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From stunning waterfalls and delicious food, to whale watching and diving, these are the best things to do in Dominica in the Caribbean.
Let me introduce you to my new favourite island in the Caribbean! Before visiting Dominica, I’d spent time in Barbados, Antigua, St Kitts and St Martin. I’m way off being Caribbean expert, but I was starting to get a feel for what makes each island special.
When I stepped foot on Dominica, I was surprised by just how different it was from all of the others I’d visited. With its volcanic landscapes and lush forests, it reminded me more of Hawaii mixed with Costa Rica!
With 365 rivers, 18 named waterfalls, and natural pools which will have you reaching for your bikini, Dominica is a place to immerse yourself in nature. The beaches in Dominica aren’t the main attraction, although the black and silver sands make a change from the bright white sands of neighbouring islands.
Activities on the island are more adventurous than most too, with canyoning, river tubing, hikes to the island’s ‘boiling lake’ and scuba diving all popular choices.
Temperatures remain warm all year round, but it’s worth remembering there’s a hurricane season across the Caribbean (August – September). Tragically the island was struck by Hurricane Maria just a few years ago, and while there is still evidence to be seen, the island has bounced back with incredible strength and positivity. The forests are starting to regrow, and on several occasions I spotted trees full of mangos, papaya, and huge avocados.
So, whether you’re visiting Dominica on a cruise ship (they dock in the capital Roseau regularly between October – May/June) or fancy a Caribbean break with a twist, here’s my guide to the best things to do in Dominica.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN DOMINICA
Visit The Emerald Pool, Dominica
You’re never far from a waterfall in Dominica, but there’s a reason this one is extra special! After trekking for around ten minutes, you’ll be met by incredible views of a 40-foot waterfall cascading into an emerald green pool.
The colours are enhanced by the tropical surroundings, with dappled sunlight passing through the trees and illuminating the pool. After a humid walk down, you’ll be dying to dive in! Be warned, it’s ‘refreshing’, but the cooling waters were just what I needed, and as I splashed around, I could see why it’s one of the island’s top attractions.
Scuba Dive In Dominica
If you’ve got your PADI then scuba diving HAS to be on your list of activities in Dominica! It’s regarded as one of the top diving destinations in the world, partly due to the 20 species of whale that enjoy the waters around the island. There’s also plenty of coral, along with octopus, eels, rays, trumpet fish, parrotfish, hawksbill turtles and seahorses. To add to the fun, the island’s volcanic origins create some special formations, including Champagne Reef – where you can dive or snorkel over the bubbles! Read more about scuba diving in Dominica.
Learn About The Kalinago People
Dominica still has a small group of direct descendants of the indigenous Kalinago people, who inhabited several of the Caribbean islands before they were colonised. To learn more, I visited Kalinago Barana Autê, a cultural heritage centre set within the 3,700 acre Kalinago territory. It was interesting to learn not only about the past, but also about their lives on the island today. While they are active members of Dominica’s society (with voting rights) they also have their own Chief who is elected every five years. We enjoyed a guided tour of the site, then watched traditional basket weaving, visited a beach and stopped for a drink.
TOP TIP: If you don’t have a car, it might be simpler to book a tour like this one.
Enjoy a Caribbean Cooking Class
I always say my favourite way to get to know a destination is through its cuisine, so what better way to start my trip through Dominica than with a cooking class at a local’s house! We headed to the hills and met Daria – a super-fun foodie, with a passion for sharing her love of Creole cuisine.
We spent the morning cooking up a huge feast of delicious Dominican dishes, created from locally sourced ingredients (some picked from the fields next to her house!) After a starter of tasty titiri fish cakes, we learned how to make Creole tuna (with the most incredible marinade!) plus a few sorts of plantain and a flavoursome coconut rice and beans.
After a rum-infused interlude, we sat outside on the terrace, sharing the feast we’d created and listening to Daria’s incredible stories about life in Dominica. This was a huge highlight of my trip, and I’d definitely recommend a visit to Daria’s cooking school if you have time!
Visit Trafalgar Falls
Trafalgar Falls are the most visited waterfalls in Dominica. There are actually two waterfalls side by side – one at 85m and the other 40m. After stopping by the visitor centre, it’s around a ten-minute walk down a picturesque rainforest path, complete with butterflies and crabs, to reach the viewing platform. From there you can enjoy the impressive cascades, or venture closer and take a dip!
Go Canyoning In Dominica
I mentioned that Dominica has a handful of extreme activities on offer, perfect for adrenaline junkies. A few of my friends went canyoning and absolutely loved the experience! With the help of experienced guides, they rapelled, climbed, jumped and ziplined around the epic scenery of the island.
Go Dolphin And Whale Watching In Dominica
One of the top reasons to visit Dominica is to see whales in their natural habitat. Over 20 species of whale have been spotted in the waters around the island, with the most common including short-fin pilot whales, false killer whales, melon head whales, pygmy sperm whales, and humpbacks. The big draw though is the pod of sperm whales which inhabits Dominica’s waters. The whale watching tours use hydrophone technology (a bit like an underwater microphone with a 7km range) to track their location, and while sightings on these tours aren’t 100% guaranteed, they’re pretty common!
