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  • Writer's pictureBianca

Dominica: The Best Way to Travel Around the Nature Island

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

By now you've probably gotten used to seeing my posts about Asia, but it's finally time to talk about a hidden gem I've been holding onto - Dominica, also known as the nature island of the Caribbean (as well as where most of my family is from). Dominica is nestled in the heart of the Caribbean and if you're dreaming of a tropical paradise that's more off the beaten path, where sandy beaches meet lush rainforests, and adventure awaits at every turn, then Dominica is your ideal destination. 

This post will be primarily focused on the best way to get yourself around the islands many villages, but it will also cover a bit about its most famous hot spots! Amongst the Caribbean islands, Dominica stands as a masterpiece waiting to be discovered. So, pack your bags, hit the road (on the left side, of course), and let the Nature Island work its enchantment on you.

Getting to Dominica: The Caribbean's Best-Kept Secret

Let's kick things off with the journey itself. Getting to Dominica is an adventure in itself, given its strategic location in the Eastern Caribbean. While there are no direct flights from the United States to Dominica yet, you can hop on a flight to either San Juan, Puerto Rico, Miami international airport, or Port of Spain, Trinidad and then catch a short flight to Douglas Charles Airport (formerly known as Melville Hall Airport).

Nervous flyers be warned, the Dominica landing is notoriously terrifying. There are two landing options - coming over the land which goes low into the mountains, or coming over the sea which spends less time overland, but makes some pretty scary dips and turns. Both routes are rough but completely worth it once you find yourself on the island. If this is going to be your first solo flight read here for tips.

Pro tip: Regardless of where your layover is, opt for a Caribbean airline as the pilots are much more experienced with the difficult landing and it will be a smoother experience (still a bit scary though). American Airlines only has 6 pilots trained to do the Dominica landing so uh take that as you will.

Now moving onto travel within Dominica itself:

First Option: Rental Car

Once you land you'll quickly realize that both airports extremely easy to navigate since they are quite compact. You have the choice to go for a car rental at either airport as long as you have a valid driver's license. However, unless you are already comfortable navigating mountainous terrain and narrow roads I would advise against driving yourself around Dominica.

Navigating the rental car process is a breeze, but beware of the left-side driving – a delightful quirk inherited from the British. The first challenge? Remembering that you'll be turning into the left lane instead of the right. 

Pro tip: Make sure if you do wind up getting a car rental, that you opt for a four-wheel drive because these mountain roads are no joke!

Second Option: Navigating Dominica via Bus

Similar to southeast Asia, Dominica has a public transportation system which consists of minivans operating as local buses. Taking the bus is a budget friendly option to get around the nature island as bus fares are quite low. Ask your hotel reception or pretty much any local where the bus stops are and you'll be set.

Local buses, often adorned with vibrant colors and catchy names, offer a chance to experience the island's culture up close. Bus stops are scattered across the island, making it easy to hop on and off as you please. While the buses operate on a rotation system, it's worth the occasional wait for the authentic experience and the chance to interact with the friendly locals.

Pro tip: Don't be alarmed if your bus driver seems to be zooming along the many hairpin turns - these bus drivers have been doing their route all day every day for yearsssss. You're in good hands.

Third Option: Hire a Driver

Let's say driving in the mountains isn't your cup of tea and the local buses make you nervous (or maybe you just don't feel like sharing a ride in close quarters with strangers). You of course have the option of utilizing taxi services. Most hotels will have a dedicated driver with set rates who can take you around Dominica. If they don't, you can definitely ask them to give you the contact of a driver. 

Hiring a driver will obviously cost more than the bus, but it is still quite an affordable option. Plus, you can ask them to drive as quickly or as slowly as you want!

Why Dominica? What Makes the Nature Island so Special?

Now that we've gotten the basics of travel around the island, I want to shed some light on why Dominica is known as the Nature Isle and what makes it stand apart from other Caribbean islands!

Dominica's allure lies not just in its lush mountains but in the hidden gems scattered throughout the island. There are so many waterfalls, mountain trails, natural hot springs, unique animals and more located on the island hence its moniker.

For example, Trafalgar Falls is the island's most famous waterfall and it's actually a pair of twin waterfalls nestled in the rainforest. Trafalgar Falls is just one bit of nature showcasing the island's natural beauty. Another popular choice (and popular for Dominica still means there aren't a ton of people given that the island itself isn't super well known), Emerald Pool is a serene oasis surrounded by vibrant greenery, that you absolutely can't miss on your visit to Dominica.

For the adventure lovers, a visit to the world's second-largest boiling lake is a must. Hiking through the Morne Trois Pitons National Park (the same park where Emerald Pool is located) unveils Dominica's volcanic wonders and the mysterious Boiling Lake, a captivating sight for nature enthusiasts. And it should go without saying but uh...don't touch the water.

For those who love the sea, Dominica is also the perfect place for snorkeling and freediving. There is an abundance of sea life for you to observe! And on a related note, Dominica has actually recently created the world's first sperm whale reserve - a major step for marine conservation and biodiversity preservation. 

