Review of Fort Young Hotel & Dive Resort, Dominica
Welcome to Dominica. They call this verdant slice of the Caribbean the ‘nature island’ for its wild coastline and lush jungle interior – and there’s no better base for exploring under its waves and up its remote hillsides than Fort Young Hotel and Dive Resort, an old coastal defence turned elegant hotel and diving hub that perches on the seafront in the town of Roseau.
Ready to unpack your bags? Rooms at Fort Young are pleasingly simple, in cool tones of white and blue and all with big, uninterrupted views of the sea (and sadly, of the occasional ugly cruise ship docking at the port next door) and balconies for watching the maritime world go by. At night, the sound of the waves makes for a lulling bedtime soundtrack. Go exploring to seek out the cosy Palisades restaurant clad in dark wood upstairs, and downstairs there’s a breezy bar and, right on the waterfront, a wide infinity pool and hot tub looking out to sea.
This is a building with history – the Fort Young Hotel sits on a site where a rough wooden fort was built by the French in 1800s. In 1761, British forces took over this fort when they captured the island, and nine years later, construction began on Fort Young, named after the island’s first British Governor. The white-painted building still feels rather old-worldy, and I liked that although the hotel is quiet and peaceful, you’re right in the heart of things, with the bustling, pastel-painted streets of the town of Roseau on your doorstep. I loved buzzy Roseau, Dominica’s vibrant capital, where you can walk among packed craft markets, a sweep of green botanical garden and fast food joints selling tempting Jamaican patties and then end up at the Hi-Rise, a beach bar painted all the colours of the rainbow where the owner made us her signature – and incredibly potent – rum punch. Roseau, and the entire island of Dominica, suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Maria in 2017 – visiting this friendly island and choosing local guides, buying crafts and visiting community-run businesses is a good way to help Dominica recover.
As you may have guessed from the name, Fort Young’s crowning glory is its dive centre. Here, friendly on-site staff can kit you out and pop you on a boat headed to enticingly-named dive sites such as Champagne Reef. I’ve dived lots of times before, but post-Covid I could barely remember which way to put my BCD on, so I loved having Bradley, surely the most chill dive instructor in the world, take me back underwater (and take my friend Mary on her very first dive, which she loved). After anchoring alongside pristine green cliffs, we sank ungracefully under the water and went flipper-ing our way past delicate coral where spindly sea spiders watched us inquisitively and rainbow-scaled parrot fish flitted by. Magical.
Fort Young can also organise days out exploring the island. Dominica is often nicknamed the ‘nature island’, and feels wonderfully wild. Hiking, rafting, boiling lakes and so many waterfalls that you could visit a new one every day for a year means there’s a lot to explore. Our wonderful guide and font of knowledge took us for a swim in the deep narrow chasm of Titou Gorge, tucked between two soaring walls of rock, a semi-subterranean river that ends in a rushing waterfall. Then we chilled out at one of Dominica’s incredible thermal baths.
The island has natural hot springs that , and multiple pocket-friendly, family-run little gardens are scattered around the hamlet of Wotton Waven. We tried Ti Kwen Glo Cho (entry is just $10) where you’ll find steaming hot sulphur pools, ice-cold showers and little mud pools where you can while away an hour or two soaking up the calm, surrounded by tropical x and the smell of hibiscus. It’s the perfect tonic before you head back down winding mountain roads to the coast and a warm welcome back at Fort Young.