On our trip, we spotted three sperm whales – an incredible moment I’ll never forget! We were then treated to a show by a huge pod of dolphins which seemed to ‘escort’ us back to land! This tour was another highlight of my trip, and I’d say a whale watching tour is an absolute must do if you’re visiting Dominica!
Cruise Along Dominica’s Indian River
Dominica is known for its diverse landscapes, but even with that in mind, the views along the Indian River (close to Portsmouth) were surprising! Getting its name from the fact the Kalinago (Carib Indian) people lived along its banks, and used it as a means of transport, the river is one of 365 rivers on the island. It’s so picturesque, with trees forming a canopy over the water, and leaving some magical mirror reflections.
We hopped on a boat tour along the waters to yet another surprise – a Bush Bar! We hopped out and enjoyed some local rum punch, before venturing back along the waters.
Visit Roseau’s Market
Wondering what to do in Dominica for a real flavour of local life? While it’s open every day of the week, Dominica’s colourful capital is at its liveliest on Fridays and Saturdays, when the city’s market is in full swing. Selling everything from fresh mangos and spices, to clothing and gifts, it’s a real insight into life on the island. If you’re looking for things to do in Dominica’s cruise port – make this your first stop.
Learn About Dominica’s Nature
With several different microclimates, Dominica is home to plenty of interesting creatures. As I wandered along a beach road near Portsmouth I spotted several of the island’s speedy ground lizards (known as abòlò). A few of my friends went on a half day tour with the island’s legendary ornithologist Dr Birdy. They learned more about the flora and fauna, and spotted some of the island’s rarest species of bird.
Check Out The Islands Best Views
One of my favourite parts of my trip through Dominica, were the breath-taking views we spotted as we drove aound the island (accompanied by a commentary by our passionate local guides and drivers!) My favourites were:
– Overlooking Roseau and the Botanical Gardens, where you can see the sprawling, colourful capital..
– From Islet View (bar and restaurant) which boasts beautiful views over the bay at Castle Bruce on Dominca’s east coast.
– Volcano views of Unesco World Heritage Site Morne Trois Pitons National Park, in the centre of the island.
Search For Pirates In Dominica
Incase you didn’t know, some scenes from the Hollywood movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest were filmed in Dominica. As you travel around the island, you’re guaranteed to hear stories about it! Several of the guides we met were involved in the film, from being location scouts, to make-up artists and playing extras! It boosted Dominica’s economy, provided plenty of jobs, and created a legacy that still lives on.
Several scenes were filmed at locations including Titou Gorge, Indian River, Morne Trois Pitons National Park and Hampstead Beach. When I checked into Picard Beach Cottages, my room had a plaque above the door saying producer Jerry Bruckheimer had stayed there!
Relax At Wotten Waven Hot Springs
After visiting Trafalgar Falls, we headed for a dip in the healing sulphur waters at Wotten Waven. There are several natural hot sulphur springs and mud pools located around the villag. I’d recommend having a look around before you decide which to visit, as some are more inviting than others! I wouldn’t say the hot springs here had the appeal of the relaxing onsen in Japan, but it was nice to see what the hype was about.
Marvel At The Transformation Of Fort Shirley
Set in Cabrits National Park, on the iconic mountainous peninsula close to Portsmouth, Fort Shirley was used during international conflicts between Britain and France in the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s a beautiful site, with incredible views, impressive cannons, and several hiking trails.
We explored the site with Lennox Honychurch, a historian who has dedicated his life to rebuilding the fort, and sharing stories about its history. He’s the most wonderful guide you could ask for, with endless engaging stories not only about the history, but also what it’s really like to live in Dominica.
Where To Stay In Dominica
I’ll post more about this soon, but if you’re spending one week in Dominica, I’d recommend dividing your time between two areas.
Fort Young Hotel, Roseau
We started our trip at this four-star hotel in Dominica’s capital. It’s one of the smartest hotels on the island, with a pool, jacuzzi and sun-loungers for those wanting to relax, plus a choice of casual and fine dining restaurants. All rooms have incredible sea views – something I loved when my jet lag woke me up earlier than desired! It’s in a great location, close to shops, restaurants, Dominica cruise and ferry port, plus for those wishing to scuba dive, the hotel has its own dive store.
Picard Beach Cottages, Portsmouth
I adored this accommodation close to Portsmouth. Waking up and walking straight out onto the beach is a special experience, as is falling asleep to the sound of the waves lapping on the shire! The beach huts give you the option to self-cater your holiday, or eat at the restaurant just a few moments away. They’re in a great location, just a few minutes from the centre of Portsmouth (Dominica’s second city), plus close to the Indian River and Fort Shirley. The cottage I was in slept three people, which would make this perfect for families, or those visiting Dominica on a budget.
Read my other posts about Dominica:
I was invited to explore the island by Discover Dominica, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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