12 Reasons We Love Dominica

Tiny, easy-going Dominica hasn’t grown jaded and still greets travelers with enthusiasm. And while it has hit the trendsetters’ radars, Nature Island remains uncrowded, even when the massive cruise ships pull into port. Experience it soon, before direct U.S. flights and hotel chains reshape this mellow country that is beloved by outdoor adventurers.

This twin-peaked headland—and the ruins of the 18th-century Fort Shirley garrison—preside over Prince Rupert’s Bay, Dominica’s largest wetlands and a docking area for smaller cruise ships. An 1802 revolt here led to the British Empire abolishing all slave soldiers, making this Dominica’s most important historic destination—and now a worthy World Heritage site. A short climb leads to the restored buildings and a splendid viewpoint, complete with cannons. Longer trails spike out into the dry coastal woodlands, populated by crabs and grass snakes (Liophis juliae, known locally as kouwes).
Ross Blvd Portsmouth, Portsmouth, Dominica
Why we love it: A stunning eco-resort where style meets sustainability

- Villas attendants who double as adventure concierges
- A treehouse-style spa
- A reputation for balancing nature and luxury

The Review:
An award-winning boutique resort, Secret Bay serves exquisite style, service, and seclusion just a 10-minute drive from Portsmouth on Dominica’s northwestern coast. The luxury property has no communal spaces, beyond the decks, beaches, a riverside yoga pavilion, and the Zing Zing restaurant. Instead, guests retreat to six elegant villas and bungalows, fully stocked with their choice of goodies. Conceptualized by Venezuelan architect Fruto Vivas, villas fuse high design, local craftsmanship, and sustainably sourced materials like Guyanese hardwood. Guests can look forward to plunge pools, gourmet kitchens, pillow hammocks, and furniture carved from red cedar, along with high-tech touches like Apple TVs and Sonos Bluetooth speakers.

Committed to sustainability, owner Gregor Nassief helped site Secret Bay’s villas to preserve the rainforest and oversaw construction of the entire resort without any heavy machinery. The property also plants vetiver to strengthen its cliff location and has applied to create a marine reserve in the waters below, where parrotfish flit among the coral. Explore them with the complimentary kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, snorkeling gear, dry bags, and GoPros on offer, or head to the treehouse-style spa, which gazes down on the cove and offers treatments like massages with custom-blended local oils. Guests can also opt to create their own culinary masterpieces or have the chef’s choice delivered by their attendant, who also serves as their housekeeper and adventure concierge.

Over the next few years, Secret Bay will slowly expand to 50 villas, hidden among the neighboring 27-acre valley and ridge. In the meantime, swim to the resort’s waterline cave or paddle a kayak to the soft, golden Secret Bay beach. Though open to the public, like all Dominica’s coast, the beach sees very few visitors, meaning you might very well be the only one there.
Located in the northern mountain ranges of Dominica, Morne Diablotin National Park was established primarily to protect the habitat of the endangered sisserou parrot. Spanning 8,242 acres, the park is also home to Dominica’s highest peak, which looms at an impressive 4,747 feet. While the active volcano still keeps hot springs bubbling, its higher elevations are constantly swathed in cool mist, along with cloud forest moss, ferns, and spindly trees. Start your exploration on the Syndicate Natural Trail, which winds through tropical rain forest and serves as a prime birding location.
Kalinago Territory, Dominica
An hour’s cross-island drive takes you to Kalinago Territory, officially established in 1903 as the Caribbean’s only autonomous enclave for indigenous people. The settlement covers six square miles, and many of its 3,000 inhabitants live in traditional wooden huts. Guests are welcome at a model village, where they can watch dance performances and shop for reed baskets and other crafts.

Indian River, Portsmouth, Dominica
Already a popular day trip, this jade-colored waterway rocketed to fame as the site of Calypso’s house in Pirates of the Caribbean. Hire a guide and colorful rowboat—most seat up to eight passengers—for the one-mile excursion upstream and watch for crayfish and young barracudas in the brackish river, which is lined by mangroves with mighty buttress roots. Don’t miss the fruit drinks and Dynamite rum punch at Cobra’s Bush Bar, the trip’s turnaround point.
Wotten Waven, Dominica
A charismatic Rasta also known as “Irie Man,” Screw spent years building this colorful, open-air retreat, just a 20-minute drive east of Roseau. Here, you can slip into six pools of varying temperatures on a lush, leafy hillside, pierced by cascades and water features. Open from Tuesday through Sunday, the spa also offers massages and volcanic mud wraps.
Emerald Pool Trail, Dominica
Stroll 15 minutes through a lush rainforest to this gorgeous 40-foot waterfall grotto, located deep within the World Heritage site of Morne Trois Pitons National Park. Railings and a broad, well-maintained trail make the trip accessible even to non-hikers, though the tree-fringed pool—which is open to swimmers—gets unpleasantly packed when cruise ships pull into port. Serious photographers should haul along tripods and cable or remote shutter releases to capture the low-light, but oh-so-lovely scenery, which has become one of Dominica’s top attractions.
Jimmit, Mahaut, Dominica
Dominica’s most established contemporary artist, Earl Darius Etienne produces social realist paintings, often made with smoke and soot. One of his more famous works, the Massacre Mural, is a bright, in-your-face depiction of British troops slaughtering the indigenous Kalinago people. Check out his masterpieces at various island galleries, including his own Art Asylum in Mahaut.
Calibishie, Dominica
This open-air, oceanside Creole restaurant snuggles behind a grocery store in Calibishie, a bijou town where locals, expats, and tourists mingle. While the short ribs steal the spotlight, there are also Caribbean favorites like yam, fried plantains, and goat curry. Top any dish with local hot sauce made from Scotch bonnet peppers (available for sale in the adjacent bodega). The gazebo offers stunning views of the water and Red Rocks, but avoid it on windy days when the sea spray kicks up.
Geothermal springs on the ocean floor release curtains of bubbles at one of the world’s most famous and unusual dive sites. Shallow enough for snorkelers and folks new to scuba, this spectacular reef has lavish sea life, from sponges to parrotfish to hawksbill turtles. Book a guided tour of this extinct volcanic crater or pay a small marine reserve entrance fee at the site’s excellent dive shop.
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