One of the best things I did in Dominica was the Boiling Lake Hike. Find out more and how you can experience the Boiling Lake in Dominica.
Did you know that such a thing as boiling lakes existed?
I have seen small pools of boiling hot water in both Iceland and my home country of New Zealand but I never knew there were actual LAKES where the water was actively boiling.
Turns out there is, and the second-largest boiling lake in the world is located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park on the reasonably offbeat Caribbean Island of Dominica.
In fact, the Boiling Lake Hike is one of the main tourist offerings on the island – if you are fit that is, and if you have more than just a day in Dominica.
I had planned our trip to Dominica because it was offbeat. Because there are no large resorts on the island and little tourism compared to other islands and countries in the region, and because Dominica is known as the nature island – still densely jungled and undeveloped.
So hiking to an obscure attraction like a boiling lake definitely intrigued me.
A lot of the information I found online about hiking to the boiling lake was contradictory, some accounts described it as the most difficult hike you could possibly do, others made it sound like a pretty standard day hike.
There were warnings not to hike to the boiling lake without a guide due to people burning themselves in the superheated thermal streams and geysers along the way, but a lot of people still seemed to be hiking to the boiling lake independently without too much trouble as well.
I ummed and ahhhed about whether I should suck it up and pay the fee for a guide, or if I should do the Boiling Lake hike at all. I really wanted to but I wasn’t convinced that my fitness level was good enough – I hadn’t been doing much hiking in the months leading up to it.
In the end I threw caution to the wind and signed up for the Boiling Lake hike. And it ended up being one of the highlights of my time in rugged and beautiful Dominica – a country with so many incredible natural attractions.
Hiking to the Boiling Lake in Dominica
I woke up the morning of the hike feeling like hell – unrested and with a stomach that felt like lava was roiling around inside. Apt considering the place I would be hiking to.
I had been up all night with a mild but uncomfortable case of food poisoning. I considered calling off the whole thing but in the end, I decided to go ahead with the hike to the Boiling Lake anyway.
There ended up being a group of us that signed up from my guesthouse to do the hike to the Boiling Lake – Toby was not one of them. After I told him how long it would be, he hell no’d out of that situation.
The group met our guide in the restaurant after breakfast to get started.
A van took us along the bumpy roads of Wotton Waven to the start of the Boiling Lake trail at Titou Gorge, near the village of Laudat.
There were a few local ladies with small stalls near the trailhead, selling chocolate, nougat, and drinks. I had packed plenty of my own water and snacks and managed to avoid the temptations.
The first section of the Boiling Lake trail was pretty easy going, hiking through a pristine tropical rainforest of tree ferns and thick greenery that looked more like a forest in New Zealand than any I have seen outside of the country.
It felt like I was home, but with a lot more humidity.
Slippery log steps were embedded into the trail and jagged rocks were trip risks along the way. This section was also the muddiest of the trail: We were in the rainforest after all.
The Boiling Lake trail slowly gained altitude and we had a chance to glimpse down into the narrow Titou Gorge as we passed by it.
Our guide stopped often along the trail to point out native flora and fauna which, along with being interesting, offered us the chance to rest and drink lots of water – and we needed as much as we could get in the humidity.
The trail slowly started to descend, and we soon came to Breakfast River where we stopped for a short snack break and water top-up.
From there the going was definitely going to get tougher: The next section of the hike would see us climbing a mountain, or morne as they are known on Dominica.
It was hard, I won’t lie, largely because of the humidity and the fact that there was little shade the higher we rose.
But once we got to the top of Morne Nicholls, it was definitely worth the struggle: The views were spectacular.
We could see for miles in every direction. The clouds of steam from the boiling lake in the distance, the forest and peaks of Morne Trois Pitons National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – surrounding us, and the Valley of Desolation just below us to the right. That was where we were headed next.
The trail down the other side of Morne Nicholls was steep, and after descending what felt like thousands of stairs, we reached the hardest obstacle yet – steep drop-offs down muddy banks that were hard to manoeuver and a bit scary. All part of the adventure.
And then we were in the Valley of Desolation.
Entering the Valley of Desolation on the Boiling Lake Hike
I loved the name of the place, it sounded like something out of Lord of the Rings, and it looked like it too. The thick rainforest had given way to a desolate landscape of steaming rivers and colorful volcanic rock.
We made our way carefully into the Valley of Desolation, following our guide so as not to stand in boiling hot water and mud, or on a thin patch of earth where we could fall through.
Little pools along the thin ribbons of the river bubbled ferociously. Our guide put a small hessian sack of eggs in one of the pools then we ate the soft boiled eggs, which stunk of sulfur.
Shortly after our boiled egg break among the heat and steam, we headed out of the Valley of Desolation and back into the rainforest.
The trail wound through the forest, up and down along narrow ridges, and past a hot river punctuated by waterfalls. It dropped down steeply at one point, crossing the river, and we had to pull ourselves up steep and muddy steps on the other side.
Before reaching the boiling lake, we re-entered another desolate landscape of steam vents and hot water, and then we were there.
