Many people, even those well-traveled, have never heard of the rugged, tropical nation of Dominica. Tourism does not dominate here in the way it does many other small Caribbean islands where development often crowds out ecological concerns. Much of Dominica is green, wild and untouched. No wonder Dominica was chosen as the filming location for the “remote feeling” outdoor scenes of Pirates Of the Caribbean.
If you are looking for a Caribbean destination with magnificent diving, fantastic hiking and lush jungles, you should choose Dominica too. The natural beauty of this place makes it one of Spot Cool Stuff’s favorite island nations. Spend some time here and you’ll come away wondering why more people haven’t heard of this paradise.
Best (Non-Beach) Attraction:
Find a local guide, pack some food and other essentials, and head off early in the morning for a hike through The Valley of Desolation and to the Boiling Lake.
What sounds like a scene from Lord of the Rings is really the start of the best travel experience in Dominica. Your 15-mile hike begins in a lush rain forest, meanders through the flower-filled Titou Gorge, then crosses a rocky valley before arriving at the lake, 2,300 feet (700 meters) above sea level. The geothermically heated lake is 180 Fahrenheit (85 Celsius) around the edges and is literally boiling at the center! The trek is physically demanding. But then if Frodo Baggins succeeded in his challenge surely you can summon the will to make this hike, the most spectacular in the whole of the Caribbean.
Other non-beach Dominica highlights: Diving into the green depths of the Emerald Pool, tubing down the Layou River, riding an aerial tram through the rain forest canopy.
Hidden Away For You To Find
Dominica has a reputation for having sub-par beaches (by Caribbean standards). The reputation is mostly deserved—the beaches along the east coast, where many of the beach resorts are located, are merely okay. Not terrible. Not amazing either. To find a great beach in Dominica it takes a little work. But they are there to be found. Look in the north of the country, especially along the coast between La Haut and Calibishie. Sometimes there’s not even a sign, just a dirt road leading down to the coast. You might even need a four-wheel drive to get there. But once you do chances are that you’ll have a pristine stretch of sand all to yourself.
Best Cruise Ship Stopover:
Morne Trois Pitons National Park
Ever since Dominica was featured in the outdoor scenes of Pirates Of The Caribbean movie-loving travelers have flocked to cruises that include Dominica as a port of call. There’s some irony in people deciding to travel to Dominica by ship after being inspired by a movie that starts out with the murder of people traveling to Dominica by ship. There’s further irony, of a sort, in the fact that Dominica’s pirate-friendly majesty can not truly experienced on a cruise ship stopover. For that a stay of at least a few days is required.
However, if your time in Dominica is limited to a cruise stopover here’s our suggestion: Do not follow the majority of your fellow passengers who will be walking across the ferry jetty for a drink and shopping at The Bayfront. Instead, take a taxi to Morne Trois Pitons National Park. The ride is about 25 minutes one-way; some drivers will act as impromptu guides bringing you to the park, showing you around and then driving you back. (Negotiate a rate for this before you get in the taxi: $40~50 for 3~4 hours is more than adequate). You won’t have time to trek all the way to the Boiling Lake (see above). But you will have time to do a shorter nature walk and take in some of the flora and fauna.
Jungle Bay Resort And Spa
The 35 free-standing cottages of the Jungle Bay Resort sit on a thickly forested hillside overlooking one of the better beaches on Dominica. It is a gorgeous, natural setting fitting for this gorgeous, natural country. Each cottage includes a fridge, outdoor shower and balcony. (Check out a sample floor plan, below). The cottages don’t have air conditioning, but with the constant breeze blowing in from the sea it isn’t really needed. All the cottages have an ocean view of some sort. Request a cottage further down the hill to be closer to the beach and pool, or further up if you want more seclusion.
The Jungle Bay Resort also has an ocean-view infinity pool, yoga studio and a masseur who will expertly tend to your sore muscles as you relax on a balcony bed overlooking the Caribbean. There are a few local restaurants you can get to by foot if you schlep up along the main road, but it is unlikely you’d want to. The food at the resort is wonderful, as are the drinks. After a few rum cocktails spiced with local herbs you’ll never want to leave.
Rosalie Forest Eco-Lodge
Best Dominica Guidebook
Dominica Bradt Travel Guide
If you are going to be primarily diving and/or snorkeling in Dominica you’ll want to get the Lonely Planet guide. Otherwise, the best guidebook to Dominica—and one of the best guidebooks to any single country in the Caribbean—is the Bradt Dominica Guide. Author Paul Crask seems to know every crevice of the island and liberally shares his insider’s knowledge in this fun, snappy, guide.
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Do you have Dominica tips to share with the world? Lend your knowledge to the comments section.