The island country of Dominica is known for its abundance of unspoiled natural beauty. From waterfalls and rain forests to sulfur springs and bubbly snorkeling spots, there really is something to interest everyone.
We visited Dominica in February as the third port of call on our Southern Caribbean cruise. As we pulled into port, we were greeted with low clouds and haze. We soon learned that the weather in Dominica changes rapidly though, and the alternating rain and sun creates so many beautiful rainbows! I have never seen so many rainbows in one day!
We spent our time in port on the “Emerald Pool and Volcanic Sand Beach” shore excursion, which visited the Botanical Gardens, the Emerald Pool, and Mero Beach. The day involved a whole lot of driving to reach these locations, and it was quite a nerve-racking experience for me! It was not the fault of our driver, who was being careful, but was rather due to the conditions of the roads in Dominica, which were quite poor in several places (and also often high up in the mountains with no guardrails!). However, we visited Dominica about 5 months after Tropical Storm Erika, which did some damage to the roads, so I’m not sure what the normal state of the roads would be. But after driving over some crumbling patches of dirt roadways along the side of a mountain with crazy steep drops just off to our side, I was wishing we were done in the van that day! Our tour guide acknowledged that driving is often dangerous in Dominica, but they do it anyways because they don’t have a choice. It made me feel grateful for the conditions of the roads we have back home, and it put my complaints about potholes and construction work into a new perspective.
Now, I don’t share this to deter you from visiting Dominica! It is a beautiful island with a lot of raw nature to explore and appreciate, but if you are fearful of heights or an anxious driver or passenger, you may want to consider if you are really up for a long drive to the Emerald Pool up in the mountains, for instance. Just something to consider.
Aside from the driving aspect, I really enjoyed our day in Dominica and the places we visited!
We began our excursion that morning with a brief drive from the pier to Morne Bruce, which has a lookout over the capital city of Roseau. Just as we arrived, a beautiful rainbow appeared. It was the first of six (yes SIX!) rainbows we saw during our day in Dominica.
Next, we briefly drove through the nearby Botanical Gardens as the rain began again. The garden was small, but was filled with many exotic plants, like the sausage tree and the cannonball tree. We also saw a HUGE century palm tree, which is a species that lives for over 100 years. It only blooms once in its lifetime, but the blooming lasts for 30 to 40 years, and then the tree dies. The botanical garden also has an unusual, yet interesting, display of an empty bus that was crushed by a baobib tree during Hurricane David in 1979.
After our visit to the Botanical Gardens, we made the long drive up to the Emerald Pool, which is in Morne Trois National Park. The rainforest here is very beautiful! The short 20-minute hike we took through the rainforest to the pool was my favorite part of our day in Dominica. Lush, green plants and towering trees surround the trail. Eventually, the path leads to a spot where you can see the Emerald Pool from above before taking the stairs down to the pool. The Emerald Pool itself is small, but pretty, and has a 50-foot waterfall flowing into it. A few members of my crazy family went swimming in the numbingly cold water! I wasn’t up for a cold swim that day, but our guide claimed that a dip in the pool will make you feel 10 years younger!
Our final stop was at Mero Beach, which involved another decently long drive to get back down to sea level from the Emerald Pool, which is up in the mountains. Mero Beach is advertised as a “black sand beach” (due to Dominica’s volcanic nature), though in reality, the sand is more of an ash gray color. While the beach was pleasant and uncrowded while we were there, it certainly wasn’t as pretty as some of the other Caribbean beaches we visited during our cruise. The water was calm and a comfortable temperature though, which made for a relaxing swim. We also tried some local food from the beach stand — “akra” (fried fish cakes with tiny minnow-like fish in them) and “bakes” (fried dough). I preferred the bakes, but the akra was certainly interesting. It was fun to try some different foods!
After our long day driving around in Dominica, we returned back to the ship. And fortunately, the drive back to the pier from Mero Beach wasn’t a bad one.
Sailing out of port in Dominica that evening was stunning! The sun was shining, but there were still some low dark clouds, which made for some unique lighting. Plus, there was yet another rainbow! The sky was quite dramatic with the mix of clouds, sun, rain, and rainbows — it was something!
Other Things to Do When Visiting Dominica
While we only had time to visit a couple of sights in Dominica, there are quite a few other options available to choose from! Here are some other ways you could spend your day in Dominica:
- Trafalgar Falls (at Morne Trois National Park) – Walk a short 10-minute hike from the parking lot to view these twin waterfalls (one is 125-feet high, the other is 95-feet).
- Ti Tou Gorge (at Morne Trois National Park) – Swim five minutes through the gorge to reach a small cave with a waterfall. Sunlight streams in from an opening in the ceiling. The gorge was a filming location for Pirates of the Caribbean 2.
- Champagne Beach – Snorkel or dive in this unique location where volcanic vents release streams of air into the water, creating tiny rising bubbles (like champagne)! Also spot coral and a variety of colorful fish.
- River Tubing – Enjoy Dominica’s beautiful scenery as you float down a river. Several outfitters offer river tubing adventures, and some combine river tubing with stops at other sites, like the Emerald Pool or Hibiscus Falls.
- Sulfur Springs – Relax in the hot sulfur springs in the village of Wotten Waven (only 20 minutes from Roseau).
- Carib Territory (also known as Kalinago Territory) – Home to approximately 3,000 of Dominica’s indigenous people. Learn about their history and culture, explore the model village, watch traditional dance and music performances, and shop for baskets, pottery, and other handicrafts.
This was Day 5 of our cruise. Read about Day 1 of our Southern Caribbean cruise here.
Next Up: How I spent one day in St. Kitts on our cruise
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