Hiking in the Caribbean – Part 4 (St. Kitts)

This is the final blog of this 4 part series about ‘day-hiking’ mountains and volcanoes while vacationing in the sunny Caribbean.

I suspect that most people think of the Caribbean as a place to relax on the beach with a tropical rum punch in hand… and while that’s a great idea, when I think of the Caribbean, I paint a mental picture of hiking through a lush rainforest, heading up-hill of a green mountain or volcano, enjoying the eye-popping views of the Caribbean Sea along the way!

The Caribbean islands, also known as “the West Indies”, are located in the Caribbean Sea / Atlantic ocean, forming a sort of right hand arc between Florida and South America. The largest Caribbean islands are in the north-west, and include Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic), Jamaica and Puerto Rico. These islands also have the largest mountain ranges and tallest peaks in the Caribbean. That said, I would suggest that some of the best Caribbean Islands for ‘up-hill’ hiking are further south east and include Dominica, Jamaica, Martinique‎, Saint Lucia‎, Guadeloupe‎, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Vincent and Grenada. Active volcanoes still exist on some of these southern Caribbean islands, which always make for a fascinating hiking experience. Based on vertical height ‘above sea level’, the highest 15 mountains in the West Indies are:

Island Rank Height Mountain
Dominican Republic 1 10,164 feet (3,098m) Pico Duarte
2 9,324 feet (2,842m) Loma Alto de la Bandera
5 7,477 feet (2,279m) Loma Gajo en Medio
Haiti 3 8,773 feet (2,674m) Pic la Selle
4 7,700 feet (2,347m) Pic Macaya
Jamaica 6 7,402 feet (2,256m) Blue Mountain Peak
Cuba 7 6,476 feet (1,974m) Pico Turquino
12 4,098 feet (1,249m) Gran Piedra
15 3,740 feet (1,140m) Pico San Juan
Guadeloupe 8 4,813 feet (1,467m) La Grande Soufrière
Dominica 9 4,747 feet (1,447m) Morne Diablotins
Martinique 10 4,577 feet (1,395m) Montagne Pelée
Puerto Rico 11 4,389 feet (1,338m) Cerro de Punta
St. Vincent 13 4,049 feet (1,234m) La Soufrière
St. Kitts 14 3,793 feet (1,156m) Mount Liamuiga

Some great mountainous rainforest hiking is available on all of these islands… Some trails take just a couple of hours to hike, while others require a full day to complete. Weather permitting, most of these hikes allow you stunning views of the island and/or Caribbean sea, and all of the hikes will provide you with a gratifying sense of accomplishment – From a physical ‘I did it’ perspective’. There are also multi-day backpacking trails on the Dominican Republic, Dominica and Martinique. For the full ‘backpacking in tropical nature’ experience, campsites are available in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba, Dominica, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Grenada. Each island has designated camping areas, usually in their national parks.

Last week we explored Puerto Rico. This week, as the final installment of this 4 part series, lets enjoy St. Kitts.

The Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis Islands is a two island nation in the Lesser Antilles covering 101 square miles (262 sq km) in total.

Hiking in the Caribbean - Hike St. Kitts and Nevis
St. kitts – Mount Liamuiga in the clouds

Commonly referred to as “St. Kitts” or “SKN”, the islands are located in the north-eastern Caribbean and are a really good place to hike while on vacation there. The islands are actually the exposed tops of a submerged volcanic mountain range, now covered with rolling green folds of volcanic peaks and lush valleys. Regular ferry service connects the two islands, which are approximately 2 miles (3 km) apart. St. Kitts is only 6 miles (10 km) from its closest neighbour Sint Eustatius to the north-west, and is also not too far from Barbuda and Antigua to the East, as well as Montserrat to the south.

St. Kitts has a number of tourist attractions, the most popular being a very unique Scenic Railway Tour, Brimstone Hill Fortress (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Romney Manor botanical gardens. There’s also excellent Snorkling and Scuba diving at over a dozen official dive sites. There’s also The “Black Rocks” (ancient lava formations) and more than a dozen top notch beaches on the islands to relax on. Hopefully you’ll also see the African Green (Vervet) monkeys on your travels.

