Dominica rises high from the Eastern Caribbean.

Dominica has stolen our hearts. 

In our travels, we have visited at least 15 Caribbean islands – each beautiful in its own way. But Dominica blew us away with its stunning and relatively unspoiled natural beauty, colorful and festive Creole culture, and laid-back,  friendly people. Dominica is a real gem, but it’s one that many tourists haven’t discovered yet (shhh!).

Dominica Factoids
Eastern Caribbean map showing Dominica
Dominica is halfway down the Windward Island chain between Guadaloupe and Martinique.

It’s pronounced Dom-in-EE-ka, and it’s probably not the place you’re thinking of. Like most people, we confused Dominica with the much-more-touristed Dominican Republican when we first heard of it. But Dominica is a world unto itself, a much smaller island situated in the eastern Caribbean south of Guadeloupe and north of Martinique.

It’s called the Nature Island for a reason. Dominica is a very mountainous and rugged island with 9 semi-active volcanos, natural hot springs, tropical rainforests, too many gorgeous waterfalls to count, and a river for every day of the year (over 365). There are spectacular and panoramic vistas around every bend. Overall, Dominica has an unspoiled “Jurassic Park” aura that kept us flashing back to our visits to Kauai, Hawaii – especially the more remote and less-traveled corners.

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica
The twin Trafalgar Falls, with Father Falls to the left and Mother Falls to the right

It’s off the tourist radar. With a population of only 70,000, Dominica has no highways or traffic signals, no fast food chains (except for one KFC in the capital, Roseau), and no high-rise resorts. The island does receive up to 200 cruise ships a year, but the season was over by the time we got there (early June) and things were blissfully quiet. We encountered very few other tourists. Bonus: Dominica is one of the least expensive Caribbean destinations we’ve visited, so far.

Dominica: Kalinago Territory
Kalinago dancers (photo by Discover Dominica)

Its culture is unique in the Caribbean.  Although Christopher Columbus “discovered” Dominica in 1493, naming it for the day of the week (Sunday) on which he first sighted the island, Dominica’s human history dates back much further. Inhabited by humans since at least the 5th century, the island was dominated by the Kalinago people by the time Columbus showed up – and they put up such a fierce resistance that Dominica was one of the last of the Caribbean islands to be colonized by Europeans. The majority of today’s Dominicans descend from enslaved Africans brought over to work the plantations in the 1700s, but the Kalinago still exist. In fact, they’re the only community in the entire Caribbean directly descended from pre-Columbian indigenous people. Here’s an interesting article about the Kalinago and their relationship with Dominica’s forest resources.

Dominicans are survivors and innovators. Dominica was dealt a devastating blow by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The island was almost completely stripped of its lush vegetation, and almost 90% of its housing was destroyed. Even now, almost six years later, we saw evidence of the disaster everywhere – but we also saw shiny new houses, businesses, and public buildings. Flying in past the treetops, we saw plenty of thick jungle growth, with a few bare tree trunks poking out as a reminder of just how much the island lost. Since Maria, the people and government of Dominica have been working together to create the world’s first climate-resilient nation, capable of prospering despite a new era of storms made worse by climate change. Dominicans know that there will be more Marias, possibly even more devastating, but they are determined to survive and thrive.

We just returned from almost two weeks on Dominica. Here are our highlights and tips. And since we’re already planning a return trip, we’re using this as a place to list our “must dos” next time! (Usual note: Photos are in galleries – just click through to see bigger versions.)

Take a hike

There are hundreds of hiking trails on Dominica, but the grandest is the Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT) – the longest hiking trail in the Caribbean at 155 miles. The WNT consists of 14 segments and runs the length of the island from Scott’s Head in the south to Cabrits National Park in the north. Although we did plenty of hiking, we didn’t attempt the WNT this time (perhaps we’ll try a segment or two on our next visit). It’s not for the faint of heart; in fact, lingering hurricane damage can make the WNT pretty hazardous without a guide.

Swim underneath a waterfall (or three)

There are too many waterfalls to count on Dominica. If you only have time for a few, make sure you visit Emerald Pool, Trafalgar Falls, Salton Waterfall, and Spanny Falls. All four are east to reach over short, well-groomed walking trails.

Jump into a canyon

Full disclosure: We are a couple of 60-somethings in decent shape and reasonably active. We are neither extreme sports nuts nor athletes, so we never imagined we’d be capable of rappelling down four different sheer rock faces and jumping from heights up to 20 feet into natural waterfall-fed pools. But that’s exactly what we did with Extreme Dominica on an expedition they call The Canyon Experience. This is a LITERAL ropes course, where you push yourself to do things you didn’t think you were capable of. It was an absolute blast, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat!

