Caribbean Destination Series Part 11-Dominica


To describe Dominica to the king and queen of Spain, Christopher Columbus reportedly crumpled a piece of parchment into a ball: The folds and creases illustrated the island’s steep mountains (and created one of the first documented three-dimensional maps).But his model did little to communicate the island’s other wonders: Hundreds of fast-running streams plunge through its thick tropical forests, and rare birds and animals flit through the greenery. Offshore, steep underwater cliffs play host to colorful coral, sponges and fish. Best of all, most of these attractions are in pristine condition. Even after recent attempts to increase the number of visitors to the island, Dominica (pronounced dom-in-EE-kah) is one of the most underdeveloped islands in the region. In fact, over the years, Dominicans have debated whether to return to the pre-Columbian, Carib name Waitukubuli, meaning “tall is her body.”The lack of the usual travel amenities—large resorts, museums, shopping, nightlife—means that travelers seeking a typical Caribbean getaway may want to steer clear of Dominica. But those who love nature and don’t mind roughing it in tropical wilderness will find the island to be pure paradise. People go to Dominica to catch a glimpse of a rare bird, to spend the day hiking through dense forests, and to dive and snorkel in remarkably clear waters. It’s little wonder that it has become one of the primary ecotourism destinations in the Caribbean. Dominica is currently the only entire country in the Caribbean to have been benchmarked by GreenGlobe 21 as demonstrating responsible behavior across the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental management.


Dominica is a fairly small island, 15 mi/24 km wide by 29 mi/47 km long. Volcanic mountains rise abruptly to more than 4,500 ft/1,375 m and run north-south along the island’s entire length. Lush oceanic rain forest covers the hillsides, and there are also evergreen forests, cloud forests, montane thickets and more—an incredible variety for so small an island. Jagged ridges and cliffs dominate the 88-mi/148-km coastline, though some narrow beaches lie along the leeward (west) side of the island, many with black sand. (The island looks more like the Hawaiian islands than its neighbors in the Caribbean.) The island’s abundant rainfall means there’s plenty of water: Hundreds of streams and more than 200 rivers crisscross the island, waterfalls cascade down steep valleys, and lakes and hot springs splash across the interior.


It was a Sunday in 1493 when Columbus first saw Dominica, and the island’s name is drawn from the word Domingo—Sunday or “the Lord’s Day.” Despite the 3-D map Columbus made of the island, Spain took little interest—partly because of the fierce Carib Indians who were living there. The French sent missionaries to Dominica in the 1630s, but they had little success in converting the Caribs and soon fled the island. In the 1660s, the French and English agreed that Dominica should be left alone, but French settlers began establishing plantations, and France took formal possession in the 1720s. Like many other Caribbean colonies, Dominica changed hands between the French and English as the two powers battled in the 1700s and 1800s. France ceded control in 1763, and the English maintained control after 1805 and developed the island’s sugar plantations.Dominica became an independent republic in 1978 and has weathered some political turmoil since—including two unsuccessful coups in the early 1980s, one involving mercenaries who had ties to the Ku Klux Klan. Nature was also rough on the young country: Hurricane David struck the island in 1979, killing 37 people and leaving approximately 80% of the population homeless. The next year, Hurricane Allen inflicted more damage. In 1995, two hurricanes—Luis and Marilyn—struck, and in 2004, a succession of hurricanes and tropical storms left marks of destruction on all the Caribbean islands, including Dominica. Despite these obstacles, the island has extended and improved its road system and has been attempting to boost its tourism business. Agriculture, especially bananas and coconuts, remains the core of the island’s economy, although falling banana prices have caused hardship for many residents in recent years. However, there has been a significant change in the economy: In 2006, the International Monetary Fund noted a 4% growth rate for Dominica, higher than anything achieved in the past 20 years.


Dominica’s foremost attractions include beautiful lakes, rain forests, indigenous culture, unique flora and fauna, mountains, challenging hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling, bird-watching, black-sand beaches, deep-sea fishing and whale-watching.Those who are comfortable with rugged surroundings and who have a deep interest in nature will love Dominica. Those who relish relaxed days on the beach, pina coladas, gourmet food and nightlife will want to look elsewhere. The comforts and amenities of a large Caribbean resort are not to be found there.

Port Information

In 2006, 314 cruise ships visited Dominica, bringing 379,643 visitors. Most cruise ships visiting the island stop in Roseau, Dominica’s main city and port. The cruise-ship pier is in the heart of this working town, just across from the Roseau Museum and the Old Market. You can easily walk from the pier to all of the city’s attractions, but you’ll need transportation to reach the national parks and other sights on the island. A tourist office is located at the Old Market, across from the pier. Monday 8 am-5 pm and Tuesday-Friday 8 am-4 pm. Phone 767-448-2351.Some ships dock at Woodbridge Bay Deepwater Harbour, the commercial port north of Roseau. From there, a shuttle bus will take you into Roseau. A tourist office is open at Deepwater Harbour whenever a ship is in port.The Cabrits Cruise Ship Port, the only cruise-ship terminal in the Caribbean that’s in a national park, is at the northwestern end of the island. Ships dock at its pier. There’s an open-air pavilion, built in 18th-century West Indian style. Films about the island, its history and attractions are shown inside. A tourist office is open whenever a ship docks. Paths lead from the pavilion to a garden and waterfalls, with splendid views of the sea. Within walking distance is Fort Shirley.

Shore Excursions

Consider signing up for the excursions offered by your ship. They may not be the least expensive way to see the island, but you won’t have to waste your limited time making arrangements yourself—and you won’t have to worry about missing the ship. Shore excursions—and their prices—vary from cruise line to cruise line. (During Dominica’s Carnival season, prices tend to be higher.) Typical shore excursions include river tubing, hiking, snorkeling or scuba diving, visiting a Carib village, or taking part in a whale or dolphin watch. Check with your ship’s shore-excursion staff or your travel agent for additional information.


