A native dance performance is a highlight of any visit to the Kalinago Barana Aute cultural centre on Dominica. (JIM BYERS PHOTO)

I don’t like arriving at night in a place I’ve never been. I like to get my bearings and to suss a place out when I land someplace new, and that’s hard to do in the dark.

But my flight from Barbados didn’t arrive here until after 7 p.m., well after sunset. I was disappointed at having a half-hour drive to my hotel in the dark. But not for long.

It had been drizzling earlier in the day and the smell of the earth and the sea air was ripe in the air. The driver of my van bobbed and weaved along the twisting, rise-and-fall road through the village of Marigot, and then briefly along the coast. I could see a three-quarters moon peaking through the clouds, shining golden-white beams on the Atlantic. I rolled down the window and heard dark waves crashing mightily on the black rocks on the coast, the silhouettes of the palm trees pinned against the moon and the stars.

I didn’t arrive at the hillside Beau Rive hotel until well after dinner, but owner Mark Steele had prepared a fine tomato tart with wonderful pastry and a light, welcoming rum punch. I sat outside under the stars and listened to the ocean waves pound the coast a couple hundred metres below me, with crickets and tree frogs chirping in the night.