The best time to hike in SKN, in terms of weather, is March and April. Combined, Saint Christopher and Nevis have half a dozen mountains / volcanoes above 1,500 feet (500m), the tallest being Mount Liamuiga (formerly Mount Misery), at 3,792 feet (1,156 m) above sea level. There are two main hiking trails, one on each island, along with a number of lesser known trails.

The most common up-hill hike on St. Kitts is the Mount Liamuiga Trail. You’ll need 4 – 6 hours for this 5 mile (8km) round trip hike up and down this volcano. The absolute vertical hiked on this trail is just over 2,380 feet (725m), which is a decent challenge for most as it is mostly on a steady incline, with a few really steep sections. This hike is what you think of when you imagine hiking a volcano on a Caribbean island – Trekking through a rainforest, with the trail getting progressively steeper along the way, with access to an open crater on top that you can look down into. You will really enjoy this hike as you experience comfortable walking sections mixed with strenuous portions of the trail, all with a constantly varying environment, including seeing more exposed tree roots than you’ve ever seen, and of course the unique view of the inside of a volcano waiting for you at the top.

Hiking in the Caribbean - Hike St. Kitts and Nevis
Amazing – Exposed tree roots in areas of this hike
Hiking in the Caribbean - Hike St. Kitts and Nevis
Yes… There’s a trail there somewhere
Hiking in the Caribbean - Hike St. Kitts and Nevis
Looking down at the inside of the volcano

Other potential trails for up-hill hiking on St. Kitts include: Dos D’ane Pond / Verchilds Mountain, which is the second highest peak on St. Kitts and provides a fairly challenging hike with > 2000 feet (600m) vertical elevation gain, that will take you about 4-6 hours round trip; The “Valley of Giants” Rainforest trail, is an easy 2 hour hike which loops along a River Valley with an optional ridge climb; The Challengers Village Bat Cave and Waterfall Hike, whose attractions are self explanatory 🙂 takes about 4 hours in total to complete.

On the island of Nevis, the feature hike is to the centre of the island, Nevis Peak, which is the highest point on the island at 3200 feet (950m) above sea level. This is a fairly difficult / steep trail taking about 4-5 hours round trip, with approximately 2000 feet (600m) vertical gain over a relatively short distance.

When you’re not hiking and/or snorkling… There’s plenty to do on St. Kitts, including a Scenic Railway Tour, and be sure to visit Brimstone Hill Fortress as well as just relaxing on the beach.

Hiking in the Caribbean - Hike St. Kitts and Nevis
Brimstone Fortress – Island Facing side

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the Caribbean, with a focus on hiking through the rainforest up a few mountains and volcanoes.

Hiking in the Caribbean – Part 3 (Puerto Rico)

This is Part 3 of a 4 part series about ‘day-hiking’ mountains and volcanoes while vacationing in the sunny Caribbean.

Hike the Caribbean - Hiking in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s Castillo de San Felipe del Morro

I suspect that most people think of the Caribbean as a place to relax on the beach with a tropical rum punch in hand… and while that’s a great idea, when I think of the Caribbean, I paint a mental picture of hiking through a lush rainforest, heading up-hill of a green mountain or volcano, enjoying the eye-popping views of the Caribbean Sea along the way!

The Caribbean islands, also known as “the West Indies”, are located in the Caribbean Sea / Atlantic ocean, forming a sort of right hand arc between Florida and South America. The largest Caribbean islands are in the north-west, and include Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic), Jamaica and Puerto Rico. These islands also have the largest mountain ranges and tallest peaks in the Caribbean. That said, I would suggest that some of the best Caribbean Islands for ‘up-hill’ hiking are further south east and include Dominica, Jamaica, Martinique‎, Saint Lucia‎, Guadeloupe‎, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Vincent and Grenada. Active volcanoes still exist on some of these southern Caribbean islands, which always make for a fascinating hiking experience. Based on vertical height ‘above sea level’, the highest 15 mountains in the West Indies are:

