Everything you need to know about a holiday in Dominica

Since I returned from Dominica I haven’t stopped telling people how gorgeous the island is. I’ve been cornering people and forcing them to scroll through the photos on my phone because I want them to see it for themselves.

‘Look at how clear the sea is,’ I’ve been swooning.

‘And look at this waterfall. Oh, and this waterfall too. And this beach. And this forest!’

Dominica has made it onto my list of favourite places in the world. That’s a bold statement, I know, but I really loved it THAT much. Even now I’m staring up at the tiny dot on the map and wishing I was back there.

I’ve noticed that the majority of people I speak to about Dominica, particularly British people, have never heard of Dominica before. I must admit that I had to do a quick Google search when I was first invited there as I wasn’t entirely sure where it was myself.

So I thought it would be good to share a little info about Dominica, starting with the first question I’m always asked…

Is Dominica the Dominican Republic?

No, Dominica is not the Dominican Republic. I just thought I’d clear that up before you read any further because most people, myself included, assumed they were the same place.

Dominica is pronounced ‘Dom-in-eee-ka’ and means ‘Sunday’ in Latin. The island was named by Christopher Columbus in 1493 – supposedly because he spotted it on a Sunday. Regardless of whether or not this is true, Sunday is the perfect name for this peaceful island. Sundays are for relaxing, spending time outdoors, enjoying the company of your friends and family and quietly enjoying the good things in life. And Dominicans are so relaxed that everyday feels like a Sunday.

Rosalie Beach Dominica

Where is Dominica?

Dominica, otherwise known as the Caribbean’s ‘nature island’, is found between Guadeloupe and Martinique. The dramatically mountainous island covers an area of 290 square miles and has a population of just over 70,000. This makes it almost twice the size of Barbados (166 sq miles) but Barbados has 200,000 more people so you can see how sparse and quiet Dominica is.

Dominica is the youngest island in the Lesser Antilles and was formed by geothermal volcanic activity. It is incredibly lush and mountainous and is home to 365 rivers.

The northeast of Dominica in the Calibishie area has golden sandy beaches. The rest of the island has pebble or black sand beaches. You won’t find umbrellas and deckchairs but you will find a stretch of deserted paradise, which, in my eyes, is even better.

Where is Dominica

Who visits Dominica?

Dominica attracts adventurous travellers with an interest in nature and eco-tourism. The majority of visitors are American and French but the secret of Dominica’s beauty hasn’t quite spread to the UK.

Dominica and eco-tourism

The locals are proud of how well preserved their island is and they’re doing everything they can to avoid deforestation.40% of local power is generated through hydro-electricity thanks to all the waterfalls and rivers. Conservation and eco-tourism aren’t buzzwords on Dominica, they’re a way of life. Even if tourism increases to Dominica, it will never be a high-rise hotel island.

The main industry in Dominica is tourism. They rely heavily on cruise ship tourism, which usually includes a 1-day whistle-stop tour of the island. Agriculture was once the main industry but this has now dropped, particularly after Hurricane Dean which wiped out 99% of the banana crops. Replanting wasn’t an option as mass banana production in South America can no longer be competed with.

The Travel Hack in Dominica

When is the best time to travel to Dominica?

The high season is December to April. This is the driest time of year and attracts Europeans looking for winter sun and daily cruise ships.

The low season is July to October. This is the hurricane season and while hurricanes are unlikely, tropical storms occur almost daily. Room prices are cheaper at this time of year but many businesses shut.

The shoulder season is May, June and November. I travelled to Dominica in late May and it was ideal. It was quiet without feeling like a ghost town. It was mostly sunny and hot with a quick, daily shower. Dominica’s mountains attract the rain like a magnet and you’ll often find a torrential downpour in one area and bright sunshine less than a mile away.

Views over Dominica

How do you get to Dominica?

International flights from Europe and the USA connect to Dominica through hubs in Antigua, Barbados, St Maarten, St Lucia, Guadeloupe and Martinique.

I travelled to Barbados with British Airways from Gatwick and then took a connecting LIAT Airways flight.

LIAT are known for being infamously unreliable (worse than RyanAir). I’ve never had too much of a problem with them but WINAIR are recommended whenever possible.

There are plenty of taxis at Dominica Airport or you can pre-arrange a transfer through your hotel.

