DOMINICA TRAVEL GUIDE
Often called "The Nature Island of the Caribbean" due to its spectacular, lush, and varied flora and fauna, which are protected by an extensive natural park system. Dominica is a mountainous Caribbean island nation with natural hot springs and tropical rain-forests. Morne Trois Pitons National Park is home to the volcanically heated, steam-covered Boiling Lake. The park also encompasses sulphur vents, the 65m-tall Trafalgar Falls and narrow Titou Gorge.
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DOMINICA QUICK FACTS
Currency: East Caribbean dollar (XCD)
Population: 71 625 (2018)
Language: English (official), French patois
Religion: Roman Catholic 77%, Protestant 15% (Methodist 5%, Pentecostal 3%, Seventh-Day Adventist 3%, Baptist 2%, other 2%), none 2%, other 6%
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DOMINICA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 1st Monday in May, Labor Day
- 6 August, Emancipation Day
- 3 November, Independence Day
- 4 November, Community Service Day
Also, Carnival, Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Whit Monday.
FESTIVALS IN DOMINICA
Carnival - (February or March) Held at the traditional pre-Lenten time, is a feast of calypso music, Carnival competitions and activities all leading up to two exciting days of street jump-up. About a month prior to the festivities, Carnival is formally opened with an official Opening Parade and ceremony which highlights the celebrations to come.
BEST TIME TO VISIT DOMINICA
Dominica experiences the year‐round warm, humid conditions associated with a maritime tropical climate. Mean temperature is around 26°C, dropping only to 24–25°C in the cooler months of December to February. During the warmest period of the year, a maximum of 33°C may be observed along the coast, compared to 27°C in the mountains. The wet season occurs from June to October, during which the island receives around 250–400 mm of rainfall per month. El Niño episodes bring warmer and drier than average conditions between June and August and La Niña episodes bring colder and wetter conditions at this time.
The best time to visit the Caribbean is generally considered to be December to April, when it’s slightly cooler (particularly in the northern Caribbean), drier and less humid, and tourists flock to escape the northern winter. May to November can be soggy, with hurricanes possible from July to October – though these are rare in the far south.
High Season (Dec–Apr) - People fleeing the northern hemisphere winter arrive in droves and prices peak. This is the Caribbean's driest time and can be cool the northern islands.
Shoulder (May–Jun & Nov) - The weather is good, rains are moderate throughout. Reduced visitor numbers and the best mix of affordable rates and good weather. makes this an ideal time to visit the Caribbean.
Low Season (Jul–Oct) - Hurricane season; the odds of being caught are small, but tropical storms are like abound. During this time room prices can be half or less than in high season and you will find eastern Caribbean’s beaches good for surfing.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
HIKING & CYCLING IN DOMINICA
Outdoor activities in Dominica can be enjoyed all year round, just be prepared for the odd rain downpour! The dry season from February to April is arguably best. between August and October it's hurricane season.
BEACH OPTIONS IN DOMINICA
The best time to visit the stunning beaches of Dominica is during the dry season from February to April. Despite the odd rain downpour, and a few hurricanes and tropical storms between August and October, the weather is warm all year round.
KITESURF IN DOMINICA
Although not known for its variety of spots, the north-east side of the island offer some remote (albeit rocky) beaches with onshore winds.
HEALTH RISKS IN DOMINICA
Be aware of possible health risks in
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
DOMINICA TRAVEL COSTS
The Caribbean is not cheap, but there are ways to get the most bang for your buck with a little forward planning and some savvy choices
Budget less than US$150 Room away from the beach: under US$100, Meal at a locally popular restaurant: US$10, Ride local buses: US$3
Midrange US$150–300 Double room in the action: US$200, Visit parks and beaches that are free, rent bikes or snorkel for US$10 per day Rental car for exploring: US$40 to US$60 a day.
Top end over US$300 - Beautiful rooms at the best resorts in high season: US$400 and over, Activities in beautiful places: US$100 and up, World-renowned meals: US$100 per person and more.
Here are some of the best ways to save money:
Travel in groups Bring your friends and other couples along with you and rent a villa.
Book far in advance For high season deals.
Book at the last minute For incredible deals as hotels dump empty rooms.
Follow the divers They demand great value near beautiful waters.
Ride buses and ferries You meet folks and may have an adventure.
Live like a local Save money while having a more authentic visit.
Travel in low season Prices can drop 40% or more.
DOMINICA TRAVEL TIPS
Practically speaking the best way to get around Dominica is by taxi or car since the top activities are fairly spread out. Those who opt not to travel by automobile will end up confined on the southwest coast in Roseau. Rental cars and taxi services are available in downtown Roseau and at the island's two airports. If you choose to rent a car, be sure to get one with four-wheel drive, as the roads get quite bumpy.
