The Caribbean has always been a popular destination for travellers. But if you’re looking for something different, a place that goes beyond the typical beach-based vacation, it’s time to discover Dominica.
Known as “the nature island,” Dominica lies south of Guadeloupe and north of Martinique in the eastern Caribbean. The secret is getting out, but this stunning island is still somewhat of a hidden gem well worth exploring. From hiking and diving to water sports and whale watching, there’s something here to satisfy every traveller.
The world’s first climate-resilient Caribbean nation
The first thing I noticed upon getting acquainted with Dominica, was just how vibrantly green it is.
Tropical forest covers a whopping two-thirds of the island making it a nature-lovers paradise. Gorgeous rivers, lakes, streams and waterfalls abound, creating a lush environment perfect for rejuvenating both mind and body. It’s an island that feels alive, bursting with awe-inspiring scenery you won’t find anywhere else.
Dominica is working hard to keep it that way. The island has committed to be the world’s first climate-resilient Caribbean nation. Earlier this year, it made the move to fully ban all common plastic and Styrofoam single-use food containers.
How to explore Dominica’s water wonderland
Dominica is known as the whale watching capital of the Caribbean. The island is home to many species of whales and dolphins, including humpback whales, pilot whales and the spotted dolphin. Dominica is the only country in the world where the sperm whale resides all year, although you’re most likely to catch a glimpse between November and March.
I was lucky enough to spot a few humpbacks during a scenic whale watching trip, which was definitely a highlight.
In addition, Dominica has 365 rivers in and around the island. Each one offers something different, from relaxing beaches to snorkelling spots to boat tours. Two of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies included scenes within Dominica’s rivers (particularly Indian River). Producers chose Dominica as an authentic, traditional Caribbean nature spot. It’s exactly that.
Best places to get active outdoors
Hikers take note. Dominica offers more than a few ways to get active.
Morne Trois Pitons National Park is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Caribbean and contains a whole host of things to see and do for active travellers. The park features hundreds of kilometres of footpaths, countless streams and waterfalls (some you can swim in), as well as the stunning Emerald Pool and Titou Gorge.
Here you’ll also find Boiling Lake, the second-largest of its kind in the world. It’s one of the most epic hikes I’ve ever done. You’ll need an experienced guide and good hiking shoes. Though challenging, the effort required is worth every step for the stunning views from the top. It’s an otherworldly experience peering down into the clouds of vapor swirling above the lake.
For something less strenuous, try the Caribbean’s first long-distance walking trail, the Waitukubuli National Trail. It is a highlight of Dominica, covering over 183 kilometres and over 17,000 acres across the length of the island.
Wellness in nature comes in many rejuvenating forms
Unwinding at a spa is one thing, but in Dominica, wellness is everywhere. Soak in one of the many natural sulfur hot springs that dot the island. Or take a revitalizing dip under the rush of a waterfall.
For some serious relaxation in nature, head to the magical Ti Kwen Glo Cho. Here you can soak in large outdoor copper tubs filled with hot sulphur water while the healing waters trickle over you in a series of interconnected bamboo pipes. I had the pleasure of soaking my post-hike muscles here and the experience was incredibly soothing.
Locally grown and harvested foods make up the majority of the Dominican diet. It’s not hard to nourish your body as well as your soul here.
Stylish places to stay
Among already established hotels on the island, Secret Bay is a boutique resort with just six stunning villas surrounded by nature.
Wanderlust Caribbean is another luxury boutique option. It features a private trail to Hodges Beach, an organic garden and a rooftop bar.
While Fort Young Hotel is centrally located in Dominica’s capital of Roseau. It’s ideal for experiencing the best of the island’s vibrant culture.
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