The Caribbean is more than sun, sand and water sports. Volcanic mountains, tropical rainforests and gushing waterfalls offer some of the best Caribbean hiking adventures. These islands have a wonderful mix of white sandy beaches and impressive hiking adventures that will get your heart pumping and leave you feeling invigorated at the end of the day.
So, the next time you are planning shore excursions on your Caribbean cruise getaway, consider these ports of call known for some of the best hiking in the Caribbean. You will not only get your adrenaline fix and burn off some of those buffet calories but you will also get shareable shots and unforgettable experiences. Just make sure to pack your hiking boots, rain ponchos and day bags.
From the "Island of Enchantment" of Puerto Rico to the "Nature Island" of Dominica, here are some of the best places to hike in the Caribbean.
As one of the larger islands in the Caribbean, Jamaica has a number of hiking options, from trails taking you through its caves to those offering indelible island landscapes. One of the most popular hikes is the Blue Mountain Peak Trail, which ascends the island's mist-shrouded highest peak. The 5.8-mile intermediate trek takes approximately four hours and offers amazing birdwatching opportunities and natural vistas of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, a Jamaican UNESCO Heritage Site. Along the way, stop by the Clifton Mount Estate to taste the famous Blue Mountain Coffee.
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A 40-minute drive from Ocho Rios cruise terminal brings you to St. Ann Parish, where you can take a two-hour leisurely walk starting from the Cinnamon Hill Golf Course and past pastures and orchards up toward Mount Zion Hill to an authentic Jamaican rural farming village dating back to 1861. Here, you'll find a United Presbyterian Church, the Mount Zion All Age school serving the community and a few rum bars along with private homes. A bit closer to the Ocho Rios terminal, you can embark on the One Love Trail, a paved 3-mile walkway starting from the pier and ending at the iconic Dunn's River Falls and Dolphin Cove.
For an off-the-beaten-path hike to waterfalls and natural pools, choose the Mayfield River hike in the Dolphin Head Mountains near Westmoreland in the island interior, a short drive from the Montego Bay cruise port. The ascent can take anywhere from 45 minutes to a few hours, depending on how much time you want to spend in the natural whirlpools. Be aware that you might have to walk in shallow parts of the river at times; hiring a guide will make the hike safer. The main attraction of the "Washing Machine" falls, the tallest falls in the area, will be worth the trek as you can get behind the stream and play in its jets.
2. St. Lucia
Scaling the mighty volcanic spires of the Pitons in St. Lucia is a bucket-list item for many adventurers. At 2,619 feet above sea level, Gros Piton, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site of the Pitons, is an imposing mountain -- but it's easier to hike than its twin, Petit Piton. The 3-mile Gros Piton Nature Trail offers hikers incredible natural views and starts off with an easy hike from Font Gen Libre. At the halfway point, the trail gets harder, so be prepared for a moderate to strenuous trek to the summit and allow four to five hours. There, you will be rewarded by exceptional views across the sea of the islands of Martinique and St. Vincent. Guides are highly recommended for hiking Gros Piton.
For a much easier hike, opt for the "Stairway to Heaven" Tet Paul Nature Trail, which winds its way up a scenic staircase near the historic town of Soufriere. This easy to moderate hike takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes, and you'll enjoy the smells of tropical flowers and have plenty of photo opportunities to capture the beauty of the Pitons and the southern end of St. Lucia. Along the way, you can stop by an organic farm or the small picnic area for a meal.
If hiking through a breathtaking rainforest is more your beat, then go for the Enbas Saut Trail, which brings you to the gorgeous Enbas Saut waterfall in the Edmund Forest Reserve. Hikers can catch sight of birds such as the colorful Saint Lucian parrot and some beautiful tropical flora. The trail is moderate to difficult and is 2.5 miles long.
3. Dominican Republic
Although the Dominican Republic is home to the highest summit in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte, you might not get to hike it on your port of call; the mountain is located hours from cruise terminals. But, worry not! The island of Hispaniola offers other hiking opportunities and a chance to explore the natural beauty of this verdant Caribbean destination.
