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Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, Dominica sprawls over a rocky terrain in the Lesser Antilles. Known for its stunning topography, Dominica has one of the world's last ocean rain forests, a lake covered with purple hyacinths, and so many species of trees that one of them is named "no-name."

Here is an island of boiling lakes and mountain cascades, of desolate, lava-ravaged landscapes, of forests dense with rain-forest bromeliads. There is so much mist from the morning and evening showers that rainbows are as predictable as the sun.

The Commonwealth of Dominica, commonly known as Dominica, is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea. In Latin, its name means "Sunday", which was the day on which it was discovered by Christopher Columbus.

Dominica's pre-Columbian name was Wai'tu kubuli, which means "Tall is her body".

The indigenous people of the island, the Caribs, have a territory similar to the Indian reserves of North America. However, its official language is English because of its history as a British colony, territory, and state though a French creole is spoken by many, especially people of older generations. The demonym or adjective of this country is "Dominican" in English, same as that for the Dominican Republic but unlike the Dominican Republic, in which the stress is on the first "i", the stress is on the second "i".¹

Dominica is not for fainthearted or out-of-shape visitors. Divers best know how to exploit a real surf-and-turf vacation -- most take a 2-hour tank dive in the morning, followed by some equally daunting land excursion in the afternoon. Come to Dominica and expect yourself to be taxed to the max -- you may need another Caribbean isle on which to recover.

Morne Trois Pitons National Park: The park's misty, rain-forested mountainsides and deep valleys are filled with waterfalls and lakes. Paved roads get you right up to the park, and short walks will take you to two of its most popular features: Trafalgar Falls and the Emerald Pool. Swimming is allowed. If you're in good physical shape and not afraid to get muddy, the 3-hour hike to steamy Boiling Lake is a real adventure.

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Cabrits National Park: Cannons and stone ruins are all that remain of historic Fort Shirley, alternately controlled by the French and the British. Glorious views can be had of Portsmouth, the island's second-largest town, and Prince Rupert Bay, with its black-sand beaches and where such seafaring luminaries as Christopher Columbus, Sir Francis Drake, and Captain John Smith dropped anchor. It's a short hike up to the fort and museum from the new cruise ship dock, which provides restrooms, a snack bar, and a crafts store.

Carib Territory: Approximately 3,400 people of Carib descent live in this 3,700-acre reserve on the island's wave-battered east coast. This is the Caribbean's largest remaining community of Caribs. In Bataka, Salybia, Sinecou, and other hamlets along the main east coast road, tourists can watch artisans at work and purchase crafts from roadside stands. Intricately woven grass baskets, hats, and mats are Carib specialties. If you can't make it to the Territory, stop in at the Kalinago Centre on King George Street in Roseau. This Carib-sanctioned center displays historical photographs and sells traditional Carib arts and crafts.

Wildlife-watching: November through March is prime whale-watching season, although sperm whales may be sighted year-round. Dive operators will take you out to look for orca, sperm, pilot, and false killer whales, as well as large pods of spotted and spinner dolphins. The Northern Forest Reserve, accessible by road from the village of Dublanc, is the place to look for two rare parrots: the sisserou, Dominica's national bird, and the jaco. A mile-long walk takes you to a viewing platform. Hummingbirds and butterflies are abundant throughout the island. Keep an eye out underfoot for 10-foot-long boa constrictors, giant beetles, and scurrying land crabs!


Dominica, island republic in the West Indies, lying in the Caribbean Sea, approximately midway between the islands of Guadeloupe (on the north) and Martinique (on the south). One of the Windward Islands, Dominica is about 47 km (about 29 mi) long and has an area of 750 sq km (289 sq mi).

Seasons: The driest season, January through June, is the best time to visit Dominica. The rains are heaviest from August through October, which is also hurricane season. At all times of the year the precipitation is higher in the mountains than on the coast. Temperatures vary little from winter to summer, with highs between 80° and 90° F (27° and 32° C).

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Flights: American Eagle has flights that originate in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The regional carrier, LIAT, as well as British Airways and Air France, all have connections to Dominica from neighboring islands such as Antigua, Guadeloupe, St. Martin and Barbados. Of the two airports on the island, Canefield is very close to the capital city of Roseau, while Melville Hall is an hour's drive away.

Ships: Cruise ships pull into the new docks at Roseau (as does the high-speed interisland ferry) and Cabrits National Park.

Getting around: Taxis are reliable and reasonable; roads, while often twisty and slow, are paved and suitable for rental cars. When renting a vehicle, consider a 4-wheel drive car or truck for off-road driving. A public minibus system is also handy for getting around.


Dominica is volcanic in origin and has a mountainous terrain, with several peaks rising above 1220 m (about 4000 ft); the highest point is Morne Diablotins (1447 m/4747 ft). The island has a tropical climate with an average annual temperature of about 27° C (about 80° F). The annual rainfall is considerable, ranging from about 1780 mm (about 70 in) on the coast to more than three times that figure in the mountains. The island has many small un-navigable rivers; Boiling Lake, from which sulfurous gases frequently arise, is located in the south. Luxuriant forests cover the mountains.

