Island appeal: sun-bathed St. Lucia
Q: I'd like to hike and camp out in the Cayman Islands. Any suggestions of which islands and trails are best? An alternative to the Napali Coast of Kauai is what I am searching for.
John, Palo Alto, California
A: If you're looking for top-notch diving, a high-end resort, or an offshore bank account, then the Caymans are your place. But the closest thing you'll find here to Kalalau-type hiking experience is Grand Cayman's Mastic Trail, which is only two miles long and can only be seen in the company of a guide (for $30 per person). If you're on Grand Cayman for reasons other than hiking, then this trail is a worthwhile half-day diversion. The 200-year-old footpath winds through the island's thick interior, which is swollen with parrots, agoutis, and other native critters escaping the overdeveloped coast. Another note: don't plan on spending your nights outdoors -- camping is not permitted anywhere on the island.
For a Caribbean option that's more suited to your style, try St. Lucia. Here you can pitch your tent at the National Trust campground, which is just a few years old, and venture out on day hikes from there. The reserve has five miles of hiking trails and plenty of perfect beaches within wandering distance -- it's no Napali Coast, but it's closer than anything you'd find on the Cayman Islands. While you're here, be sure to spend some of your hiking time on the Barre de L'Isle, the ridge that separates the east and west sides of the island. For maps and/or guides, contact the Forest and Lands Department (758-450-231).