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Hiking the Waitukubuli National Trail in Dominica

Climbing up the side of a dormant volcano for stunning views. Traipsing through an aptly named ‘Valley of Desolation’ filled with bubbling mud, hot springs, and sulfur. Visiting the spectacular Boiling Lake and exploring the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.  These are just some of the things hikers can expect when they venture onto the Waitukubuli National Trail located on the Caribbean island of Dominica.

Waitikubuli National Trail tours include:

  • Dominica Boiling Lake Challenge: This is a full-day hike around Morne Trois Pitons National Park. You will hike up Morne Nicholls, a mountain with an altitude of 3,168 feet, for stunning views of the Valley of Desolation, then descend into the Valley of Desolation for a swim in the hot pools deep within.
  • Dominica Canyon Experience: Explore the world-renowned canyons of Dominica on a 4.5-hour canyoning tour from Roseau. Jump into pools, rappel from waterfalls, traverse jungle foliage, and more on this thrilling adventure.
  • Dominica Waterfall Canyoning Experience (Advanced): This full-day hike involves hiking down through the rainforest to a secret waterfall that drops off into a hidden canyon far beneath the sunlit forest canopy.
  • Hike Waitikubuli National Trail over 17 Days: Hike the full length of the Waitikubuli National Trail over seventeen days.  This hike will take you through different communities and attractions that Dominica has to offer. 

What is the Waitukubuli National Trail?

Waitukubuli National Trail logo.

The Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT) was constructed between 2007 and 2012 by the Government of Dominica in partnership with the Regional Council of Martinique and funded by the European Union.

Officially opened on May 10th, 2013, the trail was given the original Kalinago indigenous name of the island, Waitukubuli, meaning “tall is her body.” Spanning the full length of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic), the whole trail is 115 miles long and is made up of fourteen hiking segments. The Waitukubuli National Trail is the longest hiking trail in the Caribbean.

The Waitukubuli Trail starts in the southern part of Dominica at Scotts Head and passes by Soufriere Sulpher Springs and The Old French Quarter, as well as other points of interest in the center of the island, including the Emerald Pool and the Kalinago Territory. With varying levels of difficulty for each of the fourteen segments, the entire trail ends in the northern parts of Dominica at the Cabrits National Park.

A showcase of Dominica’s natural and cultural heritage, the Waitukubuli National Trail traverses Dominica’s forest reserves, national parks, river crossings, hot springs, waterfalls, beaches, historical and eco-sites, and it connects thirty-two communities. To hike all fourteen segments of the Waitukubuli National Trail would take approximately two weeks from start to finish.

 

Map of the Waitukubuli National Trail in Dominica. Photo Credit: © Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Map of the Waitukubuli National Trail in Dominica. Photo Credit: © Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

What are the fourteen segments of the Waitukubuli National Trail?

Below are the fourteen segments in the Waitukubuli National Trail, along with guidance on distance, time to complete, and level of difficulty.

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SegmentHiking TrailDistanceTimeDifficulty
1The Scotts Head to Soufriere Estate Trail4.4 miles4 hoursVery Difficult Hike
2The Soufriere Estate to Bellevue Chopin Trail7 miles5 hoursModerate Hike
3The Bellevue Chopin to Watten Waven Trail9.3 miles5 hoursModerate Hike
4The Wotten Waven to Pont Casse Trail7.3 miles6 hoursModerate Hike
5The Pont Casse to Castle Bruce Trail8 miles6 hoursEasy Hike
6The Castle Bruce to Hatten Garden Trail9.3 miles7 hoursModerate Hike
7The Hatten Garden to First Camp Trail7.8 miles6 hoursModerate Hike
8The First Camp to Petite Macoucherie Trail6.2 miles9 hoursVery Difficult Hike
9The Petite Macoucherie to Colihaut Heights Trail6 miles8 hoursVery Difficult Hike
10The Colihaut Heights to Syndicate Trail4 miles3 hoursEasy Hike
11The Syndicate to Bourne Trail6.2 miles7 hoursVery Difficult Hike
12The Bourne to Penville Trail5.9 miles7 hoursModerate to Difficult Hike
13The Penville to Capuchin Trail5 miles4 hoursModerate Hike
14The Capuchin to Cabrits National Park Trail6.7 miles4 hoursModerate Hike

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How difficult are the hiking segments on the Waitukubuli National Trail?

