dominica island

Dominica Travel Guide: Explore the Nature Island of the Caribbean [in 2023]

Dominica is no typical Caribbean destination. With soaring mountains, plunging waterfalls, volcanic craters, and even a boiling lake, the “Nature Island of the Caribbean” offer a completely unique Caribbean travel experience you likely never imagined.

Get ready for adventure; this off-the-beaten-path island vacation destination is one you’ll never forget.

This ultimate travel guide to Dominica island has all the travel tips and recommendations to make your Dominica travel dreams a reality. Whether you’re looking forward to unwinding at a jungle resort or beach-hopping along the island’s rugged coast, you’ll love what you find in Dominica.

visit dominica
Courtesy of Discover Dominica

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Located in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean, Dominica is one of the few remaining hidden gems of the Caribbean. No, this isn’t the Dominican Republic – Dominica is an independent country, lush and mountainous, largely still untouched despite a recent flurry of travel awards bringing some much-deserved attention to this island paradise.

Dominica’s incredibly mountainous terrain is due to its highly volcanic nature. The island is home to nine volcanoes, which have created a number of craters (both above and below the ocean waves) as well as contributing to some cool features on the island you won’t want to skip.

Dominica has a naturally occurring boiling lake, as well as plenty of hot springs and even reefs that shoot out streams of bubbles from the volcanic power. All these one-of-a-kind natural features make this an adventure traveler’s dream destination.

Off-shore volcanic craters and mountains have made Dominica island one of the world’s best destinations for diving according to PADI. Certification courses in sleepy fishing villages like Soufriere are also incredibly affordable, with plenty of visitors traveling from across the world to experience these reefs for the first time.

While Dominica has so much to see and do, the most intoxicating part of a visit to the island is relishing the laid-back atmosphere and untouched natural beauty. So much of the Caribbean nowadays is far too built-up and touristy, but you won’t find an ounce of that in Dominica. We had many of the most popular attractions of Dominica totally to ourselves.

Slip into island time within just a few hours of stepping on the island and unwind off the grid for the duration of your stay. It’s one of the best parts of a visit to Dominica.

Read More: 20 Best Things To Do in Dominica

What is Dominica Known For?

Dominica island is known for its pristine environment filled with lush jungle, green canopy, and gorgeous natural landscapes. It’s an adventure travel paradise in the Caribbean, offering much more than just the standard beach resort vacation of its neighboring islands.

This highly volcanic island is one of the “newest” islands of the Caribbean in that it is still growing and changing due to its volcanic nature. You can see the volcanic power of Dominica firsthand all around the island, notably at the Boiling Lake and hot springs heated by volcanic activity and at the bubbly Champagne Reef.

Dominica is also regarded by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) as one of the top ten destinations for scuba diving in the entire world.

Why is Dominica Called the Nature Island?

Dominica is widely known as “The Nature Island of the Caribbean,” and it’s easy to see why! From mountains covered with rainforest to dramatic volcanoes and plunging waterfalls, this tiny island has an impressive array of geological and ecological features that make it a true gem for adventurous travelers.

While nearby Antigua is known for having 365 beaches, Dominica boasts 365 rivers. You could spend a month or more exploring the island’s numerous waterfalls, green gorges, and winding waterways and still feel like you haven’t seen it all.

batibou beach
Courtesy of Discover Dominica

Does Dominica Have Nice Beaches?

Yes, Dominica has a number of beautiful beaches! Keep in mind that this isn’t Antigua or the Bahamas, so don’t expect long, pristine stretches of white sand.

While most beaches in Dominica have golden sand or even black sand, it’s easy to fall in love with the hidden coves and tranquil, undeveloped beaches of Dominica. These are some of the best beaches on Dominica island.

Batibou Beach

Among one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, Batibou Beach is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. White sand, gentle waves, and a generally uncrowded, unhurried atmosphere make this a favorite with sunseekers and families alike. A gourmet local restaurant and decent beach amenities make visiting Batibou Beach a breeze.

Secret Beach

Hidden along a rocky shoreline just below Secret Bay resort, Secret Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Dominica. Only accessible via Secret Bay’s property or by swimming or kayaking from neighboring Tibay Bay, you’re almost guaranteed to have this gorgeous cove beach all to yourself when you visit.

