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The Best Caribbean Islands For Paddling Lovers

The Caribbean is one of the most storied island regions in the world. From pirates to hidden treasures, the tales are as tall as the waters are blue. The region contains more than 700 islands, 13 of which are independent island nations. Each territory has its own culture, flavors, dialects, and reasons to visit.

Nearly every island in the Caribbean is a tropical paradise and worth visiting. But there are some islands that are so stunning you need to see them in person to believe such beauty is real. Many of these picturesque archipelagos also happen to be some of the best paddling destinations in the world.

Some must-visit islands in the Caribbean for paddling lovers include Turks And Caicos, Antigua and Barbuda, the Cayman Islands, and several islands within the British and United States Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico’s famous bioluminescence is one of the most popular paddling excursions in the region, as is the pristine Bight of Acklins in The Bahamas. Barbados, St. Lucia, Bonaire, Martinique, and Guadalupe are also incredible places to explore on a paddling vessel.

With endless white sand beaches to launch from, colorful reefs and tropical marine life to witness, and endless uninhabited islands to explore, the Caribbean is a paddler’s playground. It should come as no surprise to learn the Caribbean is one of the best paddling destinations on the planet. The tricky part is deciding which islands to visit first.

Top 15 Paddling Destinations In The Caribbean

1. Turks And Caicos

There is possibly no better place in the Gulf of Mexico for paddling lovers than the Turks And Caicos. This breathtaking archipelago has the benefit of protected waters, varying island vibes, and many destinations that can only be reached by boat.

The water in the Turks And Caicos is some of the clearest and most inviting you will ever witness. This makes it ideal for those who like to incorporate a bit of snorkeling into a paddle. Grand Turk offers some paddling opportunities for families and tourists visiting by cruise ship. The best paddling, however, is located on the various Tuks islands, especially near Providenciales.

2. Puerto Rico

One of the most popular paddling excursions in the Caribbean involves a stunning natural phenomenon that occurs in abundance in Southeastern Puerto Rico. Near the town of Fajardo, hiding in plain sight is some of the most abundant bioluminescence in the world. It is best viewed by paddling at night on a tour. Try to plan a trip to this area near a new moon for the best viewing. The islands of Vieques and Culebra also offer incredible paddling opportunities. In fact, many of Puerto Rico’s smaller towns have stunning and remote bays worthy of exploring on a kayak or SUP board.

3. Antigua and Barbuda

The small Island nation of Antigua and Barbuda might not be the most popular of all the Caribbean islands, but that only adds to its splendor and charm.

Galleon Beach to Nelsons Dockyard is a stunning and popular paddle in this island nation. Nelsons Dockyard is a settlement that dates back to the 18th century, and it is a great place to experience the various cultures, including African and British, that influence the island’s own identity. It is also a perfect spot to launch a kayak.
Antigua is known for some stunning birdlife and some of the softest white sand beaches in the Caribbean. So consider packing an iSUP on a trip to this beautiful area, as you might want to paddle out from one of its many stunning beaches.

4. Grand Cayman Island

Puerto Rico is not the only island with great bioluminescence. Grand Cayman Island has its own popular Bioluminescence Bay. This is one of the biggest reasons this island attracts paddlers, but certainly not the only one.

Grand Cayman Island has all sorts of interesting wildlife you can view while paddling its relaxing coastal waters. There are colorful parrots, stoic iguanas, and curious sea turtles that are all likely to make an appearance o na half-day kayak or SUP excursion. There are some great mangrove forests here that provide both a home for various wildlife, but also a sheltered playground for paddlers on days with strong winds and choppy seas.

5. Saint John

Saint John might be the smallest of the United States Virgin Islands, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in incredible paddling opportunities. Francis Bay and other protected bays on the island’s gorgeous north shore offer the most picturesque paddling you can imagine. This area is great for both kayaking day trips and fun SUP adventures. Hurricane Hole, located on the East End of the island is another absolutely perfect spot for paddlers of all skill levels and interests. Don’t be fooled by this island’s size, as the paddling opportunities are endless here.

6. Bonaire

Located in the Western Caribbean, close to South America, lies Bonaire and the other two ABC islands. Bonaire is well known for its incredible diving and snorkeling opportunities, and some of the best ways to experience this underwater majesty is by paddling. Lac Bay is arguably the best spot for kayaking on this island, but the island’s various mangrove forests provide ample opportunities throughout its coastal waters. There are also pink flamingos that call this island home and are a joy to witness while you quietly float by.

7. St. Maarten

St. Maarten, a Dutch-owned paradise, has some truly world-class lagoons, beaches, and sheltered bays. It has placid sapphire and teal waters that make for great photos but are best enjoyed on a kayak or SUP board.

Green Caye is a small stunning island off the coast of St. Maarten’s mainland. It is a popular and very fun place to paddle to on a lovely day, providing the wild, untouched island charm most visitors seek when visiting a Caribbean island. Galion Bay is another popular kayaking spot. It has picturesque natural beauty. Its mangrove forest is a blast to explore and keeps the waters calm for those looking for tranquil conditions.

