If you haven’t read the first part of My Favorite Things to Do in Montserrat, you may wish to check that out, because this second part will not discuss the Soufrière Hills volcano and Plymouth except for an inclusion in the Montserrat itinerary at the end of this post. This little Caribbean country is now known for this active volcano and the swath of destruction that it has left behind on the larger south section of this tropical paradise. However, before anyone knew that the Soufrière Hills hid a living volcano capable of turning life on the island upside down for more than a decade, Montserrat was a treasure trove of natural wonders. It was and remains home to sweeping mountains, crystal clear springs of water, and wondrous black-sand beaches. It’s the perfect place for any intrepid explorer, especially nature lovers.
[Until the COVID-19 outbreak settles down and international travel is safe again, please consider this an inspirational post. This is not encouragement to travel at this time, especially not to a small country like Montserrat.]
- 1 (4) Go for a Hike
- 2 (5) Drive from Jack Boy Hill to Zone C
- 3 Where to Stay in Montserrat
- 4 Tips for Travel to Montserrat
- 5 A Two Day Montserrat Itinerary
- 6 Like it? Pin it!
(4) Go for a Hike
A lot of people don’t seem to realize how amazing the Caribbean is for hiking. And hiking in Montserrat is no exception. Hands down, the trails on this island are one of my favorite things to do in Montserrat. That being said, I MUST remind you that hiking is dangerous. Never go out alone unless you are very experienced. In any case, always let a third party know where you are going and when you plan on getting back. Bring good shoes, water, and food with you, and always start early in the day so that you don’t get caught at night. You always hike at your own risk, but if you get in trouble you get put other people at risk as well. So BE CAREFUL!
(a) Consider a hiking guide
Before I dive into a couple options for trails, I would suggest considering a guide if you want to add hiking to your Montserrat itinerary. This is because many of the trails are rough and can be quite steep on the island. People have gotten hurt before. There are also some amazing guides that can help you experience some very special places on Montserrat. They can even help you catch a glimpse of rare wildlife. When I usually see blogs telling people to hike with a guide, I worry that this is because other people make the trails dangerous. In this case, I do not feel like this plays a role in my suggestion here. Montserrat is a small, safe community of kind people, but guides can help keep you safe on the rugged terrain.
(b) Exploring the Jungles of the Centre Hills
If you park at Hilltop Coffee and walk down the road a ways, following it up the mountain, you will come to a fenced off structure that looked to me to be a water tower. From here, a few trails lead off into the forest, and some of them are a bit hard to see from the road. Follow a worn path along the left side of the fence. You will see one trail continue on ahead, and another will branch to the right. You should see a little green sign around this point that says <- Forgarthy | Cassava Ghaut ->. I ended up taking the Cassava Ghaut trail, because I couldn’t find the ridge trail that I was looking for.
This path was VERY steep and quite slippery because it’s in the rainforest. So I wouldn’t suggest this route to anyone without very sure feet. However, I ended up enjoying this little trek because there was a rewarding little viewpoint at the top of the trail. I didn’t continue to follow this path past there, however, because I wasn’t sure how far away it would go!
Since I am a desert girl, exploring the rainforest was at the top of my list of things to do in Montserrat. That being said, I did struggle to find the trail that I was looking for, and Cassava Ghaut felt a little dangerous for anyone inexperienced. So, I’d definitely lean towards taking a guide on a hike in the Centre Hills. If you can’t afford that, consider asking for some guidance from your place of lodging or Hilltop Coffee (be sure to buy a little something if you stop by!).
(c) Caution for Rendezvous Bay
Rendezvous Bay is on many a Montserrat itinerary, because it is the one accessible white sand beach on the island. You have to hike a bit to get there, however, and it isn’t exactly an easy trail- although it isn’t long. First, you will be hiking across the driest part of the island. And the Caribbean heat is no joke, especially when you don’t have any shade. Second, when you start to climb down towards the beach you will be on a very steep incline.
When I visited, Sunny warned me against hiking in this area alone. Another visitor had recently taken a tumble and got hurt on this trail. Whether you are in a solo situation, or going with a friend, I would consider asking a local guide about the condition of the trail, and only attempt it with someone else and proper gear.
All that being said, Rendezvous Bay is a popular addition on lists of things to do in Montserrat because there is no doubt that this is a beautiful place.
If you are looking for more information on hiking in Montserrat check Caribbean & Co’s 9 Nature Trails.
(5) Drive from Jack Boy Hill to Zone C
In case you haven’t noticed, or just aren’t familiar with my other posts, I love road trips. Montserrat wouldn’t seem like quite the place for a good, long drive if you looked at a map, but in fact, your Montserrat itinerary can include a half-day drive across the northern part of the beautiful island.
Jack Boy Hill
One place that I wish I had had time to visit was Jack Boy Hill, because you can look out on the eastern coast of the island. However, I can’t vouch for the road out to this lookout point, and I’ve heard that it can be a bit rough. So, if you do plan on starting your drive from here, definitely let someone know where you will be going. I’d suggest taking a car with some clearance as well- like one of the Rav4s that you can rent. If you start from there, you can actually take the main road through town and then down towards Zone C. This route includes many stops that make my favorite things to do in Montserrat list.