Island Rank Height Mountain
Dominican Republic 1 10,164 feet (3,098m) Pico Duarte
2 9,324 feet (2,842m) Loma Alto de la Bandera
5 7,477 feet (2,279m) Loma Gajo en Medio
Haiti 3 8,773 feet (2,674m) Pic la Selle
4 7,700 feet (2,347m) Pic Macaya
Jamaica 6 7,402 feet (2,256m) Blue Mountain Peak
Cuba 7 6,476 feet (1,974m) Pico Turquino
12 4,098 feet (1,249m) Gran Piedra
15 3,740 feet (1,140m) Pico San Juan
Guadeloupe 8 4,813 feet (1,467m) La Grande Soufrière
Dominica 9 4,747 feet (1,447m) Morne Diablotins
Martinique 10 4,577 feet (1,395m) Montagne Pelée
Puerto Rico 11 4,389 feet (1,338m) Cerro de Punta
St. Vincent 13 4,049 feet (1,234m) La Soufrière
St. Kitts 14 3,793 feet (1,156m) Mount Liamuiga

Some great mountainous rainforest hiking is available on all of these islands… Some trails take just a couple of hours to hike, while others require a full day to complete. Weather permitting, most of these hikes allow you stunning views of the island and/or Caribbean sea, and all of the hikes will provide you with a gratifying sense of accomplishment – From a physical ‘I did it’ perspective’. There are also multi-day backpacking trails on the Dominican Republic, Dominica and Martinique. For the full ‘backpacking in tropical nature’ experience, campsites are available in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba, Dominica, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Grenada. Each island has designated camping areas, usually in their national parks.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll provide a small taste of some of these islands, along with a sampling of hikes available to you. Be prepared to work up a sweat, and be rewarded with a number of fun rainforest experiences!

Last week we experienced Dominica. This week, as part 3 of this 4 part series, lets explore Puerto Rico.

Hike the Caribbean - Hiking in Puerto Rico
A view of the north – east side of the island, from the top of El-Yunque

Puerto Rico is a 5,324 sq mile (13,790 sq km) island that divides (the Greater and Lesser islands of) the Antilles.

Hike the Caribbean - Hiking in Puerto Rico
Looking over the south side of the island from Mt. Britton

A popular and comfortable tourist destination for Americans, Puerto Rico is located in the northern part of the Caribbean sea. While small relative to the other islands of the Greater Antilles (like Cuba and Hispaniola), Puerto Rico is massive in size when compared to the islands of the south-eastern Caribbean reviewed earlier in this series. Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic side) is located approximately 60 miles (100km) to the West and the US Virgin Islands are only 15 miles (25km) to the east of the island.

If you’ve ever been there, Puerto Rico is probably most memorable for the town of Old San Juan and its massive 16th-19th century Spanish fortresses, their “coqui” frogs that can be heard all night long, as well as being the birthplace of the Pina-Colada. The island has plenty of fun attractions, including fascinating and unique Bioluminescent Bays and Subterranean Cave Parks, as well as a number of Nature Reserves and places for Scuba Diving, not to mention Rum Tours. While most vacationers enjoy the beaches and nightlife of Puerto Rico, the island’s remote forests and mountains, a refuge for a variety of wildlife, are just waiting to be explored.

Hike the Caribbean - Hiking in Puerto Rico
Hiking the El-Yunque and Mt. Britton Trail in Puerto Rico

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best time to hike in Puerto Rico, in terms of the weather, can be anytime between December and April, with March typically being the driest month. The Cordillera Central mountain range, runs the length (east – west) of the southern half of the island and contains dozens of volcanic mountain peaks. The island has 21 State Forests (Bosque Estatal), including the El Yunque National Forest, the only sub-tropical rainforest in the United States. El Bosque Estatal de Toro Negro has a number of peaks higher than 3,300 feet (1000m), including Puerto Rico’s highest, Cerro de Punta at 4,390 feet (1,338m) above sea level. El Bosque Estatal de Monte Guilarte is also home to a number of peaks above 3,300 feet (1000 meters), with Monte Guilarte standing at 3,934 feet (1,199m) being one of the highest peaks in Puerto Rico. While there are amazing mountains in Puerto Rico begging to be hiked, very few of them have well documented trails, and some even have highways crossing their peaks. For example, the “Panoramic Route” highway goes across the top of El Bosque Estatal de Maricao, where there’s even a nice campground nestled in the mountaintops. That said…

