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Dominica, ‘The Nature Island of the Caribbean’, an island with 365 Rivers, 9 Volcanos, 70,000 people and an airport with the smallest runway. Dominica is wild, it feels untouched, undiscovered. It’s not a Caribbean Island you visit to relax on a beach or in your resort. Oh no, Dominica is the island you visit for adventure, for nature, and some very friendly locals! It’s a must visit Caribbean island!
I was lucky enough to spend 6 days in Dominica with Discover Dominica and let’s say that Dominica is now firmly one of my top favourite countries!
Here’s my Travel Guide to Dominica to help you plan your trip to Dominica or help you convince you that you need to visit!
If you’d rather SEE Dominica, have a watch of my YouTube video here:
The official name of the island is the ‘Commonwealth of Dominica’ and it’s located between the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Unfortunately, Dominica often gets confused as being the same country as the Dominican Republic and often gets pronounced wrong too (its ‘Dom-in-EE-ka’ by the way).
It was the last Caribbean island to be captured and colonized by Europeans due to its mountainous landscape and fierce Carib people. The British and French battled over it until the British got hold of this natural island and it was a British Territory until 1958. In fact, the young face of Queen Elizabeth is still on the Eastern Caribbean Dollars that are used in Dominica.
Dominica’s capital city is Roseau and its second-biggest city is Portsmouth but you don’t visit Dominica for its cities, just like you don’t visit for Caribbean white-sand beaches!
September / October to June is the best time to visit Dominica because hurricane season starts in July lasting until August.
With that being said, I visited Dominica at the start of July and it was a great time of year to visit. The island was quiet with tourists because it was off-season but all of the tourism spots were open and available. We had a few rain showers in July in Dominica but nothing major and a bit of rain is all part of being on a wild island like this. If you do visit Dominica in the rainy season it seems that staying further South is best as I found the North a lot wetter than the South in July.
High Season in Dominica brings cruise ships to the island from October to April which dock at the port in Roseau. The cruise ship day-trippers can cause the island to get very busy so if you’re planning a vacation in Dominica, visiting outside of these months is a great time to visit if you want to avoid these big groups.
Dominica’s runway and airport are tiny! I always say that the harder a place is to get to, the better it is, and this is the case with this lesser-visited Caribbean island.
There are no direct flights to Dominica except from the nearby Caribbean islands. I flew from London to Antigua and Barbuda with British Airlines, I had a 2-hour wait in Antigua and then took a small plane with Liat Airlines to Melville Hall / Douglas Charles Airport. The most popular airports to transfer through when travelling from Europe and the USA to Dominica are Antigua, Barbados, Martinique and Guadeloupe.
If you’re visiting one of the nearby islands like Martinique and Guadeloupe it’s also possible to get a boat to Dominica which will arrive into the port in the capital city of Roseau within a few hours.
When leaving Dominica be warned that the departure room is extremely small. My recommendation is to get there 2 hours early to check-in but wait in the Oasis Restaurant next door which offers pretty decent wifi and coffee until 45-30 minutes before your flight and then go through security and to the departure gate.
Dominica is included as a day stop on many Caribbean Cruises. In my opinion, the beauty of Dominica cannot be seen in one day but it’s a start. Here’s a cruise that includes Dominica.
If you are visiting Dominica on a cruise, check out my Dominica Cruise Day Tours Ideas to help you avoid the crowds!
The main thing to know about Dominica is that it is not a resort island, there are lots of nice hotels, cottages and bungalows but you won’t find huge all-inclusive resorts in Dominica (just yet, at least). The two cities of Roseau and Portsmouth offer the most places to stay in Dominica and more accommodation can be found in the villages and towns around the island. Luckily there’s accommodation in Dominica to suit all budgets!
Dominica’s capital is Roseau and is a popular place to stay in Dominica because of its location. I stayed for 4 nights at Fort Young Hotel which appears to be one of the best hotels in Dominica and most popular places to stay in Dominica. It has a pool looking out onto the ocean, ocean-view bedrooms with balconies, a bar and a restaurant. It’s quiet with amazingly friendly staff and from my experience there I’d highly recommend staying at Fort Young Hotel.