Jean Rhys, author of Wide Sargasso Sea and other novels, was born in Roseau. Some of her books are set in Dominica and draw on memories of her island childhood.The Happy Planet Index measures ecological footprint, life satisfaction and life expectancy, and Dominica ranks fourth on a global level.The word canoe comes from canoua—the Carib word for their long, oceangoing boats.There are more than 160 species of birds on Dominica, including the large sisserou parrot—the national symbol—which is found only on Dominica.Mabrika is Carib for “welcome,” and you will hear many people say it to visitors and guests.Despite the healthy wildlife population and the existence of boa constrictors on the island, there are no poisonous snakes, insects or creatures of any sort on Dominica.People live longer on Dominica than most other countries in the world, and it has three times the average incidence of centenarians as do developed countries such as Great Britain and the U.S.The country’s former prime minister, Mary Eugenia Charles, was the first female prime minister in the Caribbean. She is definitely a local hero (ask almost any resident).Kalinago legend tells that the Enbarac Rock near Concorde is a doorway to the dead elders of the ancient tribe. For hundreds of years, those few living Caribs who had the secret “prayer of power” could open the door to enter and see the mysteries beyond on Christmas Eve. Legend continues that the last living couple who knew that secret incantation died about 20 years ago, and efforts to pass the secret to their son led to his insanity. So now, sadly, no Dominican Carib can ever again enter the Enbarac Rock.When the early French settlers were battling the Caribs for Dominica, an engrossing brother-vs.-brother saga unfolded. Phillip Warner, the white son of the governor of St. Kitts, faced his half brother, Indian Warner, who was the son of the governor and a Carib woman. Indian Warner had received a traditional English upbringing but later chose to fight alongside the Caribs. In the end, Phillip tricked his half brother and killed him.

See & Do

Visitors to Dominica will discover that the island is the Caribbean hub of Carib Indian culture. You can hear it in the singsong patois spoken by the indigenous residents and experience it in the active music scene in the clubs and nightclubs. But you will find it most among the Caribs—who call themselves the Kalinago people—in the historic Carib Territory, an area of 3,782 acres/1,531 hectares that includes eight villages. The Territory is currently under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The island’s plantation history comes alive in the Dominica Museum in Roseau, the Old Market area, the botanical gardens and the colorful Carnival parade, with its infectious celebrations, music and food. History buffs will want to visit the old stone Catholic Cathedral, as well as the library built in 1905 with funds from American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.


Known as the Nature Island Destination in the Caribbean, Dominica offers travelers interested in the natural environment numerous outdoor experiences to try. More than 50% of the island’s landmass is protected as national parks. Visitors may partake in any number of outdoor activities, including white-water rafting, mountain biking, trail hiking, sea kayaking, whale-watching, deep-sea fishing and some of the best scuba diving in the world.


No one goes to Dominica for the beaches: Most are of black sand, and the residents seem to prefer swimming in the freshwater rivers. However, the beach on Prince Rupert Bay has golden sand and is good for sunning and strolling. A good choice on the northeast coast is the white-sand Calibishie Beach where the water is always calm behind the protection of the reef. Many of the white-sand beaches on the Atlantic side of the island are remote and too rough for swimming (some reef-protected waters are calmer). All beaches are public.


Despite the slow, pothole-filled roads, cycling is an exciting and challenging way to see the island. Those who cycle with a guide are followed by a truck to take them and the bike back to base if they get too tired, but the more adventurous can head out with only a bike and lots of water. You won’t even need to take food; just ask any farmer for a little of his fresh produce, and he will willingly share.
Nature Island Dive
From the Soufriere Valley, this outfit offers full-day guided (minimum of four cyclists) or hourly and daily self-guided tours. Guided tours are available of Layou Valley, Sari Sari Falls and the Salisbury area and include lunch, mountain bike, helmet, transportation and refreshing river swims. Phone 767-449-8181.

Bird Watching

The sisserou parrot is indigenous only to Dominica, although it sadly finds itself facing extinction because of the increasing population and loss of habitat. Dominica has 167 recorded species of birds, although one resident expert claims to have sighted 171. For those who want to learn more, bird-watching tours are offered by many hotels and tour guides, including Papillote Wilderness Retreat, Dominica Tours and D’Auchamps Cottages.
Zandoli Inn
Bird-watching hikes with guides to Morne Pei are available. The dramatic trail at Tete Morne to Soufriere-Scotts Head Marine Reserve, and from Perdu Temps to Pointe Mulatre, also can be started at Zandoli. Or a gentle stroll in the Grand Bay area around Zandoli with a pair of binoculars and a knowledgeable guide often results in spotting many varieties of birds. Stowe, Dominica. Phone 767-446-3161.


Blue marlin, tuna, wahoo, dorado and mackerel can be found in the waters off Dominica. Expect to pay about EC$1,250 for a half-day charter, EC$2,500 for a full day.

Castle Comfort Dive Lodge
The boat is certified and fully equipped, including fish-finder/GPS, fighting chair, outriggers, reels and tackle. Phone 767-448-2188.

Hiking & Walking

Trails for hiking are too numerous to mention. There are as many inside the national park mountain ranges as there are coastal trails, and these include both easy and difficult hikes. Almost all of the trails are crossed by rivers for the convenience of hot and sweaty hikers.Easy trails that you can try without a guide include the Cabrits and Fort Shirley; Scotts Head at the southern end of the island; Syndicate Falls, with a short walk through the rain forest; Emerald Pool, which is a flat walk through some rain-forest paths; and Trafalgar Falls, an easy walk to a lookout and then a scramble to get to the water.For the most of the others, it’s best to use a local guide. Check with your hotel or accommodation for recommendations. On your own, it’s very easy to get lost, even if you attempt to stay on a trail. When hiring a guide, agree on compensation in advance.

Scuba & Snorkeling

With underwater pinnacles, drop-offs, walls and some exceptionally clear water, Dominica has become a popular dive destination. It’s one of the great unspoiled Caribbean dive spots, with reefs rich in both coral and fish. The seas contain unusual hot and cold springs as well. The best dive sites are within two marine parks, one in Soufriere Bay off the southwest coast of the island, near Scott’s Head, and one in Douglas Bay, north of Cabrits.To go diving, you must be a certified diver and present your C card to rent equipment. Some shops offer a supervised “resort course” dive—check locally.Snorkeling is best in Soufriere Bay, at Cabrits National Park and at Champagne Reef, where tiny bubbles from an underwater spring turn the ocean into sparkling water. Some dive shops offer boat trips for snorkelers. Gear is also available from many hotels.

