The Caribbean Defined

Trail in the jungle leading Layou River in Dominica
Steps leading down to Layou River, Dominica (David Madison/Lifesize/Getty)

For most tropicalistas, "hiking" is usually followed by "to the beach." Hey, no argument here, although one of the top Caribbean hiking islands ranks near last in the region for lounge-worthy sand.

One of the few Caribbean islands with almost no notable beach scene, this mountainous island offers a web of hiking trails, from easy walks into stunning waterfalls to eight-hour round-trip treks up 4,747-foot Morne Dialotin, Dominica's highest peak. The severe terrain comes courtesy of plate tectonics, specifically the North American plate pushing under the Caribbean plate, and this uplift is still occurring throughout the Lesser Antilles, says Ten Brink of the U.S. Geological Survey. Thus much of Dominica evokes Jurassic Park, especially the eight-mile scramble up to Boiling Lake, an active volcanically heated lake (technically, a solfataric area) with water temperatures topping 180 degrees.

St. John's, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. John's has an unfair advantage over other would-be hiking destinations. Nearly two-thirds of the island is made up of the Virgin Islands National Park, and trails wiggle into nearly every cranny of the park's 7,000 acres. The steep huff up Bordeaux Mountain earns hikers sweeping views of Coral Harbor (and a drink at the trail-top restaurant). The Reef Bay Trail skirts rustic coastline the entire way. A spur trail leads through shady forest to Brown's Bay, where the somewhat plain scenery belies a snorkeler's paradise. Trails also lead to old sugar plantations, slave settlements, and archeological formations dating back to 840 B.C.

Puerto Rico
El Yunque National Forest (formally the Caribbean National Forest) boasts 28,000 acres—arguably small by mainland standards, but downright voluminous for the Caribbean, with more than 24 miles of hiking trails that lead to caves and mountains.

Other Notables:
Guadeloupe (La Soufriere volcano), Dominican Republic (the Caribbean's highest peak, Pico Duarte, reaches 10,700 feet)

Published: 9 Nov 2009 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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