Dominica has a total population (2008 estimate) of 72,500 or exactly 71,727, according to 2003 cencus. More than 90 percent of the inhabitants are black, descendants of slaves brought from Africa in the 18th century. A small number of Carib also live on the island. English is the official language, but a French patois is widely spoken. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion. Roseau (population, 1987 estimate, 22,000) is the capital and chief port. Click here for detailed map of Dominica  


Dominica's economic situation is among the most challenging of all the Eastern Caribbean states. However, Dominica's economy grew by 3.5% in 2005 and 4.0% in 2006, following a decade of poor performance. The country nearly had a financial crisis in 2003 and 2004. Growth in 2006 was attributed to gains in tourism, construction, offshore and other services, and some sub-sectors of the banana industry. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently praised the Government of Dominica for its successful macroeconomic reforms. The IMF also pointed out remaining challenges, including further reductions in public debt, increased financial sector regulation, and market diversification.

Bananas and other agriculture dominate Dominica's economy, and nearly one-third of the labor force works in agriculture. This sector, however, is highly vulnerable to weather conditions and to external events affecting commodity prices. In 2007, Hurricane Dean caused significant damage to the agricultural sector as well as the country's infrastructure, especially roads. In response to reduced European Union (EU) banana trade preferences, the government has diversified the agricultural sector by promoting the production of coffee, patchouli, aloe vera, cut flowers, and exotic fruits such as mangoes, guavas, and papayas. Dominica has had some success in increasing its manufactured exports, primarily soap.

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Dominica is mostly volcanic and has few beaches; therefore, tourism has developed more slowly than on neighboring islands. Nevertheless, Dominica's high, rugged mountains, rainforests, freshwater lakes, hot springs, waterfalls, and diving spots make it an attractive eco-tourism destination. Cruise ship stopovers have increased following the development of modern docking and waterfront facilities in the capital.

Dominica is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative that grants duty-free entry into the United States for many goods. Dominica also belongs to the predominantly English-speaking Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).


The Arawaks were guided to Dominica, and other islands of the Caribbean, by the South Equatorial Current from the waters of the Orinoco River. These descendants of the early Tainos were overthrown by the Kalinago tribe of the Caribs. The Caribs, who settled, what is now Dominica, in the 14th century, called the island Waitikubuli, which means 'tall is her body'. Christopher Columbus named the island after the day of the week on which he spotted it, Sunday, 'Doménica' in Italian, which occured on November 3, 1493.

The indigenous Carib people successfully resisted early European attempts at colonization. In 1632 the French gained a foothold on the island, and they retained parts of it until 1763, when it was assigned to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris. Under British rule Dominica became part of the Leeward Islands dependency in 1833 and was attached to the Windward Islands group in 1940. In 1967 it became an internally self-governing state associated with the United Kingdom. Dominica attained full independence on November 2, 1978, and subsequently joined the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations. The republic's first prime minister was Patrick R. John; he was succeeded by Oliver Seraphin in 1979 and by Mary Eugenia Charles in 1980, 1985, and 1990. Many of the remaining Carib people live in Dominica's Carib Reserve, a Territory on Dominica's east coast.²

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In 1635, France claimed Dominica. French missionaries became the first European inhabitants of the island. Carib incursions continued, though, and in 1660, the French and British signed a neutrality treaty in which both Dominica and St. Vincent should be abandoned by them and in possession of the Caribs. Dominica was officially neutral for the next century, but the attraction of its resources remained; rival expeditions of British and French foresters were harvesting timber by the start of the 18th century.

Due to Dominica's position between Martinique and Guadeloupe, France eventually became predominant, and a French settlement was established and grew. In 1761 a British expedition against Dominica led by Lord Rollo was successful and the island was conquered. As part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the Seven Years' War, the island became a British possession. In 1778, during the American Revolutionary War, the French mounted a successful invasion with the active cooperation of the population, which was largely French. The 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the war, returned the island to Britain. French invasions in 1795 and 1805 ended in failure. The 1805 invasion burned much of Roseau to the ground.

In 1763, the British established a legislative assembly, representing only the white population. In 1831, reflecting a liberalization of official British racial attitudes, the Brown Privilege Bill conferred political and social rights on free nonwhites. Three Blacks were elected to the legislative assembly the following year. Following the abolition of slavery, in 1838 Dominica became the only British Caribbean colony to have a Black-controlled legislature in the 19th century. Most Black legislators were small holders or merchants who held economic and social views diametrically opposed to the interests of the small, wealthy English planter class. Reacting to a perceived threat, the planters lobbied for more direct British rule.

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In 1865, after much agitation and tension, the colonial office replaced the elective assembly with one composed of one-half elected members and one-half appointed. The elected legislators were outmaneuvered on numerous occasions by planters allied with colonial administrators. In 1871, Dominica became part of the Leeward Island Federation. The power of the Black population progressively eroded. Crown Colony government was re-established in 1896.

Following World War I, an upsurge of political consciousness throughout the Caribbean led to the formation of the representative government association. Marshaling public frustration with the lack of a voice in the governing of Dominica, this group won one-third of the popularly elected seats of the legislative assembly in 1924 and one-half in 1936. Shortly thereafter, Dominica was transferred from the Leeward Island Administration and was governed as part of the Windwards until 1958, when it joined the short-lived West Indies Federation.

In 1961, a Dominica Labor Party government led by Edward Oliver LeBlanc was elected. After the federation dissolved, Dominica became an associated state of the United Kingdom on February 27, 1967 and formally took responsibility for its internal affairs.²

1. Special thanks to Wikipedia and its authors.
2. Special thanks to Wikipedia and its authors.
3. Copyright © 1993-2008 Encarta (Microsoft Corp). All Rights Reserved.
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