Lying on a beautiful beach, umbrella drink in hand, can be a sufficiently fulfilling experience for an entire Caribbean vacation, and no one would ever suggest otherwise. Gorgeous ocean shores are the region’s primary draw, after all. That said, head a few miles inland on many Caribbean islands, and you’ll discover enchanting landscapes that are practically hidden in plain sight.
Often found at the base of long-dormant volcanoes, wondrous rainforests and vast national parks await intrepid explorers and leisurely day-trippers alike. With minimal extra planning (and time away from that beach hammock with your name on it), you can spend a day, morning, or afternoon hiking outdoors, inhaling fragrant tropical flora, listening for the call of exotic birds, and beholding breathtaking vistas from soaring overlooks. We’ve listed a few of our favorite Caribbean rainforests and parks to get you started.
Recommended Fodor’s Video
The Quill, St. Eustatius
This extinct, perfectly formed, 1,968-foot volcano has a primeval rain forest in its crater. If you like to hike, you’ll want to head here to see giant elephant ears, ferns, flowers, wild orchids, fruit trees, and the endangered iguana . . . Read more
El Yunque, Puerto Rico
More than 28,000 acres of verdant foliage and rare wildlife make up El Yunque, the only rain forest within the U.S. National Forest system. More than 100 billion gallons of precipitation fall here annually, spawning rushing streams and cascades, 240 tree species, and oversize impatiens and ferns . . .Read more
Christoffel National Park, Curacao
The 1,239-foot Mt. Christoffel, Curaçao’s highest peak, is at the center of this 4,450-acre garden and wildlife preserve. Through the park are eight hiking trails and a 20-mile (32-km) network of driving trails (use heavy-treaded tires if you wish to explore the unpaved stretches) . . . Read more
Grand Etang, Grenada
Deep in the mountainous interior of Grenada is a bird sanctuary and forest reserve with miles of hiking trails, lookouts, and fishing streams. Grand Étang Lake is a 36-acre expanse of cobalt-blue water that fills the crater of an extinct volcano 1,740 feet above sea level . . . Read more
Morne Trois Piton National Park, Dominica
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this 17,000-acre swath of lush, mountainous land in the south-central interior (covering 9% of Dominica) is the island’s crown jewel. Named after one of the highest (at an elevation of 4,600 feet) mountains on the island, it contains the island’s famous “boiling lake,” majestic waterfalls, and cool mountain lakes . . . Read more
Sage Mountain National Park, Tortola BVI
At 1,716 feet, Sage Mountain is the highest peak in the British Virgin Islands. From the parking area, a trail leads you in a loop not only to the peak itself (where extraordinary views await) but also to a small rain forest that is sometimes shrouded in mist . . . Read more
Photo credit: iStock International Inc.