Dominica | Nature Isle of The Caribbean Offers Sulphur Springs, Serene Beaches & Hikes
If you have ever seen Swiss Family Robinson, or better yet Pirates of the Caribbean, you will know exactly what I mean when I say that Dominica (a small island in the West Indies, located in between two french islands, Martinique & Guadeloupe) is a dream Caribbean island to live, relax, or just get inspired in.
It is also one of the most picturesque, one of the best locations for a destination wedding - just imagine the sun, the sea & some spectacular views whilst you enjoy your special day...
Let me pull you back to the subject at hand...funnily enough, parts of Pirates of the Caribbean (2 & 3) were actually filmed in Dominica! Simply put, its such an idyllic island that if you have a means of sustaining yourself, this is quite possibly a haven. One of those unspoiled, untouched, picturesque little gems, and when I say little, I really do mean little, it only has a population of around 72,000 people (according to the 2011 census).
This article explores some of the most commonly visited & talked about sites, gives you an idea of the prices you can expect to pay for public transportation, food & visiting areas, & provides a quick overview of the types of food abundantly found and sold on the island.
Would You Consider Living on a Caribbean Island Like Dominica?
~> Visitor Fees
There is a small fee you have to pay before you can enter Cabrits (National Park), currently it stands at around US $5 per person.
Cabrits National Park - An Important Historical Site with Breathtaking Views
If you are a nature lover, but not so fond of long, tumultous hikes, then the trail leading to the top of the Cabrits mountain may be the perfect medium for you. On average it takes around 30 mins to get to the top, from where you can see views of not only Portsmouth (the second largest town in Dominica) and other neighbouring areas, but also one can look across the Caribbean Sea and see neighbouring island, Guadeloupe.
To give you a little more information, Cabrits is actually a National Park, its history stretching back to the early 18th Century. One of the sites present within the Park is Fort Shirley, which contains recently restored Officers Quarters (these are now used to host weddings, parties and occasional gatherings) & upper and lower batteries that contain rows of cannons.
Cabrits National Park is also home to the only buildings designed by American architect, Peter Harrison, out of the US: The Commandment Quarters & The Octagon House. These two are available for the public to view, as part of a trail that incorporates the main sites situated within the Park.
The area adjacent to Cabrits is Prince Ruperts Bay, found in the North of Dominica. Fort Shirley was initially developed as a strategic defense fort, to protect Dominica from attacks by the French during the late 18th Century. Despite the historical background of Cabrits, it truly is one of the most breathtaking views in Dominica, especially if you can get to the top.
The Caribbean Sea
Dominica is surrounded by The Caribbean Sea to the West and The Atlantic Ocean to the East.
~> Accomodation Costs
Costs for accommodation are entirely dependent on how you want your experience in Dominica to go. If you would prefer a secluded spot with a bit of pampering, you can expect to pay anywhere between US $150 to $300 per person per night. The major resort hotels provide awe inspiring views, breakfast & dinner services & can also provide package activities like snorkeling, diving, hiking, etc.
If your aim is to spend as much time exploring as possible, then you can pay under US $100 a night for 2 people, with most places offering attractive packages if you would like to stay for a week or two. Anywhere you stay in Dominica, especially along the coastline, is a site in itself, but locally owned, smaller hotels can provide a great place to rest your head and relax whilst enjoying Dominica to its fullest.
The entire Caribbean Sea area, as well as the West Indian islands & neighbouring coasts, collectively form The Caribbean. The seemingly everlasting sunshine, the tropical temperatures and humidity that last most of the year, and the pure beauty of sites present within the islands found in the West Indies, makes the Caribbean a very popular tourist destination. Dominica, however differs, in the regard that it specifically caters for those that are more nature-oriented, as opposed to those who are looking to party in the heavy club scenes.
The Caribbean Sea, is one of the largest salt water seas in the world, and is relatively shallow (in comparison to other bodies of water). Home to almost 10% of the worlds coral reefs, and a large variety of fish and seafood, the Sea certainly embellishes some of Dominica's beaches with beautiful shores.