Jungle Bay is a new hotel and resort in Dominica which opened in July 2019. It’s located up on a hilltop overlooking Soufriere and Scotts Head which is the most southern point of the island where the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean meet. Jungle Bay is an upmarket, eco-friendly, wellness resort with an incredible infinity pool, a spa, a restaurant, a yoga studio and huts and bungalows with a view. It’s pretty secluded location wise which makes it a great place to relax and they offer day tours of Dominica so you can still see the island while staying at Jungle Bay Dominica.
Dominica is not that well known for its beaches but if you want to stay on a beach, from my trip to Dominica I can recommend Picard Beach Cottages as good Dominica accommodation. They’re pretty basic cottages but they are right on the black sand beach of Picard Beach. The cottages can sleep up to 3 people and have self-catering facilities helping you to visit Dominica on a budget. There’s a restaurant on-site and they are in walkable distance to Portsmouth city.
If diving is your thing or you’re visiting Dominica as a backpacker, be sure to check out Soufriere Guesthouse because it’s extremely well located to Nature Island Dive which is a dive shop I recommend in Dominica. Soufriere Guesthouse has private rooms and dormitory rooms starting at $23.00 USD as well as a garden, bar and shared kitchen meaning you can stay in Dominica on a budget here, meet cool people and focus on your diving!
For more Dominica Hotels to suit all budgets and style of travel, have a look at Booking.com!
Hiking in Dominica is extremely popular and the island has some of the best hiking in the Caribbean. The most well-known hike is to Boiling Lake which is the worlds second-largest boiling lake. This is an intense hike through forests, rivers, narrow paths and through the valley of desolation taking at least 3-4 hours each way. It is not for the faint-hearted and a local guide is highly recommended.
If you are avid hiker there is the Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT) which runs the length of Dominica for 115 miles from the South to the North of the island and goes between many Kalinago villages. The Waitukubuli National Trail is the longest walking trail in the Caribbean! Take note that you must obtain a trail pass in advance to do this walk.
For something a bit easier there are plenty more walks in Dominica to places like Middleham Fall, and there’s a gentle walking trail around Freshwater Lake.
Essentially, make sure you pack your walking boots for Dominica!
FOR EVEN MORE IDEA’S OF THINGS TO DO IN DOMINICA, READ MY UNIQUE THINGS TO DO IN DOMINICA POST HERE!
Waterfalls, Gorges & Rivers.
I was told Dominica has 18 named waterfalls and 365 rivers which means there’s lots of chances to bathe and swim in water when in Dominica.
Middleham Fall is the best waterfall in Dominica in my opinion because you need to hike for about an hour there and back which means it’s not as visited as other waterfalls such as Trafalgar Falls. Trafalgar Falls is good to see but it’s just a short 5-minute walk from the car park and can only be seen from an observation deck quite far away so it’s not as spectacular to see.
Titou Gorge & Champagne Reef are the most popular and well-known places to visit in Dominica. This is mainly because they are easily accessible for day tourists from the cruise ships that arrive onto Dominica from October to April. Because of this, they can get very busy so if you’re staying on the island of Dominica for more than one day, go early in the morning or later in the day to avoid fighting for space or queuing to get in.
Titou Gorge especially is cool because you swim through the gorge to a waterfall at the back and it’s one of the many filming locations on Dominica for the Pirates of the Caribbean film!
Emerald Pool is another popular place to visit and swim in Dominica. It’s known as the Emerald Pool thanks to the colour that the surrounding rocks give it when the sun shines on the water, and it has 40ft waterfall rushing into it!
River Tubing is a popular thing to do for cruise day tours in Dominica, I heard it can get very busy but it sounds like a lot of fun and a great way to see 1 of the 365 rivers that Dominica has!
Just be warned that the water isn’t warm in these rivers and waterfalls but the word ‘cold’ is not allowed to be said on Dominica, its called refreshing!
Diving & Snorkelling.
Diving in Dominica is big! The locals are very proud of their marine life and dive sites. Diving was much more popular on the island before Hurricane Maria but thankfully there are some Dive Shops back open ready to take you into the clear Caribbean water.
Simon runs the dive shop Nature Island Dive down in the southern tip of the island in the village of Soufriere. He’s from England and has been living in Dominica for 25 years so he knows a lot about the island! I went out snorkelling with Nature Island Dive while Sarah who runs Girls that Scuba went out on two dives. She said it was incredible (and she knows her stuff) because she saw many schools of fish, soft coral, two turtles and the ocean was warm! Bonus!
