SD › Best Places to Stay in Dominica
Updated: January 25, 2023
Our Favorite Dominica Hotels
• 5-Star Hotel: Secret Bay
• Boutique Hotel: Mango Island Lodges
• Cheap Hotel: Rainbow Beach
• Family Hotel: Cottage
• Best Pool: Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski
• Near Airport: Bayport Residence Inn
The Best Area to Stay in Dominica
Dubbed “the Nature Island,” Dominica is very different from most of its Caribbean neighbors. This mountainous nation is the least developed in the West Indies, with no major resorts and few beaches – and no mass tourism of any kind. On the contrary, a trip here is all about ecotourism – jungle and mountain trails, hot spring pools, waterfalls, coral reefs, and some of the best bird- and whale-watching anywhere in the world. Much of the island is still robed in dense rain forest and cloud forest. It also contains the only remaining community of pre-Columbian native Kalinago (Caribs) in the region.
The island lies in the Eastern Caribbean between Martinique and Guadeloupe, and after swapping hands between France and Britain during the colonial period, finally achieved independence from Britain in 1978 (it’s one of the few ex-colonies in the region to immediately become a republic). Today it has a population of just over 70,000, and one of the smallest economies in the Caribbean. One of the reasons tourism has been kept relatively small-scale here is that the island’s airports are too small to accept large aircraft.
The likeable capital Roseau is worth exploring for a day or so (you can also arrange whale-watching most easily here), but it’s the island’s natural wonders that take center stage. Accommodation is spread out around the island (generally along the coast), with most visitors renting cars or taking tours to explore further. Conveniently close to the capital, the Roseau Valley is the access point for several attractions, notably the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, and some excellent hotels. Southern Dominica is a scenic part of the island, known for its excellent dive sites. Dominica does have some beautiful, wild beaches, primarily in the northern part of the island. Kalinago Territory and the East Coast, as well as the West Coast and Interior regions, are for real adventurers and nature lovers – untrammeled coastline and pristine forests await.
Dominica Travel Tips
- Dominica is served by two regional airports – there is no international size airport. Douglas-Charles Airport is inconveniently located on the island’s northeast coast, a one-hour drive from Roseau (it’s perfect for north coast trips, however). Most flights to and from here serve other Caribbean islands (though American does offer non-stop seasonal flights from Miami). Canefield Airport lies 15 minutes from Roseau on the southwest coast, with flights to nearby islands only.
- Like most of the Caribbean, Dominica’s high season is November to April, when it’s mild and mostly dry. Rain is more likely from June to November, but it rarely lasts long, and you’ll have the island largely to yourself.
- Dominica uses the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$), pegged to the US dollar at US$1=EC$2.70. As a result, US dollars are widely accepted by businesses on the island, though you’ll get change in EC$, and the exchange rate used can differ wildly (prices will always be rounded up). If you do bring US cash, make sure you only have US$20 notes or smaller denominations, and that they are in good/new condition – locals will not accept worn, damaged or crinkled notes. You are unlikely to be able to use other international currencies on Dominica, though some business might accept UK pounds and Euros.
- If you want to explore the island, even for a day, renting a car makes sense – all hotels can arrange this for you; alternatively, several local companies have offices in Roseau. Taxis are plentiful, but can be expensive if you intend to take a lot of trips. Note that Dominica drives on the left, like the UK and Australia; also, you must be between 25 and 65 years old to drive in Dominica, with at least two years’ driving experience.
- Dominica does have a private minibus system that covers most settlements on the island. Fares are cheap (EC$1.50–10.25), but it’s not an especially convenient way to travel (or to see the island’s natural wonders).
- English is the official language of Dominica, but most locals speak a creole patois known as “kwéyòl”. Everyone you meet will understand and speak English.
- Enthusiastic hikers should consider the Waitukubuli National Trail, whic hruns 115 miles (184km) from the south of the island at Scotts Head to the north at Cabrits National Park and Capuchin village. It takes in both the east and west coasts, forest reserves, old Kalinago paths, and some of the most scenic parts of Dominica, with wild pigs, parrots and all sorts of wildlife on route. Hiking the whole thing takes at least two weeks.