The Caribbean tends to bring in a lot of tourists on a whole, but Dominica is again a little different in this regard. It has not really been commercialised and the sites haven't been developed to support heavy international tourism. It is however a place that someone who would love to wind down, and just connect with nature would absolutely love to go. and maybe never leave. If you just need to get some inspiration to write that next book, sing that next hit song, or just simply to appreciate the unadulterated beauty of everything around you, then Dominica will certainly seem like the perfect place.
Could you imagine getting married here?
Great Location for A Destination Wedding In the Caribbean
Dominica is really a sensational location for a dream Caribbean destination wedding - on a budget. Obviously there will always be costs associated with getting your guests to the island (as with any destination wedding), but if you consider the cost of the actual wedding (venue, catering, transportation to the site, accommodation, etc.) you will find that this is one of the cheaper options.
The magnificent backdrop of the Caribbean Sea combined with the startling blue of the clear skies will definitely make any wedding photography look fabulous!
~> Snack Costs
Grilled bananas are a tasty, low calorie, local snack costing one local dollar each. They do taste great, well worth trying at least once!
Barbeque Chicken prices vary but you should be able to get a large piece of BBQ chicken for around EC $5 (which is equivalent to around £1 or US $2)
Scotts Head, a small village located in South Dominica, overlooks Soufriere Bay, and is the point at which the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea. Other villages found along the coastline, facing the Atlantic Ocean, are Calibishie, Rosalie, Castle Bruce and Grand Bay, amongst others. Visiting these villages can give you access to remote beaches, locally owned cafes & vendors on the streets selling grilled banana's, barbeque chicken & grilled corn. There is usually a great community spirit found within the locals, don't be afraid to ask, most will jump at the chance to tell you a little about their country.
~> Transportation Costs
Taxi fares vary, but generally they can charge around EC $100 (£25 or US $35) to transport passengers from Melville Hall Airport to Portsmouth.
Bus fares are considerably cheaper, the most you will pay is around EC $10 for a single trip practically anywhere on the island. Local fares are much cheaper, travelling through Portsmouth will cost you EC $1.50, one way.
Boat rides vary depending on the location you wish to go. The trip to the 'Secret Beach' is around 10 mins on the boat, and they can charge around EC $80 (~ £20 or US $30) for a round trip per person.
Portsmouth, Home to Purple Turtle Beach
Portsmouth, is the second largest town in Dominica. It is located in the North of the Island and life tends to be a little slower-paced than in the capital, Roseau. Ross Medical School is located within Picard, an area of Dominica best known for its student population. It is also home to Cabrits National Park, and Purple Turtle Beach. This beach stretches for a couple of miles, and although it tends to be busy on holidays and weekends, visiting it during the weekdays will allow you to have some personal down time if you wish.
Almost all travel on the island is either by foot (to get to the mountainous areas, and also some of the tourist sites), or by road (you can book taxis, or use the buses that travel across the island regularly throughout the day). Some areas require boat access, like the 'Secret Beach' located a short distance from the Indian River bridge in Portsmouth.
Dominica from an Insiders Perspective
A 'Secret Beach'
Although Dominica contains a plethora of remote, secluded beaches, this one in particular is one you should definitely visit if possible. A 10 min boat ride away from Portsmouth mainland, it offers captivating, untarnished views of the Caribbean Sea in all its glory. The guide bringing you there will make arrangements when you want to be picked up. Its difficult to get to people once you are on this small, private stretch of beach, so its always best to maintain a way to keep in touch with the guide, so that in an emegency situation, should you need to get to mainland, you can contact the best person to pick you up.
Once on the beach, enjoy some time to reflect or just to have a nice picnic with your group, but remember the time you are to be picked up!
~> Meal Prices
A local meal generally consists of chicken or fish (goat meat is also commonly prepared), often battered & fried, curried or sauteed, combined with a variety of side dishes.
Baked macaroni & cheese, yam/potato/banana pies and boiled local ground provision (such as sweet potatoes, yams, plantain, bananas & dasheen) are also popular side dishes sold in restaurants & local snackettes.
A meal incorporating two sides & one meat or fish portion, plus salad (carrots, lettuce, cucumber) generally costs around EC $15-20 (around £4 or US $6).