Anchorage Dive Centre
A full-service shop about a mile/kilometer south of Roseau that serves many of those who come to Dominica to dive. Expect to pay about EC$145 for a one-tank and EC$195 for a two-tank dive. Phone 767-448-2638.

Dive Dominica
Operates scuba trips and also has a 10-passenger boat that makes snorkeling trips from Castle Comfort Dive Lodge, south of Roseau. Expect to pay about EC$80 for a snorkeling excursion. Phone 767-448-2188.


The island’s more than 200 rivers can be good spots to take a dip. The most popular and accessible of Dominica’s rivers is the Layou, which is in a beautiful valley of the same name that’s home to banana, coconut, citrus-fruit and cocoa farms. The Layou is the island’s largest river, with gorges, waterfalls, rapids and calm pools for splashing around, plus wide flat banks for sunbathing or enjoying a picnic. The river is a 10-minute walk from the main road, midway up the west coast of the island, about 20 minutes from Roseau. The Pagua River also is a good swimming choice.

Other Options

Dominica has a plan to become wholly organic within 10 years. Combine this with some of the highest rainfall on the planet, a sustainable population, unpolluted ozone straight from 2,000 mi/3,220 km of Atlantic Ocean, and the natural healing qualities of hot mud and springs throughout the island, and you have one of the purest living spaces on the planet. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the growing health and wellness facitilities on the island.
Jungle Bay Resort and Spa
Wellness is the focal point of the Jungle Bay experience; the property was built with facilities to host yoga, tai chi and other holistic vacation retreats. The tranquil rain-forest surroundings, rustic ambience, and health and wellness meals and activities create an unforgettable retreat experience. Phone 767-446-1789.

Rainforest Shangri-la Resort
This wellness, ecotourism and sustainable-living experience and spa facility is run by a U.S. board-certified chiropractor. The natural volcanic outpourings in the Wotten Waven area are a wonder to watch, and the steam grotto/sauna bathes visitors in the healing qualities of sulfur gas and steam. Other healing sessions include watsu, qi-gong, tai chi, yoga and natural hot-water stone tubs. Phone 767-440-5093 or 767-616-9322.


For the most up-to-date information on what’s on and where, pick up the free The Tip as soon as you arrive, or ask at your hotel.Black Velvet in downtown Roseau attracts a good mixed crowd on Friday and Saturday nights for DJ music from the Caribbean and beyond, reggae, bepop, soca and more. Open Tuesday-Thursday 7-11 pm, too (phone 767-275-0270). Another good local evening scene for young people happens at the Harlem Plaza Internet cafe and restaurant, Newtown, which features Thirsty Thursday and Live Reggae Friday. Phone 767-235-3612.Jazz fans can enjoy live performances at Fort Young Hotel on the waterfront in Roseau every Saturday night (phone 767-448-5000) and at Symes-Zee on King George V Street, Roseau, on Thursday night (phone 767-448-2494). Other musical options include The Garraway Hotel for karaoke on Friday and TGI at Cellars Bar. Phone 767-449-8700. some local color and music, try Melvina’s Champagne Bar & Restaurant at Pointe Michel on Friday and Saturday (phone 767-440-5480 or 767-448-3979). Afterward, wander around Pointe Michel, where a lot of the locals hang out, for some conversation and a couple of Kubulis, the excellent locally brewed beer.Mero Beach Bar, close to Salisbury on the Caribbean side, is the center of the universe on Sunday, when a big crowd of locals and tourists gathers for beach fun and food.In Portsmouth, check the schedule for the Indian River Bar (phone 767-245-6332 or 767-265-1281)
and Mam’s Sulphur Springs Restaurant (phone 767-276-0549).


Dominica is not the place to shop for bargains on goods from afar. What you’ll find instead are local items, including cassette tapes of local music, soap made from aloe and coconut oil, hot sauce, leather crafts and wood carvings. Handicrafts made from clay, bamboo, coconut shells, calabash gourds and straw are also good souvenirs. Other items of interest include silk-screened fabrics, batiks, rum, handmade rugs, pottery, lace, Dominican Bay Rum (a light aftershave made from the oil of bay leaves) and grapefruit marmalade. Also look for artwork by well-known local artists, including Carla Armour and Earl Darius Etienne.Baskets and other straw items woven of verti-vert grass and larouma reed in the style of the Carib Indians are available in the Carib Territory, in the Cabrits Cruise Ship Terminal and in the Old Market in the courtyard next to the Roseau Museum. Buy them in the Carib Territory, if possible; you’ll be directly supporting the Territory economy.Bargaining isn’t common, although it’s done politely in the produce markets (if, for instance, you’re buying large quantities of fruit or hot sauce). Most items are marked in local currency, EC dollars (EC$).Shopping Hours: Generally Monday-Friday 8 am-1 pm and 2-5 pm, Saturday 8 am-1 pm.


Good holiday reading and a selection of local authors. Cazbuli Building, 43 King George V St., Roseau, Dominica. Phone 767-448-7831.


Art Studio and Gallery
Ellingworth Moses, a highly acclaimed local artist, offers original pieces of art in a number of different media. Kennedy Avenue, Roseau (close to the Bayfront), Dominica. Phone 767-440-4396.


Market Square
A shopping mall from earlier times, this is a charming area of old stone buildings and a courtyard where colorful stalls full of larger-than-life Dominican ladies shout their tourist wares, T-shirts, wraps, baskets, soaps, and local and imported jewelry. A souvenir-shopping experience with a uniquely Dominican flavor.

The Ruins
Just across the road from Market Square is Harbour Street, notable for its roofless stone building at one end, which has been turned into The Ruins. For a break from the hot sun, dive in there to have a refreshing juice and a look at the amazing selection of local herbs and spices for sale. For EC$5, a scoop of locally grown and dried cumin or Caribbean black pepper will keep your kitchen stocked for another six months.

