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La Mina Falls - El Anvil National Forest

The Five Caribbean Islands Nature & Wildlife Lovers Must Visit!

The Caribbean is famed for its warm weather and calm beaches. However, many people are unaware that several of the Caribbean islands are home to some of the world’s most fascinating wildlife.

Trails, streams, waterfalls, animals, and plants abound in many, and whether you’re a first-time adventurer or more seasoned, there are places to see and terrain to traverse for everyone here.

With so many islands to visit in the Caribbean, choosing which one to visit might be difficult. However we know this part of the world well. So we’ve put together a list of the top five Caribbean islands for wildlife and nature enthusiasts.

From the self-declared ‘Nature Island’ of Dominica to the extraordinary diversity of birdlife in Tobago, here’s your virtual Caribbean safari to help you decide which island is perfect for you.

Young couple walking through rainforest

The Five Caribbean Islands Nature & Wildlife Lovers Must Visit in Their Lifetime

1. Dominica: The Caribbean’s Nature Island

Nestled between the French island territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique, Dominica is a nature enthusiast’s dream.

This country has earned the moniker “The Nature Island of the Caribbean”, in part due to its rugged topography which is blanketed in dense jungle.

There’s something new to discover around every corner in Dominica, from stunning landscapes to spectacular wildlife. As we’ll show you next.

Glassy Point, East Coast of Dominica, West Indies. A picturesque area popular with visitors. December 2019. Drone photo. Stitched panorama. Galon

The Landscape

Dominica has scenery that is unlike any other in the Caribbean, with rainforest covering the bulk of the island. The elevation here is substantial due to the island’s various mountains, which flow into the rainforest landscape. The result of all of that? Fantastic hiking trails, mountains to scale, and countless waterfalls to discover.

And there’s a reason why there’s so many waterfalls on the island. Dominica tends to get more annual rainfall than any other Caribbean island. It averages about 70 inches of rain along the shore each year, yet as you travel deeper into the mountains, that figure rises dramatically to about 200 inches!

All of that rain contributes to the gorgeous raging rivers and waterfalls seen across the island.

Thankfully the island offers a range of fascinating and unique hiking trails so you can discover it all. With over 120 miles of hiking paths, exploring the island in one trip is practically impossible. Those pathways go to several important locations on the island with unique and stunning natural features.

One of those is Boiling Lake, the world’s second-biggest hot spring. The water at the lake’s borders was recorded at over 180 degrees Fahrenheit when it was first measured in 1870. And to this day the lake is actively boiling because the temperature at the center is so high.

Dominica also has the Morne Trois Pitons National Park. The park is named after the tallest peak on the island, and is home to a lot of volcanic activity. Even more magnificent natural marvels can be seen in the park, such as the Valley of Desolation, Emerald Pool, and the aforementioned Boiling Lake. (Related: The Best Caribbean Islands for Adventure).

A view of the coast of Dominica and the jungle under a blue sky with beautiful clouds Voelkel

The Plant Life to Expect

Dominica has a broad set of plant-life, from the tropical jungle to the arid shore. There’s also a diverse range of tropical fruits that thrive on the island.

Avocado, guava, grapefruit, mango, and pineapple are just a few of the many fresh fruits that can be found.

Additionally, aloe vera is abundant throughout the island. Aloe vera, sometimes known as “nature’s remedy,” is utilized in a variety of health products and has a long list of health advantages.

The Animals You Can Expect

Dominica is also home to many rare bird, reptile, turtle, and marine life. In fact over 20 species of whales can be spotted around Dominica, with sperm whales being common finds during whale watching tours.

But in particular, the rainforests on the island are the ideal habitat for the more than 100 different bird species.

The Sisserou Parrot, commonly known as the Imperial Amazon, is the most famous of these species. It’s unique to Dominica and is even featured on the island’s flag. The Sisserou is highly endangered since it is only found on one island, and unfortunately it’s thought that just around 50 remain in the wild.

While Dominica’s birdlife may be seen at any time of year, the months of March to August are the greatest for seeing all of Dominica’s diverse species. Along with the birds, the coast is teeming with marine life like whales, making this a great scuba and snorkeling spot too. This is easily one of the best Caribbean islands for wildlife and nature.

Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)). Close-up of submerged adult. Tenerife, Canary Islands. Hanquet

2. Grenada: The Spice Island

Grenada, an island nation less than 100 miles north of Venezuela, offers a Caribbean experience unlike any other.

It’s often known as the “Island of Spice” as much of the land is dedicated to growing spices, such as nutmeg. If visiting you can take spice tours around working farms, or visit the local markets to see the huge array harvested on the island.

Grenada is also home to lake-filled volcanic craters, rainforests, and numerous mountains, so this little island holds a lot inside just 135 square miles!

View from between the stone walls of Fort Frederick, an old Caribbean fort, to the mountains below.

The Landscape

Granada has two additional islands worth mentioning, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, in addition to the main island.

There are hundreds of smaller islands that make up the country, but these three are home to the majority of the inhabitants.

Grenada’s main island is around 21 miles long and 12 miles broad. To the west, steep mountain slopes can be found, while to the east, more moderate hills and inclines can be seen. Because of the island’s crowded shoreline, the majority of the island’s fauna is found inland, which is also where you can find plenty of breathtaking hiking trails.

Many of the best trails are in the Grand Etang National Park and Forest. This park is located deep in the island’s interior and is one of the most popular hiking destinations. The well-kept pathways can accommodate everything from short hikes to multi-hour trips.

The national park is named after Grand Etang Lake, a gorgeous big lake that was formed within a dormant volcano. Lake Antoine, the island’s second crater lake, is close by. Grand Etang Lake is just around 20 feet deep, although people on the island claim it’s far deeper.

Another magnificent feature of the Grand Etang National Park is the Seven Sisters Waterfalls. These stunning falls are situated deep within the rainforest, preceded by a relatively lengthy yet picturesque journey. Walking the trail feels like going back in time, and honestly we think that the walk to the falls is more gratifying than reaching the final destination itself!

Rain forest on the Caribbean island of Grenada

The Plant Life to Expect

A vast range of flora can be found in Granda’s rainforests. Two plant species found solely in Granada are the Grand Etang Fern and the Cabbage Palm. In addition to the island’s plant life, Granada is home to a number of pretty cultivated gardens and spice plantations that are well worth visiting.

Bananas, oranges, and mangos are all cultivated in wonderful conditions, but the island is most renowned for its nutmeg and a variety of other spices. Nutmeg has proven to be a mainstay of Grenada’s economy, despite the fact that it has only been grown on the island for a little over 100 years.

With its spice farms, jungle, beaches and animals, it’s little surprise Grenada makes it on our list of best Caribbean islands for wildlife and nature.

The Animals You Can Expect

Mammals, invertebrates, birds, and reptiles can all be found throughout Grenada. There’s two indigenous bird species that are remarkable and worth trying to spot – the critically endangered Grenada Dove, and the endangered Grenada Hook-billed Kite.

In fact, the island is home to over 150 distinct bird species! Another 16 of those species are vulnerable or endangered, in addition to the Grenada Dove and Hook-billed Kite.

The Mona Monkey is another unique creature that can be found on the island. These monkeys, who are said to have arrived on the island via boat, are known to be troublesome and often irritate local farmers.

They’re popular with tourists though and the Grand Etang National Park is the best area to spot them. It’s not uncommon to see them at the park’s entrance, so if you want to spot monkeys on your Caribbean vacation, head there for a start.

Mona Monkey

3. Puerto Rico: A Hiker’s Paradise

Puerto Rico, a US territory, is sandwiched between the Dominican Republic, United States, and the British Virgin Islands. There is a lot to do and see on the island, which is divided into several distinct sections.

Because there are so many distinct regions on the island, there is also a diverse collection of animals and plant life including birds, bats, snakes, and iguanas.

The Landscape

While we will concentrate on Puerto Rico’s main island as that’s where most tourists visit, the US territory is actually made up of around 143 islands, cays, and islets. Only three islands and one islet are inhabited though. These are the main island of Puerto Rico along with Vieques, Culebra, and the islet of Old San Juan.

Puerto Rico has towering peaks, sandy beaches, and a tropical rainforest that covers part of the island. Mountains and hills encompass about a quarter of the island, whilst the rainforest covers the northern half, and the southern half is mostly arid plains.