The end of your journey from Jack Boy Hill to the western side of the island will be Zone C. This is the area of Montserrat that abuts Zone V- where no one without government approval is allowed to enter. It is quite an interesting place to explore, as this Zone includes many overgrown roadways and abandoned buildings. It definitely speaks to just how much the Soufrière Hills volcano has changed life on the island. Of course, anyone exploring here should be extremely respectful. Do not take or break anything- the buildings in Zone C are still people’s homes and represent precious memories and hopes for the future. All that being said, this drive will be a perfectly unique addition to anyone’s Montserrat itinerary.
Where to Stay in Montserrat
When I traveled to Montserrat, I ended up staying in an Airbnb. However, I have recently come to realize through personal experience that I can no longer support this company until they start instituting corporate responsibility for the communities that they have homes in. (I now live next to a nightmare Airbnb/VRBO that has completely destroyed my neighborhood and quality of life).
With that in mind, I would definitely suggest finding a place to stay in one of the small hotels on the island. Fodor’s has a great list of places to stay for your Montserrat itinerary.
Tips for Travel to Montserrat
Getting to Montserrat
It is not easy to get to Montserrat. The only airport on the island is quite small due to where it was built (unfortunately the larger airport was destroyed by the volcano). So, only very little planes from Antigua can fly into Montserrat. If you are planning on flying, check out Fly Montserrat and BMN Air. I took Fly Montserrat and was quite happy with them. Be sure that you give yourself PLENTY of time to transfer at Antigua. You will need to go through immigration, check in, and security before you can board your flight, and these planes are so small that they can’t move you easily between flights if you are late.
You can also take a ferry from Antigua, but you will have to adjust your Montserrat itinerary to account for the time it will take to cross.
Immigration and Airbnb
As I mentioned above, I will not be advocating for people to stay in Airbnbs until the company makes some positive changes to care for the communities surrounding the properties that they advertise. If you must stay in one, however, get the full name of your host as well as a contact number. This will be necessary for immigration.
I almost got stuck at immigration because I didn’t know my host’s full name! Luckily, Keithley Chambers (the man who I was renting a car from) saved me. Avoid this problem by coming prepared. If you aren’t staying at an Airbnb, you will be fine using the name of your lodging.
Do expect to pay a fee when you leave Montserrat- as of 2020 it was $13 US. If you are staying in Antigua afterwards, you will need to pay a fee for them as well, before you leave Montserrat.
Driving and Rental Cars
It actually isn’t super easy to get a rental car set up, because contacting the rental companies is a bit difficult. But the upside of lodging with a hotel is that they can help set this up for you without issue! I personally rented from KC Car Rentals (email@example.com) and I really had a great experience. He brought my vehicle to the airport for me, actually drove me to my lodging to make sure I got home safe, and then met me at the airport when I was leaving. He was honest, friendly, and did a great job taking care of me.
Renting on Montserrat isn’t particularly affordable, however. So you can certainly look at taking a taxi or bus if driving yourself isn’t something you are interested in.
Driving on Montserrat
In terms of what driving on the island is like, I would say that it isn’t quite as easy as you might think. Montserrat isn’t a big island. There is only one road, but you might be surprised at how easy it is to get turned around on the little side roads, particularly in the towns. Driving through town can also be quite stressful. The roads are narrow, people park along them, and others come and go in the street. I’d say the safest way to go is just to take your time. Drive slow, and let local people pass you by. Just generally, try not to inconvenience anyone while being extra careful and courteous. You will also be driving on the left side of the road, so keep that in mind if you want to give it a go!
A Two Day Montserrat Itinerary
Day Zero: Arrival
If you can afford it, avoid planning your travel days as part of your Montserrat itinerary. You will need those two full days!
Day One: Tour the Island
Jump on a full day tour with Monsterrat Island Tours or any other great guides. This is a great way to get the lay of the land, learn a ton about the history of Montserrat. It will also give you the chance to ask some very experienced locals any questions that you have about other items on your “things to do in Montserrat” list.
This is also your chance to see some parts of Plymouth and get a closer look at the volcano, so be sure to have that included on your tour.
Day Two: Self Drive and Hiking
Start your day early at Jack Boy Hill. If you are lucky, you might be able to catch some views of the volcano from there.
Drive north to do some hiking in the morning. Check out Silver Hills or Rendezvous Beach (as long as you don’t go alone and have the gear you need to stay safe). Alternatively, if you want to explore the tropical forest, park at Hilltop Coffee and hike up in the Centre Hills. Any of these hikes may be best done with a guide.
After your morning hike, take a late lunch at a local restaurant. The Attic would be my suggestion, but you can also ask about other potential spots on your Day One Tour.
After lunch, stop by the National Trust to explore the museum and walk the botanical gardens. This is also a great time to buy some great little souvenirs while supporting the good work of the Trust!
Spend the last part of your day on a short drive over the Zone C. I would suggest driving straight out and then taking your time on the way home. You will not want to be far out once it gets dark, because the streets are quite dark at night.
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