The best maintained hiking trails are in the 28,000 acre El Yunque National Forest. There are a few mountain ranges in the park, with the most noticeable peaks being: Pico El Yunque at 3,461 feet (1,055m) and Monte Britton at 3,012 feet (918m) in the north part of the park; El Toro at 3,474 feet (1,059m) in the south-western part of the park; Pico del Este at 3,409 feet (1,039m) and Pico del Oeste at 3,340 feet (1,018m) in the south-eastern part of the park; and El Cacique at 3,327 feet (1,014m) in the centre of the park. Probably the most popular trail in Puerto Rico combines Pico El-Yunque and Mt. Britton to make for a very enjoyable intermediate type of hike. This 3 mile (5 km) round trip hike will take you a leisurely 2.5 – 4 hours to complete. The actual vertical hiked is probably less than 1,500 feet (450m), although you’ll find the views of the island from both peaks are pretty amazing. The mix in trail type and flora will provide you with a nice variety, and you may get lucky and experience walking through a cloud as you near Pico El Yunque. While the best advertised and maintained park on the island, it is usually far from crowded.

Hike the Caribbean - Hiking in Puerto Rico
One of the many small waterfalls on the El-Yunque trail

 

 

Hike the Caribbean - Hiking in Puerto Rico
The trail is a little “rocky-awkward” in spots

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hike the Caribbean - Hiking in Puerto Rico
A max-zoom of a peak of Los Picachos – From the Old Tower (El-Yunque)
Hike the Caribbean - Hiking in Puerto Rico
A breath-taking view of the north east corner of Puerto Rico

 

 

 

 

 

Hike the Caribbean - Hiking in Puerto Rico
On top of the world (El-Yunque) – With Luquillo and the Atlantic in the background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other recommended and somewhat challenging trails for up-hill hiking in Puerto Rico’s El-Yunque Forest include the El Toro Trail (officially no longer maintained) which is a 4.4 mile (7km) round trip hike with an elevation change of 1,400 feet (427m) taking you to the tallest peak in the park; Perhaps even better is the Tradewinds Trail, which hikes 7.5 miles (12km) round trip, with an elevation change of over 1,800 feet (550m), to El Toro from the east; La Coca Trail is a 3.4 mile (5.5km) round trip hike that is a little hilly and crosses a number of rivers.

There are trails in El Bosque Estatal de Monte Guilarte, one of the more popular being a short and steep hike to Punta (Monte) Guilarte, where the views of the southern coast of the island are spectacular. There is also a campground, with campsites and cabins available in this park.

While you can access Puerto Rico’s tallest peak Cerro de Punta, with a short walk off a main highway in El Bosque Estatal de Toro Negro, you can actually hike to it from an old coffee plantation “Inn”, just north-east of the mountain. This (likely unmaintained) trail appears to be about 4-5 miles (7-8km) long round trip, with a vertical change in elevation of approximately 2,300 feet (700m). From the concrete monument marking the highest point on the island, you will get a 360 degree view of the entire island, it’s mountains, the Caribbean sea and Atlantic ocean, as well as San Juan – 75 miles (120km) to the north. There are also a number of short trails from a campground within the park, one of which leads to an observation tower 3,500 feet (1070m) above sea level providing you with another fantastic 360 view of the island. Other trails go to one of the many waterfalls in the area, the most popular being the 200 feet (60m) tall ‘Dona Juana’, which is near a popular natural swimming hole.

Hike the Caribbean - Hiking in Puerto Rico

So… If you’ve walked around Old San Juan and it’s amazing fortresses, and find the time to get away from the beach and Pina Coladas (actually, Mojitos are now more popular on the island), you should try to experience Puerto Rico’s rainforest trails. If you still have time and energy after your hikes, remember there’s still Bioluminescent Bays and Subterranean Cave Parks to explore!

Next week, as the final part of this 4 part series, we’ll discover St. Kitts.

Hiking in the Caribbean – Part 2 (Dominica)

This is Part 2 of a 4 part series about ‘day-hiking’ mountains and volcanoes while vacationing in the sunny Caribbean.

Vacationing in the Caribbean - Puerto Rico
Soaking up the sun on Puerto Rico

I suspect that most people think of the Caribbean as a place to relax on the beach with a tropical rum punch in hand… and while that’s a great idea, when I think of the Caribbean, I paint a mental picture of hiking through a lush rainforest, heading up-hill of a green mountain or volcano, enjoying the eye-popping views of the Caribbean Sea along the way!