The El Yunque National Forest, which is officially the United States’ sole subtropical rainforest, is located in the northeast. The rainforest, named after Pico El Yunque, or El Yunque Peak, provides miles of trekking routes and lots of challenging terrain. Tourists may wander through the forest in search of breathtaking sights, as well as experience the area’s waterfalls and rivers. It’s certainly one of the best hiking areas in the Caribbean. (Related: Exceptional Hiking Trails in Puerto Rico).

In contrast to the rainforest’s often difficult terrain, the seaside areas provide welcome relief, as well as additional exciting activities if you’re searching for something more to do. There’s always a way to get your fill of nature, whether it’s sitting and taking in the scenery or diving and snorkeling.

Beautiful Gozalandia Waterfall in San Sebastian Puerto Rico at daylight

The Plant Life to Expect

Puerto Rico’s plant life is as diversified as its animal life. In fact the island’s bright and interesting vegetation is one feature that tourists often love.

For example, the so-called ‘flamboyant tree’ lives up to its name. These brilliant trees border the road and mountains, and are especially colorful in July. They’re usually bright red, although they can also be yellow or even blue in the rarest situations!

The Flor De Maga is Puerto Rico’s national flower. It has vivid pink and red blooms that grow on branches and resemble decorations.

The beehive ginger, on the other hand, is a cylindrical bloom with a beehive-like appearance, thus the name. These are only a handful of the colorful and unusual plants found on Puerto Rico, there’s many more to see and discover when visiting.

The Animals You Can Expect

Along with the various landscapes you can expect in Puerto Rico, there are a variety of species that call this place home.

The island is a very popular for bird watchers. The Puerto Rican parrot, nightjar, lizard cuckoo, and others are among the island’s natural birds. Many of these species may be seen at the Bosque Cambalache National Park, which is particularly popular with bird watchers. (Recommended: Rare and Beautiful Birds of Puerto Rico). There’s also a number of exotic bat species on the island.

Aside from the species found in the forest, the sea offers another world to discover!

Just offshore, manta rays, turtles, whales, and unique fish can all be found. With that being the case, it’s little surprise scuba diving and snorkeling are popular activities in Puerto Rico.

Many tiny islands off the coast of Puerto Rico are ideal locations for this pastime, as they have extensive coral reef structures to explore. (Related: Sharks in Puerto Rico).

Manta Rays swimming across sunlight

4. Tobago: The Little Island That Packs A Huge Punch

Tobago is a tiny island off the coast of Trinidad, its larger sister island. Yet despite its modest size, Tobago has a lot to offer.

It’s a little island that packs a big punch, with rugged treks and spectacular cliffs. It’s also one of the best bird watching islands in the Caribbean, as the natural landscape provides a great refuge for many native species.

The Landscape

The island was formed by volcanic activity and so has a hilly interior. The mountain line known as the “Main Ridge” extends across the middle of the island, creating dramatic deep valleys on both the north and south sides.

Tobago is surrounded by several tiny islands too, the most famous of which is Little Tobago. Little Tobago is a densely forested island that acts as a wildlife refuge.

The Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve, as well as Little Tobago, are the perfect spots to explore all of Tobago’s outdoor pleasures, and the reserve is home to the world’s oldest protected rainforest. It’s even been designated as a World Heritage Site.

Several areas on the island are dedicated to environmental protection, making this a pristine landscape to explore. Hiking is therefore understandably popular on Tobago, but the big advantage of this island is that it’s small so visitors can practically experience everything the island has to offer in a relatively short trek.

"Beach of the Englishman's Bay near Castara (Tobago, West Indies)"

The Plant Life to Expect

Plants on the island, like the animals that live there, have a particular selection that is evocative of South America. Flowers flourish here, particularly orchids, of which there are over 700 varieties. Hibiscus, bougainvillea, heliconia, and amaryllis lilies are just a few of the various blooms found on the island, alongside the many orchids.

Nearly half of Tobago is also covered in forest, which is made up of a variety of tree species. The thick zones that give shade and nourish the fauna are created by poui trees, flamboyant trees, palm trees, and others. It’s a beautiful place.

The Animals You Can Expect

In comparison to other Caribbean islands, Tobago has a far larger number of animal species. And because of Tobago’s proximity to the South American continent, several bigger creatures liver here. Wild pigs, armadillos, a variety of reptiles, and even agouti can be found on Tobago.

