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Dominica Cruise Port: Tips, Attractions and Weather

The Dominica cruise port sits among dense rainforests. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
The Dominica cruise port sits among dense rainforests. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

The Dominica cruise port of Roseau is modest by Caribbean standards, but it also is a gateway to one of the region’s best ecotourism islands.

Dominica is unlike almost any other island that mainstream cruise lines visit. It is not famous for beaches or commercialism. Instead, it is dense with rainforests, waterfalls and tropical plants and animals. For an idea of what to expect, watch the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, which was filmed on part on the island.

Rainforest covers two thirds of this 464-square-mile island, nicknamed “The Nature Island”. The island is home to more than 1,200 different plant species and only 70,000 people.

Cruisers visiting the island for only a day should plan on activities much different than most Caribbean islands.

Most cruise lines dock at the Roseau Cruise Ship Berth, while some others may dock at Woodbridge Bay or the Cabrits Cruise Ship Berth.

Unlike some bigger islands, Dominica doesn’t have a cruise terminal or elaborate outdoor mall that visitors walk through to reach the tourism district. Instead, they walk right off their ships and into the city of Roseau for a limited amount of shopping, restaurants and excursion operators. They will find a smaller district than other major ports, but it is colorful and growing.

Quick Travel Tips

  • Hiking and visiting waterfalls is the most popular attraction on this wet, eco tourism island.
  • Beaches are rarer than most islands and often rocky.
  • Dominica is one of the wettest islands in the Caribbean.

Where is Dominica?

Dominica is about 380 miles south to southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the eastern Caribbean Sea. It lies about midway between the islands of Antigua to the north and St. Lucia to the south. It’s a common stop on eastern Caribbean cruises, especially during the dry season.

Eastern Caribbean cruises often stop at either Dominica or the nearby Guadeloupe or Martinique—both of them also rainy islands—while going from the more popular Antigua to St. Lucia.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Trafalgar Falls Dominica
Trafalgar Falls; © Dominica Tourism Authority

Walking Around Attractions

Cruise passengers may find that the port of Roseau has a small but decent tourism district. During our visit, I walked from the cruise port to the other side of Roseau and back again. I saw no other tourists walking through the city. They stayed within the waterfront shopping area.

One worthy attraction in the city is the Dominica Botanic Gardens, which are less than 10 minutes away by foot from the cruise terminal along King George V Street. The gardens stretch over 40 acres and display more than 50 types of plants and trees. Admission is free.

The Morne Bruce viewpoint near the gardens offers panoramic views of the city. Visitors can reach it via Jack’s Walk trail behind the aviaries in the botanical gardens.

Shore Excursions

Outside of Roseau, the most popular shore excursions on the island are hiking, swimming and river tubing. Most of the hikes travel through the rainforest and have levels of difficulty by category.

A guided two-hour city tour including the gardens, Morne Bruce and the original slave market costs about $50 per person.

Quite a few excursions combine hikes with waterfall viewing. The typical waterfall hike will cost about $75 per person. Some excursions include both a city tour and waterfall hike for about the same amount.

Tubing on the Layou River is a way for the whole family to enjoy Dominica’s beautiful scenery. Several companies and guides offer river tubing. Visitors can hire them through their cruise line or directly right along the cruise port. The cost is about $50 to $75 per person depending on the sailing date and other factors.

Guides are available for a hike to Boiling Lake, reportedly the largest boiling lake in the world. The drive there is an hour. This four- to eight-hour round trip takes visitors to a water-filled crater, said to reach 197 degrees fahrenheit. Because of the length of the trip, visitors should expect to pay around $125 per person.

Dominica river tubing; © Dominica Tourism Authority

Dominica’s national parks are all worth visiting. Morne Diablotin National Park offers the highest point on the island, rising more than 5,000 feet above sea level.

Visiting national sites cost $5 each or $12 for a week-long pass. One excursion operator listed a trip to Morne Diablotin plus the Boiling Lake for $175 per person.

The Rainforest Tram offers a view of the rainforest without the strenuous hiking. Ziplining is available along the Layou, Dominica’s longest river.

Beaches Near the Cruise Port

Dominica Cruise Port Map

Dominica is a great place to go for ecotourism adventures such as hiking and whitewater rafting. It isn’t the place to go for beaches because they are mostly rocky from past volcanic activity.

Cruise lines and tour operators offer few beach excursions. Still, one of the better options is the black sand Mero Beach in the village of Mero. It is 12 miles north of the Roseau cruise port. Cruise visitors will need a taxi, rental car or excursion bus to get there.

A few excursions that take visitors only to Mero Beach usually cost less than $50. Otherwise, some island tours include Mero Beach along with other stops such as Salton Waterfalls, the sulphur springs at Wotten Waven and the baths at Ti Kwen Glo Cho. The cost for such a guided, multi-stop tour will range around $125 to $150.

Shopping / Restaurants

Fort Shirley, Dominica
Fort Shirley. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Shopping and dining in Roseau take a back seat to the natural attractions.

The heart of downtown Roseau is just yards away from the cruise port. Roseau is said to offer the best fruit and vegetable market in the Caribbean.

The city has a modest tourist district with shops, art and craft stands, and restaurants. Several restaurants offer Creole cuisine, including Pearl’s Restaurant on 50 King George V Street (767-448-8707), and La Robe Creole, located on Victoria Street (767-448-2896).

Getting Around / Transportation

Taxis line up along the port, offering rides to travelers. Taxis offer a tour of the island and will usually charge $150. Most excursion operators arrive and leave from there as well.

Taxis have H, HA or HB starting the registration numbers on the license plates. Bus service is available from private minibus operators.

Just steps past the taxis are car rentals for cruisers who want to explore the island independently. Cars drive on the left side of the road because of the island’s British colonial history. A note of caution: the roads in Dominica are often narrow and difficult to navigate. Excursion buses are a safer and better option.

Weather / Best Times to Go

Dominica monthly rainfall
Dominica has some of the highest monthly rainfall in the Caribbean. © 2021 Scott S. Bateman

Dominica is a rainforest island because it receives a great deal of rain throughout the year. It is one of the wettest islands in the Caribbean.

The best time to go to Dominica is April during the dry season (which isn’t that dry) for a combination of low risk of rain and warmer temperatures. The worst time to go is any month from late fall until early winter.

The island’s average high temperature stays within a narrow range throughout the year. It ranges from the low 80s Fahrenheit in the winter to the mid 80s in the summer.

The island has a rainforest climate, and receives, on average, 197 inches of rain per year. The driest months of the year are January through April, but short, midday showers are still common.

The average monthly rainfall is four to six inches from January through April during the dry season. Dominica’s dry season is as wet as the rainy season for most Caribbean islands.

Average rainfall jumps to nine inches in May and backs off a bit in June. It then starts climbing again until it reaches a high point of about 15 inches in November.

Other Cruise Tips

  • English is the official language.
  • Taxis have H, HA or HB starting the registration numbers on the license plates.
  • Bus service is available from private minibus operators.
  • Tipping is usually 10-15 percent of the bill.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
December 16, 2023

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