To describe Dominica to the king and queen of Spain, Christopher Columbus reportedly crumpled a piece of parchment into a ball: The folds and creases illustrated the island's steep mountains (and created one of the first documented three-dimensional maps).

But his model did little to communicate the island's other wonders: Hundreds of fast-running streams plunge through its thick tropical forests, and rare birds and animals flit through the greenery. Offshore, steep underwater cliffs play host to colorful coral, sponges and fish. Best of all, most of these attractions are in pristine condition. Even after recent attempts to increase the number of visitors to the island, Dominica (pronounced dom-in-EE-kah) is one of the most underdeveloped islands in the region. In fact, over the years, Dominicans have debated whether to return to the pre-Columbian, Kalinago name Waitukubuli, meaning "tall is her body."

The lack of the usual travel amenities—large resorts, museums, shopping, nightlife—means that travelers seeking a typical Caribbean getaway may want to steer clear of Dominica. But those who love nature and don't mind roughing it in tropical wilderness will find the island to be pure paradise. People go to Dominica to catch a glimpse of a rare bird, to spend the day hiking through dense forests, and to dive and snorkel in remarkably clear waters. It's little wonder that it has become one of the primary ecotourism destinations in the Caribbean.

Note: Dominica was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Full recovery will take years, though much progress has already been made. Roads and bridges have reopened, but some of the more remote hiking paths are still closed. Travelers should investigate current conditions prior to planning a visit.

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