Read More: 5 Best Resorts in Dominica

Travel Essential

Don’t think about traveling without a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). Using a VPN while connecting to the internet is an easy way to keep your personal information safe from hackers and trackers. We’ve used NordVPN for years and couldn’t recommend it more – it’s a must for safety online, at home or abroad. 

Mero Beach

One of the island’s most popular and easily-accessible beaches, Mero Beach has long been a favorite with cruise ship travelers and families visiting Dominica island. While Mero Beach has darker sand and isn’t as visually stunning as some of the island’s more remote beaches, it boasts perfectly peaceful, clear water and plenty of beach amenities to make for a great day on the water.

Woodford Hills Beach

Yet another stunning beach in Dominica, the white sand Woodford Hills Beach is a fast favorite with travelers looking for space to swim and sun. You won’t find many beach amenities available here, but it’s worth a visit if you’re exploring the island’s wild and remote northern coast, home to some of its most beautiful spots.

things to do in dominica
Courtesy of Discover Dominica

Things To Do in Dominica

You’ll be amazed at the incredible array of things to do in Dominica, especially considering that the island is just under 800 square miles in size. Whether you’re hopping for a relaxing stay in a resort or an adventurous trip through gorges and over mountains, you’ll find something here to love.

These are some of the island’s highlights.

1. Explore Dominica’s Reefs

As one of the world’s best destinations for scuba diving (even PADI says so!), Dominica is a haven for snorkelers and scuba divers alike looking for their next unforgettable experience. An incredible array of fish, corals, and sponges abound around the island, and you can even get the chance to swim with whales.

Champagne Reef is a famous spot for snorkelers and divers alike. It gets its name from the tiny streams of bubbles that emerge from the reef, the product of the island’s volcanic energy.

We snorkeled at Scotts Head Dropoff and had an incredible experience. Located on the edge of an ancient underwater volcanic crater, so much marine life is visible just from the surface, and the dropoff into the underwater crater is breathtaking.

Nearby Soufriere Pinnacles is also a highlight, even considered by some to offer the best snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean. Accessible directly from the beach, it’s a great choice for a self-guided snorkeling expedition

Scuba divers can depart from Soufriere and head to incredible destinations like L’Abym or Scotts Head Pinnacles with its incredible array of fish, octopus, eels, rays, and sharks. The island has plenty of dive shops for all your rentals and even diving classes for beginners; Nature Island Dive is a well-respected favorite, and we enjoyed getting out on the water with them!

2. Go Whale Watching

Dominica is one of the only places in the world where you can spot sperm whales year-round, making this island the whale-watching capital of the Caribbean. With the island’s plunging volcanic walls extending deep below the waves, it’s the perfect sanctuary for mother whales and their babies.

Whales are most frequently spotted off the island’s west coast between November and May, though experienced local guides can often spot them on whale-watching tours year-round. Book a tour ahead of time with an experienced company like PH Whale Watching for a great experience, and of course, the best chance of spotting whales.

trafalgar falls

3. Visit Trafalgar Falls

The twin Trafalgar Falls are one of the most important attractions in Dominica, with rivers cutting a dramatic path through the jungle before dropping into the gorge below. You can view the falls from a viewing platform before scrambling over the rocks to swim below the falls.

No strenuous hike is needed to visit this gorgeous spot – it’s just a 10-minute walk from the parking area, making it quite accessible and an easy addition to your Dominica itinerary. Even better, pair your visit with a stop for lunch at River Rock Cafe; this was my favorite meal in my time in Dominica, and the views are stunning.

There are plenty of other waterfalls to experience in Dominica as well, so if your itinerary allows, visit even more. Take the short 15-minute hike to Emerald Pool, swim through Titou Gorge to the waterfall, or head to the plunging Victoria Falls. They all feel like hidden oases among the lush jungle of Dominica.

Read More: 20 Best Things To Do in Dominica

4. Visit an Off-the-Beaten-Path Beach

One of the best things about the island of Dominica is that it has so much more to do beyond just going to the beach; this sets it above and beyond many other Caribbean destinations. However, Dominica also boasts its fair share of beaches to discover as you explore the island.

