A land of verdant, undulating landscape and roaring waterfalls, its beaches ebb, flow and disappear with the whim of the sea. Roads do the same in the wilderness. Per capita, the 47km (16-mile) wide, 26km (32-mile) long isle has more national marine preserves, parks and forests than any other place on the planet. There are also over 360 pristine rivers – one for every day of the year.
Cruise ships dock at its capital, Roseau. Allow about an hour – two if you like to take your time – to cruise its markets, shops and museum. The port city is the starting point for many off-land adventures like whale watching. A top diving destination, its waters are awash with creatures and vertical drops ranging from 240-460m (800-1,500ft). Take time to explore the island’s inland wonders too.
Wedged between the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, Dominica is the region’s only natural UNESCO World Heritage site.
Forget the glitz and casinos of other ports. Dominica is strictly an outdoor destination. Powder-like black, brown or white sand blankets its windswept beaches, betraying its tumultuous volcanic past. Often these desolate shorelines are more conducive to chilling out than swimming since strong undercurrents and large frothy waves border them. But Champagne Beach on the west coast is a perfect swimming and snorkelling destination. Volcanic vents puff bubbles into the sea making it feel as if you are swimming in a flute of bubbly.
In the interior, hiking trails slither up mountain paths and you’re never far from a waterfall. The Rainforest Aerial Tram inches through the rainforest then ascends 90m (300ft) over mountain greenery. A nature trail near the top crosses Breakfast River Gorge on a suspension bridge and reveals a breathtaking panorama.
Be aware that sites are often isolated and difficult to find. There are no real street signs and the winding roads are narrow. To make better use of your port time, hire a driver or join an organised excursion.
• Champagne Beach
• Emerald Pool, a beautiful rainforest grotto complete with waterfall
• Boat rides up the mangrove-lined Indian River
• Kalinago Barana Autê (Kalinago cultural village)
• Morne Trois Pitons National Park
• Scotts Head Soufriére Marine Reserve
Dominica Tourist Office
Valley Road, Roseau
Tel: +1767 448 2045.
Website: www.discoverdominica.com (two other useful websites are: A Virtual Dominica: www.avirtualdominica.com and Visit Dominica: www.visit-dominica.com
A variety of duty-free shops are located on the Bayfront, close to where the cruise ships pull into port. Browse and haggle at the open-air booths at the Old Market Place. This former slave market, which is your best bet for handcrafted jewellery, T-shirts, spices, souvenirs, batik, plus lacquered and woven bamboo boxes, is located behind the museum. Kalinago Barana Autê also has a fine selection of local crafts and baskets.
Since the island’s economy is dependent on agriculture, there is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Seafood and spicy Creole creations, often accompanied by plantains, are specialities. Chicken is prepared any number of ways. Locals enjoy manicou (small possum) and agouti (large rodent) but those dishes are not for the weak of stomach. The local drink is nanny, a spiced rum. There are only a few high-end restaurants. Many eateries are within walking distance of the cruise ship.
When to go:
The weather is pretty much the same throughout the year – hot and often humid. In the mountains, which run down the island’s spine, the weather is cooler. Avoid the island and most of the Caribbean during hurricane season – late May until early November. Even without a storm, the weather is muggy and rainy.
2.5km (1.5 miles).