Dominican Republic vs Dominica: Which Caribbean country should you visit?

These two Caribbean countries are often mistaken for each other. But are you tempted by the Dominican Republic’s epic hikes, or do you prefer Dominica's lush waterways?

6 mins

Dominican Republic

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic (Shutterstock)

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic (Shutterstock)

Population: 10.77 million

Total area: 48,442 sq km

Famous for: Some of the most diverse topography in the Caribbean


Soufriere Church, Dominica (Shutterstock)

Soufriere Church, Dominica (Shutterstock)

Population: 74,679

Total area: 750 sq km

Famous for: Its nature: Dominica has the world's second largest hot spring, 365 rivers and 9 active volcanoes




Indian River, Dominica (Shutterstock)

Indian River, Dominica (Shutterstock)

Set sail from Samaná Bay – home to humpback whales (January to March) – and float past the mangroves and pictograph-adorned caves of Los Haitises NP (pictured) to spy pelicans, frigates and many endemic species.

Head west towards the border with Haiti to Lago Enriquillo to spot crocs and flamingos and take dips in hot springs.

The ‘nature island’ has mountains, rainforests and a river for every day of the year.

The Indian may be the fairest of all the 365 waterways; navigate it by boat and get a whiff of hibiscus, watch hummingbirds and herons take to the air and admire the mangroves and bloodwood trees – said to ‘bleed’ red sap – that line the riverbanks.

DID YOU KNOW? One famous pirate (ahem, Johnny Depp) is said to have regularly imbibed the rum at Bush Bar, on Dominica’s Indian River, when filming the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Scenes forJurassic Park were also filmed in Los Haitises NP.


Samana, Dominican Republic (Shutterstock)

Samana, Dominican Republic (Shutterstock)

Head eastwards to Punta Cana and take to the skies on a hot-air balloon ride over the sugar plantations at sunrise.

At Samaná, thrill-seekers can even take on the country’s longest zipline. 

Divers can also encounter a colourful cast of rays, lionfish and octopuses at La Caleta Underwater NP in Santo Domingo.

Snorkel alongside seahorses, parrotfish and damselfish at Champagne Reef, so named for the froth created by its underwater geothermal springs.

Or you can relax after a day’s jungle trek in the Morne Trois Pitons NP with a visit to Trafalgar Falls, then relax in the warm springs by the twin falls known as the Father (85m) and Mother Falls (40m).


Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (Shutterstock)

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (Shutterstock)

Visit Santo Domingo to appreciate the architecture of the 16th-century Alcázar de Colón; just outside it lies the neoclassical National Pantheon.

Next, explore the city’s largest market: vendors at Mercado Modelo hawk everything from artwork to shots of mamajuana – a potent herbal drink and alleged aphrodisiac.

Meander along the cobblestone streets of Roseau’s French Quarter and admire its unique blend of Creole architecture.

Then collect your thoughts on an idle stroll past tropical flora in the Botanical Gardens (in recovery from hurricane damage) before hiking Morne Bruce for panoramic views of the city and the Caribbean Sea.


Valley Of Desolation, Dominica (Shutterstock)

Valley Of Desolation, Dominica (Shutterstock)

Any serious hiker will head to Jarabacoa to conquer Pico Duarte, the Caribbean’s 3,098m highest point and a three-day hike – time your final ascent right for a fine sunrise panorama.

Keep your ears open on early-morning treks through Cachote’s cloud forest for the unusual wind-chime song of the elusive jilguero goldfinch.

Tackle the tough eight-hour trek past gorges, geysers and the Valley of Desolation to glimpse the world’s second largest boiling lake, located within Morne Trois Pitons NP. 

Or head north-west for the easier Syndicate trail; shadowed by Morne Diablotins, it’s one of the best places to see the national parrot, the sisserou.

The Verdict

Boiling Lake Hike, Dominica (Shutterstock)

Boiling Lake Hike, Dominica (Shutterstock)

The Dominican Republic boasts size and scenery, but compact Dominica’s thrills are easier to navigate for the time-pushed. Rainforest treks and exotic wildlife aside, both landscapes offer wild green adventures away from the usual Caribbean resorts.


Read more on the Dominican Republic and Dominica:

Discover the secret Dominican Republic

Learn to dive in Dominica

Dominica: The Caribbean's best island for walkers and nature lovers?

Top 10 reasons to visit Dominica

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