Caribbean Hiking
The Best Hikes
Part 2

Caribbean Hiking, by M Timothy O'Keefe

Looking for good mountain hiking?

Look no farther than Pico Duarte.

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Best Caribbean Hikes- Part 2

3) Dominican Republic: Pico Duarte Ascent
At 10,700 feet, this is the Caribbean' s highest peak. Because of the extreme distance between the main campsites, the hike requires a tough pace that, depending on your companions, is more akin to a run than a walk. For this reason, some people make part of the ascent on foot and part on the back of a mule. The mountain scenery is striking and well worth the effort. The real lure is to stand on the region' s tallest mountain. Level 5 difficulty.

4) Jamaica: Blue Mountain Peak Climb Leave your bed at 2 a.m. and walk 7 miles and 3,500 up to the peak of Blue Mountain (7,402 feet high) in time to catch the sunrise (assuming it's not raining or cloudy). The entire experience, especially climbing Jacob's Ladder and stumbling around in the dark, is an unforgettable challenge. Anyone in good health can make this climb. Level 3-4 difficulty.

5) Tobago: Little Tobago A pleasant, easy walk on the small cay of Little Tobago, a sea bird sanctuary. The dramatic, sheer ocean cliffs where sea birds nest are reminiscent of the nesting colonies in the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador . Beautiful scenery and a chance to view close-up species of sea birds on their nests in spring. The dramatic views are a pleasant shock. Easy Level 1 walking except for the initial 10-minute ascent, which is somewhat steep.

6) Trinidad: Asa Wright Nature Center  Pleasant pathways cut through this huge, open-sky aviary. More hummingbirds at close range than you ever thought possible. Also the opportunity to see rare oil birds. Very easy Level 1 walking for the most part.

7) U.S. Virgin Islands: St. John The entire island. Two-thirds of it is a national park crisscrossed with 20 different hiking trails, most quite short. The Reef Bay Trail with the detour to the Petroglyph Pool and the Ram Head hike are my favorites. Level 3 difficulty for both.

8) Puerto Rico: Hike to El Yunque Peak  For sheer spectacle, variety and accessibility, the Caribbean National Forest is difficult to top. The hike to El Yunque Peak offers an overview of all the main tropical forest types on a single walk. Compared to many mountain walks, it's not that tough. Hikes vary from Level 1 to Level 5.

9) Grenada: Mt. Qua Qua Hike   A walk through tropical rain forest with excellent panoramic views on one of the Caribbean 's lushest and friendliest islands. This is a moderate-difficulty climb often slick in spots. A knowledgeable guide enhances the climb tremendously. Level 3-4 difficulty depending on slipperiness.

10) St. Kitts: Bloody River Stream Walk   A brief walk to a canyon containing about 100 petroglyph rubbings made by the Caribs before a thousand of the Indians were massacred in this narrow passageway in 1626 by combined British and French forces. The sense of history while standing amidst these ancient drawings is stunning. Some tricky rock walking and river crossing give this a difficulty of Level 2-3.

Honorable mention: Virgin Gorda: The Baths. As much a Caribbean tourist attraction as Walt Disney World but understandably so. The astonishing pile of giant boulders on the beach creates a maze of passageways and pools fun to explore, almost in the shadow of the real Treasure Island.

This brief list of 10 hikes should give you an idea of the tremendous variety waiting in the Caribbean . Experiences that would fill more than one lifetime are awaiting.

Caribbean governments are recognizing that walking and hiking paths--on the beaches, through the rain forests and across the high mountain peaks--are among the West Indies' greatest natural attractions. Walkers and hikers are becoming an important force in the conservation of the Caribbean 's natural resources, since trees, plants and animals in their native habitat are precisely what visitors want to see.

Islands are discovering that good hikes provide a real boost to the economy. For instance, during the first four years the Des Cartiers trail was open on St. Lucia, that single trail alone was credited with bringing US$750,000 into the local economy.

One piece of advice before you strike out on your own:

Old West Indian Proverb:

"Long pass draw sweat, short pass draw blood."

(Short cuts usually get you into trouble)

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