Changes in forest structure, the rate of recovery and stem turnover, 10 years after experimental cutting of a primary tropical dry forest in Jamaica, were determined by conducting a post-disturbance inventory of permanent sample plots in 2009. In April 1999, two plots within each of four blocks were assigned to two randomly allocated treatments (partially and clear cut) and a plot was assigned as a control (uncut). The treatment intensities were intended to mimic wood extraction for charcoal or timber production, a common form of anthropogenic disturbance in Caribbean dry forests. The application of the treatments significantly reduced the number of trees per diameter size-class, but after 10 years, the size-class distribution for the small size-classes was similar to pre-disturbance measurements. However, larger size-classes (⩾14 cm) in 2009 had fewer individuals when compared with the pre-disturbance size-class distribution. Ten years after cutting, tree height, basal area and tree density in partially cut plots had recovered by 92%, 81% and 94% and in clear cut plots by 78%, 35% and 78% respectively, in comparison with control plots. Although the biomass lost due to cutting and the original state of this forest have not fully recovered 10 years after disturbance, our results showed that coppicing allows the establishment of some semblance of a canopy and offers a rapid route to reclaim space. This newly established canopy also helps to ameliorate environmental conditions facilitating regeneration by seed, which would otherwise take years to occur due to the harsh conditions found in open areas. No new species or any species that could be described as pioneers were recorded and despite a shift in dominance, secondary succession did not occur. Therefore gap dynamics, often used to describe the process of regeneration in tropical rainforests, cannot be used to describe regeneration in this dry forest ecosystem.