8. Martinique

Martinique is a French-owned island, which you will notice immediately based on the language spoken, and also thanks to the various incredible bakeries sprinkled throughout this tropical paradise. The French and West Indian cuisine is one great aspect of this island, but its welcoming waters make it a haven for kayakers and SUP lovers alike.

There are tons of guided tours that take visitors along Martinique’s lush coasts. There are also ample rental locations, making it possible for visitors to explore the fabled Fort-de-France Bay and other stunning bodies of water independently. Martinique has a great mixture of dense jungle vibes and serene sapphire seas, which helps keep things interesting and new when exploring its waters.

9. Bight Of Acklins (The Bahamas)

The Bahamas is a wildly popular and sprawling Archipelago that is a favorite of cruise-ship lovers and independent adventure travelers alike. The key to any trip to the Bahamas is finding which island, or group of islands, best suits your needs as a traveler. If you travel with paddling as a top priority, then look no further than the islands surrounding the Bight of Acklins.

Bight of Acklins is a beautiful 500-square-mile lagoon filled with marine life, and it sits between the Acklins and Crooked Islands. This area is famous for bone fishing, nature tours, diving, snorkeling, and paddling. For those who love all things that involve water, this is a true paradise. Its location makes for a perfect island-hopping adventure for those up for the challenge. The Bight of Acklins is a real create-your-own-adventure within this famous island nation and a world away from the tourist hubs and cruise ship docks.

10. Virgin Gorda

The British Virgin Islands also offer their share of incredible paddling opportunities. While each of the British-owned islands has great spots for kayaking and SUP boarding, Virgin Gorda is arguably the best destination in this region for paddling lovers.

Virgin Gorda has stunning white sand beaches, like Devil’s Bay and Spring Bay, both of which offer great SUP and kayak opportunities.

When paddlers need a break, The Baths, naturally formed pools of water among giant boulders, offer a great spot to cool off and relax tired muscles for a bit. The Baths is the most popular spot in Virgin Gorda, and worth checking out as a paddler after paddling through more remote bays.

11. Barbados

Barbados is another popular island country located in the Gulf of Mexico frequented by all sorts of visitors. It is the birthplace of rum, boasts endless white sand beaches, and even has some great surfing. It also happens to have some great kayaking and SUP boarding locations, making it a great place for those who love engaging in beach, surf, and paddling activities on vacation.

Mullins Beach is a popular and stunning spot for paddling and enjoyment in Barbados. But any of its 80 white sand beaches make for great launching points, weather and conditions permitting.

12. Guadalupe

Guadalupe is another French-owned paradise in the Caribbean. The main island is shaped like a butterfly, which helps provide lots of protected coastlines. This makes for placid beaches, and ideal conditions for kayaking and SUP boarding for all skill levels.

Guadalupe is, in total, 12 islands, many of which are great to explore with a kayak. There is a volcano, a protected jungle, and great hiking here, but the water is the real star. There are mangrove forests, but Custeau Reserve and Pigeon Island are perhaps the most notable destinations for kayakers. Guadalupe is small, but exploring the archipelago on a board or kayak can make this island chain feel grand.

13. St. Vincent And The Grenadines

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a beautiful archipelago that is also a country. St. Vincent is the largest island in this chain and serves as the main hub. The main island offers some easy-to-reach bays that have great beaches and ample protection. But for those looking for adventure and natural beauty, a paddling trip to some of the smaller islands is the way to go. Palm Island is a great spot for those looking for a beautiful deserted island vibe and tranquil waters. It is a great day trip from St. Vincent and the perfect place for SUP lovers.

14. Saint Thomas

Saint Thomas is another of the U.S. Virgin Islands that is worth a trip if you want to spend time kayaking or SUP boarding on your Caribbean vacation. In fact, you can even combine a few days in Saint Thomas with your Saint John itinerary.

Saint Thomas has its own stunning coves, white sand beaches, and marine life. But its biggest claim to fame when it comes to paddling is its Mangrove Lagoon Marine Reserve.

This wildlife sanctuary and marine reserve is a fantastic place to paddle in protected water while receiving an education at the same time. There are lots of eco-tours that guide visitors through this protected and wild maze of trees and inlets, pointing out various exotic species. Saint Thomas and its Mangrove Lagoon Marine Reserve is an amazing place to take some incredible nature and wildlife photos while paddling.

15. Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia is a breathtaking island nation, with its majestic Piton Mountains providing a dramatic backdrop to its serene white sand beaches. This nation has a volcano, waterfalls, world-class resorts, and some really great paddling opportunities.

In addition to adding a new country to your passport stamps, paddling lovers can explore Marigot Bay and explore the enchanting Roseau River. This is the most popular paddling trip, as it allows visitors to enjoy the tropical blue waters of Marigot Bay, before heading inland on the wide Roseu River, which is lined with lush tropical jungle. There are also countless sandy beaches that are great to launch a SUP board from after getting some relaxation in.

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