After working as a chemist at a biotechnology company, I enjoy writing about science, travel, and gardening.
Surrounded by an ocean filled with dolphins and whales, the island of Dominica—named Wai'tu kubuli (Tall is Her Body) by native Dominicans—juts out of the water with imposing mountains. While it is not known specifically for beaches, there are plenty of gorgeous, sandy places around the island to lounge in the sun. The tropical forests reach right down to the water and are so lush that film producers chose to film the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie here. This island is my favorite in the Caribbean for the warm people, natural beauty, and variety of adventure activities available to visitors.
10 Best Activities in Dominica
- Swim in Titou Gorge
- Snorkel in Champagne Reef
- Visit Trafalgar Falls National Park
- Go to the Botanical Gardens and Morne Bruce
- Hike to a Boiling Lake
- Tube a River
- Visit Carib Village
- Go Canyoning
- Row Down the Indian River
- Go Whale Watching
At the end of this article, you will also find a list of the best beaches in Dominica. Scroll down for more details!
1. Swim in Titou Gorge
The water in Titou Gorge is extremely cold, but the beauty of the water winding through the rocks is stunningly beautiful. A waterfall exists at the back of the gorge, and it is very fun to jump off a nearby rock and float in the rushing water back down a portion of the gorge. The current and water level vary with rainfall amounts and may become dangerous, so this area of the island is best explored with an experienced guide and flotation belts or life jackets. Take note: there are no free public restrooms available at Titou Gorge, so it is a good idea to bring a few dollars of extra cash to pay a bathroom attendant if you need to use the bathroom.
This is one of my favorite activities in Dominica, though the water is extremely frigid. It is best to simply get in as quickly as possible to get used to the icy temperatures.
2. Snorkel in Champagne Reef
Dominica is actively volcanic. Hot springs and boiling water may be found at various places around the island. One of the most exciting places to snorkel is called Champagne Reef, where bubbles of volcanic gas escape from the sea floor and rise through the ocean around snorkelers. The main entrance of Champagne Reef may be difficult to access if the seas are high. To obtain a similar experience, enter the ocean from the town of Soufriere and the same volcanic bubbles may be observed in the ocean. There are no reefs immediately off the shore from Soufriere, but a nearby reef is within swimming distance if the ocean conditions are calm.
3. Trafalgar Falls National Park
Walking through the tropical forest to see Trafalgar Falls is a wonderful way to see a lot of the native flora and birds on Dominica. The park is extremely well maintained and is well worth the entrance fee. There are clean, free public bathrooms at the park in addition to free wi-fi. The paths are easily traveled and a viewing platform allows visitors to see the “mother” and “father” falls.
4. Botanical Gardens and Morne Bruce
Located near the botanical gardens, Morne Bruce gives a beautiful view of the capital of Roseau and of the sea. The botanical gardens are fairly small but contain interesting tropical trees, plants, and free wi-fi. You can even view the remains of a bus that was crushed when a tree fell when Hurricane David hit the island in 1979. We were particularly interested in the Cannonball tree, which produces fruit that is the same size and shape as cannonballs! Our kids loved running through the banyan tree roots.
5. Hike to a Boiling Lake
The world’s second-largest boiling lake is found in Dominica. A constant veil of mist surrounds the boiling water, which is approximately 200 feet in diameter. Reaching this lake requires a demanding hike that climbs 1600 feet in elevation over four miles. The round trip distance is approximately eight miles and takes about six hours to complete. Due to the strenuous nature of this hike, it is wise to take a local guide with you. It is also wise to save this excursion for the last day of your trip to Dominica, as your muscles might be very sore from hiking up the mountain! Make sure to pack snacks and plenty of drinking water before starting out on this excursion.
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6. Tube a River in Dominica
The Layou River in Dominica has exciting rapids and calm pools, and it is one of the best river tubing locations in the Caribbean. Most river tours have approximately 1.5 hours on the river, so this is an excursion that can be enjoyed by day-trippers on a cruise ship. River tubing is extremely fun and the tube, helmet, and life jacket are provided by the tour company.
7. Visit Carib Village for a Cultural Experience
The Kalinago Territory is home to one of the few remaining tribes of natives to the Caribbean islands. Unique to Dominica, this is a “must-see” for visitors to the island. It is possible to stay with a family within the territory for a homestay, an extremely authentic way to experience the island. Those on a day trip may interact with local storytellers, observe basket weaving and pottery making, and observe cultural performances at the Kalinago Barana Autê. A day visit will take approximately 2 hours to see the main village site, though a full day could be spent at the Kalinago Barana Autê location.
8. Go Canyoning in Dominica
If rappelling down waterfalls and jumping from canyon walls into clear, blue pools appeals to you, then definitely check out canyoning in Dominica. One of the best places in the Caribbean to experience this extreme sport, this adventure requires a half day to complete. It is possible for cruise passengers to enjoy this activity within a single day. The guides are all trained according to the American Canyoning Association standards and the adventure is safe for those who lack experience.
9. Row Down the Indian River
Tours on the Indian River leave from the town of Portsmouth in hand-oared boats. Guides point out various native birds and plant life along the river, and will also point out the sites used in the filming of the witch scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean Part II. Make sure to get some rum punch at the Bush Bar along the way, along with a sampling of the local cuisine!
10. Whale Watching in Dominica
One of my favorite memories of Dominica is watching dolphins cavort in the ocean. The waters around the island are filled with dolphins and whales. Many species of whales live here, including sperm whales. The best chance of sighting a sperm whale is from November through March, where about 90% of excursions are able to locate and observe the whales in the wild.
The Best Beaches in Dominica
There are many incredible adventure opportunities on the island, but sometimes a beach is what is desired. The following beaches offer the best sand and amenities for visitors:
The most common beach stop for cruise-ship day-trippers, Mero beach is a black sand beach with a few bars for food and drinks. The beach is fairly wide, though sometimes there is a steep drop-off when walking into the ocean. It is possible to rent floats and rafts for use in the ocean here.
This beach is privately managed and requires a small entrance fee to enjoy. The beach is extremely beautiful, well maintained, and has beach attendants available to help guests obtain drinks and food. Changing rooms are also available at this beach. If local fishermen are lobster fishing nearby, it is possible to purchase some fresh lobster and have it grilled at the beach bar.
For those who love to snorkel, Toucari beach is a fantastic place to visit. This beach is not on most tourists’ radar, so it is relatively undeveloped and empty. The rainforest runs down both sides of the bay, but the water is clear and filled with sea life. There are not many bars or restaurants nearby, so plan accordingly.
The private beaches at Pointe Baptiste are located near the chocolate factory and also near the Red Rocks. The private estate is near the village of Calibishie. There is a white sand beach, a black sand beach, and red rock cliffs surrounding the estate property.
Located in Portsmouth, the water at Purple Turtle is shallow and warm. The sand is light brown and several local restaurants and bars are located nearby. There are themed nights with reggae music at the Purple Turtle Beach Club, which offers nightlife for those staying on the north shore.
This is the black sand beach where Johnny Depp is chased by pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean, Part II. The black sand and tropical foliage are the very definition of “paradise.” The beach is undeveloped and a short hike is required from the road if you do not have an off-road vehicle.
Secret Beach cannot be reached from the road and must be accessed by boat. Located near the Secret Bay boutique hotel near Portsmouth, this beach is difficult to access but well worth the effort. The beach is surrounded on all sides by cliffs and offers peace and solitude (providing you find a boat to take you there).
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Leah Lefler