By Melissa Alvarado Sierra | Published on March 14, 2022
I was sitting by the water in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, having a delicious lunch of arroz mamposteao when a group of mini-speed boats raced by on their way to a tiny island off the coast. I asked the waiter about the peculiar little vessels, and he told me that speed boat tours are the best way to explore the coast. Speed boats are a favorite pastime of the locals here — and a unique way to party with friends or celebrate a milestone with family.
Intrigued, I found myself at the helm of my own little boat the very next day, surrounded by the deep turquoise open sea and feeling the saltwater splashing on my face. It was such a thrill as I zipped around the coast, with magnificent views on all sides, giving me a new perspective of this relaxing oasis. It was the highlight of my entire Caribbean travel vacation, and now as a result I make sure to seek out speed boat tours whenever I find myself on one of its many tropical islands.
Speed boating is a truly unique experience that lets you discover untouched travel destinations from an exciting perspective. Speed boats come in different shapes and sizes, from jet boats to fast dinghies, and you can command your own boat or have an expert captain guide you along. And the best part? Due to the Caribbean's constant warm weather and mild waters close to shore, you can enjoy speed boating all year long.
In the Caribbean, speed boats are a way of life. Locals and visitors alike go speed boating to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and you can rent one to celebrate a bachelor or bachelorette party. Some guides will even help you organize an event on the shore if you want to make a stop to surprise a loved one.
Families can enjoy speed boats, too, as long as everyone follows the basic safety rules, wears a life jacket, can swim, and abides by the captain's direction. If you are captaining your own boat, you'll first go through a quick demonstration on how to safely start, stop and maneuver the vessel and how to signal for help out at sea — but it's not as daunting as it may sound, as there's usually a leading captain on another boat guiding your group.
You will get wet, so don't forget a towel, biodegradable sunscreen, a camera, your SeaPass, cash or credit cards, and a change of clothes. A dry bag is always a good idea if you want to bring your belongings on the boat — that way, you can protect your items from the rejuvenating sea splashes.
Now that you're packed and ready, it's time to zoom through the Caribbean.
The dreamy coastline vacation destination of Curacao became my playground with a speed boat adventure and snorkel tour. I was traversing pool-like beaches, hidden mangroves, and magical tiny islands, and I saw so much of the island over the course of a few hours. One of my favorite stops was Devil's Corner, an exhilarating and bumpy ride by the shore. I also headed to the Spaanse Water Lagoon, a natural harbor, for a placid tour between tiny isles. I passed by elegant yachts and got up close to magnificent mansions in this part of the island. My tour also made a stop by the Fuik Baai Lagoon — a shallow water body and cove where you can swim, snorkel, and watch wild pelicans. Finally, our guide took us to Santa Barbara, a white sand beach on the southeast part of the island, where I had a chance to let loose and run on the beach. I grabbed some seafood for lunch and did a little sunbathing.
With some of the most picture-perfect water views in the Caribbean, impressive blue holes, and remote islands like Isla Pasión, I had the adventure of a lifetime while speed boating in Cozumel. Tours here offer high-speed acceleration and maneuvers, along with 360-degree turns. Even though I was nervous in the beginning, once I was out there on the water going at speeds I could not comprehend, it felt like pure freedom. Though it's not just about the fast acceleration with these tours. I was also able to catch my breath once I got to beautiful Isla Pasión where my speed boat tour guide gave the cue to note that it was time to kick back and relax on a hammock, and that's exactly what I did. With that, I requested a frozen margarita and watched the waves slowly curl back and forth on the shore. A buffet awaited me when I got hungry, and it featured some of my favorite dishes — fresh fish, a salad bar, and tropical drinks, all included with the tour.
The enchanting island of Puerto Rico is an ideal adventure vacation destination in the Caribbean; offering some of the best speed boat tours in all the islands. Puerto Rico is also known as one of the most popular island-hopping options as locals host private mini boat trips where you are at the helm. This is very different from having a guide maneuvering a boat for you. Here, you get to be in control and play in the water like a kid with a new toy. I was joyfully exploring the coast, on my own terms, reaching different islands off the shore. Icacos is perhaps the most popular — and my personal favorite.
It's a fantastic snorkeling destination with what many call the best coral reefs of La Cordillera Nature Reserve. We got to spend most of our time there. Everything you need is included with tours like these: snorkeling gear, snacks, drinks, and a tour guide on a different boat to help you spot the best places. You don't need a boating license and will get to captain your own mini speed boat around jaw-dropping locations.
I knew St. Maarten for its impressive underwater life and impossibly soft sand from previous trips, but I learned that it can be best explored on a high-speed boat. I made several stops for snorkeling and diving here, discovering shipwrecks, underwater creatures and vivid coral reefs where brightly colored fish lived and thrived. If you are like me, always looking for the mysterious, I recommend heading to Simpson Bay and looking for the old sunken boats filled with tropical fish. I didn't even have to go in the water — my speed boat had a glass bottom, and I was able to easily see all the sea treasures underneath. To spice things up a bit, my tour guide also took me to Maho Beach, to witness the low-flying airliners, all incredibly close to the threshold of the airport runway. Then, my last stop was Mullet Bay, and here I took a break from all the excitement and relaxed by the crystalline waters with a good book.
In St. Thomas, I had one of the most exhilarating adventures, this time aboard a super fast jet boat. These boats are suitable for families and offer 180-degree spins, fishtails, and power-brake stops at turbo-jet speeds. The guide on this tour was an experienced skydiver. He told us that zipping along the shore on this high-speed boat is just as exhilarating as jumping from a plane, feeling the wind stretching your cheeks. I was sold on the idea and joined the other adventurers, all of us looking at the vessel with childlike wonder.
On our journey, we reached secret cays and islands. We swam in the waters of otherworldly beaches and hiked in the forest. By the end of the tour, I had to agree with the skydiver; it was intoxicating. Even though I had never jumped from a plane, the high-octane experience was like zipping along a roller coaster. It made for a perfect end to my thrill-seeking Caribbean trip and ignited a new sense of adventure in me.