Let’s face it… you’ve probably never heard of Dominica. No, I’m not talking about the Dominican Republic. I don’t blame you – I hadn’t heard of it either.
Dominica is a small leeward island in the Eastern Caribbean. It’s tucked between the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. Though Dominica is small, it’s packed with the most insanely gorgeous nature of all the Caribbean – including nine volcanos on one island!
Unlike the nearby French island territories, Dominica (pronounced DOM-in-ee-ka, not doh-MIN-ih-ka) is the last Caribbean island with a community of indigenous Carib Kalinagos. Their population stands around 3000, and they are doing their best to maintain their community against all outside efforts.
Dominica is like an antidote to some other Caribbean islands when it comes to getting it right. There aren’t any high-rise mega resorts. There is just a strong local community and pure nature – including 3 national parks and a hiking path from one end of the island to the other.
Dominica is one of the rare countries in the world with nearly zero COVID-19 cases that are still open for tourism. Here’s how you can enjoy Dominica, even during these strange times.
Dominica COVID-19 Travel Restrictions
Dominica’s insane raw beauty, rich history, and indigenous people make it a top Caribbean island during normal times. During COVID-19, Dominica’s “safe in nature” system makes it THE top pick.
At less than a handful of active cases, Dominica has largely managed to keep COVID-19 off its beautiful shores. This is thanks to their stringent – but logical – travel restrictions and an active and efficacious government. The restrictions to enter Dominica include:
- Negative RT-PCR test results within 72 hours of arrival.
- An arrival health screening that includes a rapid antibody test.
- A PCR-test follows if results for antibodies are positive.
- A quarantine period with an RT-PCR test on day 4.
- If you receive negative results (typically 48 hours later), you’ll be released from quarantine.
- The government charges 100ECD (about $40 USD).
Quarantine Doesn’t Mean What You Think
You might be imagining that quarantine means you’ll be tucked away in your hotel room (like you would be in Barbados or Grenada), twiddling your thumbs, resetting your WiFi router every 2 minutes. You’d be wrong.
Dominica has established protocols for “safe in nature” excursions with dedicated COVID-approved transportation, tour guides, non-crowded sites, and regulations.
For example, tour guides must wear a face mask, keep windows open on all transportation, and keep a social distance.
From the day you arrive, you can partake in these and explore the diversity Dominica offers, from lush volcanic mountains (nine of them!!) to black sands beaches to waterfalls and hot springs.
In the rare case of a positive second PCR test, the government of Dominica will undergo contact tracing. All people contaminated would then isolate for two weeks, removing any chance of spread on the island.
What to Do in Dominica
There’s no shortage of activities in Dominica – from whale watching to canyoning to bathing under waterfalls, you could spend months here and still have things to see.
Bathing in the Cold, Warm, and Hot Falls of Trafalgar
These famous twin waterfalls are only a 20-minute drive from downtown Roseau, which makes them a common stop for tourists. Along the 15 minute walk, you can stop to bathe in a warm spring or continue to the hot springs of the tallest fall.
Watching and Swimming with Sperm Whales!
A little-known fact about Dominica is that it’s actually the whale-watching capital of the Caribbean. Dominica’s sheer underwater drop-offs along its western coastline offer deep shelter bays.
These double as feeding grounds for the six different species of cetaceans you can see on a regular basis here, including sperm whales.
Snorkeling In Champagne Bubbles Under the Sea
Champagne Reef, named for its bubbling waters rising from volcanic thermal springs on the ocean floor, houses a dazzling explosion of colorful sea life. While you’re here, you’ll see octopus, colored sponges, rays, turtles, eels, and all kinds of fish.
(Not) Swimming in Dominica’s Boiling Lake
Dominica’s boiling lake is actually the second largest flooded fumarole found in the entire world. It’s a great place if you have a lot of pasta to cook.
