ROSEAU, Dominica, May 29, 2012 — Only one day in Dominica, and I am getting “judgment.” When I share my hiking itinerary with a local woman, she looks me over and expresses concern.
“You’re going to the Boiling Lake? You don’t look like a tomboy. Are you sure you can do it?” she asks.
Perhaps I should not have discussed my athletic goals while I was standing around in my bikini. The Boiling Lake hike wouldn’t be an easy stroll, but I am determined to get there.
Many know the Caribbean island of Dominica as the “Nature Island” due to its volcanic peaks, lush rainforest, clear waterfalls, abundance of rivers, and even boiling waters. It is not your typical Caribbean island where hordes of visitors are content to lounge on the beach all day, interrupted only by occasional bar service. Here, hikers and divers abound, and the Boiling Lake hike is the peak adventure for many of them.
A six-hour round trip over challenging terrain, this hike in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park ranks as one of Dominica’s most demanding trails. The first hour of the trail meanders through rain forest and rises gradually from 1,690 feet to 2,260 feet before dropping toward the Trois Pitons River, called the “Breakfast River” because it’s often the first stop for a snack. Because the sky is gray and it has already begun to rain lightly, my guide Zahir and I continue without stopping at the river.
Next, the path follows a ridge as it moves from rain forest to montane forest. At 3,160 feet is a lookout with views across the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mist is descending along the trail, so I could only see pieces of the emerald peaks, until they are shrouded in fog.
The trail then dips down into the Valley of Desolation. Volcanic activity in Dominica has changed this once-forested area into a strange, rocky landscape of gray and gold, punctuated by grasses, mosses, and lichens. Silvery streams of varying temperatures meander through the area. I took turns dipping my muddy feet into a warm stream, then a cool one. Just a few feet away, bubbling sounds suggest I could try an even hotter water source, but it wouldn’t be a smart choice.
A flooded fumarole, the Boiling Lake appears at the end of the trail like a cauldron of bubbling gray-blue water enveloped in a veil of vapor, until a breeze comes along to blow the cloud away. Groups of hikers stop and pose for photos. Others find seats so they can enjoy lunch before heading back for three hours on the return trip. Zahir takes a photo of me, volcanic clay smeared on my face, as I stand in front of the bubbling lake. I need evidence for my concerned Dominican friend.
Most international flights to Dominica arrive in 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.
Where to stay
There are a variety of hotels in Dominica, the largest of which only has 70 rooms. Some favorites from my recent trip:
Rosalie Bay Resort. A luxury wellness retreat on the Atlantic side of the island, the resort has 28 spacious rooms to offer as your home base on Dominica. I spent countless hours on my oceanfront veranda, overlooking a black sand beach. Menu items cover Dominican favorites, as well as healthy dishes, and even include vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free choices. The beach here 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.
Secret Bay. With just four luxury villas and bungalows perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean, this resort feels like you’re really away from it all. Kitchens are stocked with favorite items from your shopping list, and you can choose to cook for yourself, or have someone do it for you. Kayak or snorkel to nearby Secret Beach for some private beach time, or watch the Caribbean change colors from your balcony.
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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