The difficulty range for the fourteen hiking segments in the Waitukubuli National Trail is from easy to very difficult. This broad range of difficulty means that nearly all fitness levels, from novice to advanced hikers, can enjoy some part of the Waitukubuli National Trail. Beginning hikers or visitors to Dominica can start at Segment 10 – The Colihaut Heights to Syndicate Trail. This 4 miles hike will take visitors past farmlands, parrot habitats, and the welcome center.

Segment 14 – The Capuchin to Cabrits National Park Trail covers coastal forest. Here moderate hiking skills take visitors over the black sands of Stony Beach and Belle Hall Beach.  For the advanced hiker in great physical condition, try the hike on Segment 9 – The Petite Macoucherie to Colihaut Heights Trail. This part of the trail leads through the primary forest and Morne Arney. View Kachibona Lake and maybe even catch a glimpse of wild pigs. This 6-mile trek takes approximately seven hours to complete.

Travelers visiting the island can choose a segment related to history or culture. Segment 2 – The Soufriere Estate to Bellevue Chopin Trail is an old slave route. Take a therapeutic bath in a hot spring on Segment 3 – The Bellevue Chopin to Watten Waven Trail. See the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Morne Trios Pitons National Park in Segment 5 – The Pont Casse to Castle Bruce Trail. Learn about the life of the indigenous people at Carib Model Village in Kalinago Barana Aute.

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Dominica: Waitukubuli National Trail

Those who enjoy wildlife can hike Segment 8 – The First Camp to Petite Macoucherie Trail to see wild pigs, parrots, and other birds. Do some serious bird watching in Morne Diablotin National Park on Segment 11 -The Syndicate to Bourne Trail. 

Segment 12 – The Bourne to Penville Trail is where visitors can see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea simultaneously. Craggy, sharp volcanic boulders strewn along the beach and tiny dots of sails in the bay are great photo opportunities on Segment 13 – The Penville to Capuchin Trail.

Even if hiking is not your main reason for visiting Dominica, take the time to enjoy the beauty and rugged wilderness of this nature island.  See examples of hillside farming. Wonder at houses seemingly suspended on sharply angled mountains. Cross over pristine streams and occasionally spot a Cayman or crocodile. Listen to the songs of parrots and other birds. Walk through the clouds in one of the cloud forests. Old plantations, ruins, and great food make Dominica a definite place to put on your ‘bucket list.’

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What are the areas of interest for each segment in the Waitukubuli National Trail?

Below are the areas of interest for all fourteen segments in the Waitukubuli National Trail.

SegmentHiking TrailAreas of Interest
1The Scotts Head to Soufriere Estate TrailToloulou Valley, Crabler Plateau, Bois Cotiette Estate, Sulphur Springs
2The Soufriere Estate to Bellevue Chopin TrailSulphur Springs, Old Agricultural Station, Old Slave Route, Tarish Picnic Park
3The Bellevue Chopin to Watten Waven TrailOrganic Tea Production, Giraudel Community, River Clair, Warm Sulphur Pools
4The Wotten Waven to Pont Casse TrailWarm Sulphur Pools, Morne Jack, Middleharm Falls Trail, Pont Case Round About
5The Pont Casse to Castle Bruce TrailJaco Cave, Carib Trace, Emerald Pool, L’Or River (Riviere L’Or), Savanne David
6The Castle Bruce to Hatten Garden TrailKalinago Territory, Kalinago Barana Aute, L’escalier Tete Chien, Horseback ridge
7The Hatten Garden to First Camp TrailCultivated Farmlands, View of North East Coastline, Congorie Hole, View of Melville Hall Airport
8The First Camp to Petite Macoucherie TrailMosquito Mountain, East, and West Coast Panoramic viewing, River pools for swimming, Untouched virgin forest
9The Petite Macoucherie to Colihaut Heights TrailLargest Gommier Tree on the island, Kachibona Lake, Morne Amery, Untouched virgin forest
10The Colihaut Heights to Syndicate TrailPanoramic views of the Northern Coastline, Morne Diablotin, Agricultural Production, Syndicate Nature Trail, and Welcome Centre
11The Syndicate to Bourne TrailMorne Diablotin National Park, Duban Falls, Parrot Reserve, Clump of biggest Bois Rouge on island
12The Bourne to Penville TrailView of Portsmouth and Cabrits, Morne Aux Diables, Community of Vielle Case, Scene from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie
13The Penville to Capuchin TrailLost Grand Fond Village, View of Neighbouring French Islands, Tafia Falls, Cannor Heritage Park
14The Capuchin to Cabrits National Park TrailCannor Heritage Park, Toucarie & Prince Rupert Bay, Conventional bay oil & cassava processing plants, Cabrits National Park