Tips: Good closed-toed water shoes that keep out gravel, yet let the water flow through, are a MUST for this canyoneering experience (My Columbia water shoes and John’s Keen sandals were ideal). If you want to take pictures, bring along a waterproof clear plastic case for your phone with a lanyard. Extreme Dominica provides wet suits, life vests, helmets, and climbing harnesses and conducts a brief training session at their headquarters before heading out to the canyon. They promise all ages and experience levels can do this trek, and we’re perfect examples!

Here’s a video of our first rappel (trust me, I was a lot more terrified than I look!). What it doesn’t show is the drop of at least 40 feet below me.

 

Beachcomb

Our favorite beaches were Mero Beach on the west side, Black Beach near Red Rocks, and Batibou Beach on the north side. Since we were staying an easy walk from Mero, we went there often – and it has some of the calmest, clearest water for swimming we’ve ever experienced at a beach. Heavenly.

 

Dive dive dive

Scuba diver swimming Champagne Reef
Champagne Reef (photo by Discover Dominica)

We had a great morning of diving with Dive Dominica off Champagne Reef. We did two hour-long dives, one over a rich forest of sponges and the other a bit closer to shore, with a wall covered in coral and an abundance of other sea life. The visibility was at least 60 feet – amazing!

We did not get to snorkel over the famous fumeroles (volcanic steam vents) that give Champagne Reef its name, with gas and steam bubbling up from the bottom. Next time!

Have a relaxing resort day

On Dominica, even the fanciest resorts offer day passes as a way of generating extra revenue – especially in the off season. After researching the different options, we chose day passes at the Rosalie Bay, a beautiful resort on Dominca’s eastern shore. We paid about $80 US apiece, which included pool access, a three-course lunch, three cocktails (or mocktails), and a massage for John and pedicure for me. It was a much-needed day of pampering! Other resorts that offer day passes are the Pagua Bay House and the Fort Young Hotel.

Rosalie Bay Resort Dominica
The beautiful grounds at Rosalie Bay Resort
The beach at Rosalie Bay. It’s on the east (windward) side, so it’s too rough for swimming.

Getting there/Getting around

Currently, only American offers direct flights from the U.S. to Dominica from Miami (it takes about three hours). There are no direct flights from Europe, but the island is served by several Caribbean airlines. Landing in Dominica is an interesting experience, since the runway’s located in a rather deep valley (you see nothing but jungle vegetation right until the wheels hit the ground!).

There is a direct inter-island ferry service linking Dominica to Guadeloupe, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, and other nearby islands. It’s an inexpensive option for us to consider for our return trip . . .

The best way to see Dominica is to rent a car (taxis are super-expensive and there are no ride-sharing services). We were very happy with the service we got from Courtesy Car Rental; they even came late in the evening to swap our car for another after we experienced a problem with a tailgate that wouldn’t stay shut. We’ll definitely use Courtesy again.

One more interesting thing about driving – especially for us “yanks”: The cars are righthand drive on the left side of the road. As our Brit friends said, we were finally driving on the “right” (correct) side! Not only was this our first experience with right drive, but the winding and narrow roads of Dominica (in various states of repair) made things extra interesting. Be sure and use your horn on blind curves, and watch out for steep drops on the lefthand edge of the pavement.

Where to Stay

There are all types of accommodations on Dominica, but short-term apartment rentals are especially common. We opted to go mid-range as usual, renting a spacious apartment overlooking Mero Beach from Caribbean Sea View Holiday Apartments. With a full kitchen, we were able to save money by making our own breakfast and a few simple dinners. Perched high on the hill above the beach, the apartment afforded spectacular views – especially at sunset. And the on-site host, Ellie, was incredibly helpful and responsive, even letting us do laundry at one point. We will be staying there on our next visit!

Where to Eat 

Our favorite dining experiences included Chez Wen Cuisine at Scott’s Head (try the curry shrimp!), Indee’s Beach Bar on Mero Beach (chat up the friendly owner, Indira), the River Rock Cafe nearTrafalgar Falls (the kind owner re-opened the kitchen just to make us lunch), Lacou Melrose House in downtown Roseau, and the Pagua Bay Bar and Grill.

Lacou Melrose House restaurant at Dominica
The art-filled Lacou Melrose House restaurant in downtown Roseau, Dominica’s capital City. Lacou serves up fantastic food in a historic planter’s mansion, one of the oldest still standing in Roseau.

