The Ultimate Island Retreat
By Kate Robertson
Dominica is a little-known Caribbean island, located above Martinique in the Lesser Antilles. Comprised mostly of mountainous rainforest, it has few beaches; however, with its hot springs, freshwater lakes and fabulous diving spots, it’s become an attractive eco-tourism destination. Here, the pace is so slow, the air and water so clean, and the food so fresh – every day feels like a a little piece of heaven.
LOCAL CUISINE AND LIBATIONS
After tourism, agriculture is the second most important economical source for Dominica. Much of the food on the island is still grown organically, as farmers have stuck to traditional planting methods. The island is self sufficient with fruit and vegetables, as long as severe weather doesn’t play havoc with the growing season.
Local cuisine has a creole influence. Stews, fish, and smoked, jerk-like meats are popular. Side dishes (root vegetables) are commonly called provisions. Protein is often served with starchy carbs like yams and potatoes, along with carrots, beans, rice and a green salad.
Portsmouth is the second largest city in Dominica, with approximately 3,000 residents. When visiting, check out the Strawberry Restaurant, with its brightly coloured pink and blue exterior. The daily specials are definitely worth trying, and pair it with an island-brewed beer called Kabuli. For a tropical taste explosion, the passion fruit and coco milk smoothie is a must.
Roseau is the capital of the island, with more than 20,000 people – one-third of the island’s population. Located on the Castle Bruce Highway, between Roseau and Portsmouth, is the Islet View Restaurant. It’s not much to look at from the outside, and inside the decor could best be described as shabby-chic, but it’s the outside patio that’s worth the visit. With a stunning view of the ocean, locals claim that their local rums will treat whatever ails you. Here, they have a large selection of rums mixed with various herbs, as well as a killer rum punch.
JOURNEY THROUGH PARADISE
Commonly referred to as the Nature Island, Dominica has maintained a significant portion of land as a national forest reserve. It’s the only Caribbean island with a long-distance hiking trail, called the Waitukubuli – which means ‘tall is her body’, referring to the tall island mountains. You can walk the trail from one tip of the island to the other – 185 kilometres. The trail is divided into 14 segments. Ranging from easy to difficult, each segment takes four to five hours to complete. Through each stretch, you’ll pass through rainforests, coastal villages and old estates, and along beaches and coastal ridges. Hummingbirds and parrots are in abundance, as is the Jacko (or Sisserous), which is their national bird. The landscape is truly spectacular with lush greenery, vines, trees, ferns and orchids – some 85 different species on the island.
The forests on the north side of the island were hit hard by Hurricane Maria in September of 2017. Tall trees were topped, so without its full canopy, it’s somewhat surreal, but still beautiful. Regrowth is now evident, and several volun-tourism initiatives are now in operation.
After trekking through the forest, finish your day with a fresh-water swim at Emerald Pool. A short hike takes you to a waterfall, which empties into an emerald-coloured pool. The setting is so achingly beautiful that you will feel like you’re in a scene from a movie. In fact, several scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, were filmed on the island.
- Air Canada has daily flights from Toronto to Barbados. From there, Dominica is a one-hour flight on a small carrier.
- Arrange for a rental car at the airport, or hire a guide who will help you with itineraries and take you anywhere on the island, for a very reasonable rate.
- For the the Waitukubuli Trail, you will need to buy a pass. You can use a trail map or hire a guide for most sections of the trail.
- Check with the Discover Dominica Authority for updates on activities and trails that may have been affected (or closed) due to Hurricane Maria.
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
If you’re looking for a less strenuous holiday, or want to mix the hiking with with some R&R, the Picard Beach Cottages in Portsmouth will quiet your soul and your mind, with crashing waves and polaroid sunsets. The salty, floral-sweet air and the sound of melodious birds, help to stimulate your other senses.
In Roseau, get lost in the Caribbean ambiance while floating in the infinity pool at the historical Fort Young Hotel. Indulge in a Dominican- style massage at Nature’s Caress for another level of relaxation.
This wild, largely untouched, island is being called the modern day fountain of youth, with more than their proportional share of centenarian residents.
Kate Robertson can be reached at email@example.com