Taking the Hike to Mt. Liamuiga Volcano Crater
St. Kitts has everything a Caribbean Island should have: beautiful expanses of soft white sand. Check. Sun-drenched beaches fringed with swaying palm trees. Check. Brilliant turquoise water stretching to the horizon. Check. But St. Kitts has something that not all islands have: a volcano.
Rising up 3,792 feet above the Caribbean Sea, Mt. Liamuiga (lie-ah-MEE-gah) is the undisputed Everest of St. Kitts and the entire British Leeward Islands. The volcano is safely considered dormant, as the last confirmed eruption happened somewhere around 1,800 years ago. Liamuiga – meaning “fertile land” – is also the Carib name for the entire island.
Sure, it’s impressive to look at, but climbing Mt. Liamuiga provides both a challenge and a unique island adventure for visitors to St. Kitts.
Hiking up a Volcano
The most popular hike up Mt. Liamuiga is a 4-mile out-and-back trail that begins at Belmont Estate in St. Paul Capisterre and goes up the west side of the mountain. If you have trouble finding the trailhead, just ask one of the locals and you’ll be pointed in the right direction. The hike starts as a mild incline, but gets steeper and more difficult as it ascends the volcano. Closer to the top, there are areas that are almost vertical and you’ll have to scramble over rocks and hold on to tree roots and ropes that have been fixed along the route. Hikers from 5 to 60 have conquered Mt. Liamuiga, but you should be in reasonably good physical condition. Many turn back without reaching the crater.
Once at the top, you can go to the left or right for spectacular views – if the clouds cooperate – of the island and the sea beyond. You’ll be at the very rim of the crater, so it’s possible to gaze down into the throat of the actual volcano. Since it has been dormant for many years, the sides of the crater, which is about 1,000 feet deep, are covered with lush green vegetation. The crater contained a shallow lake until 1959.
Guides for the hike are available but not mandatory. You should be able to do it on your own if you are an experienced hiker and climber. Those who are less experienced or directionally challenged should consider enlisting the services of a guide. Not only is it safer, but a guide can augment your ascent and descent with a fascinating education about the history of the island as well as its flora and fauna. Along the way, you might even catch a glimpse of some of the island’s native inhabitants, vervet monkeys, which have thrived on St. Kitts for 300 years. You’ll certainly hear them chattering away in the trees. It takes most people four to six hours to trek up to the crater and back.
Experienced hikers might want to try a more strenuous trail. Unlike the more popular one, this trail goes up the east side of the mountain and leads to the very summit. If you attempt this hike, bring plenty of water, high-energy food, a flashlight, a hiking pole and a pair of gloves. The trail starts at the main island road at Harris Village; it is about 7 miles out and back and takes a good 10-11 hours. One more thing: do this hike for the journey, not the destination. The top of Mt. Liamuiga is often enshrouded in clouds, so when you finally reach the summit, you may see nothing but white mist all around you.
If you can tear yourself away from the beach chair and margarita for a few hours, a true island adventure awaits. Immerse yourself in the lush rainforest and unspoiled natural beauty of St. Kitts. Accept the challenge and hike to the crater of a real island volcano. We promise that a beach chair and fresh drink will be there when you return.
Climbed a volcano on my Caribbean vacation. Check.