Nature Island Dive not only offers snorkelling and diving but kayaking and standup paddle-boarding too. They can help arrange a taxi to pick you up from where you’re staying or if you fancy testing out the local transport, there’s a cheap, local bus that goes from Roseau down to Soufriere right outside the dive shop!
If you want to dive in Dominica with a female-run dive shop, check out SALT Dominica run by Kayla who is based in Toucari.
It’s worth packing some snorkelling gear for your holiday to Dominica as you can snorkel in many different parts of the island including down at Scotts Head, Champagne Reef and Mero Beach which are all easy to access if you’re hiring a car in Dominica. Read more about Diving in Dominica.
Dominica is the only Caribbean island where you can see Whales all year round thanks to the huge trench that lies off its coast. Sperm Whales migrate through here and on a Whale Watching Tour in Dominica it’s very likely that you’ll see them.
I went Whale Watching in Dominica with Dive Dominica, they leave Roseau in the South of the island every Sunday afternoon and I’d recommend going with them as they are very professional and respectful of the Whales. So when planning your Dominica itinerary be sure to include this bucket list activity on your Sunday in Dominica.
Indian River Boat Tour.
To see another one of Dominica’s 365 rivers head to Portsmouth to the start of the Indian River. A local guide will take you out on the Indian River to a Bush Bar where you can get a Rum, or two. It’s a beautiful and relaxing experience travelling in a small canoe boat between palm trees getting you even closer to nature.
Caribbean Cooking Class.
If you like Caribbean Food why not get involved and take a Caribbean Cooking Class with Cooking Caribbean! The JTAS Experience takes you to Daria’s house and kitchen where she’ll teach you to cook local foods such as Titiri Fishcakes, Plantain, Rice and Beans. She likes to cook with Rum too so you’ll be in for a few Rum tastings!
The cooking class lasts just a few hours so it’s a great activity to do in Dominica if you’re on a Caribbean Cruise stopping at Dominica for the day! You can contact Daria on her Facebook Page here and you might recognise her as she was on the famous Ainsley’s Cooking in the Caribbean series!
Self-Drive Pirates of the Caribbean Tour.
You may already know this and if you didn’t you’ll hear about it a lot once you get to Dominica, but the Pirates of the Caribbean film Dead Man’s Chest was filmed mostly in Dominica. It sounds like a lot of the locals got involved when the filming happened and there are lots of places you can visit in Dominica to see where scenes were filmed.
It’s worth noting that Hurricane Maria did destroy some of the iconic filming locations and some haven’t been well kept but if you’re a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean it’s worth getting a map of the locations from your accommodation to do to a self-drive Pirates of the Caribbean Tour around Dominica to see what you can find. Plus you’ll see so much of the island at the same time!
FOR EVEN MORE IDEA’S OF THINGS TO DO IN DOMINICA, READ MY UNIQUE THINGS TO DO IN DOMINICA POST HERE!
Just because Dominica isn’t known for its beaches it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have them. TripAdvisor will tell you that Mero Beach is Dominica’s best beach, I liked Mero Beach with its black sand but it didn’t impress me that much, to be honest.
The beach that did impress me and I highly recommend because it must be the best beach in Dominica is Batibou Bay. Its located in the North East of the island not far from the airport and you’ll need to drive there as it’s down a long bumpy track but once you’re there you’re welcomed into paradise. Batibou Beach in Dominica is a quiet, wild beach with palm trees, soft sand and gentle waves. Visiting this beach in Dominica was one of my highlights!
It seems that the beaches in the North East are all very quiet and very beautiful so take some time to drive around seeing which ones you fancy stopping at.
Other popular beaches in Dominica are Picard Beach and Secret Bay which are on the West Coast not far from Portsmouth.
Roseau is a small, simple and colourful Caribbean City. It’s located right on the ocean and is where the cruise ships dock. There are markets from souvenir markets to fish markets, and on a Saturday there is a local Saturday Market selling fresh Fruit and Vegetables. There aren’t many things to do in Roseau apart from walking its main streets, taking in the 18th Century Creole buildings and the local shops. You may find a local spot to try out some Rum though!
To get a great view of Dominica’s capital city Roseau you can drive or walk up Morne Bruce. Just below Morne Bruce are the Botanical Gardens which is another one of the things to do in Roseau.
