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Dominica Essentials

Where to Eat
waterfront restaurant fort young hotel dominicaDominica's Creole-influenced cuisine relies on locally sourced fish, chicken, fruits and vegetables. One meal you'll see on nearly every menu (and one that's a reliable option for travelers on a budget) is stewed chicken, rice, beans and provision (a local root vegetable); it's often called the "chicken lunch" or "local lunch." You can find it everywhere from nicer restaurants to roadside food stands. During quieter times of the year, many restaurants may only open for dinner by appointment -- call or stop by ahead of time to be sure.

For an authentic Dominican meal set in the middle of the rain forest, Papillote is not to be missed. A restaurant, guesthouse and gift store are located at the head of the Roseau River Valley, just yards from the trail to Trafalgar Falls. The restaurant features fish specials as well as local specialties like callalou soup. Try the soup with the "local lunch," which changes each day but always features island-sourced fruits and vegetables, like dasheen and plantain as sides. The freshly squeezed juices are delicious.

For fine dining overlooking the sea, try the Waterfront Restaurant at the Fort Young Hotel in Roseau. The Creole-influenced cuisine emphasizes fresh seafood and local vegetables, but you'll also find imports such as steak.

In Roseau there are several excellent restaurants offering local Creole cuisine. Among them are Guiyave and Pearl's Cuisine. Both offer freshly caught fish prepared in Creole style and delicious fruit and vegetable juices.

For cheap eats in the Portsmouth area, try the laid-back Purple Turtle Beach Club. The view at this beach-front bar and restaurant is fantastic, the food less so (though the chicken lunch special was tasty enough and quite affordable).

If you need a change from stewed chicken and rice, check out the Asian fusion offerings at Escape Beach Bar & Grill -- part of the Red Rock Haven Hotel near Calibishie. The restaurant overlooks Pointe Baptiste Beach and offers dishes like seared tuna over wasabi mashed potatoes.

Where to Stay
beau rive hammock guesthouse dominicaIf you're looking for familiar chains or splashy mega-resorts, choose another island. Dominica's accommodations largely consist of small guesthouses, cottages, rain forest lodges and independent hotels. Because of the lack of mass tourism, rates here are extremely affordable. When choosing where to stay, keep in mind that getting around this small island can be more time-consuming than you'd expect (roads are narrow, mountainous and often riddled with potholes). To save time, book a stay close to the attractions you most want to visit.

Guests at the Papillote Wilderness Retreat can bathe in mineral pools, wander through vibrant tropical gardens and enjoy a location just down the road from one of Dominica's most popular waterfalls (Trafalgar). Rooms offer rain forest views and are enlivened with colorful flowers from Papillote's gardens. The on-site restaurant offers excellent local lunches and fresh-squeezed tropical juices.

In Roseau, the 71-room Fort Young Hotel overlooks the waterfront and incorporates the remains of an 18th-century fort (built by the French and overtaken by the British). On-site amenities include a gym, a spa, a swimming pool, a business center and duty-free shops. The hotel works with local tour operators to organize snorkeling and diving trips, whale watching excursions, and adventure trips to the island's most popular attractions.

Comfortel de Champ is a basic but comfortable option in the Portsmouth area, overlooking Prince Rupert Bay. (Enjoy a drink and a fantastic sunset nightly at the bar.) Nice perks include free Wi-Fi throughout the building and mini-fridges in each of the five rooms. The owners have adopted several eco-friendly practices such as solar panels and rain water collection.

You'll find a veranda with sweeping ocean views in each of the 10 guestrooms at Beau Rive, located in the densely forested hills of the island's east coast. Eco-friendly policies are emphasized here, including solar-heated hot water, locally sourced ingredients in the restaurant and chemical-free compost in the garden. Children under 16 are not permitted at Beau Rive.

Serious hikers won't find a better location than Roxy's Mountain Lodge, which offers easy access to the Boiling Lake, Middleham Falls, Titou Gorge and Freshwater Lake hiking trails. Rooms are rustic but clean, and most look out over a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and rain forest. Breakfast and dinner are available here for an extra fee; the kitchen will also pack bag lunches for hikers.

Where to Shop
dominica cruise ship roseau coastline caribbean sea mountainsShopping opportunities on Dominica are fairly limited. Your best bet is downtown Roseau, which offers a local fruit and vegetable market that many say is the best in the Caribbean, as well as local arts and crafts stalls in the Old Market Plaza. There are also several duty-free shops here, such as Cocorico and Jewellers International (the latter is at the Fort Young Hotel).

For handmade crafts, head to the Carib Territory, where you can find locally made baskets, pottery, and artwork made from coconuts and calabash gourds.

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    --written by Amanda Orr and Sarah Schlichter

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