Reaching the Boiling Lake in Dominica
The first thing we saw as we edged closer to the boiling lake was the giant cloud of steam enveloping it. As we got right up to it, the swirling cloud of steam momentarily cleared, revealing the lake.
Grey/blue water furiously boiled below us. I knew it would be boiling but I hadn’t expected it to be this impressive, and this active.
The boiling lake is a little over 60 meters in width and its depth is unknown. It is in a natural basin and collects rainfall from the surrounding hills as well as from two small streams.
Then the water in the lake is superheated when it seeps through the porous bottom to the lava below, where it is trapped and heated to boiling point.
Along with the boiling lake, the view was also impressive. You could see the ocean and even the island of Martinique in the distance.
We sat and rested our weary bodies, ate lunch, and took a whole heap of photos of the boiling lake, continuously getting glimpses of it when the steam cleared. I really had never seen anything like it before.
It was definitely worth the long, hard hike to get there. But the adventure wasn’t over yet – we still had to get back.
The Long Hike Back from the Boiling Lake
Hiking back was the hardest part. We were already tired from the hike in and, as it was now later in the day, the temperate had jumped. Luckily we stopped a number of times to rest along the way.
Although you can’t swim in the boiling lake itself (it would burn your skin off) there are a few waterfall pools in the rainforest along the way where the water is a very pleasant temperature.
We stopped at one particularly idyllic waterfall not long after turning back from the boiling lake. Everyone stripped off down to their underwear and jumped in. The soothing heat of the thermal water felt great on our tired bodies.
I scaled the waterfall to the pool at the top which was even hotter. Soaking in these completely natural hot water pools was a definite highlight of the day.
Back in the Valley of Desolation, we stopped again to apply thick grey mud, which is rich in minerals, to our skin. I smothered the warm and slimy mud all over my face and it dried and cracked as we continued the hike, flaking off me.
At times during the hike back up Morne Nicholls, I thought I was going to pass out from the heat of the beating sun. It was relentless and I was so happy when we finally reached the top and a cool breeze from the ocean washed over us.
The rest of the way was thankfully in the forest and I was so happy for the shade.
Finally, eight hours after we had left, we were back at the beginning – Titou Gorge. I couldn’t get in the cool waters of the gorge fast enough.
Swimming in Titou Gorge After the Boiling Lake Hike
After sitting in the clear waters of the pool at the end of the gorge and regaining my strength for a while, I swam into the narrow Titou Gorge and against the fast-flowing waters till I reached a waterfall, before letting the current push me back out.
It was a fitting end to an adventurous day.
Hiking to the boiling lake was the hardest day hike I have ever done, but it was also the best.
Twenty-two kilometers of steep inclines, uneven terrain, and high temperatures made the hike tough as hell, but being able to swim under a natural hot waterfall, witness the boiling water and steaming vents of the Valley of Desolation, and finally reaching the boiling lake itself, is something I will remember always.
And doing it with food poisoning made it even more badass.
How to do the Boiling Lake Hike
Getting to the Boiling Lake Hike
If you are going to do the hike independently, there is parking at the trailhead at Titou Gorge if you have hired a car, otherwise, you can book a taxi to get there – the local bus is pretty unreliable.
I recommend hiring a guide though as it is safer and you will be supporting the local community. I paid the going rate at the beginning of 2017 which is $50 per person. Most accommodations can put you in touch with a guide.
Length of the Boiling Lake Hike
Approx. 13.65 miles/22 km return. Don’t believe the posts online that say it is only 5 o6 miles out and back (HA!)
Elevation Gain of the Boiling Lake Hike
I couldn’t find accurate information anywhere but I will tell you – it’s a lot! It is at least 2,000 ft.
Difficulty of the Boiling Lake Hike
Hard. You really should be pretty fit to attempt this as it is a long day of hiking in heat and humidity and don’t forget that you are also climbing a mountain.
What to Bring on the Boiling Lake Hike
For day hikes, the Cotopaxi Luzon is an awesome backpack choice and is lightweight and will pack down easily when you’re not using it.
I highly recommend taking a GRAYL Geopress Water Purifier to filter water from the river, this saves you having to carry a lot of water and is better for the environment. Also, pack a CamelBak to make it easier to hydrate while you are hiking and to store more water if needed.
Take some trekking poles to help with the downhill – your knees will thank you! Pack a raincoat in case it rains.
Also pack a lunch, lots of snacks, sunscreen, and a swimsuit although you could just hop into one of the thermal pools in your underwear like I did.
Where to Stay for the Boiling Lake Hike
For accommodation close to the start of the hike, stay in Wooten Waven. Ti Kwen Glo Cho has thermal pools on-site and Le Petit Paradis serves some of the most delicious meals in Dominica in their onsite restaurant. Both places offer basic but clean and comfortable rooms.
Alternatively, stay at the luxurious oceanfront Fort Young Hotel in Roseau, which offers sea view jacuzzis, an infinity pool, and an onsite restaurant and bar.
There are also a number of Airbnb options in Roseau, which is a great choice for a more local experience.
The Best Insurance for Your Dominica Trip
Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your trip, just to be on the safe side. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with.
Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.
Would you hike to the Boiling Lake in Dominica?
If you liked this post, check out my other day hike content:
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