Great Hikes: Boiling Lake, Dominica

Boiling Lake in Dominica is the second largest such lake in the world and well worth a trip to the tiny Caribbean island. This flooded fumarole (or opening in the earth's crust) is about 200 feet across and filled with bubbling grey-blue water. The boiling is believed to be caused by heat from a magma chamber beneath the lake.

The trail to Boiling Lake is in good condition, but can be very muddy. The path is surrounded by lush vegetation, including gommier or "gummy gum" trees, a variety of orchids, jungle vines and elephant ears.

On the way to Boiling Lake, you will also pass through The Valley of Desolation, an area of steam vents, fumaroles, hot springs and boiling mud pots. It stands in stark contrast to the surrounding rainforest and, as you approach, you'll notice the distinct smell of sulfur.

After your hike, you can explore the rest of Dominica. It's a 29-by-16 mile island ripe with orange, papaya, guava, breadfruit and passion fruit trees, as well as a bounty of other hikes and beautiful beaches.

For a great firsthand account of the trek, check out this article by Jeffrey Gettleman in the New York Times.

Distance:  8 miles
Elevation Change:  At least 2,500 feet
Difficulty Rating:  Difficult
Duration:  6 hours
Best Time to Go: October—December. During these months, hotels are cheaper and there is less humidity.

How to get there: To get to Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic), fly into the Melville Hall airport (DOM). Once you arrive, talk to your hotel about booking a guide for the hike. You'll want to go with someone who knows the way. 

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