Specialty Stores

Abilities Unlimited
Take time to make a worthwhile visit to a workshop for the blind since 1964. There you can find beautifully crafted tablemats, desk organizers, trays, picture frames, fans, laundry baskets, baby cribs and many more wonderful gifts. Federation Drive, Goodwill, Dominica. Phone 767-448-2203.

Carib Indian Paradise
Along the Upper Layou Valley Road, a little wooden Carib house with a grass-covered roof leans invitingly into the road. Owned and run by a family, this is a treasure-house of homemade art and ancient crafts from a family whose ancestors were Carib chiefs. You will find snake oil for rheumatism, walking sticks made out of wood from the rain forest above the shop, shades made from larouma reeds, painted calabash masks and myriad other treasures. Phone 767-245-1149.

Cotton House Batik
Nice selection of locally designed batik, good for gifts and hand-designed clothes. Kings Lane, Roseau, Dominica.

Duty-Free Emporium
Located directly across from the cruise-ship pier, this touristy spot has the advantage of being open on Sunday when many other businesses are closed. It offers a good selection of leather goods, fwije (tree fern) works, books on Dominica, camera supplies and trinkets.

Dominica isn’t known for its cheeses and wines, but its French neighbors are. An eclectic range of imported French wine and cheese worth a visit, but don’t expect giveaway prices. Long Lane, Roseau, Dominica. Phone 767-449-9774.

Local Tours

Dominica’s untamed terrain and national parks make it a place for extreme adventuring, canyoning, tubing, climbing, hiking, biking, canoeing and swimming in cold lakes high on the mountains. Quieter, more intellectual pursuits include bird-watching, community and art workshops, and photography. Visitors can find a tour for whatever their interest may be.
Extreme Dominica
Canyoning in Dominica offers a great way to explore the hidden depths of the mountains and waterfalls while enjoying the fun and adventure of an exciting activity. Canyoning usually involves jumping into pools; wading and swimming; climbing and scrambling over log jams; and rappelling through waterfalls. There is enough variety to cater for all levels of experience and fitness. Phone 767-448-0412.

Kalinago Eco-Tribal Tours
A variety of specialist tours from high adventure to learning workshops based in and around the Carib Territory. Includes hiking, swimming, tubing, storytelling, crafts, manioc preparation and cassava bread-making, boat- and raft-making, and more. Phone 767-445-7708 or 767-316-7655.

Ken’s Hinterland Adventure Tours & Taxi Service
Popularly known as KHATTS, this company can arrange just about any kind of excursion you can imagine, from hard-core hiking to whale-watching to agricultural tours. Among the offerings are specialty hikes that explore topics such as botany, natural history, bird-watching and photography. Even Mick Jagger and Jimmy Buffet have used Ken’s services. Phone 767-448-4850 or 767-448-1660 (767-448-3517 after hours).

Rainforest Aerial Tram
This popular rain-forest exploration tour is operated by the experts in aerial excursions who began in Costa Rica. We recommend the three-hour tour from Roseau. Only open November-May. Call to book. Breakfast Gorge, Dominica. Phone 767-448-8775.

Wacky Rollers
Tubing or kayaking down the gentle rapids of the Layou River is spectacular fun, but even more fun is the “Travel on the Trail” adventure, advancing from tree to tree via suspended bridges, footbridges and zip lines. There is even a Tarzan jump for the daring, and the course ends with a zip across the Layou River and back. Phone 767-440-4386.

Day By Day

We suggest a stay of one week to see the main sights and to appreciate the subtleties of island life, although it is easy to stay a month for a fraction of what you would pay in other Caribbean locales. Because Dominica is quite small, precise scheduling and travel plans are not necessary. However, you should remember that poor roads and steep hills can turn what looks like an easy trip on the map into several difficult hours of driving. The best way to plan your trip is to decide which attractions you want to see and, of those, which require guides or escorted tours. Plan your itinerary according to the availability of the guides and the schedule of the tours.

Day Plans

To help you make the most of your time in Dominica, we’ve designed three different itineraries. PLAN AStep Back in Time with the KalinagoTouna Village is a lively, hospitable Carib community that has opened its doors to visitors, a living museum of a once-adventurous race that gave its name to the whole region.Start with a trip to Spanny’s Falls, near the village of Penrice, and then move to Touna Village on the other side of the river, where you will be greeted by knowledgeable hosts and encounter a reconstructed carbet, Carib for meetinghouse. There you will learn about the customs and history of the Kalinago, before moving on to the waterfalls, pools and rocks of the Pagua River where the crayfish abound. Larouma, a form of papyrus that is harvested, stripped, dried and woven by the Carib women into baskets, grows in the wetlands beside the river. You may meet the last basket weaver, who still uses bamboo to make his strong durable baskets, or an herbalist who will take you around his garden and describe the uses of the many different herbs and spices, some of them for medicinal purposes, some for hallucinogenic and magic purposes.Lunch is served in Touna Village and includes delicious homegrown organic fruits and vegetables served with fish or chicken. After lanch, drive further into the Carib Territory to the Crayfish River to visit Barana Aute, a Carib model village. There you can buy some of the art and crafts made by the Carib community and swim in falls. BChampagne Reef, Emerald PoolBegin your morning with a snorkeling or diving trip to Champagne Reef—the rich reef south of Roseau is shallow enough that even snorkelers can enjoy it. Afterward, walk around Roseau, stopping at the cathedral, the Botanical Gardens and some of the shops. (You won’t be visiting the same chain stores you’ll see elsewhere in the Caribbean—most shops are little local spots with friendly staff.) The town is tiny enough that it’s impossible to get lost.Have lunch at the Guiyave Restaurant on Cork Street—if for no other reason than to enjoy the street scene from the balcony. Then head to the Emerald Pool for a swim. It’s probably cheapest to hire a taxi, especially if you share with a group and have the taxi wait for you. The pool is a half-hour walk from the road, so give yourself enough time to get there, have a relaxed swim and stroll back, enjoying the magnificent rain forest.PLAN CA Ride on the Indian RiverThis plan begins at Cabrits National Park: First, roam the extensive grounds of Fort Shirley, trying to imagine battles raging around these buildings. Enjoy the beautifully preserved ruins and the wonderful views to the Les Saintes and Guadeloupe. Then take a taxi to the Indian River (the ride should cost EC$13 or so) for a boat trip (about EC$20-$25, plus a 10% tip). Insist on a nonmotorized vessel, as the speed and noise of a motor will destroy what you’ve gone for—serenity and the chance to see some wildlife.After your boat trip, catch another taxi for the short ride to the Syndicate Nature Preserve, where you can choose among trails ranging from less than half an hour to about 90 minutes of walking time. Be aware that there’s about 20 minutes of very bad road followed by a 15-minute walk to the head of the rain-forest trail. This is the best place on the island to spot Dominica’s two rare parrots, the sisserou (officially called the Imperial Amazon and Dominica’s national bird) and the jaco. Your best chance at seeing them is during their mating season, late April to early May. Just be sure to take your rain gear along with you on the hike.

