Dominica: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Welcome to Dominica! Dubbed the Nature Island, Dominica is the ultimate paradise for adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts! Nestled in the Eastern Caribbean, this tropical gem offers an unrivaled experience for those craving an off-the-grid escape.

With its lush rainforests, majestic waterfalls, and pristine beaches, Dominica is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Lace up your hiking boots and explore the famous Waitukubuli National Trail, a 115-mile trek that takes you through breathtaking landscapes, hidden hot springs, and cascading rivers.

The Indian River in Dominica | Davidsbeenhere

If you’re more into underwater adventures, you can dive into vibrant coral reefs and discover a fascinating alien world, complete with colorful tropical fish and even shipwrecks waiting to be explored. And don’t forget to indulge in a rejuvenating dip in the island’s natural hot springs – the perfect way to unwind after a day of adventuring.

Totems in Dominica's Kalinago Territory | Davidsbeenhere

But Dominica isn’t just about nature. Immerse yourself in the warm and welcoming local culture, savoring traditional Creole cuisine and dancing to the infectious rhythms of calypso and reggae. The island vibes are as immaculate as they are relaxing!

Where is Dominica?

But where is Dominica? The island is often confused with the Dominican Republic, another Caribbean island nation. Dominica is located in the eastern Caribbean Sea, between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Marie-Galante to the north and Martinique to the south. It is part of the Windward Islands chain in the Lesser Antilles.

The pronunciation of the island’s name is also subject to debate, though most locals pronounce it “DAH-min-EE-kuh.” I learned the hard way, as I mispronounced it throughout pretty much my entire trip!

Making friends at the market in Roseau | Davidsbeenhere

I spent just under a week exploring this vibrant, lush island in October 2022, from cities like Portsmouth and Rouseau to the island’s jungles, swamps, and even its beautiful Kalinago Territory. In this guide, you’ll learn about all the underrated places and things you need to experience on the island. These are the top things you must experience on the island of Dominica.

Roadside Dominican Street Food

One of the joys of traveling is sampling delicious street foods, and Dominica did not disappoint! Just minutes after leaving the airport, I came across a woman grilling plantains and coconut on the side of the road. She was friendly and kind, and of course, I tried everything! She even gave me some coconut water and a refreshing sugarcane and lime juice cocktail!

Not far from her was a small stand along the main road selling Caribbean soul food! She prepares sweet and savory favorites like smothered turkey, baked macaroni and cheese, rice and peas, baked plantains, and baked taro root every day! It was some of the best food I’d had in a long time.

Smothered turkey, baked macaroni and cheese, and rice at a small roadside stand | Davidsbeenhere

Her turkey gravy was on point and went well with everything. She gives massive, generous portions in her Styrofoam containers, which can sag under the weight of all the food. Be careful so you don’t lose half your meal like I did!

Stay at The Lighthouse767 in Portsmouth

If you need a place to stay in Portsmouth, Dominica, I recommend The Lighthouse767. Centrally located on Bay Street, this temporary rental offers two apartments, which go for $165 per night. Both offer stunning ocean views and come with two bedrooms—the smaller of the two contains a twin bed, while the master has a queen-sized bed.

The beautiful, modern living area at The Lighthouse767 in Portsmouth, Dominica | Davidsbeenhere

You’ll also find a modern living room, kitchen, a bathroom, and a washer and dryer. The master bedroom even has a balcony and a telescope! The Lighthouse767 also offers free WiFi, access to Netflix and Hulu, housekeeping services, and a rooftop grill. There’s also a boutique on its ground floor where you can buy clothing and accessories.

The view from the balcony at The Lighthouse767 | Davidsbeenhere

Best of all, it’s just minutes from Cabrits National Park, Purple Turtle Beach Club, and a number of local restaurants. It’s the best accommodation in town, so book a stay with them when you’re on the island!

Try Dominican Fusion Pizzas

Pizza is one of those dishes that has transcended geography. Nearly every culture on the planet has found a way to put their own unique spin on the Italian favorite, and Dominica is no different. To try some Dominican fusion pizzas, I met up with my friend Larry, who invited me to his home.

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Together, we prepared a fantastic mahi mahi pizza and a divine mango chicken pork pizza. Along with them, we had fried chicken wings, fried jerk chicken wings, souse, and fresh sorrel juice. It was a perfect mix of Italian and Caribbean flavors. Larry’s tangy and fruity barbecue sauce set off the wings, while the tropical pizzas were unique and full of flavor!

Enjoy a Dominican Breakfast

Breakfast in Dominica ranges from fresh to hearty—but it’s always tasty! There are many things to try and places to get them from. One of my favorite spots was U&H Local Kitchen, where a local woman named Ursula prepared saltfish, salad, and roasted breadfruit. The tender and flavorful fish with the starchy breadfruit and fresh salad was the perfect mix. I also recommend their zesty passionfruit, pineapple, and soursop smoothie!

