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A Hike to Boiling Lake, Dominica

[Excerpt from Chapter 26, Lush-ous Dominica]

After a few days relaxing in Portsmouth, we motored (still on one engine) 20 miles to the southern end of the island, Roseau. Roseau is steep-to (deep) so a mooring is mandatory there. A boat helper motored out and waved us to follow him. The “help” was actually included in the mooring fee (a whole $10), so we accepted the assistance graciously.

Be forewarned—Roseau was not a pretty place to be “parked” and probably still isn’t. But we were safe. Sea Cat (Octavius) maintained the moorings and dock and lived right there to watch the boats. Sea Cat turned out to be a hoot, and we were excited to learn that he could take us on the grueling Boiling Lake hike the next day.

Of course, Melissa (my sister) wanted no part of that six-hour (8 mile) hike and instead decided to go snorkeling with Sea Cat’s right-hand man, Smokey (our “helper”), and another family. Boiling Lake and the trail to it are one of the top five things we’ve done in our entire lives. We attribute a lot of our exuberance about the trek to our guide. Sea Cat was a lot of fun and made the steep, hard hike worth it. We had a blast.

We played in the clay (good for your skin), boiled eggs in the hot lake streams, hot-tubbed it in the lukewarm pools, and had a great time goofing off while we huffed and puffed our way to the lake. Well, Michael and I huffed and puffed; Sea Cat (no spring chicken) ran ahead like a mountain goat.

The hike took us through changing foliage (from lush to stunted) down a long, stepped hillside (that we later had to come back up) to Desolation Valley, which looked just like it sounds. We were surrounded by a stark, dead landscape criss-crossed by hot and cold multicolored mineral springs. Then it was up, up, up to where we were greeted by beautiful blue-water (glacier colored) pools and water- falls. They were the perfect temperature for soaking, so we were glad that Sea Cat had told us to bring swimsuits. A little more up and we were looking down into a huge sulfur-spewing, boiling lake. Spectacular.

The lake is about 200 feet across and of varying depths (documented as deep as 195 feet). Temperatures have been recorded between 180 and 197 degrees Fahrenheit, so you do not want to dip your toe into this body of water. Although the lake is shaped like a crater, scientists believe that it’s a crack that allows gases to escape from the molten lava below (similar to the geysers found in Yellowstone National Park). The basin of Boiling Lake collects rainfall from the surrounding hills and two small streams. The water seeps through the bottom to the hot lava below, where it is heated until it boils. This startling geological feature is constantly changing. In the late 1800s a geyser shot mud and water from its center.

In 1988 the lake boiled only intermittently. In 2004 the lake went dry for a few months. Who knows what you’ll see when you go, but I’m sure you’ll still be in awe.

We didn’t want this trip to end, so we took a detour on our way back to Titou Gorge, with its high volcanic walls and waterfall surprise at the end. This escapade involved some very cold water, so I was out. Michael and Sea Cat jumped in and disappeared into the canyon. I laughed as Michael and Sea Cat’s whooping and hollering echoed off the walls while the waterfall pounded on their hollow heads. Goofballs.
You should start working out now so by the time you make your way to Dominica, you’ll be ready for Boiling Lake!

Later that day, we mentioned to Sea Cat that we were having engine problems, and the next thing we knew an ancient fisherman whom Sea Cat sent over was on our boat with his head in the engine room telling us we had a bad water pump. He was sure we’d be able to get another one on Martinique. Let’s go to Martinique then!

Same stuff—one engine, leaking windows.


  1. Great post. How much did the tour cost you?

    1. Hi Graham. Thanks! I'm pretty sure it was $60U.S/each. It was well worth it - at least with SeaCat. He swore he was getting too old to that much longer, but I've seen somewhat recent posts about people who have done it with him, so maybe it depends on his mood. Of course, there are others who will take you up. Be sure to take a bathing suit and make sure whoever brings you up lets you soak in the lukewarm pools!


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