Dining Overview

Food prices in Dominica are among the lowest in the Caribbean, and the island’s Creole food is quite good. Meals consist primarily of lightly seasoned seafood and fish—crayfish, crab backs (in season), lobster and octopus, for instance. Fresh vegetables and tropical fruits also play a big role in many meals. If it’s featured on a menu, be sure to try stuffed crab (red and black land crab stuffed with crab meat and creole seasonings). Other island favorites include pumpkin soup, fried plantain, bakes (a fried dough patty filled with smoked meat, codfish or tuna), callaloo (akin to spinach soup), goat water (goat stew) and rotis (curried chicken, beef or goat with local vegetables, all wrapped in a tasty tortillalike bread).The adventurous will want to sample tee-tee-tee, fish cakes made using the tiniest of fish. You’ll also find plenty of spicy roasted or fried chicken and beef. The meat is accompanied by the potatolike breadfruit or vegetables such as dasheen and the squashlike christophene. Be forewarned that crapaud, or mountain chicken, is a species of frog. It’s usually served in season, September-February. It’s considered a national delicacy and is known for its tender flesh.Dominican coffee is considered by some to be among the best in the world. Herbal teas are locally made and packaged, including ginger, lemongrass and bwa bande, the latter rumored to be good for boosting virility.Generally, breakfast is served 7-10 am. The noon meal is often the largest of the day and is eaten between 11 am and 2 pm. You may want to get to restaurants early to beat the large midday crowds. Dinner is served between 6 and 8 pm. On Sunday, one larger, social meal usually is served in the afternoon, taking the place of lunch and dinner. Restaurants take credit cards.Expect to pay within these guidelines for a meal for one, not including drinks, tax or tip: $ = less than EC$30; $$ = EC$30-$75; $$$ = EC$76-$150; $$$$ = more than EC$150.

Local & Regional

Beau Rive Hotel
You must book with owner Mark Steele for either lunch or dinner. Food is always locally grown and prepared that day. Served at 7 pm, dinner is an elegant and charming affair with interesting guests and inspired conversation. $$. Castle Bruce, Dominica. Phone 767-445-8992.

Cartwheel Cafe
The owner of the Cartwheel comes from an old Dominican family and has lovingly restored the old stone building in which the cafe is situated. There are only two dishes on the menu, one of them always fish freshly caught that day and then a local chicken or pork dish. Always delicious, these dishes are accompanied by herb rice, lentils or beans, plantains, dasheen and a fresh salad. Freshly made local juices are served daily, along with everyone’s favorite Cartwheel chocolate cake. Monday-Friday 8 am-2:30 pm, Saturday 8 am-noon. $. Waterfront, Roseau, Dominica. Phone 767-448-5353.

Among the cognoscenti of Calibishie, Coconutz Beach Bar does the best food in the area. It’s the perfect beach cafe, with hammocks for sleeping off lunch and tables and chairs on the white-sand beach and in the shade of the palm trees. Food is a fusion of local and international with seafood, wraps, burgers, plantain fritters, and salads with fresh mango dressing, all made once you order. Open 10 am-10 pm throughout the season; closed on Monday. $-$$. Bayside, Calibishie, Dominica. Phone 767-445-7112.

The owners serve American and Dominican local dishes at an affordable price. It’s the only lunch stop with sandwiches, pizza and burger and chips on the Atlantic coast between Calibishie and Jungle Bay. $. Castle Bruce, Dominica. Phone 767-445-7794.

Guiyave Restaurant
Specializing in Creole food but with a French bakery, too, this is a good place for rotis, sandwiches or full meals. Dine on the balcony upstairs or in the patisserie downstairs. We’re especially fond of the seafood, particularly octopus and conch, and the goat water. Also try the amazing homemade ice cream. Daily for breakfast and lunch. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. 15 Cork St., Roseau, Dominica. Phone 767-448-2930.

Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom chilled out there on days off from filming and, the story goes, the actors did the washing up to help out. They certainly signed the guest book. Owned by Clem Frederick, a Rastafarian, and his French-born artist wife, Marie, the restaurant is set in an open-sided art gallery with furniture made of driftwood, surrounded by tropical gardens and colorful birds. Marie needs at least 24 hours’ warning to create lunch or dinner, but she always has juices, rum punch, teas, local coffee, and homemade ice cream and sorbets. Open 2-6 pm Friday-Monday. $$. Most major credit cards. Bourne, Dominica. Phone 767-445-3486.

Jungle Pavilion
Jungle Bay Resort offers outdoor dining under a huge central roof. Friday is barbecue night and Saturday is always something special. The food is all locally grown and the seafood local. Vegetarian pizza, tofu kabob and eggplant tostadas, topped off with a banana flambe for dessert, make for a nutritious evening meal. Friendly atmosphere. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. $$. Delices, Dominica. Phone 767-446-1789.

La Maison
Probably the best restaurant on the island. French and pricey, but well worth it for something extra-special. There is an upper room for larger parties, and sometimes a live guitar plays. Best cheese platter on Dominica, and the selection of wines would have impressed the Empress Josephine, who was born on the neighbouring French island of Martinique. Don’t miss the chocolate lava. Call for reservations. $$-$$$. Fort Lane, Roseau, Dominica. Phone 767-440-5287.