Buses to the Roseau Valley make the trip from the Valley Rd stop in Roseau to Wotten Waven in about 20 minutes and to Trafalgar in about 30 minutes (check with the driver to make sure you’re on the right bus). Buses to Laudat (40 minutes) leave from the Valley Rd bus stop in Roseau. Fares range between EC$2 (less than $1) and EC$11 (or around $4), but the expensive taxis are significantly more reliable. You can easily spot a bus by the letter "H" on the license plate. Buses will stop anywhere on the main street as long as you can flag it down. A taxi ride from Roseau to Laudat costs around EC$80.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF DOMINICA
In many ways, Dominica is the ‘non-Caribbean’ Caribbean island. Beaches are few, as are resorts; instead this volcanic island is blanketed by untamed rainforest that begs exploration. Much of volcanic Dominica is blanketed by untamed rainforest that’s a verdant backdrop to experiences such as an intense trek to a bubbling lake, soothing your muscles in hot sulphur springs, getting pummelled by a waterfall, snorkelling in a glass of ‘champagne,’ swimming up a narrow gorge – the list goes on.
- Hike to the gurgling Boiling Lake.
- Rappel down rainforest waterfalls in Morne Trois Pitons National Park.
- Swim, snorkel or dive amid crystal bubbles at Champagne Reef.
Roseau (rose-oh) is Dominica’s compact, noisy, chaotic but vibrant capital, situated on the coast and the Roseau River. Reggae music blares through the narrow streets while people zip around in the daytime, but at night the city all but empties. Roseau’s streets are lined with historic stone-and-wood buildings in states ranging from ramshackle to elegant.
East of Roseau, the Roseau Valley is a ribbon of rural villages giving access to some of Dominica’s most dramatic terrain and top wilderness sites. Must-see sites include the stunning Trafalgar Falls for a deserving cooldown and Wotten Waven for a dip in it's sulphur springs.
(more location and points of interest are available in the above map)
Morne Trois Pitons National Park stretches across 17,000 acres of Dominica’s mountainous volcanic interior and is home to a stunning pastiche of lakes, fumaroles, volcanoes, hot springs and dense tropical forest. Hikes start in the mountain village of Laudat (elevation 1970ft). If you're up for the challenge hike the 6-hour round trip to Boiling Lake, the world’s second-largest actively boiling lake. Near the trailhead you can have a swim in the crystal-clear Titou Gorge water hole.
The coastal road south of Roseau takes you down to Mediterranean-flavored Soufriere Bay, dead-ending at Scotts Head in about 30 minutes.
Along the way, Champagne Reef is one of Dominica’s most unusual underwater playgrounds. Volcanic bubbles emerge from vents beneath the sea floor, making it feel like you’re swimming in a giant glass of champagne. Best of all, you can snorkel right off the rocky beach.
At the heart of the bay, which is the rim of a sunken volcanic crater, Soufriere is a sleepy fishing village whose undisputed ‘hot spot’ is the Soufriere Sulphur Springs (site fee US$5). It’s the source of a steaming hot stream in the hills above town whose water is captured in a series of stone pools. Scotts Head has a gem of a setting along its gently curving shoreline. Activity centres on the waterfront where old men hang out on the porches of pastel-painted houses.
The drive along the west coast takes you past Canefield Airport and through several villages and on to Portsmouth. Grayish-black Mero Beach is about half-way up the coast and is the west coast’s most popular sandy beach. It’s accessed via a narrow one-way road off the main highway. A string of bars serve drinks and meals and rent beach chairs
WHAT TO PACK FOR DOMINICA
The Caribbean islands are casual, so bring light, comfy clothes: a bathing suit, T-shirt and shorts will be your wardrobe. Add long pants or a dress for nights out.
Sun hat Buying at home ensures a better fit.
Quick-dry towel A small one, for when the whim to swim hits.
Flashlight For night-time reading, blackouts.
Resealable bags / Drybags Essential for keeping things (cameras, air tickets, passports) dry on boat trips.
Snorkelling mask with corrective lenses Suddenly, reefs are in focus!
WHAT TO EAT IN DOMINICA
Fresh fruit - Dominica grows all sorts of fruit, including bananas, coconuts, papayas, guavas and pineapples, and mangoes so plentiful they litter the roadside in places.
Sea moss - Nonalcoholic beverage made from seaweed mixed with sugar and spices and sometimes with evaporated milk. It’s sold in supermarkets and cafes.
As far as restaurants go, your best bet is Roseau, where you can find affordable Caribbean cuisine, as well as some standard European fare. Many of the best spots to grab a bite are hole-in-the-wall eateries scattered throughout Roseau. The downtown market sells freshly caught seafood, including conch, a type of snail that is a favourite Dominican dish. Other specialties include tee-tee-ree (small fish cakes) and crab backs as well as pumpkin soup, fried plantains and goat water, a rich stew made from goat meat.
These dishes can be found across the Caribbean:
Callaloo - A creamy thick soup or stew blending a variety of vegetables (eg spinach, kale, onions, carrots, eggplant, garlic, okra) with coconut milk and sometimes crab or ham. The base can be spinach-like.
Roti - Fiery chutney sets off the curried chicken, beef, conch or vegetable fillings in these burrito-like flat-bread wraps.
Conch - Look for farm-raised versions as conch in the wild are endangered. This large pink mollusk is cooked with onion and spices in a stew, fried up as fritters, or sliced raw and served with a lime marinade.
Take time to meet the locals by doing what they do – you’ll enjoy a more affordable and authentic experience.
Eat at lunch wagons or stalls. The local fare is cheap and often incredibly good.
Drop by a local bar – often the de facto community center. Besides a drink, you’ll get all sorts of useful – or wonderfully frivolous – advice.
Look for community fish fries or barbecues in the Eastern Caribbean.