Between the crystal blue water, dense foliage, and sweeping waterfalls, Dominica has rightfully earned its nickname the Nature Island. Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic (which shares Hispaniola with Haiti), Dominica is just a stone’s throw from Martinique -- and is accessible from the French island without an added airport transfer -- offering the opportunity for an adventurous, inexpensive stop on your Caribbean itinerary.
Skip the plane and catch the air-conditioned Express des lles ferry, which sails direct from Martinique to Roseau, Dominica in just two hours. Book in advance online and double check specified dates, as the boat schedule is subject to change. A one-way ticket starts at $40 Eastern Caribbean Dollars (XCD), equivalent to approximately $55 USD.
Roseau is a great home base for a few days on the island. A 40-acre botanic garden, dozens of authentic local restaurants, and riverfront markets are all within a 20-minute walk. Stay at the centrally located St. James Guesthouse, where breakfast is served every morning by the owner, Phil, and rooms start around $55 USD.
The Bayfront Ferry Terminal and bus stations are also within walking distance and provide easy, inexpensive transport to other points of interest on the island. Driving oneself is not recommended.
For about $3 to $4 XCD ($1 to $1.50 USD), you can take the bus to Trafalgar Falls -- twin waterfalls that stand at about 125 feet and 75 feet, respectively. Unless you pay a taxi to wait for you, be prepared to trek a little less than two hours downhill to get back into town. Break up the journey with a stop at Tia’s Bamboo Cottages, and take a dip in each of the three sulfur pools to relax sore muscles from the climb up to the falls.
Movie buffs can cross famous film locations off their bucket list after swimming at Hampstead Beach or taking a boat ride down Indian River, which is where Pirates of the Caribbean’s "Dead Man's Chest" and "At World's End" were respectively shot.
Before leaving the island, hire a driver (about $40 XCD, or $15 USD per person) for quick jaunts around Roseau. Champagne Beach offers snorkelers miles of effervescent water that, underwater, looks like the fizz in a bottle of bubbly. Hike at Scott’s Head, a corner of land where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, for a panoramic views atop a mountain; and end the day at Bubble Beach Spa, where you can sit in tiny, heated gurgles that rise from two quarantined areas near the black volcanic beach’s shore (the beach is public so the owner accepts donations to maintain his area). All of these sites are free and can all be experienced in one day.