 

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Dominica: Waitukubuli National Trail

Guidance and helpful tips for hiking the Waitukubuli National Trail

Visitors to Dominica are able to hike the Waitukubuli Trail all year round.  However, the best time is during the dry season, which runs from February through April.   Temperatures during this time of year in Dominica are typically between 75°F and 86°F.

As segments of the Waitukubuli National Trail goes through remote mountains, lush rain forests, and uninhabited areas, it is highly advisable that those not familiar with Dominica use the services of a local certified tour guide as the trail crisscrosses and meanders many other pathways and tracks. 

That said, the Waitukubuli National Trail is lined with a yellow/blue band (Segment Marker) which provides basic directions along the route and has also been mapped using Global Positioning Systems (GPS Tracking). Signals at certain parts of the trail may be poor, so best to also have a paper copy of the trail map.  Copies of maps are available for sale at the trail headquarters in Pont Casse, the Forestry and Wildlife Division on Valley Road, and the Lands and Surveys Division on Charles Avenue in Goodwill.

In order to hike the Waitukubuli National Trail in Dominica, you will need to purchase one of three passes.  This includes: 

  • Day Pass: To hike one or more segments at the cost of US$12.00
  • Special Pass: For organized tour packages and promotional events at the cost of US$10.00
  • Fifteen-Day Pass:  To hike all fourteen (14) segments at the cost of US$40.00

The Waitukubuli National Trail passes are available at establishments near the Ports of Entry, including Happy Car Rental (Douglas-Charles Airport) and Forever Young Classic Souvenir Shop on Dame Mary Eugenia Charles Boulevard in Roseau. Passes are also available at:

  • Rubis Filling Station, Portsmouth
  • NNETEDC Office, Indian River Facility, Portsmouth
  • Sea Breeze Inn, Castle Bruce
  • Kalinago Barana Aute, Salybia/Carib Territory
  • Waitukubuli National Trail Management Unit, Pont Casse
  • Kent Hinterland Adventure Tours and Taxi Services
  • (KHATTS) Ltd., Roseau
  • Forestry, Wildlife and National Parks Division, Valley Road, Roseau
  • Rodney’s Wellness Retreat, Soufriere
  • The Tamarind Tree, Mero
  • Hibiscus Valley Inn, Concord
  • Calibishie Tourism Centre, Calibishie
  • Roger’s Bar, Scotts Head

While hiking the Waitukubuli National Trail, start early in the morning (for the easy to moderate, no later than 9 am, and for the more difficult and longer hikes, no later than 7 am) so as not to be caught in the dark.  Be sure to wear a hat, light-layered clothing, and sturdy waterproof hiking shoes.   Trekking poles might also be helpful for the terrain.  In a backpack, have a couple of bottles of water and snacks. Also, have sunscreen, insect repellent, paper tissue, hand sanitizer, and a first aid kit.   

With that, enjoy your time hiking the Waitukubuli National Trail, and as you pass through communities and villages, say hello and be friendly to those you meet.

 

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Welcome to Caribbean & Co. founded by Ursula Petula Barzey who enjoys traveling the Caribbean in search of the best cultural and food adventures, places to stay and live/work opportunities. Launched in 2014, Caribbean & Co. has won five travel media awards.

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