The Caribbean islands, also known as “the West Indies”, are located in the Caribbean Sea / Atlantic ocean, forming a sort of right hand arc between Florida and South America. The largest Caribbean islands are in the north-west, and include Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic), Jamaica and Puerto Rico. These islands also have the largest mountain ranges and tallest peaks in the Caribbean. That said, I would suggest that some of the best Caribbean Islands for ‘up-hill’ hiking are further south east and include Dominica, Jamaica, Martinique‎, Saint Lucia‎, Guadeloupe‎, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Vincent and Grenada. Active volcanoes still exist on some of these southern Caribbean islands, which always make for a fascinating hiking experience. Based on vertical height ‘above sea level’, the highest 15 mountains in the West Indies are:

Island Rank Height Mountain
Dominican Republic 1 10,164 feet (3,098m) Pico Duarte
2 9,324 feet (2,842m) Loma Alto de la Bandera
5 7,477 feet (2,279m) Loma Gajo en Medio
Haiti 3 8,773 feet (2,674m) Pic la Selle
4 7,700 feet (2,347m) Pic Macaya
Jamaica 6 7,402 feet (2,256m) Blue Mountain Peak
Cuba 7 6,476 feet (1,974m) Pico Turquino
12 4,098 feet (1,249m) Gran Piedra
15 3,740 feet (1,140m) Pico San Juan
Guadeloupe 8 4,813 feet (1,467m) La Grande Soufrière
Dominica 9 4,747 feet (1,447m) Morne Diablotins
Martinique 10 4,577 feet (1,395m) Montagne Pelée
Puerto Rico 11 4,389 feet (1,338m) Cerro de Punta
St. Vincent 13 4,049 feet (1,234m) La Soufrière
St. Kitts 14 3,793 feet (1,156m) Mount Liamuiga

Some great mountainous rainforest hiking is available on all of these islands…  Some trails take just a couple of hours to hike, while others require a full day to complete. Weather permitting, most of these hikes allow you stunning views of the island and/or Caribbean sea, and all of the hikes will provide you with a gratifying sense of accomplishment – From a physical ‘I did it’ perspective’. There are also multi-day backpacking trails on the Dominican Republic, Dominica and Martinique. For the full ‘backpacking in tropical nature’ experience, campsites are available in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba, Dominica, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Grenada. Each island has designated camping areas, usually in their national parks.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll provide a small taste of some of these islands, along with a sampling of hikes available to you. Be prepared to work up a sweat, and be rewarded with a number of fun rainforest experiences!

Last week we explored St. Lucia.  This week, as part 2 of this 4 part series, lets experience “the nature isle of the Caribbean”, Dominica.

Hiking Dominica - Scott's Head
A view of Dominica’s south-west coast and gorgeous blue waters of the Caribbean Sea

Dominica, not to be confused with the much larger and more populated Dominican Republic, is a 290 square mile (750 sq km) island in the south east Caribbean, specifically the Lesser Antilles’ Windward islands.

Hiking Dominica - Hike the Caribbean
The rugged mountains of Dominica – Approaching the island’s capital, Roseau
Hiking the Caribbean - Hike Dominica - Morne Anglais
A view of Roseau from part way up Morne Anglais

While not too well known or overly popular, the Commonwealth of Dominica is an amazing island for hiking enthusiasts.  The island is covered with lush green mountains, and streams and rivers, many of which have plunging waterfalls.  Located in the south-eastern Caribbean, between Guadeloupe to the north, and Martinique to the south, Dominica can be enjoyed by divers as well as jungle rainforest seeking hikers.  There are a number of scuba-dive sites just off shore, as well as an area for snorkeling in shallow waters.  One area for snorkelers even has warm bubbling water, caused by volcanic vents on the ocean floor.   For the history buff, there’s impressive Fort Shirley, part of the Cabrits National Park.

Perhaps the best time to hike, for relatively cooler and dryer weather, is January through to April.  Dominica has close to a dozen mountains above 1,500 feet (500m), the tallest being Morne Diablotins, at 4,747 feet (1,447 m) above sea level.  There are literally dozens of day-hiking trails on the island, as well as the Caribbean’s longest continuous trail for multi-day backpackers.  Nominal user fees are required for almost all of the trails in Dominica, and local Guides are also recommended, as the trail heads are hard to find, and the trails themselves can become overgrown – A machete wielding guide can be very useful.

