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Parc Naturel de Guadeloupe: A Tropical Forest

Six kilometers (3 3/4 miles) from Pointe Noire, you reach Mahault. On your left is the Route de la Traversée, the Transcoastal Highway. This is the best way to explore the scenic wonders of Parc Naturel de Guadeloupe, passing through a tropical forest as you travel between the capital, Basse-Terre, and Pointe-à-Pitre.

To preserve Parc Naturel, Guadeloupe has set aside 30,000 hectares (74,132 acres), about a fifth of its entire terrain. Easily accessible via modern roads, this is a huge tract of mountains, tropical forests, and gorgeous scenery, and one of the largest and most spectacular parks in the Caribbean.

The park is home to a variety of tame animals, including titi (a raccoon, adopted as the park's official mascot) and such birds as the wood pigeon, turtledove, and thrush. Small exhibition huts, devoted to the volcano, to the forest, or to coffee, sugar cane, and rum, are scattered throughout the park. Parc Naturel has no gates, no opening or closing hours, and no admission fee.

You can hike for a mere 15 minutes or stretch out your adventure for an entire day. The 290km (180 miles) of trails here take in rainforests, hot springs, rugged gorges, rushing streams, and the wooded slopes of the 1,444m-high (4,738-ft.) Soufrière volcano.

From Mahault, you drive slowly in a setting of giant ferns and luxuriant vegetation. Six kilometers (3 3/4 miles) after the fork, you reach Les Deux Mamelles (the Two Breasts), where you can park your car and go for a hike. Some of the trails are for experts only; others, such as the Pigeon Trail, will bring you to an impressive summit of about 780m (2,559 ft.). Expect to spend at least 3 hours going each way. Halfway along the trail, you can stop at Forest House; from that point, many lanes, all signposted, branch off on trails that will take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

The most enthralling walk in the park is to the Chute de l'Ecrevisse, the "Crayfish Waterfall," a little pond of very cold water at the end of a .4km (.25-mile) path. This spot in the tropical forest is one of the most beautiful places on the island. The pool found at the base of the falls is an ideal place for a cooling swim. In just 10 minutes, you can reach this signposted attraction from the Corossol River Picnic Area. To the left of the Route de la Traversée, a short trail parallels the Corossol River, ending at the crayfish falls.

After the hike, the main road descends toward Versailles, a village about 8km (5 miles) from Pointe-à-Pitre.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.