A hike that starts at a black sand beach and leads its way to view of an open volcanic crater is what you can expect when hiking La Soufriere in St. Vincent & the Grenadines. It’s one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever done because of the magnificent and impressive view of the volcano crater, plus all mango trees that line the trail. Along the way about every 100 ft., you’ll find mangos on the ground, each a different kind and flavor and texture, and all super sweet. I think I ate more mangos on this trail, then I have the entire year and year before in total.
La Soufriere hike is located at the top northwest corner of the island of Saint Vincent, which is a country on the southeast edge of the Caribbean island chain. You’ll likely get here on a stay when you’re in Barbados or if you’ve already landed in Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tabago.
How to Get There:
After landing at the Argyle International Airport (SVG) on the southeast end of the island, you’ll take a shared minibus or taxi to Kingstown in the main Leeward Bus Terminal, the main capital city. From there, you can transfer minibuses (or grab a taxi if you get car sick) and drive to the Richmond area of the island. Another option is getting a taxi directly from the airport, although this would be a costly, but very safe, option.
Your accommodation at the end of the island is the Richmond Vale Dive Center, which is the only option – and luckily the cheapest option, on this side of the island. The shared minibus will only get you as far as Richmond Vale, which means that you’ll have to walk about 30 minutes over the land towards the dive center. It’s not too difficult of a walk, but hopefully you didn’t bring too much heavy stuff. If there’s a car passing, you can hitch a short 10 minute ride, or arrange with the dive center to get a ride too.
The hike from the dive center to the top of the 4,048 foot volcanic crater takes around 2.5-3 hours to the top. You’ll walk on the black sand beach at the bottom of the trailhead and cross over a slow-flowing river. Soon, you’ll be on the actual trail and from there it’s a straightforward climb to the top. Along the way, you might see mangos (summer season), or avocados (later-summer season). It makes this hike one of the best in the world because you can climb up the mountain and every 100 ft. you’ll get another fruit. The trail will begin to open up and become exposed close to the top of the mountain when you are about 30 minutes from the top. Then, after cresting the end, you’ll get the best view of the huge, open crater. Clouds might be blocking the view, but wait a few minutes and it will clear, only to change once again.
At the top of this hike is this amazing silence when the wind slows. It’s as if the soothing sounds of the wind below are amplified, but everything else is cancelled. You’ll likely spend a good hour resting at the top and enjoying the view. For those more in shape and wanting an adventure, they can climb down to the bottom of the crater to see the active volcano areas. Steam rises out of some small pockets at the bottom. We decided to stay at the top and watch and the clouds rolled in and out.
When it’s time to head down, you can see the whole vista that you missed when climbing up. The view back down the mountain is incredible. Huge mountains in the distance and the ocean seeming so small and far away.
After eating all the mangos you can on the way down, you’ll end up back on the black sand beach – close to the dive center. You’ll feel happy from all the mangos and accomplished from the 4,000 ft mountain. Climbing this volcano will be one of the highlights on any trip to the southern part of the Caribbean.
The description above describes the Leeward side hike on the mountain – which is arguably the harder side, although you can climb the volcano on the windward side and this will be easier. The windward side starts in the highlands of Rabacca and because you need a guide to climb the mountain based on the law, you can hire a tour operator to take you up. This Expedia organized tour for $80 can take you up the mountain including the drive up there, food, and water. It’s $20 more than hiring a tour guide on the Leeward side, but much easier. Please note that the windward side of the crater will more likely be in clouds. The leeward side has more of a chance of being clear.
You’ll want to bring a jacket on either side because the weather will be much cooler at the summit.
As an additional key piece of information, the rainy season starts in June and goes till December. You’ll want to head here in the dry season from January through May and part of June for the mango and avocado seasons.