Another important aspect of Dominican food is the bake. Bakes are crispy, fried bread, similar to biscuits. You can stuff them to eat them like a sandwich or eat them on the side of a dish. Bake and cheese is a popular, quick version with melted cheese on the inside.

Saltfish, salad, and roasted breadfruit in Dominica | Davidsbeenhere

I also liked the bake and saltfish I got from Green Light Restaurant and Bar. The fish was briny and tender and contrasted nicely with the crispy exterior of the bake. If you dare, add some hot sauce (preferably David’s Been Here Hot Sauce) to give it a spicy, tropical kick of heat!

Learn About Sustainable Farming at Free Up Farm

In 2017, Dominica was one of many Caribbean islands decimated by Hurricane Maria. The category five storm wiped out many of Dominica’s crops. The seven-acre estate, located along a winding jungle road 30 minutes south of Portsmouth, was once home to a citrus and avocado farm. Hurricane Maria completely destroyed the farm, and Free Up Farm arose from its ashes.

Before Hurricane Maria, Dominica was traditionally known for producing bananas. But after the storm, the island began producing other sustainable crops like guava, coconut, avocados, and passionfruit. Free Up Farm is all about permaculture and regenerative agriculture. In a word, it’s all about sustainability.

Coconuts growing at Free Up Farm | Davidsbeenhere

Now, Free Up Farm grows roughly 40 varieties of fruits and herbs. They include papaya, bananas, passionfruit, oranges, grapefruit, thyme, lemongrass, cranberry hibiscus leaf, and more. If you pay them a visit, you can sample the fruit, enjoy the freshest smoothie of your life, and try their coffee!

Enjoy a Meal and a Drink at Call D Shots

The idea of eating food from roadside stands may be taboo in many Western countries, but in Dominica, it’s where you’ll find some of the best dishes! At a roadside stand called Call D Shots, I enjoyed an amazing meal and some unique local drinks!

Some of the drinks available at Call D Shots | Davidsbeenhere

There, I had some amazing fried tuna, a cheese bake, and a regular bake with pepper sauce. Pepper sauce is king throughout the Caribbean, and some varieties are hotter than others. I also tried a strong, herbal drink made with anise, as well as a ginger shot and a culantro shot! Culantro is an herb similar to cilantro, and is sometimes called chadon beni. It has a kick to it!

Indee’s Beach Bar & Restaurant

In addition to fresh seafood and fruit, the Caribbean is also known for its…herbal stimulants. Marijuana is not only popular to smoke, but it’s also a common ingredient in dishes. It’s even infused into alcoholic drinks! You can try some at Indee’s Beach Bar & Restaurant on Mero Beach in Dominica.

The marijuana rum is quite good, but the star of the show were the coconut milk mahi mahi curry and grilled octopus. They came with fried taro balls, boiled taro, and fried plantains. The curry is velvety and buttery, with lots of garlic flavor. Enjoy a fruity pina colada with it!

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Spend an Evening on a Floating Bar

A bar that floats on the water may not sound like the safest place for people who are drinking, but it’s a thing in Dominica! I met up with some local guys, who invited me onto their boat, which is essentially a floating bar. I tried some rum with grapefruit juice and a Guinness Foreign Extra Stout.

Enjoying drinks on a floating bar

They played music, and we enjoyed drinks and amazing conversation into the night. They also prepared some amazing fish kebabs with onions and bell peppers!

Ride Down the Indian River to the Bush Bar

One of my favorite experiences in Dominica was the 30-minute boat ride I took down the Indian River. Our captain, Eric, steered us down the brackish waters and through the jungle to the Indian River Bush Bar. Along the way, we got to see hibiscus plants and bloodwood trees growing along the banks. We even got to see crabs scuttling along the shores!

The Indian River Bush Bar is a restaurant in the middle of the jungle. Once we arrived, I met with the cook and bartender, Alicia. After enjoying some bush rum, she prepared saltfish, bakes, coca tea, and roasted breadfruit.

The Indian River Bush Bar along the Indian River in Dominica | Davidsbeenhere

The bake was crispy on the outside and doughy on the inside, and paired perfectly with the tender saltfish. I also liked the aromatic cocoa tea and the starchy and smoky breadfruit. The avocado and cucumber on the side added a nice freshness!

Enjoy a Jungle Haircut

While I was at the Indian River Bush Bar, I met a friendly local named Darryl. He gave me a haircut on a wooden walkway in the middle of the jungle! As you may know, I’m a big proponent of pampering yourself when you travel. I love treating myself to haircuts and massages, which I’ve found are the ultimate ways to unwind and relax!

