HALF MOON BAY, Calif., June 20, 2012 — A Caribbean vacation often conjures up dreams of lounging on the beach, enjoying island cuisine, learning about the culture, and parking for hours at a swim-up pool bar. But for those who want to enjoy their trip in a healthy way, it’s possible to do so without sacrificing a lot.
Dominica is an ideal place to both relax and get active, because it’s not your typical Caribbean island. Called the “Nature Island” due to its volcanic peaks, lush rainforest, clear waterfalls, abundance of rivers, and even boiling waters, it’s frequented by people who want to do more than lounge by the pool.
Hiking and Water Activities
The island has the Caribbean’s first long distance walking trail, the Waitukubuli National Trail, which covers 115 miles of amazingly beautiful terrain. The trail passes through the Carib (Kalinago) Territory, home to indigenous peoples, and the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and encompasses the world’s second largest Boiling Lake.
The trail is marked in segments for those who don’t want to hike its entire length. During Hike Fest, held annually in May, I hiked Segment 10, from Colihaut Heights to Syndicate. It was a short distance (just under four miles) and cut through a secondary rain forest, home to the two native parrots on the island. I hiked alone, accompanied by bird song and the occasional land crab scuttling across the trail.
Aside from the variety of hiking options in Dominica, water activities like kayaking, snorkeling, and diving abound for visitors who want a closer look at the island’s wildlife and awe-inspiring views. An easy snorkeling spot, Champagne Reef contains warm, bubbling waters created by geothermal vents.
Rosalie Bay Resort, a luxury wellness retreat on the Atlantic side of the island, has 28 spacious rooms to offer as your home base on Dominica. It’s removed from any major towns, so it gives visitors a perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy the surroundings.
Zamaan, the on-site restaurant, features Dominican favorites, as well as healthy dishes, and even includes vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free choices. The restaurant gets much of its herbs, fruits and vegetables from its 1.5-acre organic garden.
The focus on wellness goes beyond the restaurant with daily yoga classes, a fitness center, personal strength training, wellness coaching, nutrition counseling, cooking light classes, quiet meditation spots (including a labyrinth), and massage lessons.
The beach at Rosalie Bay is a major focus for turtle conservation on the island, and during nesting season, guests can wake in the middle of the night to watch a leatherback turtle make her nest. It’s hard to get out of bed at first, but when you’re standing on the beach under a star-studded sky, watching a huge turtle lay her eggs, you know you’ve made the right choice. It’s also a far better experience than any swim-up pool bar can provide.
Most international flights to Dominica arrive in the Melville Hall airport (DOM). Main airlines serving Dominica include LIAT, BVI Airways, and American Eagle. Major hubs in the region with flights to Dominica include Antigua, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Martin, San Juan, and Tortola.
A great way to break up the travel day is to stay over in San Juan on your way to and from Dominica. My choice was the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino. A short 10-minute drive from the airport, and you can be relaxing on Condado Beach with a tasty beverage. Any of the 513 guest rooms and 12 suites will help you recover from your flight, and you can slow down and enjoy your introduction to San Juan at one of the hotel’s restaurants. My favorites are the Red Coral Lounge and La Vista Latin Grill & Bar.
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill is an avid kayaker and owner of Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.
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