Nicknamed ‘nature island’, Dominica is 290 square miles of towering mountains, thriving rainforests and rushing waterfalls. The country is a haven for outdoorsy types seeking their next thrill in nature, while the capital offers the complete opposite. Downtown Roseau is the place to find museums, a beautiful botanic garden, and the city’s thriving arts scene in addition to mouthwatering cuisine. Also known as a hidden gem in terms of culture and history, the island has plenty of untold stories of an indigenous group called the Kalinago ready for you to discover.
Why cruise Dominica
As a stop on a Caribbean cruise, the island of Dominica has something to keep even the pickiest of cruisers occupied. Offshore, there are coral reefs teeming with fish of all colours, shapes and sizes to amaze swimmers, snorkellers and scuba divers. You are also welcome to visit the last surviving community of Carib Indians, the original inhabitants of the entire Caribbean, who still follow the old ways – fishing, carving and basket-making. This lush island is also right on the whales’ Caribbean migration path, so be sure you take a boat trip out to spot them on their way north. And, even if you do not see whales, there are plenty of playful dolphins that usually tag along in the boat's wake. The heart of the island beats in Roseau. It may be one of the smallest capitals in the Caribbean, but don’t let its size fool you – Roseau is electric with its cultural energy.
Best places to visit in Dominica
Boiling Lake is the world’s second largest hot spring, located within the Morne Trois Pitons National Park. An opening in a volcano where sulphurous gases are emitted, the water pressure drops so much that the water condenses as it leaves the ground. It’s a challenging three-hour hike to Boiling Lake, so its recommended to leave a full day for it. The most common starting point is in the town of Laudat, where it should be fairly easy to find a local guide (just ask around town) who knows the way and is willing to take you to the spot.
Cabrits National Park
Cabrits National Park offers a little bit of everything: access to black sand beaches, remnants of the 18th-century British Fort Shirley for travellers to explore, and dense rainforest ideal for hiking. You can choose to snorkel for sights of a lush coral reef at Cabrits National Park or soak up views of Prince Rupert Bay.
Papillote Tropical Gardens
If you travelled to Dominica in hopes of catching a glimpse of rare plants or wildlife, look no further than the Papillote Tropical Gardens. An oasis for artists, botanists and photographers, Papillote aims to conserve and celebrate the natural biodiversity of the island’s forests and wildlife. Completely demolished by Hurricane David in 1979, the gardens have since been re-established as one of the most impressive botanical collections in the region. Join a guided tour for a better insight in the extraordinary plant species and relax at the mineral-rich pool or the restaurant.
Best things to do in Dominica
Snorkel at Champagne Reef
Head to the southwestern coast of Dominica to reach Champagne Reef, located near Champagne Beach and about a 20-minute car ride from Roseau. It’s said the best diving and snorkeling on the island can be found at Champagne Reef because geothermal activity releases champagne-style bubbles from the rocks. Snorkellers will be delighted by the variety of fish species swimming in the area.
Save the turtles
Go and see some turtles on Rosalie beach, one of the top beaches on the Atlantic side of the island for turtle nesting. Come from the end of March until September to watch giant leatherbacks, hawksbill and green turtles laying eggs, or a few months later to see the hatchlings head down to the water. Conservation of the turtles is monitored by the Dominica Sea Turtle Conservation Organisation (DOMSETCO).
Hike the national trail
The Caribbean’s first long-distance trail, the WNT spans 185km from Scott’s Head in the south to Cabrits National Park in the north. Completed in 2011, it not only traverses mountainous rainforest, coastal cliffs and stupendous gorges, but also meanders through otherwise inaccessible communities. With 14 segments, you can take your pick or for the truly daring, take on the whole thing.
Relax on the beach
Though Dominica is known as a hiker's paradise, it's also home to a handful of must-see beaches. While the coastline is often rocky, Dominica makes up for this by having unique black sand beaches. Mero Beach is probably the island's most popular spot, thanks to its fine, black sand. Conveniently located near the capital of Roseau, Mero Beach draws both tourists and locals hoping to bask in the sun. If you visit, you'll want to bring sandals – recent tourists warned that the black sand makes the beach exceptionally hot. Meanwhile, fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean films ought to check out Hampstead Beach. Located near Calibishie on the north end of the island, this strip of sand once played host to Captain Jack Sparrow.
Watch the whales
Due to Dominica’s inshore waters are so deep, they are a perfect habitat for whales. Sperm whales are present year-round and, if you are lucky, can even be spotted from the shore. The best way to see them, however, is to take a whale-watching trip with one of the operators in the south. Sightings of sperm whales are common, and even if you aren’t lucky enough to spot a while, the trip will often encounter large pods of dolphins. Pilot, humpback and killer whales are also frequently sighted here.
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