OverviewLa Soufrière is the highest mountain and volcano on the island of Saint Vincent in the Caribbean. Of all the major islands in the Caribbean, Saint Vincent is probably the least touristy of all. There are no big resort hotels and not much nightlife. The beaches are said to be quite nice, but somewhat average for the Caribbean. There aren’t duty free shops here and tourist filled casinos are decidedly absent. Further, as of right now, you can’t fly here on jet aircraft since the runway is too small (though a new airport is being built). You can only fly here from a neighboring island. Saint Vincent is probably the least “spoiled” major island in the Caribbean.
So what does Saint Vincent have? It has great hiking of course. The island is well endowed with mountains. It also has virgin rainforest and many waterfalls. It is probably the least expensive island to stay on in the Caribbean. Even on the coast, my wife and I had a really nice and very big three room king executive suite in a beautiful guesthouse. It was $89 including a nice breakfast. Try to get that somewhere like Saint Maarten or the Virgin Islands!
La Soufrière itself is one of the most enjoyable, scenic, and interesting hikes in the Caribbean. Of all the hikes I’ve done in the Caribbean Islands, only Boiling Lake on Dominica compares. This is an active volcano with one of the most impressive craters that I’ve seen. The scenery is spectacular from the trailhead to summit. Further, although the trail is steep in places, absent is the deep mud and bushwhacking so often required to reach many of the Caribbean summits.
La Soufrière erupted violently in 1718, 1812, 1902, 1971, and 1979. The eruption in 1902 killed 1,680 people and was only hours before the more well known eruption of La Montagne Pelée on Martinique.
Luckily the mountain has been quieter in recent years, but there is still a big steaming lava dome in the huge crater. It is an impressive sight to behold.
La Soufrière is in a very wet area, so you have to be lucky to get clear weather. Even if the weather is poor, the hike is still enjoyable.
Getting ThereAs of right now (April 2016), the only airlines serving Saint Vincent are the notoriously inefficient Liat, who flies here from Puerto Rico, Antigua, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Trinidad, and Granada; and sometimes Caribbean Airlines (though there current schedule doesn't list Saint Vincent as a destination).
Once on Saint Vincent, head to the bus terminal in Kingston, and head for Georgetown and New Sandy Bay, on the East Coast. Get off at the turnoff for Soufrière Volcano, which is sign posted. You can either hire a taxi in Georgetown (or Kingston if time is an issue) or hitch a ride up the road to the trailhead. You could also walk it, but it would be a very long day if you walked the road both ways.
Richmond Beach Trailhead
nce on Saint Vincent, head to the bus terminal in Kingston, and take a bus to Chateaubelair on the West Coast.
Driving via rental car is also an option to either trailhead.
Routes OverviewRabacca Route (East Route)
This is the shortest and easiest route and is the most popular route on the mountain. The trail is very good.
From the trailhead at 411 meters/1350 feet, a nice trail starts out gently, with a few well graded hills to the nice cascades and pools known as Jacobs Well at 488 meters/1600 feet. From there, the grade of the trail steepens, especially near the crater rim, but it's a very good trail and you can't get lost. The distance to the crater rim is 3.5 miles/5.5 kilometers each way.
From the crater rim, you can walk the rim in either direction and to various viewpoints.
The true summit is not on the main crater rim, but is on the old Caldera Rim on the north side of the volcano. The route to that point isn't on a marked trail and is said to be challenging. Also, there isn't a view of the impressive newer crater from there. Reaching this point may be too long of a day for most hikers, so plan on camping on the mountain if you plan to reach the highest summit.
There is also a very rugged route descending into the crater from the southwest side. It is very steep and ropes are sometimes fixed along the route.
Richmond Beach/Southwest Trail
This is a more challenging route to the summit, but is said to be very beautiful. The trail is still easy to follow, or so I have been told.
If you have transportation and are in for a long day, you can also traverse the mountain from the Rabacca Trailhead to the Richmond Beach Trailhead. This is the best way to see the entire mountain. If you are using public transportation, you may want to consider spending the night on the mountain.
Some maps show a trail up Soufrière from the west and the Carib Settlement. I know nothing about the trail, but it could be worth checking into if you are out for an adventure.
Red TapeNone, so please take care of the place. This is a beautiful natural area.
CampingThere are good campsites with good water near Jacobs Well as mentioned in the Routes Overview. You can camp other places, but there isn't much running water on most other parts of the mountain. Please leave a clean campsite.
When to ClimbThe trail to La Soufrière can be done year round as long as the weather isn't extreme, but its usually much better to go in the dry season. Even in the dry season, it rains frequently and almost every day.
There are no real dry seasons in this region, but some seasons are certainly wetter still than others. Needless to say, this region is very wet and heavy rains are possible at any time.
On average, February, March and April are the driest months, followed by December and January. June through November are wetter, although the difference from the dry season is not always dramatic. From about mid-December through early May is the best time to climb, but even in the driest seasons, it rains almost every day up high. Mornings are generally provide the clearest weather on the mountain.
Weather averages for the Camp Jacob (Guadeloupe) at an elevation of 1750 feet/533 meters are below. Information is from the book World Weather Guide, page 323. Although Camp Jacob is on Guadeloupe, weather conditions at Camp Jacob are more representative of the mountains on Saint Vincent than the weather stations near the coast. Temperatures on the summit of La Soufrière will be about 10 degrees colder than those at Camp Jacob and will be even wetter.
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