Should you get to this secret island before the rest of the world discover its charm?
Travel News: This Just In From the Caribbean…
Why travel to Dominica? Black sand shores, gourmet dining, world-class diving and snorkeling, trails leading you through lush rainforest to magical waterfalls, muddy hikes to a boiling lake, and the Caribbean’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site is becoming more accessible thanks to the addition of direct flights and plans for an international airport.
In this article, we share the latest travel news about how to get to Dominica, introduce you to their three national parks including the Caribbean’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, and list basic information to know about Dominica as you plan your next Caribbean vacation.
But even before 2021, Dominica had its challenges. Mother Nature touched down on the Nature Island with Category 5 Hurricane Maria in mid-September 2017, around 9 pm. An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft measured surface winds of 160mph. While the island has had many tropical storms, Hurricane Maria was the fifth direct-hit hurricane and the first at category five since record-keeping began in 1851. This is surprising since this tropical oasis sits right in the middle of Hurricane Alley. Ninety percent of the island’s structures were destroyed, leaves ripped off trees, and the estimated damage and destruction reached $1.2 billion in a matter of hours.
In the aftermath of the storm, discussions started on the little island about how they could adapt and become a disaster-resilient nation. According to an interview with former International Monetary Fund (IMF) Mission Chief for Dominica, Alejandro Guerson, it was “a matter of survival for all Dominicans.” While rebuilding infrastructure that could stand up better to hurricane-force winds is more expensive in the short run, the benefits of surviving and rebounding faster after a major storm are priceless. Fast forward to today, and according to Pepukaye Bardouille, former CEO of Climate Resilience Execution Agency for Dominica (CREAD), as stated in the documentary, “Building Back Better: Dominica on a path from devastation to climate resilience,” the lesson for Dominica is “…to dream big, the vision was home-grown.” Part of that dream is to build back with hurricane-proof buildings and create a diverse economy that includes tourism and an agricultural system that grows a variety of locally consumed fruits and vegetables.
The promise of Dominica for travelers is an island of yet-to-be-discovered treasures.
Lakes, waterfalls, gushing rivers flowing inland on every corner to the surrounding deep Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean creates many activities ranging from relaxation to extreme water sports.
It’s the youngest island and is surprisingly unspoiled by the erosion of time or the explosion of over-tourism. This could be because it’s a little off the beaten path, which is part of its allure. And, as with all treasures, you must have a little patience to reach your destination. But that is slowly changing. The Prime Minister of Dominica, Dr. Roosevelt Skerrit, shared during a budget presentation in July 2022 that an International Airport will be completed by 2026, adding the possibility of more direct access to the country from the Caribbean, Europe, and North America.
American Airlines has been flying nonstop from Miami to Dominica’s Douglas-Charles Airport since December 2021. Connecting flights are available when you’re coming from other states in North America or from Europe. You’ll often stop at another island before you take a ferry or regional airline to Dominica.
As of this writing in January 2023, your journey to the island can be accomplished a few ways:
- Make a one-stop connection from up to 42 cities in North America served by American Airlines into Miami International Airport.
- Fly Direct on American Airlines from Miami International Airport (MIA) to Dominica (DOM) on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays (January 2023) and will increase to 4 flights/week in February 2023.
- You can make a one-stop connection through San Juan, Puerto Rico, into Dominica on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.
- From Europe, you can connect through hubs in Antigua (ANU), Barbados (BGI), Martinique (FDF), St. Maarten (SXM), Puerto Rico (SJU), Guadeloupe (PTP), St. Lucia (SLU), and Trinidad (POS).
Other airlines that travel to Dominica through Caribbean connections include Delta, JetBlue, United, Southwest, Spirit, Virgin Atlantic, KLM, Air France, and British Airways.
You can work with a travel agent to assist with bookings or research options on your own and book directly with the airline. If you’re a travel DIYer, check out this resource for Tips on Booking to Dominica.
*There are two airports on the island, Douglas-Charles (DOM), formerly known as Melville Hall, and Canefield (DCF) Airport. Douglas-Charles has a longer runway and updated terminal. Most visitors will arrive here.
And in case you’re wondering, Dominica is not the same as the Dominican Republic. Dominica faces the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Caribbean Sea to the west. The Dominican Republic is located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles.
Now, since you know it’s getting easier to visit The Nature Island, what can you do once you arrive on the island? Well, grab your hiking boots and light rain gear, snorkel or diving gear, yoga mat, and yearning for connection to nature and to yourself, because Dominica has a little something something for everyone!
Fort Shirley in Cabrits National Park is an English colonial fort with an interpretation center, easty trails around the grounds,and epic views.
National Parks and Outdoor Fun Await
National Parks are a gift, and Dominica has three! It also has 365 rivers, one for every day of the year. Visiting one or all of these sites is a unique opportunity for visitors to see a different side of the Caribbean and perhaps encourage them to tread lightly on the island as they enjoy all it has to offer. Through education and inspiration, we can keep areas like this magical.