Local juices (passionfruit, lime, orange, grapefruit, sorrel) can cost up to EC $5 each.
Just generally though, walking along the beach in the evening, observing the sunset, or visiting the beach early morning as the sun is rising affords you some of the most stunning views and reflective moments you can experience. Standing on the beach, watching the serenity of the sunset, or the first rays of pure sunlight, is sure to provide a calming peace, soothing your soul.
Reading this, you may think, I am exaggerating the scenario. Given, not every human is impacted by nature in the same way, or to the same extent, but I think its safe to say, that anyone that visits Dominica is sure to remember it in a positive light, even if only for the unblemished sites you can visit & experience.
The locals are very community - oriented and as such tend to be very forthcoming about discussing local history, recommending places to eat & providing guidance with regards to tour guides, transportation, etc.
There are a few restaurants dotted along the coastline, offering some great tasting local dishes. Feel free to experiment with the local cuisine - with fresh fish & fresh local produce, you are sure to get a healthy, satisfying meal.
~> Entrance Fee to Emerald Pool
You will have to pay a fee to enter the area (if you are a visitor to the island).
If I remember correctly, the fee was around EC$20 per visitor, in 2011, so it should not be much more than that.
Depending on how you are travelling, you may have to pay for a bus route to bring you to the area, but if you are with a Cruise company, they may have arranged an island tour, which would incorporate Emerald Pool.
This stunning site is one of Dominica's most popular attractions, and by extension, one of the most photographed on the island. I'm pretty sure, if you google Dominica West Indies, you must see at least one picture of Emerald Pool come up in the first few pages of the results.
This being said, its not a busy location - much like most of the other sites located within the island. The population here is so small, and the tourist flow is minimal (especially in comparison to other Caribbean islands), so you will have more than enough time to relax & enjoy the breathtaking views whilst getting in the water!
The Emerald Pool is filled with clear, spring water that appears green, or 'emerald' once the sunlight filters through the leaves & is located within the rainforest, a little way off from the main road (so you will have to follow a loop trail for around 10-15 mins to arrive at your location). To be honest, the short walk is more than worth it, because once you are in the vicinity of the pool (even though the water can be very cold sometimes), you will not want to leave. Seriously.
Twin Trafalgar Falls
Located a very short distance from the islands capital, Roseau, these twin beauties are quite possibly the most visited & known waterfalls in Dominica. Once you arrive at the destination, you will need to walk around 10 minutes to get to a platform overlooking the two falls - referred to individually as the 'mother' & 'father' falls.
The 'father' waterfall is generally classed as being safer to bathe in & if you are visiting with children, it is most certainly the best option to stick to this waterfall. Although the path to get to the area where you can actually get in the water is relatively rough even on a sunny day, when the island is experiencing heavy rains, it is not a good idea to attempt to manoeuvre your way to the water, due to the risk of slipping.
The area is also home to hot springs, so if you would prefer to not climb down, you can always soak up some warmth whilst others head down.
Hot, Sulphur Spring Spas
A short distance from the Trafalgar Falls area, you can visit Screwz, a sulphur spring haven that you can bathe in. There are many attractive aspects to these springs- sulphur is particularly good for the skin, has detoxifying effects, can help decrease eczema & allergic skin conditions, can soothe asthma symptoms & rheumatic conditions, and best of all the individual pools have varying temperatures.
You will most definitely enjoy this experience, its simply too relaxing to not want to go back again & again.
Some final thoughts...
Before I came to live on this gem of an island, I hadn't even heard of it, a fact that is a contributing factor to me writing this Hub on Dominica. Although Dominica is filled with waterfalls, rainforests, breathtaking mountainous views & serene scenes (as is the case with other islands), one of the greatest aspects of staying here is that you wont have to go very far from wherever you are staying to be able to appreciate the raw, natural beauty of the island.
Dominica is honestly one of the most under rated, non-commercialised islands you could have the pleasure of visiting. Every place on Earth has its drawbacks, but if you are looking for a spot to just relax, or live a laid back life, then Dominica is most certainly a place you should add to your Bucket list of places you want to visit in your lifetime!