The lush landscapes and radiant flora of the Caribbean can be enjoyed everywhere, so get your walking boots on – it’s beautiful out there!
Whether it’s a romantic sunset stroll along surf-licked sands in Turks and Caicos or a sweaty climb up a jungle-cloaked volcano in Martinique, the Caribbean is a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors.
The variety of experiences is huge, from trampling through thick and dripping rainforest to breezy clifftop walks and gentle ambles around botanical gardens that have been lovingly tended for over a century.
All destinations have well-established parks and walking trails that allow visitors of all ages and abilities to appreciate their natural beauty, from the many different types of cacti in Curaçao to over 300 species of orchid in Haiti.
St. Vincent Botanic Gardens, St. Vincent and The Grenadines
Established in 1765, this 20-acre (eight-hectare) sanctuary just north of Kingstown is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the estern hemisphere. A star attraction is the offspring of a breadfruit tree brought to St. Vincent and the Grenadines from the South Pacific by Captain Bligh in 1793. Now a common sight on many islands, the tree’s fruit is a staple Caribbean dish cooked in many ways, including roasting and frying as chips.
A walk beside the mature trees and grassy lawns here offers an escape from the bustle of the capital – look out for the aviary, with its rare St Vincent parrots, the national bird, and there’s a Doric Temple in the grounds, too.
Mt Liamuiga, St. Kitts
The 3,972ft (1,120m) peak of Mt Liamuiga that crowns St. Kitts is a magnificent rainforest-clad volcano that presents hikers with a decent but achievable challenge, best done with a local guide and on a cloud-free morning. The two-hour climb begins near Newton Ground and ascends steeply, passing mighty ficus and mango trees before eventually reaching the rim of a vast volcanic crater. Around 700ft (213m) below lies a silent green world, one of the Caribbean’s many secret places.
Iwokrama Forest, Guyana
Covering 1,430 square miles (3,710 sq km) in central Guyana, Iwokrama is one of the last pristine tropical forests in the world. It’s renowned for the richness of its bird life, fish and bat species, and as one of the best places to see jaguar in the wild. Resident mammals include anteaters, armadillos and sloths. You can base yourself at Iwokrama River Lodge, which has cabins set beside the Essequibo River. Activities include a 505ft (154m) canopy walkway to look for macaws, toucans and howler monkeys, a boat trip and then hike up Turtle Mountain for a stunning view over the jungle.
Gros Piton, Saint Lucia
The steep-sided twin peaks of the Pitons, shooting up from the west coast of Saint Lucia, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rising to 2,614ft (796m), Gros Piton is a little higher than its sister, Petit Piton, and the one to climb: registered guides are provided. The four-hour round trek isn’t easy, but there is immense satisfaction and superb views to be had at the summit. Afterwards, take a refreshing dip and celebrate – with a cool Piton beer!
Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Clear your head with a bracing clifftop walk along the 153ft (46m) high Bluff at the east end of Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands. It’s one of 35 well-marked trails on the island, which
you can follow yourself, or alternatively join a free guided tour with Nature Cayman. Interpretive signs and ecology panels provide information on local trees and plants. Try the moderate-level Lighthouse Footpath from Spot Bay that is a three-hour round trip – rare brown boobies breed in the caves below.
Private gardens tour, Grenada
Grenada is attractive to horticulturalists – lin 2017 the island won its 13th Gold Medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London. The prize floral displays are picked from plants raised in nurseries, estates and private gardens around the island, which can be visited on tours with local operator Caribbean Horizons. Stops may include Hyde Park Garden, with its fine views over the capital, and the St Rose Nursery, which often provides the foliage for Chelsea.
The Quill, St. Eustatius
A visit to St. Eustatius is not complete without at least one hike along the island’s many trails. The paths are surrounded by a wide diversity of vegetation. Cacti and shrubs dominate the lower parts, but the higher hikers go, the greener and more colourful the plants and flowers become.
A highlight is climbing ‘The Quill’ for phenomenal views of the neighbouring islands. Then comes the memorable descent into the crater, where giant trees and pretty flowers grow in a world all their own, and critters scurry across the forest floor. •
Mt Liamuiga on St. Kitts presents hikers with a decent but achievable challenge