as you paddle towards a vibrant mangrove ecosystem. Along the way, cross the invisible aqueous boundary line that separates Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin. Kim Sha Beach is the finish point where an ocean dip and complimentary sip await. www.trisportsxm.com
MULLINS BEACH, BARBADOS
This popular west coast beach is the perfect place to rent a kayak. The clear turquoise water is shallow and calm most of the year, making it a great spot to kayak for kids and families. It’s often possible to see sea turtles in the water, especially on guided tours.
LAC BAY, BONAIRE
Explore Lac Bay, the Dutch Caribbean’s largest inland bay and one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved mangrove forests, out of the Mangrove Information Center. Here, trained guides point out sights such as three species of mangrove; sea grass beds, where reef fish, queen conch and juvenile green turtles hide; and numerous birds that nest in mangrove branches. One- and two-hour tours are offered on single or double ‘sit-on-top’ kayaks. www.mangrovecenter.com
MIKE’S REEF, ARUBA
Pedal kayaks are a fun twist on the traditional arm-paddled craft and are offered at Aruba Offshore Adventures. The outfit’s four-hour tour starts in Spanish Lagoon, goes to Mangel Halto Beach and finally to a little island at Mike’s Reef. Here, there is a snorkel stop to view the beautiful fish and coral. The pedal kayaks are easy to use, fun and very maneuverable. www.facebook.com/arubaoutdooradventures
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.