The Best Places to Stay in Dominica
- Best Luxury Hotels in Dominica
Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski • Citrus Creek Plantation • Fort Young Hotel • Jungle Bay • Manicou River Resort • Rosalie Bay Eco Resort & Spa • Secret Bay • Banana Lama Eco Villa & Cottages • Coulibri Ridge
- Best Boutique Hotels in Dominica
Mango Island Lodges • Escape • Pagua Bay House • Villa Ayahora • Wanderlust Caribbean
- Best B&Bs in Dominica
Danglez • Harmony Villa • Matthew’s Miracle View • Pointe Dubique
- Best Cheap & Midrange Hotels in Dominica
Cocoa Cottage • Hibiscus Valley Inn • Rainbow Beach • Soufriere Guesthouse • Tamarind Tree • Three Rivers Eco Lodge • Ti Kwen Glo Cho • Sister Sea Lodge
- Best Hostels in Dominica
Roseau Beach Hostel
Best Places in Dominica for…
- Best Place to Stay for Beaches: Northern Dominica
Dominica isn’t known for its beaches; people come here to experience the island’s ecotourism potential rather than to lounge on white sands. Having said that, stay at the northern end of Dominica and you will have access to a cluster of isolated (and mostly empty) beaches, primarily with black, volcanic sands. Top targets include Ripaton Beach and Coconut Beach on the Caribbean side, and Batibou Bay and Number One Beach on the wilder Atlantic. Note that some beaches can only be reached by 4WD and/or a footpath, and that locals sometimes charge $5 or so for entry.
- Most Romantic Destinations: Northern Dominica and Roseau Valley
Dominica’s natural beauty and lack of mass tourism makes the whole island something of a romantic destination, but the northern section offers a slightly better choice of boutique and rustic chic hotels, as well as a smattering of beaches. Luxurious Secret Bay is a honeymoon favorite, offering different packages for couples and elegant villas set amid the rainforest. For contemporary luxury, Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski is a bit further up the road, right next to Cabrits National Park and offering gorgeous sunset views. On the Atlantic coast, chic boutique properties Escape Dominica and Pagua Bay House are just a short drive from Douglas-Charles Airport.
If you’d rather stay closer to the capital, consider the lush Roseau Valley, where a cluster of intimate properties offer tranquil nights in gorgeous surroundings; you’ll have easy access to Titou Gorge, some of the islands best waterfalls (Trafalgar Falls), and lots of trails into Morne Trois Pitons National Park and Boiling Lake, while being close to the services and amenities of Roseau. Ti Kwen Glo Cho and Papillote Wilderness Retreat offer hot spring pools on site, while Cocoa Cottage is immersed in lush rainforest (there’s even a treehouse room), just a quick drive from the city.
- Best Place for Food and Nightlife: Roseau
Though you’ll find small bars and seafood restaurants scattered across the island, Dominica isn’t a foodie destination. By far the biggest choice when it comes to food (and drink/nightlife, such as it is), can be found in the capital, Roseau. Top restaurants include Old Stone Grill & Bar (Castle St) and the adjacent Great Old House. Pearl’s Cuisine (28 Great Marlborough St) is our favorite Caribbean restaurant, especially for breakfast (cash only). For a more relaxed vibe try Pops Rotisserie & Grill (36 Cork St), or Ruins Rock Café (King George V St), though the latter tends to get mobbed by tourists when cruise ships are in port. For vegan food, Starline Ital Kitchen (44 River St) is a must visit.
In terms of nightlife, cocktails at Warner’s Bar in the Fort Young Hotel is a good place to start Friday night, while locals tend to hangout at the Garage Baron Bow Lane. Symes Zee’s (34 King George V St) is a dependable spot for live blues, jazz, and reggae.
- Best Place for Shopping: Roseau and Kalinago Territory
Though it has duty-free status, there are no big shopping malls or complexes in Dominica, and it’s not known for its retail attractions. You’ll find the most shops by far in Roseau, the capital. In addition to supermarkets like Fresh Market Dominica on the waterfront, there is a weekly farmers’ market, and touristy stalls selling handicrafts at the Old Market Plaza behind the Dominica Museum. You’ll find a handful of duty-free shops (especially good for Colombian leather goods and jewelry) on the waterfront (Dame Mary Eugenia Charles Blvd), and local clothes stores Downtown.
