A push and pull struggle between the Earth’s South American and Caribbean plates, plus volcanic activity, created the land and sea of the Caribbean over 50 million years ago. Today, volcanos continue to play a tangible role in the region. For example, there are those that erupt, like Chance’s Peak in Montserrat in 1994. Then, there are volcanos that may erupt any time like the undersea Kick ‘em Jenny north of Grenada. Finally, there are those that are dormant now, like Mount Scenery in Saba, and make a great place to explore. Here is the scoop on ten Caribbean volcanos you can visit:
1. Mount Scenery, Saba
The top of this mount, located at an elevation of 2,910ft, is an ancient lava dome of what is still a potentially active volcano. Those who don’t want to take the 1064 stone-carved steps to the cloud-shrouded peak can watch the video, ‘Hike to the Clouds of Mt Scenery’ at the Dutch Museum in Windwardside. In addition, the artifact collection here dates to 1600. The last eruption of Mount Scenery was 1640.
2. Mount Liamuiga. St. Kitts
Hiking to the top of this dormant 3792ft volcano is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a strenuous walk through jungle, but the panoramic view from the top is rewarding. The mountain’s Carib Indian name, Liamuiga, means ‘fertile land’ and this is certainly visible from all the lush greenery on the way up as well as seas of leafy green visible from the peak. A round-trip hike takes about five hours.
3. Nevis Peak, Nevis
It’s possible to hike this 3,232ft peak, but stamina and a lack of a fear of heights are top prerequisites. It also takes courage as this is a potentially active volcano, though there have been no eruptions for thousands of years. Perhaps the best way to appreciate this volcano is looking up at it from the Pinney’s Beach with a Killer Bee rum punch in hand from Sunshine’s Beach Bar.
4. Chances Peak, Montserrat
Plymouth, the island’s former capitol and much of the surrounding southern areas, have become an Exclusion Zone to visitors ever since the Soufriere Hills volcano culminating at Chances Peak blew in 1995. Recently, relative dormancy has led the government to open part of the area to occasional tour groups. Take one of these tours while visiting the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. Inside, scientists actively monitor the volcano while visitors can watch a short film about the eruption two decades ago.
5. Boiling Lake, Dominica
Check out the little ‘lake’ in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, where steamy clouds cap the bubbling 180° to 200°F bluish-gray water. This lake, a little over an acre, is actually a flooded fumarole, or crack in the earth’s surface where gas escapes from the molten lava underneath. It’s possible to trek to the Boiling Lake from the town of Laudat. Leave early; the round-trip easily takes six to eight hours of hiking.
6. Mount Pelee, Martinique
Famous for its 1902 eruption that destroyed the city of Saint-Pierre, this volcano is currently quiet though it still registers seismic activity and is under the watchful eye of the island’s volcanic observatory. There’s a well-marked and signed trail that leads up to the 4577ft peak, where it’s possible to enjoy a panoramic view from the volcanic cones if the clouds haven’t rolled in. Down in Saint-Pierre, visit the one-room Musee Vulcanologigue to learn more about the 1902 event.
7. Sulfur Springs, St. Lucia
It’s easy to visit this island’s volcano. After all, the Soufriere volcano, located 24 miles south of the capital of Castries, is famous for being the only ‘drive-in’ volcano in the world. That’s because there is a road that goes up to and through the volcano’s crater. It’s possible to take a tour and get out and walk in this alien-looking landscape. Hold your nose! The sulfur smell of rotten eggs is strong.
8. Kick ‘em Jenny, Grenada
The only ‘live’ submarine volcano in the Eastern Caribbean showed recent signs of life in July 2015 when scientists picked up two strong seismic signals. Located five miles north of Grenada (12.18°N, 61.38°W), it’s an area restricted for marine traffic by one- to three-miles depending on the potential for eruptive activity. However, it’s possible to hear percussion sounds from the volcano when scuba diving off nearby locations like Grenada’s Ronde Island.
9. Digity, Trinidad
Mud volcanos aren’t true volcanos, but they sure look like the real deal only smaller. There are over a dozen mud volcanos in Trinidad. Digity, located on the southern side of the island, is 20ft high and frequently belches gas. There is a well-worn path around the cone from frequent visitors. Local legend tells that the mud makes a great rejuvenating facial mask.
10. Hooiberg, Aruba
The name of this volcanic formation that rises to 541ft above sea level translates to ‘haystack’, which the structure surely resembles since it’s covered with spiky cactus and bushy divi-divi trees. The government built steps to the top, from which there is a great view of the mostly flat landscape below all the way out to the sea. Hooiberg’s popularity is evident by its depiction on the Aruban Coat of Arms.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.