Agoutis are rodents that are similar to guinea pigs but have longer legs! They are well-known for spreading a variety of plants over the islands by transporting seeds from one location to another. They also have exceptionally lengthy lives for a rodent, living for up to 20 years!

The island is also home to Quenk. Although these animals resemble pigs or boars, they are actually unrelated. Due to overhunting, there are fewer of these species on the island than there used to be, although they are still prevalent.

Tobago shines in terms of bird and sea life diversity too. Sea turtles are widespread here and huge! These turtles, which may weigh up to 1,000 pounds, relax along the Tobago coastline. Great Courland Bay, Mt. Irvine Back Bay, and Grafton Beach are particularly popular with turtles, and March to September is the best time to spot them.

There are around 487 bird species in the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, two of which are native to the islands. But it’s Little Tobago, often known as “Bird of Paradise Island,” which is one of the greatest spots to see and hear many of the region’s bird species.

It may be small, but Tobago is a no brainer for our list of best Caribbean islands for wildlife and nature.

Blue-chinned Sapphire hummingbird, Chlorestes notata, feeding on pink Vervain flowers on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean. Sampson

5. Anguilla: The Perfect Place For Adventure Newbies

Anguilla is a British Territory located just east of the British and US Virgin Islands. There’s a lot to see and do on this little island, which consists of one main island and a few smaller islets.

With its tiny size and low terrain, Anguilla is ideal for those new to nature exploration as hikes aren’t as intense and difficult as others on our list of best Caribbean islands for nature and wildlife lovers.

The Landscape

Anguilla is only 16 miles long and 3 miles wide, about half the size of Washington, D.C., and its highest point is only 65 meters above sea level!

Forest covers more than half of the island, which is simple to navigate on foot due to its flat terrain. Scrub Island, Dog Island, Sombrero Island, and the Prickly Pear Cays are all part of Anguilla, in addition to the main island.

Anguilla’s beaches are well-known and any of them, including Meads Bay, Rendezvous Bay, and Shoal Bay, will provide spectacular vistas and calm atmospheres.

Horseback excursions on the beach are a unique pastime that many tourists love. There’s a few companies that organize these horseback rides and they are always happy to take people who are completely new to horse riding.

Little Bay is also a popular tourist destination on the island. This little cove has a lovely panorama of cliffs and water, and it’s also an excellent area to snorkel and watch sea life.

view of rocky rugged shore with white sand beach and turquoise lagoon at anguilla island

The Plant Life to Expect

While there is plant life to discover, Anguilla is more recognized for its animals and beaches rather than its flora.

However the low elevation and little rainfall here has led interesting plant life to adapt and spring up.

The Loblolly tree, which resembles a huge bonsai tree, is an intriguing species that thrives on the island. The tree has evolved to retain water during periods of drought, and the trunks grow in an irregular pattern, giving each one a distinct appearance.

The islands are also covered with mangrove forests. Those are currently making a return after being wiped out by many storms, along with much of the other plant life on the island. While the island as a whole hasn’t yet reached its full plant potential due to past natural disasters, it is well on its way.

The Animals You Can Expect

Anguilla boasts a diverse range of animals, including reptiles, sea turtles, goats, and a variety of bird species.

The turtledove, the country’s native bird, is worth looking out for, while four of the cays surrounding Anguilla have been classified as ‘Important Bird Areas’.

The wetlands on the main island are also a fantastic site to see birds since they provide a safe haven for both local and migratory species that pass through.

The beauty of bird watching in Anguilla is that various months bring different species, so two or three journeys to the island might give you an entirely different collection of birds to look for.

Residents have also learned to share their space with over 4,000 goats! While some Anguilla residents have control over some of those goats, several wild goats graze freely over the island. As a result, you never know when one will appear!

Green Sea Turtle Basking in the warm waters

The Best Caribbean Islands for Wildlife and Nature Lovers: Our Final Thoughts

Many of the Caribbean islands provide wildlife and nature that is one of a kind and unique. However Dominica, Grenada, Puerto Rico, Tobago, and Anguilla are all great picks in terms of abundance and diversity of both plants, animals, and overall landscape.

From the amazing natural formations of Dominica to the relaxing beaches of Anguilla or the spectacular birds of Tobago, if you’re looking for the perfect Caribbean island for wildlife and nature lovers, one of our five above is bound to suit you.

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