Though you’ll find indigenous crafts for sale in Roseau, you’ll get the best items (and prices) in Kalinago Territory on the East Coast, where the Kalinago Barana Autemodel village and museum has a shop that sells typical handicrafts (including the island’s famed larouma reed baskets, bracelets, caps, hats, mats, and finger traps). Items made from dried calabash are also popular.
- Best Place to get off the Beaten Path: Kalinago Territory and the East Coast
Though you could argue the whole of Dominica is “off the beaten path”, Kalinago Territory and the wild East Coast is where the island feels most remote and undeveloped. This is where the region’s last remaining indigenous people – the Kalinago (Caribs) – have their own semi-autonomous territory, and where strange natural features like L’Escalier Tête-Chien are entwined with Kalinago folklore. In addition, Rosalie Bay is a major turtle-nesting site, and home to one of the island’s best hotels, the Rosalie Bay Eco Resort & Spa. Experienced hikers will especially enjoy this region; dramatic trails run along the East Coast to scenic spots like the Wavine Cyrique Falls, and through inland forests to the Emerald Pool, a turquoise pool of mountain water fed by waterfall.
- Safety in Dominica
Dominica enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in the Caribbean, though the usual precautions should be taken at night, especially in Roseau, where petty crime (very occasionally including muggings) does take place.
The 5 Best Places in Dominica for Tourists
1. Roseau and Roseau Valley
The capital of Dominica, Roseau (“ro-zo”) is the island’s primary commercial center, though it’s actually a relatively small and sleepy place. With its remnants of French colonial and West Indian architecture, wooden verandahs, and gingerbread fretwork, it’s a pleasant place for a stroll (especially in the 18th-century French Quarter), though there are only a handful of sights.
The tiny Dominica Museum on the seafront (Dame Mary Eugenia Charles Blvd) occupies the old post office and market building, and is worth a peek for its exhibits that chronicle the history and ecology of the island. Behind the museum, the Old Market Plaza usually contains an informal craft market, with handicraft and souvenir stalls. A few blocks inland along Turkey Lane stands Roseau Cathedral, the island’s prime Roman Catholic place of worship, completed in French Gothic style in 1916. Further north lies Dominica Botanic Gardens, the city’s principal green space, studded with tropical plants, trees, and the famous “David the Goliath”, a popular pit-stop for tour groups; a giant African baobab tree that still lies on the crushed school bus it fell onto during Hurricane David in 1979 (luckily, it was empty). From here you can climb up to the Morne Bruce Viewpoint for a panoramic view of the town.
All the biggest supermarkets on the island are also in Roseau, plus the weekly Saturday fresh market, when yams, coffee beans, avocados, mangoes, coconuts, and other local produce are sold at bargain prices.
Heading out of the city up the Roseau Valley, you’ll quickly get a taster of Dominica’s wild interior. On Papillote Road are the Papillote Tropical Gardens, crammed with tropical blossoms and lush vegetation, and the two spectacular Trafalgar Falls. A little further north is the 200ft-tall Middleham Falls. More adventurous visitors should try rappelling in the Titou Gorge, or hiking in the stunning Morne Trois Pitons National Park – the 8hr return trek to Boiling Lake, a 220ft/66m wide pool of bubbling water (it’s actually a flooded volcanic fumarole), is one of the most popular on the island (contact Extreme Dominica for excursions).
• Being based in this area is a good idea; you can combine access to the services, shops and restaurants of Roseau with the spectacular natural attractions further up the valley. There are some good hotels in the capital (including budget accommodation), but also some attractive guesthouses set in the lush rainforest of the Roseau Valley.
• The satellite towns south of Roseau are where many of Dominica’s dive operators and whale-watching outfits are located. Dominica is known as the whale-watching capital of the Caribbean – try Dive Dominica, based at Castle Comfort Lodge, which offers scuba diving, snorkeling, and whale watching.
