One of the best parts of island-hopping by yacht is stopping off to explore ashore. Here are 10 hikes worthy of becoming a land-lubber for the day.
El Yunque, Puerto Rico
Rare parrots, treasured frogs and larger than life tree ferns are what you’ll see on the 0.7-mile La Mina Trail, located at an altitude over 2,000-feet above sea level in the rainforest of the El Yunque National Forest. The best part comes last: you can swim in the refreshing 60 to 65 F waters of the natural pool formed where La Mina Falls cascades down a nearly 40-foot boulder-lined drop.
Loterie Farm, St. Martin, FWI
Hike to Pic Paradis from the eco-friendly 135-acre nature reserve of Loterie Farm. There’s a map of the two-mile trail for $6 for those who want a self-guided experience. Or, call to reserve a guide a day in advance of your visit. Guided hikes are $28 pp. The hike takes about one and a half hours and leads nearly 1400-feet above sea level to the peak. Views here span from Orient Bay to Phillipsburg and to the neighboring islands of Anguilla and St. Barth. There’s a zip-line tour and restaurants built among the historic ruins and verdant gardens making this a nice place to spend a relaxing day.
Carpenters Rock Trail to Shirley Heights, Antigua & Barbuda
If you’re looking for a work-out, hike up from the end of Galleon Beach at Freeman’s Bay to Shirley Heights on this well-marked 1.5-mile trail. Or, if you want to take it easier, start from the Shirley Heights Lookout and walk down to the bay. Either way, check out the rock outcropping near the top where there’s a dramatic view of the ocean and Guadeloupe beyond and historic fort ruins along the way.
Reef Bay Trail, St. John, USVI
Join a Virgin Islands National Park Service guided hike on this 2.2-mile trail. The benefit of this US$30 pp five and a half hour guided trek is a safari taxi ride to the trail head and a boat trip back to Cruz Bay. If you want a real workout, hike the round-trip on your own, which includes the nearly 1000ft steep rocky climb back to the top. Ancient rock carvings (petroglyphs), remnants of a Danish-era great house and sugar mill, and incredible flora and fauna are highlights.
Tet Paul Scenic Trail, St. Lucia Breathtaking views of the iconic Pitons from four stops along the way are what you’ll experience on this trail, located in the island’s World Heritage Site of the Piton Management Area. Local guides identify scenery, flora, fauna, and historical sights during this 45 minute tour. Hiking is fairly easy except for a series of stairs made of logs and cut into the hillside that are guaranteed to give your leg muscles a work-out. Guides are a must on this trail. However, their fee goes to help the community of Chateau Belair, which the trail traverses.
Sage Mountain, Tortola, BVI
There are over a dozen trails in Mount Sage National Park, named for the highest point in all the Virgin Islands at 1,716-feet. To get to this peak with its awesome panoramic views, take the Central (also called the Rainforest Trail) that leads along the ridge. There are incredible views of the Sir Francis Drake Channel from this trail. Then, take the turn-off on the Mahogany Forest Trail, which leads to the peak. You can hike these two trails in under an hour. They are well marked, steep to the peak, and lined with an incredible amount of flora like big-leafed vines, bushy air plants, and bright yellow flowers.
Mt. Scenery Trail, Saba
This trail couldn’t be more appropriately named. The start is dense rainforest and the top (2,855-foot elevation or half-mile high in the sky!) is truly spectacular with vistas across to St. Kitts and Eustatius. That is, as long as this volcanic peak isn’t covered in clouds. The uppermost of three rest stops provides a nice view of the town of Windwardside. Walking sticks are a must. They definitely make it easier to negotiate the 1,064 steps to the mountain top no matter what shape you’re in. Allow three to four hours to complete this hike. Start early and take water.
Grand Etang Shoreline Trail, Grenada
Hike this trail if you love birds and bird-watching. The Lesser Antillean swift, Antillean crested hummingbird and broad-winged hawk are a few species you’ll likely see on this relatively flat loop trail around Grand Etang Lake that takes about an hour and a half to complete. The lake, rimmed by rainforest and at an elevation of 1,740-feet above sea level, is actually the crater of an extinct volcano. The trail is located in the Grand Etang National Park & Forest Reserve, in the island’s mountainous interior.
Boiling Lake Hike, Dominica
If you’re an experienced hiker, looking for a real work-out and a one-of-a-kind adventure, book a local guide and take this eight-mile hike to Boiling Lake. Located in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, the trail starts in wondrous dense rainforest, travels past rivers, offers a panoramic view of the park from an elevation of nearly 3,000-feet and then descends into the world’s largest boiling lake. The bubbling gray-blue water is covered in an eerie cloud of volcanic vapor. It’s a sight you won’t forget.
Arikok National Park, Aruba
Park personnel lead hikes to the partially-restored farmhouse of Cunucu Arikok a couple of times a year. More of a meander than an arduous hike, the circular trail takes about an hour to walk, and longer if you stop to sightsee. The old-time adobe-constructed building has a kitchen, living room and bedroom you can explore. Outside, there are remarkable stonewalls and cactus hedges
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.