Other Tips

  • Discover Dominica, the official tourism site, is a great information source.
  • A weekly park pass offers discounted entry into several points of interest. They’re available at all sites administered by the Dominica parks department (we bought ours at Cabrits National Park). More info here.
  • Here’s a list of organized tours in Dominica.
  • Unlike Puerto Rico, our previous Caribbean destination, you’ll find WiFi everywhere on Dominica (we didn’t bother getting SIM cards). US dollars are accepted, but the local currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar  (XCD).
  • Whale watching: Dominica is the only country in the world where the sperm whale resides all year long, and several tour companies offer boat expeditions to see these huge beauties (including our dive operator, Dive Dominica). In fact, during prime whale-watching season, your chances of sighting whales are 90%. We couldn’t fit it in this trip, but it’s definitely on our list for next time.
  • Two more experiences on the docket for next time: Visiting a hot springs at Wotten Waven, and visiting the famous Boiling Lake.

    The Boiling Lake Dominica
    The Boiling Lake (photo by Discover Dominica)

We’re already planning our return trip to Dominica! Next: Back to Brazil

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47 Comments

  1. Great article guys! I have to admit to knowing little to nothing about Dominica except it always showed up on the map when I was tracking hurricanes Irma & Jose! What a beautiful island and you packed so much in! Thanks for sharing, we’d love to visit there one day.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Gracias, amiga! Dominica really is a special place. It does seem to be in a hurricane bullseye, though. Hope you two can visit someday!

  2. Oh my goodness!! Who would know??
    Thanks for wonderful posting! I will send John info about John Patterson later.
    Have fun in Brazil!!! Janis 🇺🇸❤️🇺🇸

    • Another enticing place to add to our Future Trips list based on your great descriptions. Thanks for such a detailed article. It should make the island’s tourism department day!

      • John and Susan Pazera Reply

        Thanks so much, Annie! Maybe we should send the tourism department a bill (kidding) 🙂 But we did send them a link to this. Have a great day!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Janis! Have a lovely 4th 🙂

  3. It looks amazing! So much to do from hiking and canyoning to diving! I may have to look into it. Do you follow Beth Bankhead on WP or IG? She is posting about her recent dive trip to Dominica. Maggie

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Maggie! I just found Beth Bankhead’s blog. She’s got a lot of great posts about Dominica. We’ll definitely refer to this when we plan our return trip. We’re loving your posts about the ‘Stans!

  4. Dominica just seems so far from where I live. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, so it’s nice to see this beautiful Caribbean island through your eyes. What’s also great is the amount of time you spent on the island — it shows how much you enjoyed this place!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Bama! Now that we’re dog free we’re able to spend more time traveling. It’s such a gift!

  5. I’ve vaguely heard of Dominica, and I’d also confused it for the Dominican Republic. Certainly a lush spot on such a small island, and you truly made the most of it! Some of the activities you partook in look extreme (even for a *younger* person like myself), but you went for it, and it really paid off in the end!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Rebecca! The canyoneering was a great experience, although I’m not sure we’d do it again (ha!). Have a great day!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Rebecca – have a great day!

  6. Interesting stuff all round, guys. We nearly went here last winter but in the end opted for Jamaica instead. Sounds absolutely gorgeous…we may get there one day, who knows. Dominica sounds like it has a lot to offer.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, hungry ones 🙂 How did you like Jamaica? And where are you now, still in France?

  7. Great guide to this beautiful island! Looks like there is no end to things to do and views to enjoy! Putting this on my list of places I want to see 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      It really is a special place, with so much to do and such an interesting history. Hope you can visit someday!

  8. Oh this sounds fabulous in so many ways. You’ve convinced me I must get there one day. And that canyon experience! A big yes from me!
    This is a great guide to a (fortunately) not so well-known place.
    Alison

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Alison! Hope you can visit Dominica someday. All the best to you and Don!

  9. Fantastic article with lots of great information. We have only visited Tobago, in the Caribbean. We loved it so much we have been there about 3 or 4 times. I would love to visit this island, sounds awesome. When is the best time to visit?

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Gilda! Tobago, hmm? So many Caribbean islands, so little time! We were on Dominica in early June, which seemed ideal – the cruise season had just ended, so no more cruise ships. We basically had the island to ourselves. The weather was great with only a little rain, and it was before hurricane season really got going.

      On another note, Oí from Búzios!