- The Best Hotels in Roseau and Roseau Valley
Fort Young Hotel • Hotel phone: +1 767 448 5000
Papillote Wilderness Retreat • Hotel phone: +1 767 295 9564
- Best B&Bs
Matthew’s Miracle View • Hotel phone: +1 767 225 4213
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels
Cocoa Cottage • Hotel phone: +1 767 316 8746
St. James Guesthouse • Hotel phone: +1 767 448 7170
Ti Kwen Glo Cho • Hotel phone: +1 767 285 9131
Bluemoon Studio • Hotel phone: +1 767 275 5284
- Best Hostel
Roseau Beach Hostel • Hotel phone: +1 767 275 2851
2. Southern Dominica
The beautiful coastline of Southern Dominica – just a short drive from Roseau – is best known for its snorkeling and dive sites such as Crater’s Edge, Scotts Head Pinnacles, and Champagne Beach (with its underwater springs). The area is anchored by the pretty village of Soufrière, with its fleet of tiny fishing boats and beautifully decorated Catholic church. Just inland from the village is the Soufrière Sulphur Springs, where warm mineral water from the Glo Cho stream has been diverted into four man-made pools. South of Soufrière, the coast is encompassed within the Scotts Head Marine Reserve, with the picturesque fishing village of Scotts Head itself clustered at the base of its namesake peninsula (aka “Cachacrou”in Kalinago). On the summit of the peninsula lies the ruins of a British fortress. Over on the southeastern Atlantic coast, several remote waterfalls can be accessed by short but tough trails: Victoria Falls and the Sari-Sari Falls are the most scenic. The short coastal Glassy Trail (1.5 miles) is also extremely scenic, but can be overgrown in parts – ask at your hotel before setting out. It runs from the village of Boetica to the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic.
• For diving, snorkeling and whale-watching down here, contact Nature Island Dive in Soufrière or Donny’s Water Sports at Champagne Beach.
- The Best Hotels in Southern Dominica
Jungle Bay • Hotel phone: +1 767 235 0025
Coulibri Ridge • Hotel phone: +1 767 275 1465
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels
Soufriere Guesthouse • Hotel phone: +1 767 275 5454
3. Portsmouth & Northern Dominica
Northern Dominica, anchored by the town of Portsmouth, makes an enticing alternative base – though it’s possible to visit on a day trip from Roseau and the south coast, you’ll need to stay here to make the most of it. On the plus side, the north is much more convenient for Douglas Charles Airport, and it’s the only place on the island where you’ll find secluded soft-sand beaches and palm-fringed bays. Just south of Portsmouth itself are Ripaton Beach and Coconut Beach (which features silky volcanic black sand), while Toucari Beach is a lively spot to the north; on the Atlantic is gorgeous Batibou Bay (4WD access only, with $5 entry), and black sand Number One Beach, where the Hampstead River flows into the ocean.
There’s not much to see in Portsmouth itself, but it’s worth taking a guided boat trip up the Indian River, just south of town. Once the main meeting place between European sailors and the local Kalinago, the river has changed little in hundreds of years, and the tours take in all sorts of flora and fauna.
Just north of Portsmouth, Cabrits National Park encompasses a rugged headland blanketed in dry tropical forest and surrounded by coral reef. Trails lead up to the ruins (some partly restored) of Fort Shirley, 18th-century British fortifications. On the Atlantic side of the north coast, the village of Calibishie is home to the Red Rocks, a dramatic formation of reddish volcanic rock on the seashore, worn smooth by the elements. Nearby, the Pointe Baptiste Chocolate Factory makes sweet treats from local cacao.
• Contact JC Ocean Adventures in Cabrits National Park for snorkeling, diving, and whale-watching on the north coast.
• The area in and around Portsmouth and the North Coast contains the most diverse accommodation on the island, from posh resorts and boutiques, to B&Bs and budget guesthouses. You’ll need a rental car (preferably a 4WD) to make the most of staying here.