Head for off-the-beaten-path favorites around the island, including Pointe Baptiste with its stunning red rocks along the coast, or Number One Beach, which served as a backdrop for famous scenes from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. You’ll feel like you’ve got the entire island to yourself.

Read More: 10 Best Beaches in Dominica

caribbean food in dominica

5. Taste Authentic Caribbean Food

Don’t be content sticking to resort food and international favorites on your visit to Dominica – you won’t want to miss favorite local dishes and the culinary experiences unique to this Caribbean island. Local favorites heavily feature tropical fruits and vegetables, seafood, rice, coconut milk, and lots of great flavor.

You can also take a cooking class or a food tour to get an even better appreciation for Dominica’s Caribbean cuisine. Daria and Michael offer one of the most well-respected cooking classes in Dominica for travelers – make sure to book ahead for this true local experience!

Travel Essential

Don’t head out on your adventure without comprehensive travel insurance! Good travel insurance may cover lost or stolen gear, medical emergencies, delayed or canceled flights, and more. Check out the policies available from SafetyWing or compare plans using Visitors Coverage.

where to stay in dominica
Courtesy of Coulibri Ridge

Where To Stay in Dominica

Dominica has an incredible range of resorts and hotels, offering everything from high-end resorts to budget-friendly Caribbean-style hotels throughout the island’s many tiny villages. Most travelers opt for one of the resorts on the island’s western coast, as these are often the most accessible for travelers looking to enjoy all the things to do in Dominica.

Don’t count out some of the island’s more remote eco-lodges and eco-resorts, which bring the Nature Island to life for travelers. You’ll find sustainable places to stay at every budget here.

Best Resorts in Dominica

Jungle Bay

Perched on a hillside above the fishing village of Soufriere, Jungle Bay is boutique resort that feels plucked straight from the rainforest. When you visit the Nature Island of the Caribbean, Jungle Bay is just the type of place you’d want to stay: somewhere that highlights the lush landscape and spectacular scenery of the island, with an eco-friendly twist.

Jungle Bay boasts sixty rooms and private villas scattered across the expansive property. The views from every angle of the property are stunning, with Scotts Head and the Caribbean Sea neatly framed between green hillsides.

Jungle Bay also has two stunning swimming pools, two yoga pavilions, a spa, and a great restaurant and bar. The resort’s main building is particularly impressive, tucked between mountains and with its infinity pool seeming to melt into the deep blue ocean below. There’s nothing like enjoying a rum punch at sunset with this view.

Of the two different resorts we visited in Dominica, this was my favorite spot – by far! As one of the most impressive eco-resorts in the Caribbean, it far exceeded my every expectation.

Read More: 5 Best Resorts in Dominica

InterContinental Dominica Cabrits Resort & Spa

The island’s largest resort, the InterContinental Dominica Cabrits Resort & Spa is a modern resort to compete with anything you’d find along the Riviera Maya or the Dominican Republic. 70 suites and 61 rooms are spread across the property, which sits nestled in a picturesque bay next to Cabrits National Park.

We stayed at the InterContinental Dominica Cabrits Resort & Spa for the second part of our stay in Dominica and wow, was it impressive! The rooms are spacious and comfortable, staff is friendly, and food is delicious. As a base to explore the rugged northern coast of the island, you won’t find any better resort in Dominica.

The resort’s palatial spa is one of the nicest on the island, offering a sauna and steam room, independent treatment rooms, and even an expansive couples treatment suite with private outdoor jacuzzi. If you’re looking for a perfect way to unwind after a hike or a day or snorkeling or scuba, this is the best way to do it!

Coulibri Ridge

The newest impressive resort on Dominica island is Coulibri Ridge, an eco-friendly resort pushing the bounds of both sustainability and luxury on Dominica.

Coulibri Ridge is ultra-sustainable and totally off-grid, providing for all of its own power and water needs through green methods. A construction process lasting over 15 years made even the tiniest details of the resort intentionally green and clean.

