Dominica

It’s not difficult so see how Dominica became known as “The Nature Island”. Her unspoiled beauty is evident. From splendid diving and snorkeling through undersea volcanic vents to hiking along some 300 miles of pristine nature trails, this island is an obvious choice for eco-tourists and travelers seeking an authentic escape.

Situated within the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean Sea, Dominica is the largest and most mountainous of the Windward Islands. In fact, several peaks reach over 3,000 feet. To avoid the rainy season, enjoy lower hotel rates, and experience less humidity – consider a visit between October and December. It’s easy enough to get here as international flights from the US and Europe arrive through hubs in Barbados, Guadeloupe, Antigua and Martinique. Numerous island ports receive cruise ships. However, you definitely want to spend more than a few hours on this Eden-like island.

Dominica is truly a diver’s delight. Considered one of the top diving destinations in the world, Dominica is home to frogfish, flying gurnards, seahorses, and other species rarely found in other Caribbean diving spots. You’re also likely to spy sea snakes, sea urchins, sperm whales, and Caribbean reef squid among the impressive stands of brilliantly colored reefs and soft corals.

Volcanic vents and plunging sea walls create a dramatic diving encounter, and Soufriere Scott’s Head Marine Reserve (southwest area) is an ideal spot. It’s the oldest reserve on Dominica and provides the most popular volcanic underwater features. The craters, sheer walls plunging thousands of feet, and towering pinnacles formed by lava flow may leave you speechless.

In the north, the Cabrits National Park Marine Section boasts an impressive variety of rare fish. Don’t miss a visit to one of the island’s signature dive sites, Champagne Reef, for diving and snorkeling among tepid bubbling waters created by geothermal vents.

Trails for every skill await hikers. Traverse through dense rainforests and savor stunning mountain views. Thanks to the interior’s high rainfall, there are abundant rivers and waterfalls to enjoy. In addition, a hike in Dominica yields bubbling mud baths, luxuriant flora, and diverse wildlife.

The island also boasts the Caribbean’s first long distance trail – the Waitukubuli National Trail. It runs through the Carib (Kalinago) Territory, which is home to the indigenous peoples and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Choose from 14 sections of trails that run about 115 miles from south to north. If you’re a hard-core hiker, shoot for completing the entire trail, which should take you about two weeks.

Though still unspoiled and lacking consistent droves of tourists, a good choice of accommodations to mirror your interests reside in Dominica. Resorts with spas appeal to those seeking upscale luxury, onsite gourmet dining, and substantial pampering. Health and wellness vacationers, nature lovers, and divers find a generous portion of hotels that blend well with an active vacation. Independent travelers who thrive on self-catered getaways find varied villas and apartments here.

Dominica is certainly not short on dining choices. A wide range of options tease your palate – from freshly prepared local dishes to international cuisine.

Festivals of note include Mas Domnik, Dominica’s Carnival, which takes place in February/March each year. Music, concerts, and lively events are hallmarks of the World Creole Music Fest, which is held for three days each fall. The island’s Dive Fest (in early July) boasts prime whale watching tours, canoe racing, educational marine tours, and great dive packages.

Honeymooners and couples who enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle should consider Dominica. Also, this island is a good bet if you’re an independent traveler who appreciates health and wellness options while vacationing.