11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Dominica
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Known as "The Nature Island of the Caribbean," Dominica remains an unspoiled paradise for divers, hikers, and naturalists. It is the largest of the Windward Islands and features dramatic volcanic landscapes with lush rainforests, waterfalls, lakes, gorges, rivers, steamy hot springs, and the highest mountains in the Eastern Caribbean.
The rugged coastline shelters rustic coastal villages and rocky black-sand beaches, many of which are good snorkeling or diving spots.
Dominica also offers a captivating mix of cultures. British, French, and West Indian influences all infuse their own charm, and Dominica is home to the Eastern Caribbean's largest Carib Indian community. Colorful Roseau, the main town and capital of the island, reflects these eclectic roots in its food, art, languages, and customs.
Hurricane Maria slammed this island in 2017, destroying 90 percent of the island's structures, but recovery efforts are progressing well. Most of Roseau has been rebuilt with hurricane-proof buildings.
Due to the fact that only two small airports service the island, Dominica remains refreshingly untouched by package tourism and the large-scale resorts found on other Caribbean islands. Many people visit Dominica on a day trip from a cruise, or a multi-day trip from other nearby islands. Others spend the winter in Dominica to escape colder climates and enjoy the island's stunning natural splendors.
Whatever brings you to these lush shores, find the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions in Dominica.
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1. Morne Trois Pitons National Park
Morne Trois Pitons National Park is the jewel of Dominica. Encompassing much of the island's mountainous interior, the park is primordial rainforest - from thick jungle, with giant ferns and wild orchids, to the stunted cloud forest on the upper slopes of 1,424-meter Morne Trois Pitons.
Highlights of the 17,000-acre UNESCO World Heritage Site include beautiful lakes, like Boiling Lake and mist-shrouded Boeri Lake, and many of the most picturesque waterfalls in Dominica also lie in this lush park, including Victoria Waterfall, Trafalgar Falls, Emerald Pool, and Middleham Falls.
At Titou Gorge, you can swim in a crisp jade-green pool through the narrow canyon to a beautiful waterfall. One of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies was filmed in this magical spot.
And the park has another surprise: The steaming Valley of Desolation is an area of boiling mud ponds, brightly-colored hot springs, and mini-geysers.
One of the best starting points for a visit to the park is the village of Laudat, 11 kilometers from Roseau.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Dominica
2. Boiling Lake
Boiling Lake is one of the most popular attractions in Morne Trois Pitons National Park. This eerie-looking pool of bubbling, gray-green water lies at the end of a strenuous, three-hour hike through thick forest. But it's worth it.
Geologists believe the 63-meter-wide actively boiling lake, the world's second largest, is a flooded fumarole, a crack in the earth allowing hot gases to vent from the molten lava below. The temperature at the edge of the lake ranges from 82-92 degrees Celsius and is at boiling point in the center.
If you're hiking after a rainstorm, take extra care, as the trail becomes slick and muddy. Guides are highly recommended.
3. Victoria Falls
One of the most impressive and photogenic waterfalls on the island, Victoria Falls, in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, is formed by the White River cascading over a cliff into a warm pool below. Minerals give the water a milky-white color.
Wear water shoes with good grip as the approximately 40-minute hike involves river crossings and boulder scrambling, but these beautiful falls and the river itself are worth seeing. You can relax at the end with a dip in the warm pool.
Guides are strongly recommended, as part of the hike requires scrambling over slick rocks through the river.
4. Trafalgar Falls
The hike to Trafalgar Falls, is one of the most popular things to do in Dominica. Known as Mother and Father, these twin falls lie at the end of an easy 10- to 15-minute hike through a forest of ginger plants and vanilla orchids.
The cool main stream of Trafalgar Falls originates in the mountains and is joined near the bottom by a hot mineral spring. You can take a dip in the hot and cold pools amid the sulfur-dyed rocks at the base of the falls.
5. Dominica's Beaches
Most visitors choose a vacation in Dominica for hiking and nature, but you can still find some pretty slices of coast on this lush Caribbean island. Dominica beaches are mostly volcanic black-sand beauties, although the sand can actually look gray, depending on the light.
Mero Beach is one of the most popular stretches of coast. About a 25-minute drive from the capital, Roseau, it's a favorite place to visit for the cruise ship crowd. You can rent sun loungers and umbrellas and purchase snacks and drinks from funky bamboo shacks along the shoreline.
If you're looking for things to do in Portsmouth, Dominica's second largest town, head to Purple Turtle Beach. This is another lovely palm-studded stretch of beige-hued sand, with a popular namesake restaurant along its edge.
Vying for the most beautiful slice of coast on Dominica is wild and remote Batibou Beach on the island's far north coast. Accessing the beach is an adventure - 4WD vehicles are required on the rocky rutted track, or you can park up the top and opt for a workout walking down to the shore.
Once you make it to Batibou, it's worth it! Thick forests of coconut palms fringe the sand, and the headland curves around in a cozy embrace, with green peaks rippling in the distance. No wonder this ravishing beach was a location for one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Note that there is a $5 fee to access this beach.
