Dominica: Swim In Champagne Bubbles (But Not The Boiling Lake Please)

Nicknamed The Nature Island, the Commonwealth of Dominica is home to some unusually bubbly places.

Sure, this eastern Caribbean island—it sits between Martinique and Guadeloupe—has gorgeous beaches, lush forests, dramatic volcanic peaks and rushing waterfalls, as well as some of the best scuba diving in the entire Caribbean. But thanks to its volcanic origins, Dominica also has unusual sites like a reef that bubbles, a hot pool in the ocean, as well as a boiling lake.

Champagne Reef

Beneath the ocean floor off Dominica’s southwest coast are volcanic thermal springs that release tiny champagne-like bubbles into the sea. It’s no surprise it’s named Champagne Reef.

You can snorkel and scuba dive here and the closer you get to the streams of bubbles, the warmer the water gets. Oceanic animals aren’t the biggest fans of the warm water, but the reef right next to where the gas bubbles are released is vibrant with barrel sponges, anemones, hard and soft corals, lots of colorful fish, and even the occasional Hawksbill turtle.

The sand on Champagne Beach is black from lava, and you can access the reef from shore. There’s even a rubber mat to make walking in easier, whether just with snorkel and mask or lugging a dive tank too. The reef is within Soufriere Scotts Head Marine Reserve, one of Dominica’s two marine reserves and three national parks. It’s best to visit on a day when cruise ships are not in Dominica’s port.

Bubble Beach Spa

Under ten minutes by car from Champagne Beach, in the village of Soufriere, is another unusually bubbly place—a saltwater hot pool called Bubble Beach Spa.

Here, in the shallow area next to the beach, hot spring water is released into the ocean. Directly at the vents, the water is almost too hot to enjoy, so Dale Mitchell created a “natural jacuzzi” by adding sand bags and rocks to create a larger pool that mixes cooler sea water with the hot spring water. There’s no charge to use the hot springs, but it’s kind to buy something from the concession stand or leave a donation for upkeep.

Bubble Beach Spa is a little like New Zealand’s Hot Water Beach, although Bubble Beach is best at high tide while Hot Water Beach is a low tide experience. In the former, you can soak in the warm water while enjoying the views of Scotts Head and the Cachacrou Peninsula out to sea. The peninsula, also called a tied island, is at Dominica’s south end—it’s an extremely narrow tombolo (a spit) that connects the pinnacle of an ancient volcano to the main island at the village of Scotts Head.

World’s second largest boiling lake

Atop one of Dominica’s nine volcanoes, in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, is a lake so hot it boils. Clearly, this is not a lake for swimming (though there are swimmable hot springs all over Dominica). It’s the second-largest boiling lake in the world, after Frying Pan Lake near Rotorua, New Zealand.

Boiling Lake is often covered in shrouds of vapor that make for intriguing photos. A three-to-four-hour hike, beginning in the village of Laudat, will get you there. Before you go, check local information—occasionally the lake’s water levels drop and then it might not be safe to be near it.

Getting to Dominica

Fly to Dominica from the U.S., Canada and Europe through Caribbean hubs like Antigua, Barbados, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, St. Maarten and Puerto Rico. English is Dominica’s official language and the currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (though U.S. dollars, Euros and British pounds are also accepted). As of August 2022, the previous requirements for pre-arrival Covid testing and testing of symptomatic passengers on arrival have been lifted.

Key events in Dominica include October’s World Creole Music Festival, November’s independence celebrations, Carnival in February, and Dive Fest in July. Whenever you visit Dominica, keep in mind that whales and dolphins swim off Dominica’s south shore year round, so you just might see some of their bubbles too.

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