  10. That sounds lovely in every way. Guess we need to add it to our bucket list. Barbados is nice too and not far from Dominica.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Nancy! Barbados is also on our list – we have a friend there who used to live in Panama when we were there. So many islands, so little time 🙂

  11. I was lucky enough to serve in the Peace Corps in Dominica for two years. You hit so many of my favorite places. It’s truly a gem! Thanks for sharing. I definitely recommend the hot springs-Screws being my favorite. And the hike around fresh water lake. Fantastic views of both oceans

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi – and apologies! I thought I had replied to your comment, but no . . . sorry. I bet serving in the Peace Corp on Dominica was an amazing experience. We will definitely partake of the hot springs when we go back. We drove up to Freshwater Lake, but it was completely socked in with fog that day. Another adventure for next time! And thanks for reading our blog 🙂

  12. I always thought Dominica was less popular than other Caribbean islands, because it didn’t have (attractive) beaches. You proved me wrong there. Unless Mero Beach was handmade and a recent addition to the island.

    Dominica has a lot to offer. We never confused it with the Dominican Republic (a mix-up the Dominicans hate), because we’d sailed there before sailing here. 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Liesbet! Dominica doesn’t have a ton of sand beaches, but the ones it does have are pretty special. My favorite was Batibou. Swimming in the sea there is like being in a big, warm bathtub – the water is so calm and clear. While we were there we met two cruising families that had just sailed down from Guadaloupe together on their catamarans (buddy boaters) and it was fun sharing sailing stories with them. It made us miss the life!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you a for reading 🙂 Hope you get to visit Dominica someday – it really is spectacular.

  13. I love how you captured the beauty and diversity of Dominica in your photos and descriptions. You did a great job of showcasing the island’s natural attractions. Dominica is indeed a paradise for nature lovers and adventurers.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much! Dominica really is a special place. We loved our visit there.

  14. I was in Dominica in June too! Such an amazing place. Loved Champagne Reef and all the waterfalls. I didn’t try the WNT either, but made it to boiling lake. With all the diving we did, I wish we had an extra week on land. So great and unspoiled!! And Lacou…I think we ate there 3 times?!? Glad you enjoyed!!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi – glad you enjoyed Dominica as much as we did! Of all the Caribbean islands we’ve visited, this is the one we really want to go back to. Isn’t Lacou fantastic?? Thanks for reading!

  15. I’ve never been to Dominica but always wanted to visit even more so now after seeing your wonderful and colourful photos from the magnificent island. Maybe one day, when I retire, I’ll book a flight to Santo Domingo, grab a coconut, perhaps add some rum, and sip away on one of the island’s flawless beaches. Thanks for sharing and inspiring 🙂 Aiva xx

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi, and thanks so much for your comment! Ahhh, you’re making me want to go back to Dominica right now! Just one thing – Santo Domingo is in the Dominican Republic, not to be confused with Dominica. As we mentioned in the post, a lot of people make that mistake (we did). We have not been to the DR but hear it’s nice.

      • Ahh, now I feel like a fool 🤣🤣🤣 Thanks so much for educating me and pointing out my mistake. What can I say – you live and learn. Cheers, and have a good day 😊 xx

        • John and Susan Pazera Reply

          Ah, no need to feel like a fool! 🙂 We were under the same impression, as I said. Have a good day yourself, and thanks again for reading!
          – Susan

  16. betty jean johnson Reply

    A great review of a favourite place, we have visited a few times. On our first few visits we used local bus transport and got around quite well, espeically in the south and around Roseau and the Roseau Valley. This brought us into contact with the lovely friendly locals, however learning the bus system takes a few minutes. There is so many things to do and see that we still have adventures waiting. Your review was very good and I got a few tips on restaurants too! Hoping to head back in ’24 and will have to plan around the cruise ships! Victoria Falls are great too, and the Chaudiere Pool is an experience.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much! Enjoy your next visit to Dominica.

  17. Coralie Paris Reply

    Awesome photos. I’m from Dominica. Glad that you visited and took the time to share your experiences. One thing, in response to a comment: Dominica’s beaches are all natural; we don’t do man-made. Mero beach has been there all along. You just overlooked it though I don’t know how. It’s one of the most popular on the island.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi, and thanks for your comment! I was laughing a little at that comment about man-made beaches. Of course Dominica’s are all natural – that’s one thing we loved about the island. We stayed just across from Mero and really enjoyed spending time there. Dominica is a really special place!

  18. Just wanted you to know that we’re heading to Dominica among other Caribbean islands in December. So glad I saved your article so I can use your hints closer to our trip.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Oh great, Annie! We’ll be interested to see how you liked Dominica. Our biggest advice is to rent a car. Trying to see the island using only the public transportation isn’t really doable (we have some friends who tried just that, and they didn’t have the same experience we had). Enjoy!

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