Stretch your legs and take a walk: the Caribbean’s magnificent scenery lends itself to exploring on foot. From short strolls to more challenging treks, there’s a route that will suit everyone. Take a look at our suggestions – are these the Caribbean’s best hikes?
Dominica: the Waitukubuli National Trail
Not for the fainthearted, the Waitukubuli National Trail is the Caribbean’s first official long distance trail. To complete it, you’ll need to walk 115 miles across one of the region’s most verdant islands. If that sounds daunting, don’t write it off immediately. The route is divided into 14 much more manageable sections. The varied path leads to lush rainforest, tumbling waterfalls and coastal villages. If you have the legs for it, one tough segment involves a steep climb to the top of Morne Crabier but from the summit the views are incredible. Another leg takes you through farmland to Giraudel, nicknamed the flower village, and the Wotten Waven hot springs. Sometimes, parts of the trail are closed for renovation, so check locally before setting out.
Cuba: Topes de Collantes
Convenient for those staying in the charming colonial town of Trinidad, Cuba’s Parque Natural Topes de Collantes gives hikers a chance to explore the pretty landscapes of the Sierra del Escambray. Its signature hike is called the Sendero Vegas Grandes, which leads to a waterfall and a cave. However, many travellers opt for the slightly easier Sendero de Caburní instead. This trail winds through some of the area’s coffee plantations. Listen out for birds such as the tocororo, Cuba’s national bird, which takes its name from its distinctive call. You’ll soon reach the Salto del Caburní, a gorgeous waterfall. Take a refreshing swim to cool off, though be wary of low water levels if you plan to jump in.
Puerto Rico: El Yunque
The tropical rainforest of El Yunque in Puerto Rico’s rugged interior is a joy to hike on foot. The varied trails include walks such as that which takes you along the muddy La Coca Trail, the family-friendly Angelito Trail and the easier Caimitillo Trail, ideal for a picnic. They range from challenging treks aimed at serious walkers with a good level of fitness to gentle strolls on paved paths leading to scenic overlooks. One of the most popular is the 0.8 mile out and back Mount Britton Trail. Though it’s steep in parts and slippery after rain, it’s accessible to most hikers. At the end of the trail you’ll find a small stone tower from which you can see across the green countryside to the sea beyond. The extra altitude you’ll gain by continuing for another hour uphill to the El Yunque Peak Tower opens up an even better panorama, so long as the cloud doesn’t descend.
Jamaica: the Blue Mountain Peak Trail
This hike, to Jamaica’s highest peak, requires a pre-dawn start to be at the top for sunrise. However, if you can cope with the four hour climb, the view from the top is simply extraordinary as Jamaica’s natural beauty is revealed in all its glory beneath you. Blue Mountain Peak is 2256 metres above sea level and to reach it, you’ll need to tackle a 1000 metre elevation gain. It’s difficult terrain, and you’ll be glad of a torch and an experienced guide to help you achieve your goal. The tree ferns, stands of bamboo, towering eucalyptus trees and pretty wildflowers make this a botanist’s delight. Over 200 species of birds, including the rare Jamaican blackbird, call this pristine forest home. One of the undisputed highlights of the hike is the Elfin Forest, whose vegetation has been stunted by the colder temperatures found at this higher altitude. It’s a magical place where the low canopy envelopes your space and demands your attention.
St Lucia: the Pitons
This pair of volcanic peaks comprise St Lucia’s most iconic landmark. Of the two, Gros Piton is actually the easiest to hike and thus, the focus of most hiking tours. Its peak is 798 metres above sea level, compared to the 743 metres that Petit Piton can muster. While Petit Piton is classified as too steep and dangerous to climb, the opposite’s true for its loftier neighbour. That said, it’s still advisable to engage the services of a guide if you plan to make an attempt to reach the top, as the uneven ground has twisted many an unsuspecting ankle. Complete this strenuous but doable trek through lush forest and your reward will be the chance to enjoy a fabulous view of Soufriere and Vieux Fort. On a clear day you can see the hazy outline of St Vincent in the distance. Too much? Try the much shorter Tet Paul Trail instead – you can invest as little as 45 minutes to achieve a great view of the Pitons, though with scenery this spectacular you’ll want to hang around far longer.
Grenada: St Margaret’s Trail
Adventure awaits those who tackle Grenada’s St Margaret’s Trail. The hike passes cocoa, nutmeg and banana trees and passes through the tropical vegetation of the Grand Etang Rainforest. It can get muddy underfoot, particularly after prolonged spells of rain, so make sure you’re wearing appropriate footwear so that the hike doesn’t become a chore. Continue on to reach the walk’s spectacular conclusion: the Seven Sisters waterfalls. As the name suggests, there are seven successive cascades to explore. The plunge pools beneath them are ideal for swimming – and for cleaning the mud off your shoes ready for the return hike. If this has given you the taste for such walks, you might also like to try the trails to Concord Falls on the island’s west coast and the harder to find Mt Carmel Falls on the east coast.
Guadeloupe: La Soufrière
The climb up the flanks of La Soufrière is a well-trodden path but that doesn’t mean you should rule it out. You’ll be acutely aware of the area’s volcanic landscape as you’ll get a strong whiff of sulphur as you proceed along the trail. Begin at Les Bains Jaunes (the Yellow Baths). Built in the 19th century, this outdoor pool repurposed stone from the volcano. Today, the temperature of the deliciously warm emerald green water averages between 26 and 28°C. Unsurprisingly, it is a popular place for visitors to take a dip, though watch your footing as the bottom tends to be slippery. But first, you need to earn it: to reach the peak of La Soufrière, 1467 metres above sea level, takes at least a couple of hours. You’ll be able to admire the lush landscape as ferns and vines give way to wild orchids. Higher up, when visibility’s good, the sea views extend all the way to the surrounding islands of Saintes, Marie-Galante and Dominica. Soothe those aching muscles when you get back down to Les Bains Jaunes – a real treat after all that exertion.