O’Byrnes Irish Pub
The Pub, as its commonly referred to, is owned and managed by Jessica Pinard-Byrne, whose heritage is Dominican and Irish. She takes orders and serves the meal, adding a personal touch. Food is good pub grub, and Jessica usually can be found circulating among her patrons. Great atmosphere and wonderful service. A place to meet expats, tourists and locals, DJ on Friday and Saturday nights. Tuesday-Thursday 6-11 pm, Friday 6 pm-1 am, Saturday 6 pm-midnight. $-$$. Phone 767-440-4337.

Rainforest Restaurant
If you’d rather eat than hike but don’t want to miss the rain forest, the restaurant at the Papillote Wilderness Retreat guesthouse offers a dining terrace surrounded by vine-covered trellises. Resident peacocks, geese, guinea fowl and cats add to the wilderness feel. Though not always available, the specialty is tiny river shrimp—bookh. Other dishes incorporate uniquely Caribbean ingredients and tropical flavors that complement the rain-forest setting. Try the jack fish or king fish. Check the food calendar for exact menus—they change daily. Although it’s best avoided when the cruise ships are in town, this place is worth it for the ambience alone—and you can take a dip in one of the three thermal pools. Daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. $$$. Most major credit cards. Near Trafalgar Falls and the village of Laudat (outside Roseau), Dominica. Phone 767-448-2287.

Personal Safety

The crime rate is low on Dominica, but there is some petty street crime, mostly in Roseau. Use common sense: Don’t leave your valuables unattended or in an unlocked vehicle, including boats. The police are always polite and helpful if you do have a problem. They often know exactly where to go to recover anything that may have gone missing, so don’t hesitate to call them.Crime hot spots are major festivals, such as World Creole and Carnival, so try not to carry any valuables when attending them. Calibishie is the tourist beach area on Dominica, and do not leave valuables unattended on the beach when swimming or playing ball.A number of robberies of private yachts have been reported in the Prince Rupert Bay/Portsmouth area of the northwest. Dial 999 for the police, fire department or ambulance service. For the latest information, contact your country’s travel-advisory agency.


Roseau has an adequate hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital on Federation Drive. Phone 448-2231 or 448-2233. If you have need of immediate care on the other end of the island, there is a small hospital in Portsmouth. Phone 445-5237. The Marigot Hospital is located on the east coast. Phone 767-445-7091. The southeast has the Grand Bay Medical Centre in Grand Bay. Phone 767-446-3706. Smaller towns have clinics and doctors.Tap water is considered safe to drink but has a lot of chlorine in it; you may want to stick with bottled water. Local brands such as Loubiere are the best. Salad vegetables grown on Dominica are organic and unwashed and taste like real vegetables, but make sure that you rinse them carefully in a solution of hydrogen peroxide that you can pick up at any of the chemists. Be careful of salads in restaurants.A vaccination against hepatitis A is recommended. Malaria isn’t a problem, but take along insect repellent. The tourist office can tell you whether dengue fever, contracted through certain types of mosquito bites, is currently a problem. Be sure to take along a pair of sturdy and comfortable hiking boots, some sort of rain gear, sunscreen and a hat.For the lastest information, contact your country’s health-advisory agency.

Dos & Don’ts

Do pronounce the name of the country dom-in-EE-ca and refer to the people as dom-in-EE-cans, not do-MIN-icans—as the people of the Dominican Republic are known. Address mail with the nation’s official title, “Commonwealth of Dominica,” to avoid confusion with the Dominican Republic.Don’t photograph locals without permission.Don’t appear in town in short shorts or swimsuits or with a bare midriff—it’s considered rude.Don’t pick any flower or remove any plant or animal from the national parks or forest reserves. It’s against the law, strictly enforced and punishable with a fine.Do take away any garbage that you take into any of the protected natural areas of the island.Do go for a swim in the cold waters of Titou Gorge and find the warmer water of the hidden waterfalls.Do use approved Dominican watersports operators to conduct your water adventures.Do smile and wave as you drive around the island in your hire car. Dominicans are the friendliest people in the world, and they are curious to know who is visiting their island.Do feel free to pick up hitchhikers, but make sure that your personal stuff is not lying around on the back seat where it can disappear with your new best friend.

Hotel Overview

Accommodations include locally owned hotels and guesthouses that range from first-class to basic. The average hotel has 15-20 rooms, but some have only four or five. Space can be limited—the whole island has little more than 1,000 hotel rooms. Most properties are well-run, clean and more than adequate, but don’t assume that a property is on the beach. In fact, the island has relatively few beaches, so inquire about the location before booking.Dominica excels in wilderness and rain-forest eco-lodge accommodations, including Jungle Bay, which hosts yoga programs (phone 767-446-1789); Rosalie Eco Forest Retreat, where you can rent a hammock beside the river for EC$55 for the night (phone 767-446-1886); and Papilotte Wilderness Retreat, a botanist’s paradise with rare orchids and natural hot baths (phone 767-448-2287).Of historical interest is Fort Young in Roseau, built in the 1770s, which now serves as a hotel.


Passport/Visa Requirements: As of January 2007, all U.S. citizens must have a passport when traveling by air to or from Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America and Mexico. Citizens of Canada, Mexico and the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda also must have a passport or other designated secure document to enter the U.S.Beginning June 2009, passports are required for land crossings at the Canadian and Mexican borders with the U.S. and for cruise passengers returning to the U.S. from Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada or Bermuda.In addition, a departure tax of EC$50 or US$20 must be paid in cash at the airport when you leave the island by plane. Both currencies are accepted. Reconfirm travel document requirements with your carrier before departure.Population: 68,910.Languages: English, French patois..Predominant Religions: Christian (Roman Catholic, Protestant)..Time Zone: 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed.Voltage Requirements: 220 volts.Telephone Codes: 767, country code;

Currency Exchange

In Roseau and Portsmouth, you’ll find plenty of ATMs, which dispense East Caribbean dollars at competitive exchange rates. Banks can also exchange currency. Royal Bank of Canada (phone 767-448-2771), Scotia Bank (phone 767-448-5800), First Caribbean International Bank (phone 767-448-2571) and the National Bank of Dominica (phone 767-255-2300) all have branches in Portsmouth and are open 9 am-2 pm Monday-Thursday. On Friday, they stay open until 5 pm.U.S. dollars are widely accepted on the island, but the exchange rates you receive from merchants are rather arbitrary and usually not as favorable as those available when exchanging money at a bank or when withdrawing it from an ATM. Also, you’ll usually receive change back in East Caribbean dollars regardless of what currency you pay with.