Mountains in Dominica

Visas

You don’t need a visa to travel to Dominica.

Currency

The main currency is Eastern Caribbean dollars but US dollars are accepted almost everywhere. All the hotels I stayed at accepted credit cards.

Black sand beach in Dominica

Departure tax

There’s a departure tax in Dominica of $23 US ($59 EC). Make sure you save some cash and leave yourself plenty of time to queue and pay this tax.

What do you do in Dominica?

You may have noticed that Dominica doesn’t have so many of those white sandy beaches that attract visitors to much of the Caribbean. But don’t worry, there’s so much more than beaches to keep you entertained on the nature island.

Dominica is often described as ‘the anti-Caribbean’ and isn’t your average 2-week all-inclusive style island.

Dominica is covered with lush rainforest making it a dream come true for nature lovers, hikers and bird watchers. There are 365 rivers with plenty of waterfalls and pools where you can cool off. The geothermal activity has created hot pools and unique underwater activity perfect for diving.

Waterfall in Dominica

What to pack for a holiday to Dominica

Keep it casual!

Dominica is a very laid back island so leave your heels and your blazers at home.

Other than the usual summer holiday essentials, you will want to pack:

Hiking boots – particularly if you’ll be doing any serious trekking

Lightweight trainers – I took my usual Nike running shoes and these were fine for the hiking I did. Be aware that they will get wet and muddy.

A small backpack

Water bottle

Insect repellent – There’s a mosquito borne disease in Dominica at the minute called chikungunya. The symptoms are similar to Dengue Fever so do everything you can to avoid mozzie bites. The word ‘chikungunya’ roughly translates to an African word meaning writhing in pain so, yea, it sounds pretty bad. The only bites I had happened just before I went snorkeling at Champagne Reef and I was bitten to death within about 10 minutes.

Tiger Balm – Mosquito bites heal so much faster when you don’t scratch so I use Tiger Balm to numb the bite.

Microfibre towel – There are loads of opportunities to jump into lakes, rivers and warm geothermal pools in Dominica. Pack a microfiber towel so you can dry off quickly without weighing you down

A good book – Dominica is the kind of island where you can spend a lot of time swinging in a hammock, listening to the waves and enjoying the sunset with a good book.

Hammock in Dominica

What to watch

Pirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3. Scenes from both films were shot in Dominica and you can take a Pirates of the Caribbean tour to see them. I saw one while snorkelling at Champagne Reef and one during a paddleboat trip down the Indian River.

I’d recommend…

If you’re going on holiday to Dominica, I’d recommend combining your trip with a few days on one of the surrounding islands. If you fly in to Barbados or St Lucia before taking the connecting flight to Dominica, why not spend 1-2 days there either or the way out there or the way home.

This means you get the best of the both worlds with the traditional Caribbean beach holiday but also the peaceful nature and adventure activities of Dominica. I did this on the way home and spent a day in Barbados because there was a 10-hour gap between my connecting flights.

If you’d like to know anything else about Dominica, just let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to get back to you!

If you’d like to read more, check out my other posts from Dominica here.

TheTravelHack

Monica is the founder and editor of The Travel Hack. She began the blog in 2009 when she left the UK to travel around Asia and Australia for two years. She's now a professional blogger and has travelled around the world in search of stylish adventure travel.Monica has recently had her second baby and is determined to prove that travelling with a baby is possible!

SHOWHIDE Comments (39)
  1. I’ve been to Dominica 3 times in the past from cruise ship stops and it is one of my favourite places in the world! I absolutely love it there. Justin and I went there this past January and did a whale & dolphin watching trip and it was very magical!

      1. Hi Monica. Actually whale whatching excursions are offered by the Anchorage Hotel Whale Watch & Dive Cemter yearround. May is also ideal. We have resident Sperm Whales off the coast of Dominica as our waters are deep and sheltered, more species of cetacean are here between early November to late May but you will normally have at minimum an 85% yearound chance of seeing the whales and dolphins. Next time check us out at The Anchorage just south of Roseau. Check out loads of pics on our fb page Anchorage Whale Watch too.

    1. It really is. The other islands are obviously beautiful but there’s so much more character and more to do in Dominica. Definitely my favourite Caribbean island so far!

