Old West Indian
"Crab walks too much, he loses his claw. He does not walk, he does not get fat."
You haven't really experienced the Caribbean until you know what an island tastes like, what it sounds like, what it smells like and how it feels--including its mud and thorns.
A beach offers the briefest glimpse of any of this, and beachside is where most tourists spend their time. As lovely as Caribbean beaches are, they usually are the least interesting and most uncomfortable parts of an island. Consider where the wealthy sugar planters of centuries ago built their Great Houses. With their vast fortunes, they could have claimed any spot of land, including prime beach frontage.
Instead, they chose the higher, cooler elevations where the plant life and wild life are at their most diverse. They realized it was the interior of the islands, in the hills and valleys, that you find the best of the Caribbean.
And the best way to experience it is by walking and hiking.
Spend just half a day away from the beach exploring the interior of an island and I'll wager your vacation will be doubly rewarding. You may find yourself returning to the Caribbean more often and choosing where to go based on an island's walking and hiking opportunities, not just its beaches.
Although locals have been doing it for centuries, hiking and walking in the Caribbean are still in their infancy as far as tourism goes. But this is changing thanks to new emphasis everywhere on ecotourism. Caribbean governments are recognizing that walking and hiking paths--on the beaches, through the rain forests and across the high mountain peaks--are among the West Indies' greatest natural attractions. Walkers and hikers are becoming an important force in the conservation of the Caribbean's natural resources, since trees, plants and animals in their native habitat are precisely what visitors want to see.
Islands are discovering that good hikes provide a real boost to the economy. For instance, during the first four years the Des Cartiers trail was open on St. Lucia, that single trail alone was credited with bringing US$750,000 into the local economy.
Content © M. Timothy O'Keefe, 2002 - Copyright © CaribSeek 2002, All Rights Reserved. - Web Published: April 19, 2002