Hike Dominica - Hiking in the Caribbean
In the heart of the Dominica rainforest – Morne Trois Pitons National Park
Hike the Caribbean - Dominica hiking
Hiking Dominica – Morne Anglais was muddy fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the more popular, yet still fairly un-crowded, hikes in Dominica has to be Boiling Lake.  This is a long and fairly difficult 6-8 hour round trip hike over 8 miles (13km) of extremely varied and challenging terrain.  The highest point on this hike is around 3,100 feet (950 meters), however the actual vertical hiked is probably over 5,000 feet (1500m) as the trail travels up and down a few mountain ridges, gorges and valleys along the way.  And yes…  This trail takes you to a lake, the second-largest thermally active hot spring in the world, which ‘is’ literally boiling… That’s no good for swimming 🙂 however it is a once in a lifetime sight to behold. This epic hike is filled with awe inspiring rugged and natural beauty.   The trail has a number of stops with spectacular and varied views of the island as well as the Caribbean sea…  While most of the trail is through lush rainforest, there are river crossings and bizarre sections of barren, rocky, mineral springs and mud pools.

Hiking Dominica - Hike the Caribbean
and we’re off… one of the many ‘staircases’ on Dominica Boiling Lake trail
Hike Dominica - Boiling Lake Trail - Hiking the Caribbean
About half way along the trail… The Caribbean Sea way in the background!
Hike the Caribbean - Dominica Boiling Lake hike
How many more mountains / ridges are we crossing before we get there?

 

 

 

 

Hike Dominica - Hiking the Caribbean - Boiling Lake
Taking a break… smoldering steam venting from the earth in the background
Hike Dominica - Hiking the Caribbean
Who needs a spa? Warm grey mud bubbles from the ground!
Hiking Dominica - Hiked the Caribbean
Dominica’s Boiling Lake – You know it’s hot when the steam can be seen in the hot Caribbean air

A much tamer, but still interesting and enjoyable hike is the Middleham Falls trail.  You won’t need a guide for this well maintained and marked trail.  Contrary to the optimistic sign at the entrance, it will likely take you 2 – 3 hours for this 4 mile (6km) round trip hike that takes you over a ridge/mountain to, you guessed it, a beautiful 200+ foot (60+ meters) tall waterfall.  You can enjoy the rainbow view of the falls from a distance, or you can venture down into the pool itself for a swim in the mist.  You should enjoy this hike at a pleasant and relaxing pace as you absorb the vibe of the island.  While one of the more popular waterfalls on the island, it is still fairly quiet as only those who don’t mind hiking for a couple of hours, will make the trip.  There’s some nice views of the surrounding rainforest valleys and mountains, and of course the amazing waterfalls are an accurate representation of what this island is all about.

Hike Dominica Middleham falls - Hiking the Caribbean
What a nice trail / walk through the rainforest – On the way to Middleham Falls
Hike Dominica - Middleham Falls - Hiking the Caribbean
Dominica’s Middleham Falls – Another gorgeous day in paradise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For other challenging up-hill hikes, there is Morne Diablotin, the highest point on the island.  You’ll likely need a good 6-8 hours to return from this hike, as you cover an absolute vertical of 2800 feet (850m) through a remote and dense rainforest.  Considered by many, the most challenging hike on the island, the Morne Trois Pitons Trail is long and hilly, making the 2,300 feet (700m) absolute vertical seem much higher.  You’ll need a full day (6-8 hours) to conquer this Rainforest/Cloudforest trail.

There are dozens of other hiking trails on Dominica, a couple others of note includes: Victoria Falls, where you’ll hike for a couple of hours round trip, crossing back and forth as well as through a river… Ending in a large pool below a spectacular 165 feet tall waterfall; and there’s also Morne aux Diables, which is an intermediate type hike, requiring 4-6 hours of hiking through a diverse mix of mountainous and volcanic terrain.

Hike Dominica - Hiking in the Caribbean - Victoria Falls
Dominica – Off we go to Victoria Falls
Hiking Dominica's Victoria Falls trail - Hike the Caribbean
Dominica – Hiking up-river to the beautiful Victoria Falls!
Hiking Dominica / Hike the Caribbean - Victoria Falls
Feeling the powerful spray in the pool at the bottom of Victoria Falls

If you’re looking for a truly immersive tropical rainforest experience, you can backpack sections of, or the entire Waitukubuli National Trail – 115 miles (184 km) of snaking trails from one end of Dominica to the other!

