10 Great Hikes in the Caribbean

by Ann Abel

10 Great Hikes in the Caribbean

by Ann Abel

Caribbean cruises usually revolve around sun, surf, and sand, but the islands are also rife with outdoor activities like hiking. You'll find treks of all intensities — from gentle walks to ascents up steep mountains. Hiking in the Caribbean offers both stunning scenery and a more exciting way to work off those rum punches than a treadmill in the ship's gym. Here are our 10 favorite Caribbean trails.

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HIking on Grand Cayman / iStock.com / Flavio Vallenari
Gros and Petit Piton
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1. Gros Piton, St. Lucia

Probably the most photographed mountain in the Caribbean (picture a child's drawing of a volcano), the cone of St. Lucia's Gros Piton is also one of its most challenging ascents. It can take fit climbers five to six hours of round-trip walking and scrambling to conquer the 2,600-foot summit, but the views that you'll enjoy less than an hour in — and the sense of accomplishment you'll feel at the top — are worth it.

Probably the most photographed mountain in the Caribbean (picture a child's drawing of a volcano), the cone of St. Lucia's Gros Piton is also one of its most challenging ascents. It can take fit climbers five to six hours of round-trip walking and scrambling to conquer the 2,600-foot summit, but the views that you'll enjoy less than an hour in — and the sense of accomplishment you'll feel at the top — are worth it.

La Soufrière
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2. La Soufrière, Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe's mildly active volcano (it last spewed lava in 1976) is the main attraction in France's seventh largest — and arguably loveliest — national park. Most people can complete this accessible hike along well-maintained paths in about two hours. Local outfitter Vert Intense employs English-speaking guides who talk about the sulfurous, therapeutic clay on the way up. Your return trip can include stops at warm, mineral-rich baths and beautiful waterfalls.

Guadeloupe's mildly active volcano (it last spewed lava in 1976) is the main attraction in France's seventh largest — and arguably loveliest — national park. Most people can complete this accessible hike along well-maintained paths in about two hours. Local outfitter Vert Intense employs English-speaking guides who talk about the sulfurous, therapeutic clay on the way up. Your return trip can include stops at warm, mineral-rich baths and beautiful waterfalls.

Waitukubuli National Trail
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3. Waitukubuli National Trail, Dominica

Dominica is the first Caribbean destination with a walking trail that extends the length of the island. Named after the Carib Indian translation of Dominica, the trail stretches 115 miles and is divided into 14 segments. (Aim to tackle just one, as the entire route can take strong hikers two weeks.) The trail traverses mountains and rain forests, passes rivers and waterfalls, and runs through local communities.

Dominica is the first Caribbean destination with a walking trail that extends the length of the island. Named after the Carib Indian translation of Dominica, the trail stretches 115 miles and is divided into 14 segments. (Aim to tackle just one, as the entire route can take strong hikers two weeks.) The trail traverses mountains and rain forests, passes rivers and waterfalls, and runs through local communities.

The Quill
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4. The Quill/Boven National Park, St. Eustatius

This protected nature reserve in the West Indies — and first national park of the Dutch Antilles — includes the dormant Quill volcano, which rises nearly 2,000 feet, as well as the White Wall limestone formation on the volcano’s south side. A network of eight trails offers a range of hiking options, from a 20-minute meander through the bird observatory to a challenging, hour-long climb from the crater rim to Mazinga Peak, the island's highest point. From here you can see all of St. Eustatius as well the Caribbean and the Atlantic, and sometimes St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat.

This protected nature reserve in the West Indies — and first national park of the Dutch Antilles — includes the dormant Quill volcano, which rises nearly 2,000 feet, as well as the White Wall limestone formation on the volcano’s south side. A network of eight trails offers a range of hiking options, from a 20-minute meander through the bird observatory to a challenging, hour-long climb from the crater rim to Mazinga Peak, the island's highest point. From here you can see all of St. Eustatius as well the Caribbean and the Atlantic, and sometimes St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat.

Montserrat's Little Bay
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5. Little Bay to Rendezvous Bay, Montserrat

For a tiny, 40-square-mile island, Montserrat boasts great diversity, including mountainous vistas, curvy slopes, deep valleys, and fertile fields. Rendezvous Bay is the island’s sole white-sand beach (the others are mostly black) and is an excellent spot for swimming, snorkeling, and diving in the island's most pristine waters. This hiking route begins steps from the cruise port in Little Bay and follows a steep mountain trail over a bluff, with the option to return by boat. While few ships call at Montserrat, many lines offer shore excursion from nearby Antigua.