Dominica has a value-added tax (currently 15%) that is charged at the point of sale of any good or service. For small cash sales, you will not be charged tax, and if you are, it probably won’t reach the Treasury. Be aware, and beware, that in many cases the price of the tax is added after the point of sale, and is not reflected on the price tag.


A 10%-15% service charge is added to hotel and restaurant bills. Tip more only if you receive exceptional service.


The best time to visit is December-May, when average daytime temperatures are in the 70s-80s F/23-32 C, with nights about 10 degrees F/5 C cooler. Hurricane season is July-October. It’s cloudier then and rains a bit more, though parts of the island are always wet: It rains a whopping 350 in/890 cm a year in the mountains and about 40 in/102 cm on the western coast. Always be prepared for rain in the forest areas (a rain jacket made of a breathable material is a good investment). Take a sweater or jacket year-round—it can get chilly in the mountains.

What to Wear

Dominica is a casual island: Even in the best hotel restaurants, men are not required to wear jackets and ties. It’s more important to be prepared with rain gear for the daily downpours. We recommend a jacket and pants made from a waterproof, breathable fabric. If nothing else, at least take a plastic rain poncho. Sturdy, waterproof boots are also a must if you plan to go hiking, and you may want to take extra socks. The trails are steep, rugged and muddy.Carry an umbrella in town—it’s good for flourishing in a mildly threatening manner at the vagrants begging for a dollar on the waterfront in Roseau and serves even better as shelter for the heavy sudden downpours that pass regularly across the city.


Phone service on the island is generally good. The landlines are owned by Cable & Wireless Dominica. Most local and international telephone calls are now made via cell. Pay phones are available but are not kept in the best of working conditions.There are three cellular companies on the island, so the service is customer-oriented and cheap. Pay-as-you-go credits are available throughout the island at most bars and shops.Orange offers a good, cheap service, and the main office is in Financial Center, Kennedy Avenue, Roseau (phone 767-440-5021; Bmobile is the Cable & Wireless cell service (phone 767-255-1000; Digicell is probably the most proactive of all three and always has excellent promotions going on. Phone 767-616-1500.

Internet Access

Internet access is provided by Cable & Wireless Dominica (phone767-255-1000).
Most hotels offer either Wi-Fi or a network connection. If you travel with a laptop, make sure you have both a network card and cable, as well as a wireless connection. There are very few Wi-Fi hot spots on Dominica.For Internet access, nearly all hotels offer free time on their office or front-desk computer.

Cornerhouse Information Cafe
In Roseau, the most reliable Internet access can be found at Cornerhouse Internet Cafe. This has broadband Internet access at EC$3 for 15 minutes, and you can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at the same time. Open 7:30 am-10:30 pm. 15 George V St., Roseau, Dominica. Phone 767-449-9000.

Mail & Package Services

Roseau Post Office
You can mail letters and postcards at this post office. Don’t expect fast service, though: Your mail might take a little longer than you do to reach its destination. Monday-Friday 8 am-4 pm. Bay Street, Roseau, Dominica. Phone 767-448-2601.

Newspapers & Magazines

There are a couple of weekly local newspapers, including the Chronicle and the Times, but these tend to be sounding boards for political commentators and may not be of interest. Pick up a free newspaper called The Tip, which offers excellent up-to-date information about what’s on and where.


There is regular air service to Dominica, and cruise ships also deliver visitors to the island. To get around the island, you can choose from buses, taxis and rental cars. Those lacking an adventurous nature may find it worthwhile to hire a local driver/guide.


Dominica has two airports: Canefield (DCF), 3 mi/5 km north of Roseau (phone 767-449-1990;, and the larger Melville Hall (DOM), 24 mi/39 km northeast of Roseau (phone 767-445-7101; Be sure you know which airport you’re departing from. Neither airport is large enough to handle jets: All flights are on turbo-prop planes. Both airports are open 15 minutes before sunrise to 15 minutes after sunset. Melville Hall is undergoing renovations, and the new long-term/short-term car park is already operational.Taxis are available at both airports. Fares are quoted per-person. From Melville Hall to Roseau, expect to pay EC$43; from Melville Hall to Portsmouth EC$32; from Canefield to Roseau EC$22; and from Canefield to Portsmouth EC$114.


Although Dominica has public buses, they don’t run on a set schedule. They do operate 6 am-7 pm Monday-Saturday, but they don’t operate at all on Sunday. Actually, they’re jitneys or minivans more than buses, and they’re usually crowded and noisy with blaring reggae music, but they are a great way to feel connected with the local culture. Buses to all points south depart from the Old Market in Roseau. You can catch buses north from the West Bridge. Although it’s worth riding the buses once for the experience, we generally recommend them only to those for whom comfort is not a high priority. For sightseeing and touring, it’s better to use taxis. If you do choose to ride the buses, however, you’ll save some money. Just flag the driver down as a bus approaches. Most rides are less than EC$4, and EC$9 will get you just about anywhere on the island. Fees are set according to zones around the island. Just ask, and the driver will gladly quote you a rate when you board.