Darryl was a wizard with his clippers, which he used to give my head a clean shave. Then, he trimmed my beard and sideburns nicely. Even though I was out in the middle of the jungle, the experience was so relaxing, I fell asleep!

Hunt Crabs in Cabrits National Park

Located on a peninsula on the northern side of Dominica is Cabrits National Park. This 1,313-acre park encompasses tropical forests, coral reefs, wetlands, and even an old English garrison called Fort Shirley. The park is the perfect place to enjoy Dominica’s natural beauty, but it’s also a hotspot for crab hunters!

I joined two local guides nicknamed Sledgehammer and Slim, who took me deep into the marshes to hunt for crabs. I waded through the muddy, slow-moving river in my bare feet, navigating the debris-strewn water of the wetlands and watched as they caught 30 crabs!

Cooking the crabs we caught at a local restaurant | Davidsbeenhere

After catching the crabs, it was time to eat them! We delivered the crabs to a local restaurant, where the cooks boiled them with onions, garlic, other spices, and coconut milk. The mixture created a savory, tropical curry that blew my mind. There’s nothing quite like a Caribbean crab curry, and this one was one of the best I’ve ever had!

Explore Roseau Market

Of course, you can’t visit Dominica without experiencing Roseau, its charming capital and largest city. Located on the western coast of the island, Roseau offers a unique blend of old-world colonial architecture, bustling markets, and modern amenities.

One of my favorite places to visit in Roseau is Roseau Market, a vibrant indoor space where you can buy produce, spices, clothing, household items, and even freshly prepared food. The vendors were all kind and friendly, which made the experience even more enjoyable!

Roseau Market in Roseau, Dominica | Davidsbeenhere

There, I tried some delicious crab backs, which are crabs stuffed with a mix of crab meat, bread crumbs, and spices. They’re a specialty across many Caribbean islands and one of my personal favorites. They’re meaty, with a crumbly, almost stuffing-like texture and a savory and briny flavor. They can also be very spicy—these had my mouth on fire!

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A mouthwatering crab back | Davidsbeenhere

Elsewhere, you can also sample other mouthwatering foods and drinks. Buy a bottle of bush rum if you’re in the mood for an adult beverage. You can also try sugarcane, tender coconut, and even cow skin!

The spicy food at Roseau Market in Dominica had my tongue on fire | Davidsbeenhere

Saltfish and bakes are a staple, so I highly recommend giving them a whirl if you haven’t already. They’re the perfect Dominican fish sandwich! Wash it down with some fruity pommecythere juice, or head outside to a coconut vendor to get some sweet coconut water straight from the fruit!

Visit Freshwater Lake and Trafalgar Falls

From Roseau, you can easily access Freshwater Lake, the largest lake on the island. It’s a great spot for water-related recreational activities, including swimming and kayaking. Just remember to obey the signs—they’re there to keep you safe!

Freshwater Lake, the largest lake on the island | Davidsbeenhere

Not far from the lake is Trafalgar Falls, which are twin waterfalls in the jungle. You have to hike along a path through the jungle for about ten minutes to reach the falls. It’s not a particularly difficult hike, but I still recommend wearing adequate shoes and being careful.

Trafalgar Falls deep within the jungles of Dominica | Davidsbeenhere

The falls themselves are spectacular! On an island known for its beauty, Trafalgar Falls may be one of its most gorgeous sites. You can’t visit Dominica and not see them!

Try Dominican Chinese Food

A lot of people may be surprised to learn that Chinese food is extremely popular in Dominica. It all began in the 19th century when indentured servants from China arrived on the island after the abolition of slavery. They integrated flavors from their home country into a melting pot that also already included Amerindian, African, and Creole influences!

The best place on the island to try Dominican Chinese food is Riverside International Restaurant & Bar. It’s a true fusion cuisine, with a unique blend of Caribbean and Chinese. The potstickers, Szechwan beef, sweet & sour chicken, and lobster stir-fry were amazing. I also loved the spring rolls and the fresh passion fruit juice. The ginger rum had a nice kick! But the star was the chow mein—it was like China on a plate, but with a twist!

Visit Portsmouth Market

Visiting markets in new places is a must. In Portsmouth, I was honored that former mayor Julian Brewster, showed me around Portsmouth Market. He introduced me to produce vendors selling everything from plantains to breadfruit, and others offering coconut and fresh meat and fish.

Inside the covered part of the market is a food stand called Clavia’s Local Cuisine. There, I enjoyed a phenomenal dish called crab callaloo, a thick, stew-like dish made from hearty crab, tender greens, and dumplings in a rich gravy. I also tried some codfish accra, which are small, round codfish fritters containing onion and scotch bonnet peppers. They’re basically fried fish burger patties!

