In the shimmering Caribbean Sea between Guadeloupe and Martinique sits the almost untouched island of Dominica - an eco-lover's dream, a diver's best friend and a stunning destination for whale and bird watching. Drenched in virgin rainforest, home to scorching hot springs, charcoal black beaches and a mountainous centre, it's like no other place in the Caribbean, and there's hardly a tourist in sight.
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Holidaying here is all about the road less travelled. You won't find chain hotels, nor beach parties or loud bars, and you're more likely to need your hiking boots than your bathing suit; though the beaches are beautiful, the undercurrents can be strong, making myriad majestic waterfalls a much better way to cool off. That's not to say that adventure can't be coupled with a relaxing retreat: a stay in one of eco-friendly Jungle Bay’s tree house rooms includes morning yoga, cookery lessons and daily spa treatments. Dining on Dominica is based around the agriculture of the island, with plenty of informal beachfront bars offering Creole inspired dishes, yam and plantain. Try the Waterfront Restaurant at Fort Young and the Old Stone Bar & Grill in Roseau.
It’s said that on Dominica there is a river for each day of the year, and thanks to warm tropical rainfall (no point bringing a hairdryer here), stunning wild orchids, exotic jade vines and pink ginger blossoms grow freely in the gardens of Papillote. Ornithologists will love the Syndicate Nature Trail's blue headed hummingbirds and Sisserou parrots, and deep in a rainforest that covers 70% of the island you’ll see iguanas, almost extinct frog species, crabs and agouti. Dominica is renowned for whale and dolphin watching, with sperm, pygmy and pilot whales and spinner and spotted dolphins on display in the waters around the island. Champagne Reef is a resplendent dream for snorkellers and divers where seahorses, flying gurnards and turtles swim on a seabed that reaches temperatures of up to 90 degrees and geothermal vents bubble away like a glass of Laurent Perrier.
Recharge with strong Dominican coffee before heading to the volcanic UNESCO World Heritage Site of Morne Trois Pitons National Park. Surrounded by lakes, waterfalls and geysers, guided hikes take you to the natural freshwater Emerald Pool, the Valley of Desolation and, for the experienced hiker, the hot sulphur pool of the Boiling Lake. If all that seems like too much exertion then take a lazy boat ride along the Indian River, submit your weary body to a restorative spa treatment or visit the intriguing Carib Territory, where the last of the pre-Columbian population will greet you with a warm welcome.