Popular Dominica Shore Excursions
Hiking and then stopping for a swim is a top activity on this gorgeous island. Go for a hike through rain forests or valleys that end in sparkling freshwater pools. You can choose your hike based on the level of difficulty. Suggestions include:
Easy: A 15-minute, 0.5-mile loop trail in the 17,000-acre Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, leads to the Emerald Pool, fed by a 50-foot waterfall. The crystal-clear water appears bright green in the sunlight, reflecting the surrounding trees.
Moderate: A 20-minute walk through the rain forest in the Roseau River Valley leads to Trafalgar Falls, twin falls that flow into a freshwater pool. In certain areas, you'll have to climb over boulders, which can be challenging. A guide is recommended, particularly when you visit after heavy rains, when the flow can be strong and the rocks slippery. Note that the left side of the falls is not safe for exploration.
Challenging: For a daylong adventure, the Boiling Lake is one of the most impressive sites on Dominica. Hire a guide to take you. This three- to four-hour hike (each way) leads you to a steaming, water-filled crater with temperatures estimated to reach 197 degrees. The lake was formed by a crack in a volcanic crater through which gases escape from the molten lava below. On the way, you pass through the Valley of Desolation, which deserves its name.
Sign up with Wacky Rollers for river-tubing, sea-kayaking, a visit to an adventure park or a Jeep safari ride. (767-440-4386)
Morne Diablotin National Park is named for Dominica's highest peak, Morne Diablotin, which rises almost 5,000 feet above sea level. Inside the park, you have the best chance of spotting the rare Sisserou parrot, the green and purple bird that can be found only on Dominica. Bring binoculars for other bird-watching.
One of the most impressive remnants of the Royal Navy in the Caribbean, Cabrits National Park encompasses an old fort that housed more than 700 men in its day -- as well as forest and wetlands.
The Society for Heritage Architecture, Preservation and Enhancement (SHAPE) offers a self-guided walking tour map pointing out historic sites in Roseau for $5 (available at the tourist office at the Old Market or at the Cocorico Cafe, right across from the cruise pier). You'll learn how the Victorian-era Roseau Cathedral was constructed from volcanic rock and took more than 100 years to build and that the Old Market square was once the site of slave auctions and punishments.
For a snorkeling adventure, head to Scotts Head Marine Reserve at the southern tip of the island. Next to the town of Soufriere, this reserve offers a chance to snorkel above an underwater cauldron that's still bubbling up warm water.
Book a guide for an Indian River boat ride. This is one of the island's best bird-watching spots. To arrange for a guide, stop by the Portsmouth Visitor's Center.
Take a driving tour of the Carib Territory, home to the native tribe. Nestled in a northeastern corner of the island, the tribe -- now with about 3,000 members -- farms and produces handcrafted items, including intricate baskets that you can get at nearby shops. Dominica is one of the few places where these indigenous people have survived.
Go on a whale watch. Take a 3.5-hour trip with Anchorage Hotel, Whale Watch and Dive Center to see humpback whales, sperm whales and orcas that love Dominica's deep offshore waters.
Explore the rain forest on horseback. Rainforest Riding Dominica offers rides on the Waitukubuli National Trails through the Cabrits National Park, as well as rides on the beach.
Best for Swimming: Champagne Beach on the west coast of the island (just north of Roseau) gets its name from the volcanic vents that spit bubbles up from fissures in the ocean floor. Swimming here is like swimming in a glass of Champagne. But watch where you step, as there are more pebbles than there is sand.
Best for Snorkeling: Scotts Head Beach is a narrow, sandy patch on the southernmost tip of the island. You can choose the Atlantic side with some rough waves (be careful of currents) or the more gentle Caribbean side, which is ideal for snorkeling and diving. Explore clear waters and undersea walls to spot colorful coral, lobsters, turtles, sponges and more. Dolphins frequently frolic there, too.