Although most (but by no means all) of Dominica’s roads are good, driving can be challenging—unless you’re experienced driving on the left and on steep cliffside roads that are full of potholes, hairpin turns and daredevil drivers (not to mention children and herds of goats on the roadside). If you do rent a car, a local driver’s permit is required—most rental agencies can sell you one, or you can get it from the Traffic Department located in Roseau or from Immigration at either airport. The fee is EC$30. You must have a valid license and two years’ driving experience. Expect to pay about EC$90-$130 per day for a rental car, as well as a hefty credit-card deposit.A big help in finding your way are the maps available from the Division of Tourism in the National Development Commission located in the converted Rose’s Lime Juice factory on Valley Road (phone 767-448-2045). You can also pick them up at the information offices located at the airports and at the Roseau and Cabrits cruise-ship docks.Many car rental companies on Dominica come and go, but there are at least two that offer a professional, tried and tested 24/7 service. Road Runner Rentals is a small, family-run business with an emphasis on quality and maintenance. You even get a free cell phone with your rental. Phone 767-276-3804. Car Rentals has a big fleet of the newest cars on the island, with offices in Roseau and at Melville Hall Airport. Phone 767-255-6844.


L’Express des Iles is a fast, catamaran ferry service from Dominica to Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Lucia. Call for timetable and ticket prices. Phone 767-445-4331.


Most cruise ships dock in the heart of Roseau, but some ships also dock at Woodbridge Bay Deepwater Harbour, a commercial port north of Roseau. A third port, the Cabrits Cruise Ship Port, is at the northwestern end of the island. There are tourist offices near each port.


Taxis, many of which are minivans accommodating 15 passengers, are the best option for sightseeing and touring. Standard fares are listed on the last page of the Discover Dominica booklet, available at tourist offices. Some drivers charge by the carload, rather than per person, so be sure to agree on the fare before setting out and know which currency the driver is quoting. For tours, drivers usually charge EC$52 per hour for up to four people, plus tip (10% is appropriate). Taxis are available near the Fort Young Hotel, or you can usually pick one up on Bay Street, near the market.


Mopeds, motorcycles and bicycles are available but not recommended—it’s too mountainous and too risky. Hitchhiking is widely practiced by locals and some tourists, but we do not recommend it.

For More Information

Tourist OfficesDominica: National Development Corporation (NDC)—Division of Tourism, P.O. Box 293, Valley Road, Roseau. Phone 767-448-2045. Fax 767-448-5840. is also a tourist office in Roseau at the Old Market, across from the pier. Daily 9 am-5 pm. Phone 767-448-2351 or 767-448-2186. A third office is located at Deepwater Harbour and is open whenever a ship is in port. The National Park Office, located in the Botanical Gardens in Roseau, also provides tour guides and printed information. Phone 767-449-2733.U.S.: Phone 718-261-9615 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              718-261-9615      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Toll-free 888-645-5637 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              888-645-5637      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Phone 020-7928-1600. of DominicaCanada: High Commission for the Countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, 130 Albert St., Suite 700, Ottawa, ON K1P 5G4. Phone 613-236-8952 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              613-236-8952      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Fax 613-236-3042. Embassy of the Commonwealth of Dominica, 3216 New Mexico Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20016. Phone 202-364-6781 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              202-364-6781      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. There is also a consulate in New York City.U.K.: Embassy of the Commonwealth of Dominica, 1 Collingham Gardens, South Kensington, London SW5 0HW. Phone 020-7370-5194. Monday-Friday 9:30 am-5:30 pm.Foreign Embassies serving DominicaCanada: Canada is represented by its high commission in Trinidad: Canadian High Commission, Maple House 3-3A Sweet Briar Road, St. Clair, Port of Spain. Phone 868-622-6232. The U.S. is represented by its embassy in Barbados. Phone 246-431-0225. Fax 246-431-0179. British High Commission, Lower Collymore Rock (P.O. Box 767), Bridgetown, Barbados. Phone 246-430-7800. Fax 246-430-7851.

Recommended Guidebooks

Dominica: Isle of Adventure by Lennox Honeychurch (Macmillan Caribbean).Adventure Guide to Dominica and St. Lucia by Lynne M. Sullivan (Hunter Travel Guides).Dominica: Land of Water by Jonathan Bird (Jonathan Bird Photography).Caribbean Islands Handbook by Sarah Cameron (Passport Books).Eastern Caribbean by Kevin Anglin and Neal Bedford, et. al. (Lonely Planet).Complete Diving Guide of the Caribbean by Colleen Ryan and Brian Savage (Dive Guide Publications).

Additional Reading

Autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid (Farrar Straus Giroux). Set largely in Dominica in the early 1900s.The Dominica Story: A History of the Island by Lennox Honychurch (Dominica National Cultural Council).In Search of Eden by Irving W. Andre and Gabriel Christian (Pond Case Press).The Orchid House by Phyllis Shand Allfrey (Virago). Offers insight into a decaying Dominican colonial family between the two world wars.Our Island Culture by Lennox Honychurch (Dominican National Cultural Council).Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (Penguin). Evokes Dominica’s natural beauty in the study of Charlotte Bronte’s mad Mrs. Rochester.


Dominica Carnival, or Mas Dominique, takes place over several weeks in late January and February, culminating in the festivities on the Tuesday before the beginning of Lent. This is by far the island’s biggest celebration of the year, with music festivals and competitions (many new soca and calypso songs are released to coincide with Carnival). There’s plenty of pageantry, dancing and parades. Thousands turn out for the final Monday and Tuesday of Carnival, when a “jump up” (street party) and street parade highlight two days of nonstop revelry.Dominica’s independence day is 3 November, and the entire week is dedicated to independence celebrations. Heritage Day, held in a different village every year, recognizes that settlement’s distinctive traditions and the individuals who have contributed to the community. Another part of the independence activities is Creole in the Park, which is celebrated all over the island. It focuses on Creole dress, food and music. The biggest event of the week, however, is the World Creole Music Festival. The three-day festival, which usually falls on the weekend preceding independence celebrations, draws an international audience. Top bouyon, soukous, zouk and zydeco acts headline. .For more information on a vacation to Dominic, visit:

NORTHSTAR Travel Media, LLC. ©2010 All rights reserved. 


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2 Responses

  1. A utopian bayside inn in the magical village of calibishie.very private beautiful and very calm with amazing sea views to unwind from your busy lifestyle.owned by a very friendly familly.this is where your adventure begins.our tour guide will take good care of you.come enjoy sea sun sand and nature….

  2. A place where u will enjoy your vacation in more than one magical ways.

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