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Travel Adventure in Dominica, busy beaches in Barbados ? on a budget

We decided to make our first trip to the Caribbean, to two islands, Dominica and Barbados, each with its own allure. There was nothing to do but keep going.But as we learned, Dominica always rewards a struggle. And that's how we ended up hanging over a cliff face in Dominica.Getting dirty in DominicaA rugged, hard-to reach, self-proclaimed "nature island" dropped into the Lesser Antilles, Dominica is as far away from the all-inclusive Caribbean experience as you can get.

ROSALIE, DOMINICA ? "Are you sure this is the right way?" I asked, my leg flailing to find another crevice in the tree knots below me. Luca, my husband, responded with a grunt ? not very reassuring.

Luca and I are not exactly avid hikers or adrenaline junkies ? no skiing, surfing or bungee-jumping for us on a typical vacation. But when the urge to escape the winter grind struck, we didn't just want to relax on the beach. We also wanted some element of inspiration and adventure ? however mild. Only question: Where to go? We decided to make our first trip to the Caribbean, to two islands, Dominica and Barbados, each with its own allure.

And that's how we ended up hanging over a cliff face in Dominica.

Getting dirty in Dominica

A rugged, hard-to reach, self-proclaimed "nature island" dropped into the Lesser Antilles, Dominica is as far away from the all-inclusive Caribbean experience as you can get. Instead of bands of tranquil beaches crawling with tourists, it's covered with lush rain forest and enough trails to keep you hiking for weeks.

We were climbing down Wavine Cyrique on our first day, a vertical trail of tangled mangrove roots and improvised rope ladders. And we had, in fact, managed to lose our way. There was nothing to do but keep going.

But as we learned, Dominica always rewards a struggle. Safely reaching the bottom, we found ourselves on a scene straight out of "Pirates of the Caribbean," with a secluded black sand beach, a waterfall shooting off the cliff into the rough sea and a coconut tree swaying lazily in the breeze.

Dominica was full of small astonishments like that. After scrambling over muddy rocks and wading through rivers for an hour, we'd suddenly find ourselves faced with a powerful waterfall emptying into a basin of turquoise water ? perfect for swimming. Snorkeling, we not only enjoyed watching neon fish and sea cucumbers, but thanks to the island's volcanic activity, we were surrounded by sparkling bubbles that give the spot its name: Champagne Reef.

I couldn't have felt farther from my usual busy schedule. In the morning, we'd start the day with a refreshing jump into the river. At night, we curled up in a comfortably furnished yurt at a property called Mermaid's Secret, falling asleep to the calls of crickets and frogs.

But sometimes, as they say, you need a "vacation from the vacation." Dominica's isolated natural beauty enchanted us. But after five days of exploring, our muscles were tied up in knots and our legs were crisscrossed with scratches. Before we headed back to snow, we were still dreaming of a perfect beach day. Luckily, Barbados was next on our itinerary.

Beach on a budget

Soon, we were crammed into a white van, Luca scrunched up next to our suitcase. For one U.S. dollar, we were heading from the airport to the home of our Airbnb hosts.

We chose to visit Barbados because it was on Dominica's flight path (flights also pass through Antigua) but also because we'd heard it was relatively easy on the wallet. Its postcard-perfect beaches are free and public transportation is simple to navigate. Almost every time we stepped onto the street, a van pulled up next to us, ready to whisk us away.

At first, we were a bit dazed by the crowded beaches, overflowing with families on vacation. But thanks to the vans, with a little legwork we found perfectly secluded beaches in Barbados, too.

Juma's Restaurant, in Speightstown, was an easy favorite. Pool-calm waters, an immaculate stretch of sand and free use of lounge chairs and umbrellas make it the island's best-kept secret. On the Saturday we visited, the lounge chairs didn't even fill up. For an inexpensive lunch you can buy a sandwich for $5.

On the other side of the island, try Bottom Bay. With its dramatic cliffs and foamy waters, it was clear to see why it's popular for fashion shoots. There are no restaurants nearby, so pack a picnic, but you can buy a pina colada in a fresh coconut onsite.

Still, there's a time and place for crowds in the Caribbean. On Friday nights, tourists and locals alike descend on Oistins Fish Fry, an outdoor bazaar of restaurant shacks that fix up overflowing plates of fish, plantains and macaroni for $15. As the night went on, the music turned up, more locals joined in, and the stage became a freewheeling dance scene where everybody showed off their moves.

On our last morning, we woke with the sunrise. As we took our final dip in the warm waters before heading home to face the rest of winter, I felt satisfied that we'd accomplished our goal: the perfect introduction to the Caribbean.

"And we are definitely coming back," Luca said.

If you go

Dominica: Wavine Cyrique, located south of Rosalie. Mermaid's Secret, in Rosalie, $89-$99 a night, mermaids-secret.co.uk. Champagne Reef Dive & Snorkel: champagnereef.com

Barbados: Juma's Restaurant, No. 2 West End, Queen Street, Speightstown, jumasrestaurant.com. Oistins Fish Fry: barbados.org/oistins-fish-fry.htm

The Denver Post
20/02
3 Points
1

People ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’ begins production in Australia 

Related Stories Johnny Depp, Amber Heard marry again on actor's island .
Peter Mountain/AP Johnny Depp will return to his famous role as Captain Jack Sparrow

Ahoy Matey!

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," begun production in Queensland, Australia Tuesday.

Johnny Depp will return to his famous role as Captain Jack Sparrow, and will be a target for the movie's villain Captain Salazar, played by Javier Bardem.

Orlando Bloom will return for the fifth film, after skipping out on the last move, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."

Bloom will keep his role as Will Turner and is rumored to have a big part in the newest movie.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" is slated to take sail July 7, 2017.

Related Stories Johnny Depp, Amber Heard marry again on actor's island
Daily News
18/02
2 Points

Travel Headed to Caribbean? What to know about mosquito virus there

A blood test can confirm infection.HOW IS IT TREATED. About a dozen people are thought to have caught the virus in Florida.HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE IT. Chikungunya (chih-kihn-GOON'-yuh) causes fever and agonizing joint pain that can last for months.Some things to know:WHERE IT'S FOUNDChikungunya spread from Asia and Africa in late 2013 to the Caribbean, Latin America and parts of South America and Mexico. Symptoms usually start three to seven days after the mosquito bite.

Vacationing in the Caribbean? Thousands of travelers have caught a virus spread by mosquitoes that has recently taken hold in the region. Chikungunya (chih-kihn-GOON'-yuh) causes fever and agonizing joint pain that can last for months.

Some things to know:

WHERE IT'S FOUND

Chikungunya spread from Asia and Africa in late 2013 to the Caribbean, Latin America and parts of South America and Mexico. It's in at least two dozen countries and territories in the Western Hemisphere now. About a dozen people are thought to have caught the virus in Florida.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE IT?

Symptoms can include fever, a rash, joint pain mostly in the arms and legs, headache, muscle pain and back pain. Symptoms usually start three to seven days after the mosquito bite. A blood test can confirm infection.

HOW IS IT TREATED?

Mostly people are given medicines for pain, which can be severe enough to lead to hospitalization. The virus was first discovered in Africa in the 1950s and the name chikungunya comes from a word that means to become contorted, describing the stooped look of its victims.

CAN IT BE PREVENTED?

There is no vaccine, so prevention is mostly avoiding being bitten. Use bug repellent with plenty of the active ingredient ? many experts recommend DEET. Keep arms and legs covered.

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Online:

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/

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Marilynn Marchione can be followed at http://twitter.com/MMarchioneAP

The Denver Post
07/02
2 Points
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