“Hiking? I’ve been lying here on the beach drinking cocktails for three days and you want me to go hiking?”
Yep, hiking is actually a thing at some all-inclusive resorts…
Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa, Puerto Rico
The Wyndham Grand Rio Mar in northeastern Puerto Rico has an awesome casino. It also has beautiful beaches for lazy days of sun worshipping. But you want culture and nature, right? Right. Not only is the Wyndham a great resort for history buffs, it’s also right on the doorstep of El Yunque National Forest — the only tropical rain forest in the entire U.S. National Forest System. Trails, rivers and waterfalls crisscross the 28,000-acre park, which is home to extensive wildlife, including tree-dwelling frogs, rare parrots and elfin woods warblers (a bird endemic to Puerto Rico). So if there’s ever a time to stop drinking piña coladas and go for a hike in the forest, it’s during a stay at the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar.
Couples Sans Souci, Jamaica
Couples San Souci is a great base for hikers of all ages and abilities. You can take part in the guided morning nature walks through the resort’s lush grounds, learning about the island’s flora and fauna. More experienced trekkers can head 25 miles to the Blue Mountains National Park (see photo above), where you’ll find Jamaica’s highest peak. Various hikes can be arranged with local tour groups, or you can trek independently. Dress for a strenuous hike and avoid trekking during the rainy season. Another option slightly further away to the west is Cockpit Country, a rugged area for hardened trekkers only.
Capella Marigot Bay Resort and Marina, Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia is a fantastic Caribbean island for hiking, thanks in no small part to the Pitons, two volcanic peaks rising up on the island’s southwest coastline. The Capella Marigot Bay Resort lies just 11 miles north of the mountains, making it a fine all-inclusive base for trekkers. Gros Piton, the tallest of the two peaks and the second highest point on Saint Lucia, rises up to 2,619 feet. It’s a tough hike and not everyone makes it to the top, but seasoned trekkers should be able to do the round trip in four or five hours. Guides can be arranged locally. Despite being about 100 feet lower, Petit Piton is a more challenging trek with brutal near-vertical ascents at certain points.
Caneel Bay Resort, Saint John, U.S. Virgin Islands
Caneel Bay Resort is only all-inclusive if you pick the right package (the ‘Simply Caneel’ package, for example), and even then alcohol isn’t included. But if you’re a trekker who can stay off the booze for a few days, you’ll be in paradise. At least 60% of Saint John — the smallest of the three main U.S. Virgin Islands — falls within the protected area of the Virgin Islands National Park, one of the Caribbean’s trekking hotspots. There are trails for all abilities, including for children; the photo above shows a park ranger leading a kids group through the park. Caneel Bay is located on the park’s eastern fringe, so guests are never far from a trailhead or two, including popular trails like Lind Point, Caneel Hill and Cinnamon Bay. The park is littered with historic sites, including ruins of old plantations and ancient petroglyphs, so there’s always something new to see.
Secret Bay and Jungle Bay Resort, Dominica
Despite a lack of standard all-inclusive resorts on Dominica, this article would be incomplete without mentioning this mountainous Caribbean island nation. Dominica is home to the longest hiking trail in the Caribbean: the 115-mile Waitukubuli National Trail. The trail starts on the island’s north coast and winds all the way down to the south through 14 segments. To do the whole thing would take about two weeks — so you won’t be running out of trail anytime soon. Dominica is one of the lesser known and less touristy islands in the Caribbean, and true all-inclusive resorts are scarce. For northern segments of the trail, head up to Secret Bay Resort on the northwest coast, where a dedicated villa attendant and concierge will take care of you during your stay. Then there’s Jungle Bay Resort (currently closed for construction of new eco-villas) on the southeast coast, which has an all-inclusive option with no alcohol but a choice of daily tours, including hikes to the famous Boiling Lake.