There are many more reasons Dominica is special and you can find out more about what Dominica is known for here.

Coastal Marvels and Sandy Beaches

Dominica's coastal wonders extend beyond the lush greenery. For example, Scotts Head, where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, is a captivating sight. It's a narrow strip with the choppy waters of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the super calm Caribbean Sea on the other. The view of both from above is pretty epic and only a short hike up (~10 minutes).

The beaches of Dominica are absolutely unreal with crystal clear waters and soft white sand. Plus the water is always the perfect temperature to jump right in. But for a beach day unlike any other, visit the black sand beaches, a result of the island's volcanic origins. Soufriere Bay, with its tranquil waters, offers a perfect setting for relaxation and soaking in the Caribbean sun.

Connecting with Nature: The Waitukubuli National Trail

For the avid hiker, Dominica offers the Waitukubuli National Trail, a 115-mile trek that spans the length of the island. Divided into 14 segments, each showcasing a different aspect of Dominica's landscape, this trail is a hiker's paradise. You'll traverse dense forests, cross rivers, and ascend peaks for unparalleled views of the gorgeous scenery. Whether you opt for a short day hike or commit to the entire trail, the Waitukubuli National Trail promises an intimate connection with Dominica's diverse terrain.

Beyond Dominica: Exploring Nearby Islands

While I'm biased and fully believe that Dominica steals the spotlight, its proximity to other Caribbean gems can add another layer to your adventure. You might want to consider a ferry ride to nearby islands like Martinique, St. Lucia or Guadeloupe. Express des Iles provides regular ferry service, allowing you to extend your exploration beyond Dominica's shores.

A ferry to the neighboring islands will not take more than a couple of hours which makes it a great option for a quick day or two-day island hopping excursion.

When to Visit Dominica

Timing your visit to Dominica is key to experiencing the best of the island. The dry season, from December to May, offers clear skies and pleasant temperatures, making it the best time for outdoor activities. However, the lush greenery of the wet season, from June to November, brings a different kind of beauty to the island, with vibrant flora and fewer crowds.

If you want sweet, juicy mangos readily available you're going to want to make it during mango season from May to July (aka the time of year I always manage to miss). Trust me you want to be here when those ripe mangos start to drop!

The worst time of year to visit by far is hurricane season which peaks late August to early September. Flooding is common during this time of year, but you don't want to get caught up in a really bad storm like hurricane Maria. Don't be a storm chaser.

What to Eat in Dominica

No travel guide is complete without a dive into the local cuisine, and Dominica doesn't disappoint. While there are always veg options available, the food here is very meat heavy, so meat lovers will rejoice. When deciding on what to eat, your best bet is to go with whatever you see around the island because you know it's fresh and local. What I mean by this isn't to slaughter your own cows of course, but you will see cows, chickens, goats, crabs, and much more wandering around the island. So if you see one of these listed on the menu it's going to be fresh and much better than anything you've bought in a grocery store and cooked for yourself. 

While navigating the island, indulge in the flavors of traditional Caribbean dishes. Seek out local eateries and street vendors to savor delicacies like callaloo soup, saltfish, pelau (my favorite), and breadfruit. Talk to the locals to discover hidden culinary gems, and let the island's gastronomy be a highlight of your journey.

Environmental Responsibility: Exploring with Care

Dominica takes pride in its untouched landscapes, and as a responsible traveler, it's crucial to leave minimal impact. Around the island you'll see plenty of signs reminding you to clean up after yourself and you'll very rarely find litter on the ground. 

Embrace eco-friendly practices, such as carrying a reusable water bottle and respecting designated hiking trails. Make sure you leave no trace!

Practical Tips

Before you set out on your Dominica escapade, consider a few practical tips to enhance your experience:

1. Insect Repellent: While Dominica's natural beauty is unparalleled, it comes with its fair share of insects. Insect repellent is a must if you are prone to lots of bug bites.

2. Local Currency: The Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD or EC) is the official currency BUT U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere - just note that you will get your change in EC.

3. Documentation: Keep your valid U.S. passport, driver's license, and any necessary permits handy. Stay informed about the local laws and regulations.

4. Weather Preparedness: Dominica's weather can sometimes be unpredictable. Pack accordingly, with both sun protection and rain gear, especially if you're exploring during the wet season.

As we wrap up this comprehensive guide, it's clear that Dominica is more than just a Caribbean destination; it's an immersive experience for those seeking nature's wonders, cultural richness, and off-the-beaten-path adventures. Whether you're navigating the left side of the road, hopping on a local bus, or diving into the natural hot springs, every moment on the Nature Island unfolds as a story waiting to be told.

If you're planning an escape to the Caribbean, this is your sign to let Dominica be your destination of choice. Discover the Nature Island's myriad delights, connect with its people, and savor the essence of a Caribbean paradise that remains unspoiled (for the time being) and unforgettable.


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