Swimming in aquamarine waters and soaking up the warmth of a sunny beach are musts when visiting the Caribbean. However, many Caribbean islands have verdant treasures such as public gardens and green spaces. These tranquil settings are brimming with sensory delights that will appeal not only to the botanically inclined, but also to bird-watchers and families looking for a stress-free outing. Here are seven events you should not miss.
Les Saintes, Guadeloupe Islands, Fort Napoléon
This garden, nearly 400 feet above sea level, is built on the stone ramparts of a fort named after Napoleon III, France’s first president. The fort, which looms over the picturesque bay of Les Saintes, was built in the 18th century and rebuilt a century later after being destroyed by the British. The views of Dominica and the Guadeloupe islands of La Désirade and Marie-Galante across the teal waters will captivate you as you wander the grounds. Succulents such as yuccas, aloes, acacias, and agaves dominate the landscape. Pipe organ cactus, queen of the night, blade apple cactus, and prickly pear are also common.
Tobago Adventure Farm and Nature Reserve
This working organic farm grows a wide variety of fruit trees, including guava, banana, and West Indian cherry. Trails wind through the tropical landscape, attracting a variety of birds such as herons, blue tanagers, egrets, and five species of hummingbirds. Explore the lush Mot Mot Trail, which includes a massive saman tree. Epiphytes cascade down its branches. You’ll also notice a travellers palm with leaves that can reach up to 10 feet in length. Various reptiles, including a sally painter lizard, congregate at a small rainwater pond to drink. Nearby, benches invite you to sit and observe the birds or the reptiles.
St. Lucia’s Mamiku Botanical Gardens
Rather than crowding the Pitons or the drive-in volcano, meander through eight acres of colourful, naturally wild gardens on a former 18th century sugar estate. With so much to see, it may be best to sign up for a guided tour that focuses on your specific interests, such as birding, hiking, or plant life. Orchid lovers will find plenty to enjoy here, including eyelash orchids with their frilly protuberances and spider orchids with flowers that resemble the arachnid. Tree stumps covered in moss and adorned with delicate, pale orchids are strewn about. There are also rustic white cedar benches that look like hobbits.
Martinique’s Domaine d’Emeraude
A network of forest trails cuts through this vast expanse, ranging from sun-dappled scenery to shadowy areas. You won’t get lost despite the maze of paths: A map is displayed at the majority of intersections. As you become aware of the textures, sounds, hues, and scents that surround you, a sense of calm prevails. Several themed pavilions (ajoupas) with environmental themes and photographic displays are worth visiting. Ajoupa la Lumiere, for example, features arresting images of leaves and the forest glinting in the sunlight. Beyond the woods, garden paths wind through undulating terrain, providing views of Mount Pelée.
Nevis Botanical Gardens, Nevis
The entrance to these tranquil gardens may surprise you: a pair of guardian lion Foo dogs from China flank the entrance. This property is dotted with more than two dozen sculptures from the owner’s collection, mostly Asian (but also Indonesian and South American). A massive Olmec head waterfall is one of the most impressive. Don’t miss the Vine Garden, where hummingbirds flit about the blooms draping the arbours as you walk along curvy paths and across footbridges. The multicoloured orchid collection is one of the Caribbean’s largest. Views of the island’s signature sight, the often cloud-draped Nevis Peak, will captivate you no matter where you walk.
St. Croix Botanical Garden, St. George Village
It’s worth taking your time exploring the tranquil gardens built around the stone ruins of a former rum and sugar plantation. Taking the walkways through the ruins and up and down several steps, you’ll come across an enticing lone bench in an alcove. A massive crimson bottlebrush tree drips sphagnum moss. A tiny circular pool nearby is home to Egyptian lotus. As you walk around the stone walls, you will undoubtedly come across brilliant purple orchids, a stunning queen’s wreath vine, and a breadfruit tree. A copper cauldron, once used to boil sugar and now used as a planter for papyrus sedge, sits near a road where royal palms soar.
Grand Cayman’s Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
The signature feature of the Heritage Garden on this 65-acre property is a more than 100-year-old Caymanian cottage. Wander through a grass-free sand yard filled with medicinal plants like periwinkle, which is used to treat high blood pressure, and lemongrass, which is used to treat fevers. The Floral Color Garden, which groups plants by hue, is also popular. The red section includes red ginger, burning bush, and lobster claw. Birdwatchers will enjoy the lake and wetland area’s lively bird activity, which includes tricolored herons and blue-winged teals.