You can only access Dominica’s boiling lake after walking 3-4 hours through jungle from the cute little village of Laudat. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Deep Sea Fishing
If you enjoy fishing, Dominica offers everything you could ask for. Catch Marlin, Tuna, Dorado, Kingfish, Skip Jacks, Wahoo, Snapper and runners just a few miles off the coast.
Swimming in the Narrows of Titou Gorge
Titou Gorge, famous as a filming location for “Pirates of the Caribbean”, is paradise. It was formed by volcanic lava which cooled and split open, leaving a natural cave. You can swim in crystal-clear water between cliffs to find a gushing waterfall, sparkling with light filtered from the forest canopy above.
Kayaking on a Huge Freshwater Lake
This huge freshwater lake is literally located in the middle of the island. Pretty impressive if you ask me! The coolest thing about the lake is actually the hike – you’ll see hundreds of hummingbirds zipping along as you make your way.
Imagine hiking down through the rainforest to a secret waterfall that drops off into a hidden canyon far beneath the sunlit forest canopy. Jump in hidden pools with crystal clear water beneath the rainforest and descent into deep gorges in rock carved from thousands of years of rainfall.
This is the #1 rated activity on TripAdvisor. Indeed, it is raw nature at its finest.
Visiting Indigenous Carib/Arawak Villages
Last but not least, visiting the indigenous Kalinago people is an essential part of your journey. Dominica is actually the only Caribbean island with a thriving indigenous population.
An interesting fact about the Kalinago people is that they have survived hundreds of years of invasions by the Spanish, French and British. Long before that, they originally came from South America, where they battled with Arawak Indians for land.
Out of respect, I recommend visiting these people after you receive your second PCR-test results.
How to Get to Dominica
Dominica is in the process of building an international airport, but that’s being finished on island time. Until that’s complete, you’ll have to settle for taking a fun inter-island flight on a small turboprop.
You can get to Dominica on a daily basis from Barbados between Caribbean Airlines, InterCaribbean, and Air Antilles. You can also fly:
- From St. Maarten on WinAir, Monday and Friday
- From Antigua on LIAT and WinAir, most days of the week
- From St. Lucia everyday between InterCaribbean and Air Antilles
- From St. Thomas on Air Sunshine, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
- From San Juan on Silver Airways, Tuesday, Thursday, and Weekends
Keep in mind that these airlines typically only list their fares on their own website, so your normal travel tools won’t work here.
In normal (non-COVID) times, there is also a ferry from Guadeloupe and Martinique. You can fly to both of these islands from Miami on Air France and American Airlines.
You can read more about flying during COVID-19 here.
Please remember to travel as safely and responsibly as possible! Dominica has a fragile healthcare system. As such, you should take a PCR-test once or twice before arriving, avoid indoor restaurants/bars, and wear a good face mask.
How to Get a PCR Test in Dominica
The CDC’s latest update has finally brought the US up to the standards that most countries have expected for the last year.
What does this mean? Simply that you’ll need a PCR test within 72 hours of flying to the US. This new rule starts January 26th.
Luckily, Dominica has options for you.
If you plan on staying 8 days or less, you should be able to use your 5th day test. This is the same test that clears you from quarantine. Unfortunately, this also means you’ll be in quarantine the whole time.
If you’re staying longer, here’s the process for obtaining one:
- Consult with the District Medical Officer at a district clinic and get a requisition from.
- Call 1(767) 611 3905 to make an appointment
- Pay for the test at the accounts department at the Dominica- China Friendship Hospital (the former Princess Margaret Hospital) located on Upper Charles Avenue in Goodwill.
- Present your stamped form and receipt upon arrival at the Roseau Health Center.
- Have your test done at the Roseau Health Center, or as designated by the medical professionals.
- The results will be presented by the requisitioning medical officer or healthcare provider.
This all sounds fairly complicated, but the good news is that your hotel can take care of setting it up. Our hotel, “Trois Piton”, managed to guide us through this process with ease.