Dominica - Home to the Best Hikes in the Caribbean
Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, the island of Dominica in the Caribbean is known as the nature island – and for good reason. It sits just between Martinique and Guadeloupe and since it doesn’t offer the types of beaches you would expect in the Caribbean, it feels as though it has been forgotten by time and tourism. I once read about great hiking on this island (and that was literally it) and immediately decided I needed to go there.
It is a tough one to get to with no direct flights from the US so combining it with a trip to a neighbouring island is probably best. I spent a few days in Barbados to catch a connecting flight to Dominica. Accommodations are also quite limited, with most resorts/hotels being in the main city of Roseau. I decided to go completely off the beaten path and booked an Airbnb cottage on the opposite end of the island, the north end. It is a manageable island though, so if you rent a car you’ll be able to see all of it within a few days. Keep in mind it is right hand-drive!
A bonus tip, there aren’t many ATM’s or cash points on the island and especially not outside of Roseau, so be prepared and bring cash with you on arrival.
Now let the fun begin! Every turn driving around this island feels like you are finding scenes from Jurassic park with jungle covered hills and mountains, low hanging clouds, and very few tourists around. I can’t tell you how many times we stopped to take photos on the side of the road, one spot more breath taking than the other.
While there are several hikes on the island, leading to waterfalls and the emerald pool, the main attraction in terms of hiking is the infamous Boiling Lake Hike. Located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park this is classified as an advanced hike with a 6 hour roundtrip time (approx. 8 miles). 8 Miles may not seem that intense but the terrain is what makes this hike so challenging. Between jungle covered hills, rivers to cross, boulders to climb up and down, it also takes you through the Valley of Desolation. Devoid of life and with the stench of sulphur in the air, the valley leads you to the boiling lake.
While you are free to do this hike on your own, it is recommended you hire a guide as navigating can prove challenging. Plus our guide Peter was full of information and stories about the local people and their industry! If you are staying in Roseau you can likely ask your hotel to book a guide for you or you can risk it like we did and show up at the entrance to the park first thing in the morning and ask one of the guys there – a few of them usually hang around waiting for tourists to come by. Another tip is to bring water and snacks for your break at the boiling lake and a rain coat as sudden showers can happen.
Another great adventure on this island is whale watching. Due to its unique geographical formation, the ocean just off the coast is incredibly deep, allowing for sperm whales to breed here. You can likely find those year-round or find a great variety of migrating whales on their way through during the migration months. Roseau is the place for whale watching tours where you’ll spend a few hours out in a catamaran, so even if you don’t get lucky, a day out on the boat is never a bad day in my opinion. We only managed to see sperm whales from quite a distance before a few pigmy killer whales scared them off. But as always, seeing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat is a reward in itself.
Overall, Dominica was one of my favourite off the beaten path destinations in the Caribbean due to its unique landscape and adventurous charm. I highly recommend it for any hiking and outdoor enthusiasts.