Curious about the north coast of Dominica (and hankering for some chocolate), we headed west from our accommodation towards Penville. The prior day had been overcast, rainy, and blustery, so we were looking for something to do that didn’t rely on blue skies and calm seas.
From Portsmouth, if you drive north you’ll soon get to a fork in the road. If you turn left, you’ll find yourself in Cabrits National Park. Not our destination today. Turn right to stay on Bay Street and drive past the Cabrits Resort and Spa Kempinski (or, if you’re willing and able to spend at least US$500 per night, maybe you’re beginning your journey from here). Bay Street follows along picturesque Douglas Bay and then curves right to climb uphill. Follow signs to Penville, which lies on the other side of the mountains.
As you climb, you’ll see Mango Garden Cottages on the left. That’s where we stayed. You may see goats trimming grasses along the road. The road climbs through rainforest and past scenic views of the sea to the left.
The first site on our route was Cold Soufriere. This is a sulphur spring, but with cold water rather than the hot water found further south in Dominica. We had thought we would check it out, but it is at a high enough elevation that the weather there was cold and uncomfortable. We decided to stay in the car and keep driving.
As you start to head downhill on the other side of the mountains, the views of the ocean open up. It’s magnificent!
You’ll drive past farms on winding roads descending to Penville. When we drove through the area we saw lots of political signage for the upcoming election – all of it painted on walls at businesses.
Our destination was the trail to Bwa Nef waterfall. It’s on Google maps, but there was no telling how easy it would be to find and to hike. Fortunately, just to the south of Penville, you’ll find a sign and a convenient area to park along the road.
I realized that I only had my flip flops and water shoes, so I chose the water shoes and wondered how that would work on a trail through the jungle. Fortunately, the trail was decent and I wound up grateful for the water shoes as I walked right into the creek whenever the trail crossed it.
While hiking we enjoyed tropical flowers, banana trees, and adorable lizards and land crabs.
After hiking a relatively gentle 0.4 miles, we came to a point in the trail where it seemed to end at the creek. We walked through the creek and climbed past a few rocks, hearing a roar of water ahead, and all of the sudden the waterfall was ahead of us.
Along with the waterfall, water seeps out of the rocks alongside. It’s as if Mother Earth is determined to get you wet! This is the moment when I decided that, because I had my bikini on under my clothes, I didn’t care that I’m an overweight pale old lady and stripped down to get into the water.
Fortunately, this isn’t a popular hike and we had the place to ourselves.
After visiting the falls we made our way to Calibishie on the north coast of Dominica. The drive is fairly simple, but keep an eye on the map so you don’t accidentally get on the road back to Portsmouth.
We stopped for lunch at the Coral Reef Bar and Restaurant, which provided a decent Dominican meal with a lovely beachside setting.
Next stop: Pointe Baptiste Chocolate Factory! We had bought some local chocolate while in Soufriere and were curious to learn more about it. So, we made our way to the “factory”, which is a couple of small buildings and just a few parking spots. As soon as we showed up we joined another couple for a “tour”.
Our first stop on the tour was a cocoa tree and pile of cocoa bean pods.
We then saw the sheltered area where the beans are fermented and dried.
The tour then moved to the building where the chocolate is made. It all seems like magic to me, but I learned that cocoa nibs are tasty and this factory pours each bar by hand.
Of course, the final stop on the tour is a tasting and then the opportunity to purchase some chocolate. This producer adds flavors to their chocolate, so you can get ginger, spiced, mint, lemongrass, and other varieties. They also offer rum truffles, which are delicious and smooth!
Our final stop on our road trip was at Red Rocks, which is near the chocolate factory. At the entrance to Red Rocks, where you will find several parking places, is a little restaurant and bar.
There is a $2 fee to walk out to Red Rocks. Well worth the fee and helps support trail maintenance.
A short trail takes you to the red rocks, which reach the sea. Here the Atlantic meets the Caribbean. Unlike the calm waters on the west side of Dominica, the ocean here is often more furious and dramatic.
Take care, but do explore and enjoy the views.
Make sure to head back to Portsmouth before dark, as the roads can be a challenge.