We are (possibly) planning a trip to Dominica (or Anguilla) in 2014. Still trying to work out the logisitics of getting there - at this stage in the game I'm gathering that flying into SXM is our best bet and then a regional flight to Dominica.
I have no idea what area on the island to start looking in terms of lodging. We aren't into large resorts or high end lodging. We like clean, safe, cozy and spend most of our time outdoors. We would like to avoid "hotel zones" if there is a such thing there, but ideally we'd like lodging where we can cook our own meals, and also be near other restaurants we can drive to if we feel like going out to eat, and not too far from the beach - somewhere we can wade and snorkel. Not sure if this is feasible given the logistics of the island, everything seems so spread out. In Arenal, Costa Rica we were limited to resort food because the nearest restaurant was a 45 minute drive. Eek. Just my observation and correct me if I'm wrong - even the higher end resorts on Dominica seem to offer only a continental breakfast and everything else is ala carte. This seems silly to me given that there are no other restaurants or food sources nearby. ??? Perhaps all inclusive gives the impression of 'Americanized hotel zones', who knows.
Lodging near a beach would be ideal, but I won't rule out anything else with a fantastic view thats near other activities...restaurants, grocery stores, etc. We like activities - hiking, water sports (is the water here cold and deep or are there shallow areas ideal for snorkeling? - we love the warm waters of Cozumel, but I'm expecting that won't be the case here?), and we love exploring on our own, but don't want to spend all our time driving to and from attractions, that takes away from the relaxing experience, so being in close proximity to activities is ideal. A few days driving longer distances to attractions would be fine.
I get the impression this isn't really a beach destination per se, but rather a tropical destination with lots to explore. Please chime in with your thoughts.
We've been to Cozumel (fun and easy to explore), Nevis (nice, but not sure I'd go back), Roatan (stunningly beautiful, but sand fleas were atrocious), Ambergris Caye Belize (our favorite vacation was Belize in a secluded part of the island where we laid on the most beautiful beach in the world all week - a wind-down vacation), Costa Rica (Arenal and Manuel Antonio, beautiful and tropical but very spread out) and Bonaire (aside from the diving, ICKY arid rocky island!!! Never to return). Most of all, we try to avoid tourist traps and Americanized destinations, we love off the beaten path, local culture and local foods.
We are also divers, so a day or two of diving would be nice.
Other islands on our "must see" list are Vieques (also in 2014), and Anguilla at some point in the future, primarily beach destinations.
We usually rent a vehicle, but I'm on the fence and open to suggestions. We drove in Costa Rica and the roads have steep cliffs and winding narrow roads - I was on the edge of my seat but I'm not the one driving. So be it. I just don't want to be trapped in the same place all week, but also don't want to fork out a fortune or be limited to guides for the entire week. We prefer exploring on our own vs. paid excursions and we avoid tourist traps.
I don't even know where to start. I've researched some areas with beautiful bays, but the lodging I've found is atrociously expensive. We'd be fine spending up to $200/night for lodging. I've also seen some other jungle lodging that looked nice, but I don't know if I want to be in the shade all week - I think I'd feel like we were camping or something. I want sunshine.
If you could give me an idea of the general feel of the island, the different areas and what to expect, it would help.