Morne Trois Pitons National Park…
This park gives you a glimpse of what the Caribbean should be and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s like stepping into a time capsule, a world of unspoiled beauty. If you saw the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, the Dead Man’s Chest “Cage of Bones” drop scene was filmed at Titou Gorge, located within the park. It protects the habitat of the bird that adorns Dominica’s flag, the Sisserou parrot. Trafalgar Falls, located on the park’s west side, is a favorite destination. The park is centered on the 4400+ foot volcano known as Morne Trois Pitons. But that’s not all! You’ll find 50 fumaroles, hot springs, three freshwater lakes, a “boiling lake,” and five volcanoes.
Fumaroles are openings at the surface where volcanic gases and vapors are emitted. They are common features on volcanoes and show that a volcano is active because the fumaroles indicate the presence of heat. Fumaroles are found in some of the best national parks in the US, including:
- Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve, Alaska
- Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
- Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska
- Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska
- Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
- Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
- Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico
- Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska
- Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho
Cabrits National Park…
This was born from a volcano at the northern tip of the island, on a peninsula that jets off the coastline. It’s small, just 2.05 square miles. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in beauty. The area surrounding Fort Shirley, which the park protects, includes coral reefs, tropical forests, and wetlands. Divers and snorkelers can swim crystal clear blue waters to enjoy the vivid colors below the surface. Tours of the fort are available, and you’ll have an excellent photo opportunity standing by the cannons overlooking the water. Short and easy trails give you coastline, wetlands, and forest views.
Morne Diablotin National Park…
This is said to be named after a “little devil” bird, the black-capped petrel, and is home to one of Dominica’s most popular hiking and bird-watching trails, the Syndicate Nature Trail. It features a mature rainforest, elfin woodland or cloud forest, provides protection for the Jaco and Sisserou Parrots, and is home to the highest mountain on Dominica at 4,747 feet. You can hike to the top, but it’s a difficult 1.2 miles straight up in the mud. On a clear day, you are rewarded with views all the way to Roseau and Portsmouth; on a rainy day, you aren’t. Either way, it’s recommended to be prepared with the right shoes and plenty of water and bring binoculars because regardless of the epic views promised at the top, you are likely to see birds and wildlife unique to Dominica along the way.
Locally Sourced Culinary Experiences are Calling You to the Island
Learning about the unique Caribbean architectural styles and history of buildings in the capital of Roseau is just one of the cultural travel experiences on Dominica.
Fresh fish, conch, crab, plantains, kushkush, breadfruit, and chicken, created with a slice of Creole and West Indian style, served fresh, where you can enjoy the clean air and captivating views of Dominica.
The flavors of Dominica’s food develop long before they reach your table. The island enjoys optimal growing conditions, rich volcanic soil, steady rains, and sunshine that grow happy food that turns into beautiful (and delicious) works of art at the hands of creative Caribbean chefs.
If you want to see where all this culinary deliciousness begins, head over to the market in Roseau, found along the waterfront where the Roseau River meets the Caribbean sea. Travelers recommend The New Market for a jaw-dropping selection of local produce. This is not to be confused with The Old Market on the southern end of the waterfront, which tells the history of enslaved people.
Dominica is home to at least six different species of cetaceans, including Sperm Whales, Humpback Whales, and Short-fin Pilot Whales. There is a 90% success rate of seeing one of these beauties in the waters surrounding The Nature Island.
More Reasons to Travel to Dominica
Dominica may be perfect for you when you’re looking for wildlife and wild landscapes instead of nightlife and pulsing lights. Nature, Culture, Adventure, and Wellness are its calling cards, and plenty of each can be found from shore to mountain top, from the water’s surface and deep beneath the sea.
What else should you know about traveling to Dominica?
Official Name: Commonwealth of Dominica
Short Name: Dominica
Indigenous Kalinago: Name Wai’tukubuli meaning “Tall is Her Body”
Capital City: Roseau
Language: Mostly English, also Creole-a French-baed Patois
Population: 74,308 (2018 census)
Economy: Agriculture & Tourism
Highlights: Nature, Culture & Adventure, Wellness
Currency: Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$). Businesses will accept US Dollars, British Pounds, and Euros. Mastercard, Visa, and American Express credit cards are accepted at most tourism-related businesses like hotels, restaurants, car rentals, and tour operators.
Entry Requirements:(duration less than 6 months and from Member States on the Commonwealth – the United States is part of this group): Passport + Government Issued ID (Driver’s License). You do not need a Visa (Tip: be sure to make a copy and store documents in a separate location in case the originals are misplaced or stolen. If you are from another country outside of the Member States, and your stay is no more than three months, you may not need a visa. Find current entry requirements for Dominica.
Telecommunications: Their website says they have a modern and reliable telecommunications system. Hotels offer International Direct Dialing from your room. The three major mobile service providers are Cable and Wireless, Digicel, and Orange Cariabe.
Area Code: 767
Electrical: 220/240 volts
Hospitals: Marigot Hospital, Portsmouth Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital
Emergency Service: Dial 999
Time Zone: (GMT-4)
Climate: Tropical weather means plenty of sunshine interjected by intermittent rainfall. The annual average temperature is 80.6 F. Annual rainfall along the coast averages 70 inches, and you can expect as much as 3x that amount in the interior section of the island… that’s why everything is so green! Hurricane season is from June to November; September is often the most active month. Click here to learn more about hurricanes.
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