Regardless if you travel to Dominica for the diving or the hiking, you’ll be left in awe with the natural beauty of this island!

Next week, as part 3 of this 4 part series, we’ll explore Puerto Rico.

Hiking in the Caribbean – Part 1 (St. Lucia)

This is Part 1 of a 4 part series about ‘day-hiking’ mountains and volcanoes while vacationing in the sunny Caribbean.

Vacationing in the Caribbean - Puerto Rico
Soaking up the sun on Puerto Rico

I suspect that most people think of the Caribbean as a place to relax on the beach with a tropical rum punch in hand, and while that’s a great idea… When I think of the Caribbean, I paint a mental picture of hiking through a lush rainforest, heading up-hill to a green mountain or volcano, enjoying the eye-popping views of the Caribbean Sea along the way!

The Caribbean islands, also known as “the West Indies”, are located in the Caribbean Sea / Atlantic ocean, forming a sort of right hand arc between Florida and South America. The largest Caribbean islands are in the north-west, and include Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic), Jamaica and Puerto Rico. These islands also have the largest mountain ranges and tallest peaks in the Caribbean. That said, I would suggest that some of the best Caribbean Islands for ‘up-hill’ hiking are further south east and include Dominica, Jamaica, Martinique‎, Saint Lucia‎, Guadeloupe‎, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Vincent and Grenada. Active volcanoes still exist today on some of these southern Caribbean islands, which always make for a fascinating hiking experience. Based on vertical height above sea level, here are the highest 15 mountains in the West Indies:

Island Rank Height Mountain
Dominican Republic 1 10,164 feet (3,098m) Pico Duarte
2 9,324 feet (2,842m) Loma Alto de la Bandera
5 7,477 feet (2,279m) Loma Gajo en Medio
Haiti 3 8,773 feet (2,674m) Pic la Selle
4 7,700 feet (2,347m) Pic Macaya
Jamaica 6 7,402 feet (2,256m) Blue Mountain Peak
Cuba 7 6,476 feet (1,974m) Pico Turquino
12 4,098 feet (1,249m) Gran Piedra
15 3,740 feet (1,140m) Pico San Juan
Guadeloupe 8 4,813 feet (1,467m) La Grande Soufrière
Dominica 9 4,747 feet (1,447m) Morne Diablotins
Martinique 10 4,577 feet (1,395m) Montagne Pelée
Puerto Rico 11 4,389 feet (1,338m) Cerro de Punta
St. Vincent 13 4,049 feet (1,234m) La Soufrière
St. Kitts 14 3,793 feet (1,156m) Mount Liamuiga

Some great mountainous rainforest hiking is available on all of these islands, with some trails taking just a couple of hours, while others require a full day. Weather permitting, most of these hikes allow you stunning views of the island and/or Caribbean sea, and all of the hikes will provide you with a gratifying sense of accomplishment. There are also multi-day backpacking trails on the Dominican Republic, Dominica and Martinique. For the full ‘backpacking in tropical nature’ experience, campsites are available in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba, Dominica, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Grenada. Each island has designated camping areas, usually in their national parks.
Over the next 4 weeks, we’ll provide a small taste of some of these islands, along with a sampling of hikes available to you. Be prepared to work up a sweat and be rewarded with a number of fun rainforest experiences!

For today’s Part 1 of Hiking in the Caribbean, let’s explore St. Lucia.

St. Lucia is a A 238 square mile (616 sq km) island in the Lesser Antilles’ Windward islands.

Hiking in the Caribbean - St. Lucia
The Iconic Piton of St. Lucia

 

 

 

 

 

A popular Caribbean island getaway with many tourist attractions, St. Lucia is an excellent island to do some day hiking while on vacation. Located in the south-eastern Caribbean, the island is just south of Martinique and west of Barbados. Perhaps the best known attractions include: Fort Rodney and Signal Peak in Pigeon Island National Park; Reduit Beach at Rodney Bay; Diamond Falls / Botanical Gardens; along with the Tet Paul Nature trail. There are also a few waterfalls and hot springs to visit during your stay as well as a few places to indulge in locally made chocolate!

