Dominica: Nature with Five Star Comforts
By Tab Hauser
Dominica is called the “Nature Island” for good reasons. This beautiful, rustic island is known for its unspoiled rain forests, majestic waterfalls, hot springs, swimming holes, hiking, snorkeling, and world-class diving.
Its compact 29 X 18-mile size boasts nine active volcanos with three peaks over 4000 feet (the last serious eruption over 500 years ago). One peak contains the largest (and second-highest) boiling lake in the world that I call the hike from hell to get to.
Planning Your Visit
Dominica is not the best place for a “lie at the beach and veg vacation”. There are better islands for that. Dominica is an island for people that like to be active and immersed in nature. Your days here can go from mild hiking to grueling treks.
Planning what to do requires some advanced research to decide which waterfalls, hikes and thermal pools to visit. The more popular and easier to get to places can be a little crowded when a small cruise ship calls on the island.
Also, don’t plan every moment because things will pop up based on recommendations from both locals and tourists you will meet.
Allow time for driving. A 50-mile ride from the north to Victoria Falls in the south took almost two hours because the curvy narrow roads require slow speeds. Renting a small SUV will help on the dirt roads at some of the places worth visiting.
Dominica’s South Island Attractions
Victoria Falls is considered by many locals to be one of the more majestic and perhaps a little challenging to get to.
The ride here is part of the day’s adventure. Driving there had us hug the coast and then cut across the island weaving around the peaks and through the lush rainforest. It was a scenic ride that gave us a feel of what Dominica looks like.
Near the falls entrance, we picked up a guide named Shario who for $40 directed us to the bumpy one lane 4 X 4 road to start our hike.
He guided us in crossing the river twice as well as getting over the big rocks on the side of the river to what could barely be called a path.
After 20 minutes we saw the 165-foot falls towering above. Climbing to the pool was another 10 minutes requiring some mild bouldering. Afterward, Shario showed us his family farm and picked a few grapefruits for us.
On the way back from Victoria Falls you pass the Emerald Pool which is the most popular falls on the island.
This grotto is fed by a 40 footfalls that get its name from the reflecting green forest around it. It is a ten-minute walk to this picture-perfect place.
Arriving at 3:30, we had the pool to ourselves for nearly 30 minutes. At 4 PM after the ticket counter closed we were joined by several locals. Timing your visit here will help with your experience.
Twin Falls and a Thermal Soak
The twin falls of Trafalgar is an easy 15-minute walk to a viewing platform. The father falls to the left is 125 feet while the mother falls is 75 feet high. To climb to the pools at each base it is recommended to pay the guides $10 for the additional 10-minute walk because they know the easiest way around and over the rocks to get there.
From Trafalgar you are close to the soothing powers of the areas hot springs. Ti Kwen Glo Cho is a ten-minute drive. (Warning: Do not use a GPS or Google Maps or you will get lost on the other side of the valley. Get directions.)
Ti Kwen Glo Cho is spread out with two different temperature pools and a mud pool. The thermal pool is very hot so you don’t soak long.
Below it are natural piped cool showers along with an old fashioned steel bathtub with warm waters gently pouring over it.
The lower pool is a perfect mixture of hot and cold waters. Stop at the bar to get a rum punch while you soak. Admission is $10.
The best beach in my opinion on Dominica is called Batibou in the north. At the gate allow a 15-minute walk or a four-minute 4X4 drive.
A $5 entrance fee gets you on a pretty beach surrounded and shaded by coconut trees. In the middle is a beach bar with ladies who cook up a gourmet lunch in a makeshift jungle kitchen.
The delicious meals are served on placemats of palm leaves. Do allow “island time” when ordering so go for a swim until it is ready.
The only thing this beach is missing are lounge chairs to be rented. For a stunning 30 second video of Batibou click here
Float to the Pirates of the Caribbean
Jackie, who manages Batibou Beach arranged for an inner tube float trip down the Hempstead River nearby for $20. During our 45 minute float, our guide Jackson talked about the wildlife and fauna (We were pleased to learn there are no poisonous snakes here). At the river’s end, we beached where Captain Jack Sparrow was shipwrecked and chased by natives.
While you are up north, taste the local chocolate at Pointe Baptiste Estate (website). This family business gathers cacao from local farmers using sustainable practices. The free tour shows how chocolate is produced and ends with a taste of 60% to 100% cacao chocolate that is available in many flavors. Bars can be bought for $6.
A Cool Swimming Hole
We recommend taking your chocolate to the Chaudiere Pool nearby. This place is like an old fashion secret swimming hole in the forest. Because of its location it gets few tourists and during our “splash about” we shared it with two others.
To get here simply follow a few signs. At the entrance, if you have an SUV, drive slowly five minutes to a bend in the road and walk the last five minutes.
Once at the river go right to the small falls emptying into the pool. Enjoy the pretty scenery while munching on your chocolate before carefully walking in.
For the brave in the group, jump off the rocks on the right if the current is not too strong. We found the cool waters refreshing on this very hot day.
Cabrits Morning Hike
Next to our hotel and sitting on two low rise extinct volcanos on 1313 acres is the Cabrits National Park. This is a good place to hikes on two trails with great sea views. While here visit the renovated British built Fort Shirley. Allow about two hours.
If You Go:
Cabrits Resort and Spa Kempinski (website) is the first five-star resort in Dominica. Its pretty grounds by the sea (there is no real beach) include two large pools with pool a swim-up bar. Their rooms are luxurious and the bathrooms large.
The entire staff scores a perfect grade. Our one issue was with the food. Except for the wonderful buffet breakfast and the little surprises served up at it, the rest of the food fell flat. There were too many nights of buffet only dinners and the one time we dined there was unimpressive.
For lunch, a pool service cheeseburger arrived dry and tasteless with the cheese not melted. For snacks and drinks, the Rumfire bar is upscale. It specializes in local rum marinated in herbs, fruit or spices labeled to help with various ailments.
Food Near Cabrits
Near the hotel are good local restaurants (no table cloths) on the water where the clientele is a mix of locals and tourists.
Keepit Real simple menu is fish, lobster, chicken and pork chops served with four different Dominican side dishes that were so good we went twice. Strike up a conversation with the colorful owner about his place.
C&D Beach Front Bar and Grill: We returned to this place a few times for fish, chicken and shrimp cooked up in either a Caribbean and Thai theme.
For island information click https://discoverdominica.com/
Tab Hauser is from Long Island’s North Shore. When not at home he is embracing his passions by combining travel, photography and writing. Tab is a member of the Explorers Club and has been to the seven continents and over 50 countries