There are several Caribbean islands with layers of beautiful scenery that are revealed like the answer to a riddle: What’s blue on the outside, green in the middle, and blue on the inside? One such island is Puerto Rico. Surrounded by beautiful clear blue waters, Puerto Rico’s tropical forests and mountainous interior surround pristine waterfalls that spill into clear blue pools. Here are our favorite Caribbean waterfalls—cascading interior waters that complement dazzling waters offshore.
St. Vincent: Belaine Falls
Falls of Baleine are impossible to reach by car, so book an escorted, all-day boat trip from Villa Beach or the Lagoon Marina. The boat ride along the coast offers scenic island views. When you arrive, you have to wade through shallow water to get to the beach. Then local St. Vincent guides help you make the easy five-minute trek to the 60-foot falls and the rock-enclosed freshwater pool the falls create—wear a bathing suit so you can take a dip.
Grenada: Concord Falls
Concord Falls are actually three separate waterfalls. When the currents aren't too strong at the first one, you can take a dip under the cascade. Reaching the two other waterfalls requires an hour's hike into the forest reserve. The third and most spectacular waterfall, at Fountainbleu, thunders 65 feet over huge boulders and creates a small pool. It's best to hire a guide. The path is clear, but slippery boulders toward the end can be treacherous without assistance.
Dominica: Emerald Pool Falls
Dominica's gorgeous Emerald Pool is fed by a 50-foot waterfall. It's an easy 20-minute walk from a trail that starts at the side of the road near the reception center of Morne Trois Pitons National Park. Along the way, there are lookout points with views of the windward (Atlantic) coast and the forested interior. If you don't want a crowd, check whether there are cruise ships in port before going out, as this spot is popular with cruise-ship tour groups.
Jamaica: Somerset Falls
On Jamaica's Daniels River, Somerset Falls are in a veritable botanical garden. A concrete walk to the falls takes you past the ruins of a Spanish aqueduct and Genesis Falls before reaching Hidden Falls. At Hidden Falls, you board a boat and travel beneath the tumbling water; more daring travelers can swim in a whirlpool or jump off the falls into a pool of water. A bar and restaurant specializing in local seafood is a great place to catch your breath.
Puerto Rico: La Mina Falls
La Mina Falls can be reached by two trails in Puerto Rico's El Yunque rainforest. Casual hikers should follow the moderate Big Tree Trail—about a half-hour hike through the lush interior. Bring a swimsuit for the falls and water shoes or sandals to navigate the slippery rocks. More advanced hikers can follow La Mina Falls Trail. It's only .7 mi long, but climbs to 2,132 ft. Plan 30–45 minutes each way.
Jamaica: Dunns River Waterfall
You'll find a crowd (especially if there's a cruise ship in town) at Dunn's River Falls Beach. Although tiny—especially considering the crowds that pack the falls—it's got a great view, as well as a beach bar and grill. Look up from the sands for a spectacular view of the cascading water, whose roar drowns out the sea as you approach.
Saint Lucia: Diamond Falls
The splendid Diamond Botanical Gardens and Waterfall are part of Soufrière Estate on Saint Lucia. Bushes and shrubs bursting with brilliant flowers grow beneath towering trees and line pathways that lead to a natural gorge. Water bubbling to the surface from underground sulfur springs streams downhill in rivulets to become Diamond Waterfall, deep within the botanical gardens. Near the falls, curative mineral baths are fed by the underground springs.