- The Best Hotels in Portsmouth & Northern Dominica
Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski • Hotel phone: +1 767 445 1000
Classique International • Hotel phone: +1 767 445 8486
The Champs • Hotel phone: +1 767 616 3001
Manicou River Resort • Hotel phone: +1 767 616 8903
Picard Beach Cottages • Hotel phone: +1 767 445 5131
Riverside Hotel • Hotel phone: +1 767 616 2888
Secret Bay • Hotel phone: +1 767 445 4444
Escape • Hotel phone: +1 767 225 7813
Pagua Bay House • Hotel phone: +1 767 275 9699
Wanderlust Caribbean • Hotel phone: +1 767 295 0890
- Best B&Bs
Pointe Dubique • Hotel phone: +1 767 445 7453
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels
Portsmouth Beach Hotel • Hotel phone: +1 767 445 5131
Rainbow Beach • Hotel phone: +1 767 612 6258
Nixon’s Bayside Mangrove Inn • Hotel phone: +1 767 612 1253
Sister Sea Lodge • Hotel phone: +1 767 235 5454
4. Kalinago Territory & East Coast
The wild East Coast is the island’s lesser-visited region, best known for being home to the Caribbean’s last remaining community of indigenous Kalinago people. Some 3,000 Kalinago (Caribs) live along the northeastern coast in the semi-autonomous Kalinago Territory, which was created back in 1903. The village of Salybia acts as the administrative center – you can visit a smattering of shops and cassava bakeries here, or go on to the Kalinago Barana Aute (+1 767 445 7979), a model pre-Columbian village and museum that does a pretty good job of showcasing Kalinago traditions, spiritual beliefs, and history, along with typical handicrafts sold at the village store (including larouma reed baskets).
From Kalinago Territory, a winding road runs south along the coast to Castle Bruce, set on a rugged bay with fabulous views. On the way there’s L’Escalier Tête-Chien (“the Snake’s Staircase”), a stunning viewpoint above the ocean and serpent-like rock formation associated with ancient Kalinago legends. Further south, Rosalie Bay is home to a turtle-watch program (green, hawksbill, and leatherback turtles all nest on the black-sand beach in front of Rosalie Bay Eco Resort), plus the dramatic Wavine Cyrique Falls, which tumble over cliffs into the ocean (accessible by a precipitous cliff-top path with rope ladders).
The biggest attraction inland is the Emerald Pool (on the eastern side of Morne Trois Pitons National Park), a beautiful swimming lagoon and waterfall in the heart of the forest.
- The Best Hotels in Kalinago Territory & East Coast
Citrus Creek Plantation • Hotel phone: +1 767 615 1234
Rosalie Bay Eco Resort & Spa • Hotel phone: +1 767 446 1010
Villa Ayahora • Hotel phone: +1 767 275 7958
Banana Lama Eco Villa & Cottages • +1 767 446 1183
- Best B&B
Danglez • Hotel phone: +1 767 285 0595
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels
Hibiscus Valley Inn • Hotel phone: +1 767 445 8195
Serenity Lodges • Hotel phone: +1 767 225 5881
Three Rivers Eco Lodge • Hotel phone: +1 767 616 1886
5. West Coast and Interior
The West Coast north of Roseau is indented with numerous rivers churning down from the mountains; waterfalls, mountain trails, and a handful of isolated beaches (with spectacular sunsets) are the main attractions. Staying here is a much quieter experience than the capital, though with a rental car you’ll have access to both the north and south coasts.
The Layou River Valley, formed by Dominica’s longest river, is especially beautiful, and good for bird-watching. To the north lies Mero Beach, a mellow black-sand strip with beach restaurants and grand sunset views (it’s one of the few Dominica beaches with amenities), while to the south, Rodney’s Rock Beach Park is a smaller beach with a similar ambience.
Inland, the Syndicate Preserve (named after the former owners, Dominica Fruit Syndicate) protects an especially lush section of forest, laced with waterfalls and trails – it’s the best place to spot Dominica’s national bird, the Sisserou Parrot, and the endemic Jaco Parrot. It’s also the starting point for the challenging hike to the summit of Morne Diablotin (4,747ft), Dominica’s highest mountain and part of Morne Diablotin National Park. An easier hike is along the 1.1-mile loop of the Syndicate Nature Trail, which starts at the Syndicate Visitor Center.
Further south, the main cross-island highway provides access to several picturesque waterfalls, most of them close to the road: the Spanny Falls, Salton Waterfalls, and Jacko Falls among them.
- The Best Hotels in West Coast & Interior
Mango Island Lodges • Hotel phone: +1 767 617 7963
Bayport Residence Inn • Hotel phone: +1 767 449 0800
- Best B&B
Harmony Villa • Hotel phone: +1 767 612 4166
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels
Sunset Bay Club • Hotel phone: +1 767 235 6522
Tamarind Tree • Hotel phone: +1 767 616 5258
Crescent Moon Cabins • Hotel phone: +1 767 449 3449
Stonedge Safari • Hotel phone: +1 767 277 3607
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