  2. I’ll be honest with you Monica; I had NO idea where Dominica was until you wrote about it. It looks like a gorgeous place though – somewhere where you can do a bit of relaxing AND some adventuring on the same trip 🙂 Looks like you had a great time! I could definitely see myself swinging in that hammock for the afternoon. Although, you know what I’m like; I’d probably get motion sickness….. 😉

  3. If you or your friends are looking for a self catering forest holiday we have two cottages in the rainforest in the More Trois Pitons wlrd heritage site. Check airbnb birdwatchersrainforest cottage and pineapple crossing or home from home accomodation on facebook. Come back soon and see the turtles or go on our fishing boat and look for dolphins

  4. Dominica is everything you described and more. Next time you’re here, you must come to see us at Manicou River. We have the ultimate nature/eco/luxury experience here. And our views are out of this world.

  5. I visited Dominica in the 80’s and it was a unspoiled island. It was a hiker’s paradise and we met a team from Canada doing water studies up in the crater lake. The hot springs were wonderful. It was very lush, but rained daily in the mountains. The coast is jagged and there was no place for swimming or snorkeling at that time. Liat Airlines was reliable because many of the islands have challenging airports and they had the most experience in take offs and landings. There were only a handful of places to stay on the island, rooms were small and plain, we had no water for showering on several days. Sewer systems ran above the ground through the towns, but enough of the bad comments. Most of the visitors we met were British and had been coming back for years. Food was fresh, mountain chicken a specialty. They had the most wonderful coconut bath products made there on the island. They were hit in the mid 80’s by a hurricane and like many islands had to rebuild their tourism. One of the best memories was of Sunday mornings looking from our hotel down at the town church. All the ladies came dressed in brightly colored dresses and everyone wore huge hats. When you consider their economy it was nice to see that celebrating the Sabbath as well as their other holidays rank high in importance to the locals. This island is not for everyone looking for a luxury stay. If you like the rain forest and all the creatures that reside there, then it’s an ecological Disneyland.

  6. Life on Dominica sounds enticing. I’ve heard many great things about this place and when people return home all they can talk about is how gorgeous it is.

  7. LOVE this post. great to know more of the nitty-gritty about Dominica. and the tips about the tiger balm and the towel are things I’ll be taking with me now on the Mongol Rally!

  8. What a great post! I’m hopefully joining my husband on a dive trip to Dominica in November and your post gave me some great tips and info I hadn’t known (I knew it wasn’t Dominican Republic, but for the life of me can’t ever remember correct pronunciation!!). I am a HUGE whale watching fanatic, so I am beyond ecstatic to potentially be able to see sperm whales!!! Between the whales, hiking, bird watching and lazy reading-in-a-hammock inactivity…there may be time for a dive or two 🙂
    I already know it’ll rank in my top 5 favorite places!
    Thanks for making me even more excited, and now I absolutely will find a sitter for my kids so I can go!! 🙂

  9. Hi Monica,
    You just placed a huge smile on my face with respect to this article. You’ve posted everything one needs to know about Dominica. Fortunately for me, I am from there. I have shared this on FB!

  10. Hi Hi,
    I am excited to know that your shared your Dominican experience with the world. Seems like you did your research. I am Dominican and live on the Northern part of the Island where the famous luxury resort “Secret Bay’ is located. Check out their website http://www.secreybay.dm A lot of people confuse Dominica with Dominican Republic. I live here and I am still amazed at the scenery. My Island is truly beautiful. Everyone who visits there loves it. I recently went on a tour with some friend who visited from Trinidad and Tobago.
    I hope you visit again.

  11. I am from this slice of paradise and I continue to be amazed. Thanks for sharing! Indeed, Dominica is beautiful and your sharing will allow many to discover this cool island. Kids love it too….. Thanks again. Grethel- Funzaggy Kids

  12. planning on traveling ive read lots about it looks amazing love your posts they where so very helpful. is there anything that you may not have wrote about like hazards? (although i know there are very little), or things to pack, tips places that people dont really know about anything really.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The Travel Hack Travel Blog

The Travel Hack is a blog about stylish adventure travel and affordable luxury.

We believe luxurious travel can be affordable and isn't just for the rich. Follow along with our worldwide adventures as we share our trips and tips for incredible travel experiences on a modest budget.