Dominica – Overview

Dominica is a small island between la Martinique and la Guadeloupe.  It has a beautiful environment, hot weather and a natural rich ecologic system but the paradisiacal location has been hit more than once by very strong hurricanes. The most recent, Hurricane Maria, in August 2017, was very destructive.  The devastation was, in fact, horrible and 90% of the buildings were affected by the passage of the hurricane.  A year later, it was still under reconstruction and repowering the island one house at a time and despite all of this, in 2018, we decided to visit, against our agent’s recommendation.

Of course, we were limited in our activities, but we knew it prior to our visit. Only once on site could we really see, experience and discover the island. Information and reviews on this country became obsolete overnight.

We found a resilient, smiling but still hurting community. Our visit was a way to encourage them.

To reach the island, it is not an easy direct flight for most of us. You need to go via another island since the biggest airport landing/departing is Douglas-Charles airport.  It is short and can’t adequately accommodate large aircraft.

Some cruise ships do stop at the island but not often due to the damage on the tourist infrastructures in 2018..

While the atmosphere is relaxed, this island naturally encourages visitors to activities around the island.  You will mostly appreciate the island if you explore its natural beauty: waterfalls, hot springs, freshwater lakes, rainforest, mountains, beaches. There are a few walking paths with different levels of difficulty.  The most spectacular are the longer ones.

The old volcanic island does have an interesting side:  Champagne Reef, hot springs and Boiling Lake are examples of the options.

Do not expect long sandy beaches. The beaches are small, narrow and not as spectacular as other islands. However, you can find  black sand as well as a bubbly water beach and rainforest.

WARNING: we visited in 2018, less than a year after the passage of the devastating Hurricane Maria (September 2017). They were still recovering and many sites and infrastructures were partly, if not entirely, closed. However, things may have changed since.

Driving in Dominica

The capital is Roseau and it is about a two hour drive from the airport during daylight. However, driving at night and under the rain for the first time, travelers, it is not the same.  The sinuous road travels near the water. The already damaged roads of 2015 were again weakened with the 2017 hurricane.  That was an experience that all our family will remember.

Arriving at night at this small airport was not an easy ride to our hotel. Completely dark outside, no road lights, single lane bridge without warnings; it was a very scary ride for us. We laugh about it now because it ended well but what a journey.

The island is not big but has steep hills and drops that routes needed to contour obstacles and all this without the same standard of warnings that we know in North America.

We rented a car at the airport which is very small and the availability of vehicles was very limited.  The car/SUV was not new and the water was coming in as it was raining. Let’s just say that the first few hours on the island was a hair-raising adventure.

When I asked if we could turn right on red lights, the lady smiled at me and simply said: “There are no traffic lights on the island”.  I did not react but internally I had mixed feelings.  I was pleased to know that it would be a calm away from crazy city time and at the same time questioning myself on where are we!

If we go back to the road conditions, let’s just say that we were surprised to only have seen a single accident.

First the bridges. Many bridges were destroyed during the previous natural disaster, so temporary bridges were installed, often single lane, sometimes at almost water level without side protectors, no street/bridge lights and no signs or warning of a detour and you can’t see on the opposite side of the bridge.

Second, road side missing.  A barrel and a small cord may be the only clues that something is wrong.  It is not too bad during the day time since you can react ahead of time but in the dark, even at 20 km/h, you just don’t expect that. 

Third, since sometimes the road is missing and the only option is to roll on to someone’s property. Uncomfortable to us.

Fourth, you can’t see what is coming on a single lane two-way street!!

I guess you understand by now that our road trip was an adventure. Of course, if you are visiting on a cruise ship, just hire a chauffeur to reach your destination.

The signs are limited and you do not want to miss your boat and loose time to find your way.

Things to see: Roseau, beaches, falls.