Dominica offers a weekly site pass which covers entrance fee’s into various sites and national parks. A pass is very reasonable in price costing $12.00 USD / $32.04 ECD. Dominica National Park site passes can be purchased from tour operators and car hire agencies in Dominica, and from official sites around the island such as the Forestry, Wildlife & Parks Division on Valley Road or in the Botanical Gardens in Roseau. These passes will really help you save money on attraction fees in Dominica and encourage you to see more of the island!
The best way to get around Dominica is to hire a car and drive yourself around. The only thing to be aware of is that the roads are very windy and hilly so you do need to be a confident driver. Plus, if you’re from the US or Europe you’ll be driving on the other side of the road as they drive on the left side of the road in Dominica, the same as in the UK. For the best car hire in Dominica, I recommend Happy Car Rentals. They have a range of cars on their website which are perfect to use on the island as well as being cheap and affordable.
If you want a driver you can speak to Happy Car Rentals too. They drove my group all around the island and the drivers were so friendly and knowledgeable.
Alternatively, there are plenty of taxi’s available in Roseau ready to take you around the island and your accommodation can help book taxis for you.
There is a public bus system all around the island which is cheap to use. Just be aware that buses stop running at about 5:00-6:00 pm.
Hopefully, you can tell that you’ll need more than just swimwear and nice shoes on this Caribbean Island.
Make sure you pack trainers and if you plan to do more intense hiking like going to the Boiling Lake, hiking boots will be best. I love KEEN hiking shoes.
Take a waterproof jacket as you’ll find it tends to rain in the rainforest of Dominica and there can be bursts of rain all over the island throughout the year because of how tropical it is.
Mosquito spray should be on your Dominica packing list, as should UK adapters (hotels do have US plugs but mostly they’re UK plugs).
If you suffer from travel sickness, pack some motion sickness tablets as the roads in Dominica have a lot of bends!
Tourism declined a lot in Dominica after Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Maria destroyed much of the island taking many homes, lives and left the island looking brown rather than lush green like it did before.
From my experience visiting Dominica in 2019, I can tell you that the island is bouncing back, and fast. Much of the island is now cleared with roads in good condition, houses have and are being rebuilt, and nature is, of course, doing her thing and bringing the island back to life in the most incredible way.
While the locals will tell you that Dominica was much greener before Maria, I must say it looks pretty good now and to think of it looking even better is pretty amazing.
In terms of asking if Dominica is safe to visit? Well, it’s no safer and unsafer than the other islands in this area of the Caribbean. Hurricane Season in Dominica happens in August and September which are not the best months to visit Dominica anyway due to the wind and rain so if you’re concerned, be sure not to visit during these months.
As for safety in terms of theft and travelling to Dominica as a female. I felt very safe at all times in Dominica. During my one week in Dominica, I was with a group, and either a guide or driver, a lot of the time but had I been on my own I believe I would have still felt safe. The people of Dominica were very lovely and welcoming. I received a few stares and comments from men at times, especially in Roseau but that’s the same all over the world and I never felt threatened.
Our driver told us about some tourists he had met who were driving around the island, they had some issues with their car but said to him that someone was always willing to help and they couldn’t believe the kindness of the people.
Remember that you’ll need travel insurance before your trip to Dominica. Most policies exclude the Caribbean unless you choose this area so if you have annual cover already, make sure your policy includes it or take out another policy for your trip. In addition to this, you’ll probably be doing some adventure activities in Dominica so make sure your travel insurance covers you. Standard cover is not likely to cover canyoning for example.
I use World Nomads who are a very reputable insurance provider, they offer a good range of adventure cover too perfect for an adrenaline-filled trip to Dominica. Get a quote from World Nomads here while you thinking about it!
The currency on the island is Eastern Caribbean Dollars. You can pay in US Dollars too but it’s likely you’ll get ECD in return.
Although you may hear locals speaking in a local Creole language known as Kokoy, English is the main language spoken in Dominica making it very easy to get around and get a better understanding of the island.
There you have it! My Full Guide to Dominica- the nature island of the Caribbean!
Enjoy your time there and have a Rum for me!
If you’d rather SEE Dominica, have a watch of my YouTube video here!
For more posts on Dominica see:
My trip to Dominica was with Discover Dominica and Traverse Events however all thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links at no extra cost to you.
I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010. In the Summer of 2018 I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time! Yes, I’m living that dream!
NOV-DEC: PROBABLY INDONESIA
If you want to join or read more about the details of the group tour.