The Caribbean's Longest Trail Offers Hikers The Most Indescribable Views

The underrated Caribbean tourist destination of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic), referred to as "The Nature Island," presents an unparalleled adventure for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. The island's crowning jewel, the Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT for short), stretches across the entire length of Dominica, offering the longest hiking experience in the Caribbean. This trail is a journey through the island's soul, winding through varied landscapes, local villages, and indescribable natural beauty. 

"Waitukubuli" is actually the indigenous name for Dominica, which translates to "tall is her body." Opened to the public in 2012, the Waitukubuli Trail spans approximately 115 miles, divided into 14 distinct sections. It runs from Scott's Head in the south and ends in the Cabrits National Park in the north. Dominica is one of the smallest countries in the world, measuring 29 miles long by 16 miles wide — the trail winds through every nook and cranny of this small but bountiful nation. The WNT is a designated Eco-Tourist Site managed by Dominica's Forestry Division.

Each segment of the Waitukubuli Trail offers something different. It takes approximately two weeks to complete the entire trail, averaging one section per day. However, you can also pick and choose to build your ideal route — from a relaxed one-day hike to the whole two-week shebang. The segment's levels and terrains vary from very difficult ("Segment 8" takes nine hours to complete, passing through mountains and rivers) to easy ("Segment 10" is a leisurely three-hour walk). 

Waitukubuli National Trail: A journey through Dominica

From the misty heights of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to the serenity of the Syndicate Nature Trail, known for its Jaco and Sisserou parrot habitat, WNT presents the most varied landscapes in the Caribbean. Hikers can marvel at the Boiling Lake, the second-largest hot spring in the world, and navigate through the Valley of Desolation with its otherworldly volcanic topography. They can also find solace in Dominica's countless waterfalls, such as Trafalgar or Middleham.

The Waitukubuli Trail also offers a profound cultural immersion into Dominica. The trail passes through the Carib Cultural Village, among many other rural communities, offering hikers opportunities to engage with locals like the Kalinago people. They are Dominica's original inhabitants and the last remaining indigenous tribe in the Caribbean. You'll also encounter historical points of interest, such as the ruins of 18th-century French settlements, traces of the Old Slave Route, and even filming locations of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie ("Segment 12").

Wildlife-watching opportunities are plentiful — whales live off the coast, over 200 species of birds soar in the skies, and boa constrictors slither on the ground. The trail is an initiative to preserve the island's natural beauty while promoting sustainable ecotourism. Hikers are encouraged to follow leave-no-trace principles. Storm Erika in 2015 and Hurricane Maria in 2017 altered Dominica's landscape and devastated parts of the WNT with fallen trees, landslides, and altered river courses. But the island is recovering successfully.

Planning tips for the WNT

The Waitukubuli Trail does come with some challenges. Terrain can be rugged, weather unpredictable, and certain sections physically demanding. The best time to undertake the WNT is between December and May. The trail is designated by blue and yellow markers — as tempting as bushwhacking is, think twice about hiking off-trail. Ensure to pack diligently: sufficient water and food supplies, appropriate waterproof attire, hiking shoes, insect repellent (though note there aren't venomous animals in Dominica), sunscreen, swimwear, and any essential tech.

A trail pass is a must for the WNT. A day pass costs $12, while a 15-day pass costs $40, allowing hikers to complete the trail from start to finish. A special pass costs $10 and applies to single-day organized tours or cruise passengers. Passes can be purchased at the Ports of Entry, the Forestry and Wildlife Division, and vendors across the island. Hiring local guides is highly recommended, not only for safety but also to enrich the experience with their knowledge of the island. Fly into Roseau-Canefield Airport (DCF) to begin your trek from the south.

The trail passes through many accommodation options at every segment. These include estates, guesthouses, eco-lodges, and camping, offering a wide variety of comfortable and truly immersive experiences. Rates range from $20 to $100. Fun fact: Dominica is also called the "Jurassic Park of the Caribbean." With such a moniker, you know its Waitukubuli National Trail will offer the most indescribably beautiful views and an epic adventure.