Ah, the Cabrits. A submission on two such little summits might seem out of place for an island so well endowed with rugged mountains, but the Cabrits are a perfect break for those weary climbers who want a break from returning back from the Dominica Mountains all beat up, tired, sweaty, bloody and covered in mud.
The Cabrits are the name of two steep block-like summits that are the remnants of a large collapsed volcano. Despite their elevation, the two Cabrits, West (561 feet/171 meters) and East (459 feet/ 140 meters) both provide fine views and they rise directly out of the ocean in a rather spectacular manner. Wildlife is abundant and we saw many land crabs, hermit crabs, lizards, a kouwes snake, an iguana and many birds. Although the area is heavily forested, this is probably one of the driest areas of Dominica. While the higher mountains to the east are bathed in almost perpetual cloud cover, often the Cabrits stay bright and sunny.
The history surrounding the Cabrits is very interesting. Fort Shirley, on the southern slopes of the Cabrits was built by the British in 1774 and the French added to the Fort in 1778 after their capture of Dominica. Between the battling powers of the day, a huge garrison was built. Several batteries exist as well as old ruins covered in vines and an old cannon even graces the summit of the West Cabrit!
Climbing the Cabrits and exploring the old ruins is a great way to spend a day while in the Portsmouth area.
Looking across the Prince Rupert Bay from the south side of Portsmouth. West Cabrit is on the left and East Cabrit is on the right.
The first destination is the town of Portsmouth, which is the second largest town in Dominica. Portsmouth can be reached by bus from the Melville Hall Airport on the northeast part of Dominica and the capitol city of Roseau on the west coast. Buses to Portsmouth from Roseau leave from the bridge on the north side of Roseau.
From Portsmouth, you can walk, take a bus (which is pretty inexpensive) or hire a taxi north to the area of the Purple Turtle Beach or possibly even to the entrance of Cabrits National Park.
If driving or walking, head north from Portsmouth through Lagoon along the coastal road between the beach and Cabrits Swamp. Just beyond the site for the International Maritime Training and Development Institute, keep straight (instead of right) and the road leads directly to Cabrits National Park. It’s a fairly long walk from the south end of Portsmouth (but certainly doable), but only 20 minutes from Lagoon.
A beach near the trailhead and Portsmouth.
Both Cabrits can easily be climbed in half a day, including the exploring of all the other sites and ruins. The two trails you are most interested in are the West Cabrit Trail and the East Cabrit Trail. Both are well graded and only moderately steep.
See below for the Route Pages:
West Cabrits Trail
East Cabrits Trail
Looking down on Douglas Bay from the slopes of East Cabrit.
A cannon on the summit of West Cabrit.
To do these hikes you are supposed to have a National Park Site Pass which is available for purchase in many locations in Roseau, Portsmouth and Laudat. The cost is $5 US for one day or $12 US for a week and is good for Cabrits National Park, Morne Diablotin, Morne Trois Piton, Boeri Lake, Boiling Lake, Emerald Pool, Middleham Falls and Trafalgar Falls.
Make sure to have a site pass to visit the national park. Hermit crabs are all over the trails leading to the summit of the Cabrits and are even found close to the summit.
Camping and Where to Stay
Other than a few private campgrounds (none of which I am aware of that are near Portsmouth), camping is not allowed on Dominica. You can get a list of places to stay below:
Where to Stay in Dominica
Part of the old ruins at the Douglas Bay Battery, which are located on the slopes of the Cabrits. This is the old officers quarters from the 1700's. Most people will want to find some more modern accommodation.
When to Climb
Because this is one of the drier parts of Dominica, hiking is reasonable year round. Even so, heavy rains are still possible at any time.
On average, February, March and April are the driest months, followed by December and January. June through November is the wettest time period. From about mid-December through early May might be the very best time to climb.
Since the trail is well constructed, wet season mud isn’t as much of a problem here as it is in other parts of Dominica.
A bright and sunny January day on the trail between the West Cabrit and the East Cabrit.
A weather forecast is below:
Weather averages for Roseau are below. Information is from the book World Weather Guide
, page 324. Expect temperatures and weather conditions to be similar on the Cabrits than at Roseau.
| Month || High (° F ) || High (° C) || Low (° F ) || Low (° C) || in. Rain || mm Rain || Rain Days |
| Jan || 84 || 29 || 68 || 20 || 5.2 || 132 || 16 |
| Feb || 85 || 29 || 67 || 19 || 2.9 || 74 || 10 |
| Mar || 87 || 31 || 68 || 20 || 2.9 || 74 || 13 |
| Apr || 88 || 31 || 69 || 21 || 2.4 || 61 || 10 |
| May || 90 || 32 || 71 || 22 || 3.8 || 97 || 11 |
| Jun || 90 || 32 || 73 || 23 || 7.7 || 196 || 15 |
| Jul || 89 || 32 || 72 || 22 || 10.8 || 274 || 22 |
| Aug || 89 || 32 || 73 || 23 || 10.3 || 262 || 22 |
| Sep || 90 || 32 || 73 || 23 || 8.9 || 226 || 16 |
| Oct || 89 || 32 || 72 || 22 || 7.8 || 198 || 16 |
| Nov || 87 || 31 || 71 || 22 || 8.8 || 224 || 18 |
| Dec || 86 || 30 || 69 || 21 || 6.4 || 163 || 16 |