For a tiny, 40-square-mile island, Montserrat boasts great diversity, including mountainous vistas, curvy slopes, deep valleys, and fertile fields. Rendezvous Bay is the island’s sole white-sand beach (the others are mostly black) and is an excellent spot for swimming, snorkeling, and diving in the island's most pristine waters. This hiking route begins steps from the cruise port in Little Bay and follows a steep mountain trail over a bluff, with the option to return by boat. While few ships call at Montserrat, many lines offer shore excursion from nearby Antigua.

Mount Liamuiga
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6. Mount Liamuiga, St. Kitts

Standing at 3,792 feet, Mount Liamuiga is the highest peak on St. Kitts. (“Liamuiga” is the Indian name for the island, which translates to “fertile land.”) This challenging, full-day hike through the rain forest passes by numerous species of wildflowers, gurgling streams, and waterfalls with natural pools. The forest is home to approximately 200 bird species and many playful green Vervet monkeys, which outnumber people on the island. There's a picturesque crater lake at the caldera, which stretches approximately one mile across and is a full 1,000 feet deep.

Standing at 3,792 feet, Mount Liamuiga is the highest peak on St. Kitts. (“Liamuiga” is the Indian name for the island, which translates to “fertile land.”) This challenging, full-day hike through the rain forest passes by numerous species of wildflowers, gurgling streams, and waterfalls with natural pools. The forest is home to approximately 200 bird species and many playful green Vervet monkeys, which outnumber people on the island. There's a picturesque crater lake at the caldera, which stretches approximately one mile across and is a full 1,000 feet deep.

Mount Christoffel
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7. Mount Christoffel, Curaçao

Just a 40-minute drive from the cruise port, the island's rugged west side is the site of its largest national park and the 1,150-foot Mount Christoffel. This adventurous, two-hour hike affords views of Curaçao’s unique geological formations including Rooi Beru (a dry river bed), beard moss, bromeliads, and orchids, plus a sweeping panoramic vista from the top.

Just a 40-minute drive from the cruise port, the island's rugged west side is the site of its largest national park and the 1,150-foot Mount Christoffel. This adventurous, two-hour hike affords views of Curaçao’s unique geological formations including Rooi Beru (a dry river bed), beard moss, bromeliads, and orchids, plus a sweeping panoramic vista from the top.

Grand Cayman's Mastic Trail
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8. Mastic Trail, Grand Cayman

About 15 miles from the port in George Town, this gravelly, 200-year-old path takes hikers through a native mangrove swamp and a wooded area that are home to some of the islands rarest and most colorful plant life, along with a variety of wildlife. The National Trust for the Cayman Islands offers guided tours Tuesday through Friday mornings, or visitors can hike solo (BYO map). 

About 15 miles from the port in George Town, this gravelly, 200-year-old path takes hikers through a native mangrove swamp and a wooded area that are home to some of the islands rarest and most colorful plant life, along with a variety of wildlife. The National Trust for the Cayman Islands offers guided tours Tuesday through Friday mornings, or visitors can hike solo (BYO map). 

Sage Mountain National Park
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9. Sage Mountain National Park, Tortola

Established in 1964 with a donation from Laurance Rockefeller, Sage Mountain represents the beginning of conservation in the British Virgin Islands. Farmland was reforested with white cedar and mahogany trees, which thrive along with other naturally regenerated secondary vegetation. (One of the 12 trails is devoted to the mahoganies.) Another trail reaches the highest point in the Virgin Islands (1,700 feet) and features different landscapes on its slopes.

Established in 1964 with a donation from Laurance Rockefeller, Sage Mountain represents the beginning of conservation in the British Virgin Islands. Farmland was reforested with white cedar and mahogany trees, which thrive along with other naturally regenerated secondary vegetation. (One of the 12 trails is devoted to the mahoganies.) Another trail reaches the highest point in the Virgin Islands (1,700 feet) and features different landscapes on its slopes.

The Baths
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10. The Baths to Devil’s Bay and the Cathedral, Virgin Gorda

Most cruisers to Virgin Gorda find their way to the Baths, an array of pools and grottoes created by huge granite boulders. If sitting and soaking aren't for you, there’s an easy, 15-minute trail to lovely Devil’s Bay on the island’s southwestern tip. (Name notwithstanding, it’s a tranquil spot for swimming and snorkeling.) A separate path wends through the Cathedral, where boulders touch overhead, creating small pools with shafts of light peeking through. Expect to crawl, climb ladders, and wade through shallow water.

Most cruisers to Virgin Gorda find their way to the Baths, an array of pools and grottoes created by huge granite boulders. If sitting and soaking aren't for you, there’s an easy, 15-minute trail to lovely Devil’s Bay on the island’s southwestern tip. (Name notwithstanding, it’s a tranquil spot for swimming and snorkeling.) A separate path wends through the Cathedral, where boulders touch overhead, creating small pools with shafts of light peeking through. Expect to crawl, climb ladders, and wade through shallow water.

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