Champagne Beach sees many tourists, mainly because it provides access to one of Dominica's famous tourist attractions: Champagne Reef, with its bubbly geothermal activity and warm waters.
Insider's Tip: Bring shoes to walk on Dominica's beaches, as the black sand gets really hot!
6. Cabrits National Park
In northwest Dominica, Cabrits National Park preserves lush rainforest, swampland, black-sand beaches, and thriving coral reefs. This scenic peninsula reveals panoramic views from its highest point, and the reefs offer some excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities.
The park is also home to one of the most interesting historical sites in Dominica. Here, you can visit the remains of Fort Shirley, an 18th-century British garrison with beautiful views of Prince Rupert Bay. A little museum at the entry sheds light on Dominica's colonial history.
Hiking trails take you through some of the jungly terrain; past the ruins of the garrison; and to viewpoints with sweeping vistas of the town of Portsmouth, the lush mountains, and the blue sea beyond. Benches pepper the area, providing picturesque places to stop and rest.
This is a lovely place to visit for a couple of hours to soak up some history, enjoy a short hike, and snap some photos.
Insider's tip: If you're planning to hike, it's a good idea to wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water, as the trails are not well shaded.
Framed by lush peaks, Dominica's capital of Roseau (pronounced "roze-o") is a colorful jumble of West Indian cottages and busy market stalls, with a cool vibe. Unlike other Caribbean capitals, you won't find any glitzy shops or chain stores here, just locally owned stores and a friendly, local vibe.
In 2017, Hurricane Maria destroyed most of the buildings here, but the town has made a remarkable comeback, and many of the new structures are hurricane proof.
Roseau's waterfront features a seaside promenade and cruise ship dock, which is crowded with visitors during the busy winter season. Near the dock, in the center of town, the Old Market sells fresh tropical fruit, vegetables, herbs, baskets, and coconut-shell souvenirs.
St. Patrick's Catholic Cathedral, a 19th-century Gothic-Romanesque-style church, is one of the city's major landmarks.
Other popular things to do in Roseau, Dominica include strolling around the Dominica Botanic Gardens and exploring the island's history at the compact Dominica Museum. Here, you'll find interesting exhibits on the slave trade, as well as Creole and Amerindian culture.
Many visitors also take the short drive to historic Morne Bruce for panoramic views of the city. You can also walk there from the botanic gardens.
8. Papillote Tropical Gardens
Pretty Papillote Tropical Gardens are a haven for artists, botanists, and photographers. Fed by a small stream, these 10-acre gardens form the grounds of a charming eco-lodge, the Papillote Wilderness Retreat.
Paths wind among bamboo trees, ginger blossoms, indigenous orchids, bromeliads, and begonias. You can also see many frogs, birds, and butterflies in the lush gardens.
Parts of the property offer beautiful views of the mountains and valley, and you can enjoy a soak in the retreat's mineral-rich pool, fed by a nearby hot spring.
The twin Trafalgar Falls lie a short uphill hike from Papillote.
Address: Trafalgar Falls Road, Roseau
9. Champagne Reef
Dominica's most famous dive and snorkel site, Champagne Reef lies in a marine reserve off the country's southwest coast. Geothermal activity causes thousands of bubbles to emerge from beneath the rocks, a few feet from shore.
Batfish, sea horses, barracuda, rays, squid, and trumpetfish are just some of the species found in the warm waters here.
You can swim to the site from the rocky, black-sand Champagne Beach. But it's best to try and time your visit around the cruise ship groups for a more tranquil experience.
10. Kalinago Territory
Dominica has the largest remaining tribe of Kalinago people (Carib Indians), in the Caribbean. If you want to learn a little about their fascinating culture, you can visit Kalinago Barana Autê, a model village, on the northeast coast, about 20 miles from Roseau.
Nestled amid banana and breadfruit trees, the village is a cluster of traditional wooden buildings. You can wander around the village and watch the Carib Indians carving dugout canoes, weaving baskets and mats, and sharing their knowledge of medicinal plants.
The Caribs survive through fishing and agriculture, as well as the crafts they sell to visitors. The village is a little off the beaten track, but it adds interesting cultural insight to this fascinating country and is one of the more unusual things to do in Dominica.
11. Dominica's Festivals
Popular with tourists and locals alike, Dominica's lively festivals celebrate the nation's music, heritage, and ties to the sea. The country's Carnival kicks off the year with calypso competitions, a Carnival Queen contest, "jump-ups," and a costume parade. Celebrations are held during the traditional Mardi Gras period, in the two weeks prior to Lent.
From April through June, DOMFESTA (Dominica Festival of Arts,) is an extravaganza of dance, music, drama, fine arts, cuisine, and literature. Dive Fest draws water lovers in early July with special packages, whale-watching deals, and canoe tours, while music lovers flock to The World Music Creole Festival, held annually in October.
Dominica's Independence Celebrations usually take place from October through November. This important celebration honors Dominica's historic past and Creole customs with traditional clothes, food, dancing, music, and parades.