Eco-friendly certainly doesn’t equate to roughing it at Coulibri Ridge. You’d never guess this impressive resort is off-grid from the luxurious installations of the property. Five three-story villas house penthouses and suites welcome visitors, complete with gorgeous infinity pools, expansive terraces, and more. The staff attends to travelers’ every whim.

Read More: 25 Best Ecolodges Around the World

Secret Bay

With unparalleled luxury and even more impressive natural surroundings, Secret Bay is a favorite among the best resorts in Dominica. Perched on a cliffside above one of the island’s most beautiful beaches, it boasts incredible ocean views and unrivaled amenities from every room.

Secret Bay’s all-villa layout makes it a favorite for honeymooners seeking solitude. Each villa is complete with a private terrace and plunge pool. The natural materials and sleek furnishings of the resort give it a jungle escape feel you’ll fall in love with instantly.

Getting to Dominica

It’s truly easier than ever to access Dominica, regardless of where you’re traveling from. The island’s growing fame as a new Caribbean travel hotspot has caused an increase in flights and ferries alike.

Flights to Dominica

New flights directly from the United States to Dominica have made it easier than ever for U.S.-based travelers to access the island. Flights connecting Miami and Dominica directly began with great success at the beginning of 2023, recently increasing in frequency to serve the influx of travelers to the island.

Travelers headed to the United States or Canada can also connect through San Juan, Puerto Rico for direct access to a number of other U.S. cities beyond just Miami.

Dominica’s two airports also receive flights from a number of neighboring islands, including St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Antigua, St. Maarten, and Puerto Rico. You can find a number of frequent flights to Dominica island from any of these neighboring islands throughout the week.

Read More: 22 Best Things To Do in Puerto Rico

Ferries to Dominica

Dominica is also accessible from its Caribbean neighbors via frequent ferry access. Islands including Martinique, Guadeloupe, and St. Lucia are just a short ferry ride away, making this a great option for travelers looking to experience several Caribbean islands in one trip.

pointe baptiste
Courtesy of Discover Dominica

Dominica Travel Tips

1. Get a Weekly Site Pass and Save

Most of Dominica’s top attractions are part of the nation’s Site Pass. This pass includes everything from the Boiling Lake hike and Freshwater Lake to some of the island’s marine reserves popular with snorkeling and diving excursions.

While a one-site pass costs $5 USD, a week-long pass to the island’s top attraction is just $12 USD and allows unlimited access to all the destinations it includes. Even if you’re just visiting for one day as part of a cruise or only have a few days to explore the island, purchasing the week-long pass will likely save you money!

2. Use Dominica’s Ferries to Explore the Caribbean (For Cheap!)

Dominica is connected to nearby islands like Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St. Lucia by ferries from the island’s capital, Roseau. This makes for an easy, relatively-affordable way to explore multiple Caribbean islands in just one trip!

You’ll need to book tickets ahead and plan using the ferry schedule, as not all ferries run between every destination every day. However, they’re a great way to explore the Caribbean, offering the benefit of taking in the beauty of the island by water at the same time.

3. Pack Wisely!

Dominica is all about adventure travel, so make sure you pack comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes for all the exciting things you’ll be able to do here. A few key recommendations as you pack include the following:

I wore Tevas every day of our trip – they’re the perfect shoes for hiking to the island’s different waterfalls, getting on and off kayaks and dive boats, and more. If you have yet to jump on the Tevas / Chacos train, now the is time.

4. Cut Down on Transportation Time

While Dominica is a relatively small island, it’s extremely mountainous, meaning that what should be a quick drive can take much longer than you might expect. Take some time to plan your Dominica itinerary around the activities you’d like to do on the island based on their location. You’ll save hours and hours of travel time!

It might even make sense to stay at a few different hotels or resorts in Dominica during you trip. We stayed at Jungle Bay to explore Soufriere and Scotts Head during the first half of our trip, then we moved up to the InterContinental Dominica Cabrits Resort & Spa halfway through our stay to explore the northern side of the island.

Dominica Island

Ditch your cookie-cutter Caribbean resort vacation for a new type of Caribbean travel in Dominica. While Dominica has plenty of luxe resorts and breezy hotels to welcome visitors, just like all of its neighboring islands, it also boasts so much more. The Nature Island of the Caribbean awaits!