The private cruise terminal of Carnival Cruise Line at Amber Cove is close to the waterfalls of Rio de Damajagua, known for pristine waters and natural slides and pools. A four-hour guided Puerto Plata cruise excursion will take you on a 45-minute hike on gentle paths through the tropical forest to the Charco Grande waterfall, where you can swim in its sparkling, mountain-fed pool.
Cotubanama National Park, a 50-minute drive from the Punta Cana cruise terminal, is riddled with caves and abundant with birdlife, attracting adventure seekers and bird-watchers. Through the fishing village of Bayahibe, hikers can access the land portion of the national park and explore its caves and springs along marked trails that come in varying degrees of difficulty. The Padre Nuestro Ecological Trail, a 1.2-mile path winds through a dense forest and provides access to a series of caves with freshwater springs in an area once occupied by Taino Indians.
The southernmost island in the Caribbean boasts incredible flora and fauna and stunning waterfalls worth hiking to. From the Port of Spain cruise terminal, head over to the North Coast of Trinidad for a full-day excursion that involves hiking to Avocat waterfalls and a stop at Maracas Bay, known for its beach scene and street food. The 50-foot Avocat waterfalls provides a refreshing bathing pool.
An enchanting hike through the Guanapo Gorge, located an hour east from the port, takes you through a rainforest and a walled canyon carved by the Guanapo River. You will find yourself wading through water and even swimming in cool streams as you make your way through a V-shaped gorge with hundred-foot walls. Be sure to go during the dry season, wear a swimsuit and water shoes, and put your belongings in a dry bag.
The "Nature Island" of Dominica is an outdoor-lover's dream. With an island-spanning trail, a rainforest-clad volcano and other natural wonders, this Caribbean island is an inviting hiking destination. Cruisers wanting to make the most of their time on Dominica can choose to hike a segment of the 114-mile Waitukubuli National Trail that links rainforests, waterfalls, beaches and hot springs.
Morne Trois Pitons National Park, the first Eastern Caribbean UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a short drive from the cruise terminal. It's home to the popular Boiling Lake, a flooded fumarole with greyish-green water. From the village of Laudat, the round trip hike takes about six to eight hours and a full-day guided tour goes through the Valley of Desolation and Ti Tou Gorge and stops at the Boiling Lake. Be aware that the trail can get muddy and hikers need to go over rocks in certain parts.
Also situated within the national park is Middleham Falls, the tallest waterfall in Dominica, which can be accessed via a 1.5-mile intermediate hike through a lush rainforest.
6. Puerto Rico
Old forts, colonial architecture and bioluminescent beaches aside, Puerto Rico has its share of hiking and natural attractions. The island's natural treasure -- El Yunque National Forest, located in the Luquillo Mountains -- has trails that go up to La Mina waterfall, as well as Mount Britton and the dwarf forest (also called elfin or cloud forest featuring miniature trees at high elevation).
Just a 45-minute drive from the San Juan cruise port, this wilderness, hosting hundreds of species of plants and wildlife, such as woodpeckers, hummingbirds and the Puerto Rican parrot, features several trails leading to ponds and exceptional views. Among the more popular trails are the Big Tree Trail to La Mina waterfall and the Mount Britton Trail.
The Big Tree trail winds through the forest en route to the more than 35-foot La Mina Falls. The challenging La Mina trail is less than a mile and extends from the namesake waterfall and takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes. Parts of the trail have winding concrete staircases. The Britton trail is a narrow paved path that rises rapidly and gets challenging toward the end, requiring about 40 minutes to reach the landmark Mount Britton Tower observation deck. From there, the dwarf forest takes another two hours; however, some of the characteristics of the cloud forest can be found along the way up to Mount Britton.
Can't get enough of the trails? Check out these other Top Cruise Ports for Hiking.