Perhaps the best time to hike, for relatively cooler and dryer weather, is February, March or April. St. Lucia has about half a dozen mountains above 1,500 feet (500m), the tallest being Mount Gimie at just over 3,000 feet (950m) above sea level. The Pitons, the icon of St. Lucia, stand just over 2,500 feet (780m) tall. There are a number of good trails on the island, including some interesting and challenging up-hill day hikes. Officially, a St. Lucia Forestry Department day-pass, along with a local guide, is required to hike on the island.

Hiking Mount Gimie will take about 5-7 hours, as the trail is approximately 5-6 miles (8-10km) long, round trip. For those looking for a remote and challenging rainforest hike on St. Lucia, this is the one to do. While the trail meanders up and down across a mountain ridge and valley, the absolute vertical from start to finish is about 1,970 feet (600m). You’ll experience a range of trail conditions on this hike, including a couple of amazingly steep sections, where you will need to climb natural ladders of tree roots. You’ll see amazing plant life in this moist rainforest, and you’ll even be able to go for a dip at the bottom of a waterfall. Of course, the views of the island at various stops along the trail are spectacular, including a very unique perspective of the Pitons from the island’s interior.

Hiking the Caribbean - St. Lucia Mount Gimie
Part way to St. Lucia’s Mount Gimie (The peak in the background on the far left)
Hiking the Caribbean - St. Lucia Mount Gimie
Up we go – St. Lucia’s Mount Gimie
Hiking the Caribbean - St. Lucia Mount Gimie
A view from the misty top of St. Lucia’s Mount Gimie

 

 

 

 

 

 

The popular Gros Piton hike can take anywhere from 3 – 6 hours, depending on where you start and on your physical conditioning. While this trail is under 3 miles (4.4km) round trip, it is all uphill (on the way up that is ;), with some pretty steep sections. As expected, the views from the top, of the western and south part of the island, are sensational. While this is a somewhat short hike, in order to really enjoy it, you’ll require decent leg strength and excellent cardio. An “adventurous” trip to St. Lucia is incomplete without hiking the iconic Piton. FYI – The Petit Piton can also be hiked, however it is extremely steep and potentially dangerous in some areas.

Hiking in the Caribbean - St. Lucia Gros Piton
Hiking St. Lucia’s Gros Piton from the beach…
Hiking in the Caribbean - St. Lucia's Gros Piton
Catching our breath, while hiking up St. Lucia’s Gros Piton

 

Hiking in the Caribbean - St. Lucia Gros Piton
A view of St. Vincent, from St. Lucia’s Gros Piton

 

 

 

 

 

Other decent hikes on St. Lucia include Enbas Saut Falls, Barre Isle Ridge (Mount La Combe), the Des Cartiers Rainforest trail, and the Edmund Forest Reserve. Shorter, easier hikes include the Jacquot Trail, the Millet Trail (Bird Sanctuary) as well as the Forestierre Trail.

So in summary, you can choose to relax at the beach or a luxurious chocolate hotel, go for a leisurely stroll on Pigeon Island National Park or the Tet Paul Nature trail… Alternatively you can go for a heart pumping adventurous up-hill hike through the rainforest… Whatever you choose to do, you’re sure to have a memorable holiday in St. Lucia!

Next week, as part 2 of this 4 part series, we’ll experience “the nature isle of the Caribbean”, Dominica.

Welcome to our “mountain hiking” site

Hey,

Glad you found us.  We’re just getting started with this site and so far have populated some areas of the Caribbean, as well as parts of the South East USA and Eastern Canada.

Please use the drop-down menu at the top of the screen to navigate the site.  We have info at all levels / all menu items – feel free to take a look around.

We provide info on more areas in North America and the Caribbean on an ongoing basis, so please come back and take another look soon…

Also – If you have any particular places of interest, or suggestions for improvements, please let me know.

Thanks,

Mark (MGF)

Get on the trail!

Hey,

It’s a big world out there, with many mountainous trails to explore.  On this site we provide an overview of hiking and backpacking trails through mountainous regions in North America and the Caribbean, along with helpful resources to further plan your trip.

If you’re planning a hike or backpacking trip, then use our resources to help identify the mountain range and trail(s) to experience.  We provide sample “feature” trails, along with recommendations for others, with pictures and descriptions to help you decide.

So…  Plan, then “Get on the Trail!”

Mark

T P1070895