Rich crab callaloo in Portsmouth Market | Davidsbeenhere

Elsewhere, just off the market, I also visited Universal Tailor Shop. This amazing garment shop sells all kinds of clothes, even Creole ties! While I didn’t need a tie, I bought a local head scarf. If you need any kind of clothing in Portsmouth, this is where to go!

Explore the Kalinago Territory

Originally known as the Carib people, the Kalinago are an indigenous group in Dominica. They were particularly resistant to European colonization and kept them at bay for nearly two centuries. However, after they were forced off their ancestral lands, the Kalinago Territory was established along the island’s east coast.

The Kalinago Territory is a land of bush doctors, carved totems, and plant medicine. Their culture has remained relatively unchanged over the centuries, and you can explore it by visiting the territory’s Visitors Center.

The Kalinago Territory along the east coast of the island | Davidsbeenhere

There, I met a local woman who makes crafts, including jewelry, carved calabash shells, and woven baskets and hats. She even makes masks made from ferns! I also saw some beautiful carved totems at a viewpoint overlooking the ocean.

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Kalinago totems in the Kalinago Territory in Dominica | Davidsbeenhere

At a roadside shop in the territory, I met a man named Daniel, who is said to be the pioneer of making cassava bread in Dominica. He made me some crispy and sweet coconut cassava bread, which had a slightly gooey texture on the inside!

Jacko Falls is a gorgeous oasis in the jungles of the Kalinago Territory | Davidsbeenhere

Another highlight of my time in the Kalinago Territory was visiting Jacko Falls. Like Trafalgar Falls, Jacko Falls lie among the greenery of the jungle. It’s a lot more low-key than the twin Trafalgar Falls. It’s beautiful and peaceful, and the falls empty into a pool where you can wade. If you’re lucky, you might see some crabs, fish, and lizards there!

Enjoy Sea Urchin in Calibishie

Seafood is, unsurprisingly, extremely popular in Dominica. During my time in Calibishie, a village on the island’s northwest coast, I met fishmongers and cooks making sea urchin. On a rocky beach, a fishmonger and I ate raw sea urchin straight from the sea. I watched as he took them from the water, sliced them in half, and cut off the spines. They briny but tasty!

Then, I got to try some cooked sea urchin at Rainbow Restaurant and Bar. Our cook, Naz, sauteed it with green onion, diced peppers, garlic, celery, parsley, cumin, and green seasoning. We also had curry octopus, made with coconut milk and a lot of the same ingredients. It was some of the best food I had in Dominica!

Try Manicou and Agouti

Of course, you can’t truly experience Dominica without trying its more exotic dishes. Manicou is the local name for opossum, while agouti is a small rodent similar to a guinea pig. I’d wanted to try both dishes throughout my trip, and I finally got the chance at Bell Hall Beach Spot. This incredible oceanside restaurant is the best place on the island to try both dishes!

Manicou and agouti are both a little gamy, but the way they’re cooked makes it turn out flavorful, tender, and mouthwateringly delicious. I ate them alongside conch chowder, coconut curry tuna, coconut curry vegetables, salad, grilled octopus, and sea cockroach. Wash it down with some ginger beer or some marijuana punch if you wish. It may seem scary or too exotic, but give it a try! It’s definitely worth your while.

See How Dominican Chocolate is Made

If you’ve followed me for a while, you may know that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. But I’ll always go for some chocolate! Luckily for my fellow chocoholics out there, you can visit Dominica’s only chocolate factory in Calibishie.

At Pointe Baptiste Estate, I met Alan, whose family has been on the island since the 1930s. He walked me through the entire chocolate-making process. I got to see the cacao trees growing on the property, how they form the chocolate into bars, and much more! Of course, I couldn’t walk away without sampling some of his creations. If you like a bit of heat, try their hot pepper chocolate! It’s sweet and spicy!

Book a Trip to Dominica

I spent a little under a week on the island of Dominica, and it’s an experience I’ll never forget. It’s full of everything people love about the Caribbean—its natural beauty, stunning beaches, vibrant cuisine, and warm people—but has a charm that’s all its own.

Enjoying the waters below Jacko Falls in Dominica | Davidsbeenhere

If you’re looking for a Caribbean island that escapes most peoples’ radar and, therefore, isn’t overrun with tourists, Dominica is for you. It’s a gem hidden in plain sight among more popular destinations like Barbados, Guadeloupe, and Trinidad and Tobago. And whether you’re there to enjoy the sun, soak up the culture, or gorge on the food, I know it’s a place you’ll fall in love with. Book a trip to Dominica today to experience it for yourself!

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