Best Places and Things to Do in the Dominican Republic

14 Best Places and Things to Do in the Dominican Republic

14 Best Places and Things to Do in the Dominican Republic

Today, the Dominican Republic entices travelers with its stunning sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and an array of water-based activities.

From deep-sea fishing to enchanting whale-watching experiences, the opportunities for adventure are boundless. Once you’ve laid eyes on the picturesque landscapes and experienced the wonders of this nation, staying home would seem like a missed opportunity.

Embark on a journey that immerses you in nature, uncovers secluded beaches, and unveils cultural riches through our curated list of the Best Places and Things to Do in the Dominican Republic.

If you’re seeking a Caribbean getaway, look no further than the Dominican Republic. Situated on the island of Hispaniola alongside Haiti in the Greater Antilles, this land holds a significant place in history as Christopher Columbus’s first stop in the New World in 1492 and later served as the inaugural capital of the Spanish empire in the Americas. The echoes of its Spanish heritage reverberate throughout the country, leaving ample evidence for visitors to explore.

The appeal of the Dominican Republic lies not only in its postcard-perfect beaches and lavish resorts but also in its robust tourism infrastructure. This destination offers more than a typical beach holiday, boasting lush forests, mountainous terrain, and even semi-desert regions, catering to diverse traveler interests.

Beyond beachfront relaxation, activities abound, including exploring waterfalls, hiking, visiting mountain villages, and strolls through historic city centers. Popular resort towns like Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, and La Romana cater to vacationers seeking an all-inclusive tropical escape.

For those seeking solitude away from the usual tourist spots, remote regions like the Samaná Peninsula, the mountainous hinterlands, or lesser-explored towns and cities offer sanctuary. Enthusiasts of surfing and kiteboarding will discover paradise in places like Cabarete.

Santo Domingo’s colonial zone stands out as a beacon of history in the Caribbean. It’s an absolute must-visit city, serving not only as a cultural treasure trove but also as a major travel hub with direct flights connecting to various global destinations.

Begin or conclude your journey here, taking advantage of Arajet, the Dominican Republic’s new airline, which offers discounted fares for direct flights to cities across South America and eastern Canada.

Table of Content
1. Jarabacoa
2. Las Galeras
3. Punta Cana
4. La Romana
5. Los Haitises National Park
6. Puerto Plata
7. Cabarete
8. Bahia de Las Aguilas
9. Las Terrenas
10. Samana Bay
11. Bayahibe
12. Santo Domingo
13. Three Eyes National Park
14.
Isla Saona and Parque Nacional de Este

1. Jarabacoa

Jarabacoa holds different allure for Dominican vacationers seeking a summer getaway and foreign travelers searching for an outdoor adventure haven nestled amidst the Dominican Republic’s mountainous interior. The region offers various activities such as rafting, hiking, biking, and various explorations, creating an enticing playground for enthusiasts.

Situated at an elevation surpassing 500 meters, Jarabacoa boasts a notably milder climate than the coastal areas, often accompanied by pleasantly cool nights. For travelers planning an extended stay in the country beyond a week or two, a journey to Jarabacoa is a valuable addition.

Moreover, if your itinerary involves traveling between Santo Domingo and either Puerto Plata or Cabarete, a brief stopover in this town conveniently spans a couple of nights.

Jarabacoa, known as “the city of everlasting spring” due to its tropical climate, is renowned for its mountains and picturesque landscapes, including attractions like the Jimenoa and Baiguate waterfalls and the Ebano Verde Scientific Reserve.

Adventurous souls might attempt crossing the Jimena River via a wood and rope footbridge, while others may opt for leisurely activities like golfing on a nine-hole course or exploring the Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria del Evangelio

Furthermore, come February, Jarabacoa hosts one of the country’s most renowned Carnivals, adding to its appeal for visitors seeking cultural experiences.

Jarabacoa

2. Las Galeras

Nestled at the farthest edge of the Samaná Peninsula, where the road culminates at the ocean, lies the quaint town of Las Galeras, gazing over one of the region’s numerous stunning beaches. Its secluded setting holds allure for independent travelers seeking an authentic, off-the-beaten-path escapade, surrounded by palm-fringed, ivory-sand beaches and crystalline turquoise waters, creating an enchanting tableau.

These shores, including Playa Rincon, La Playita, Playa Fronton, and several unnamed pristine stretches nearby, stand as some of the Dominican Republic’s finest beaches. They present a striking contrast to the bustling resort destinations found elsewhere on the island. Visitors here can charter boats for a morning or afternoon voyage to secluded beaches or embark on walks from town to explore several beautiful sandy coves in the vicinity.

The town itself boasts a solitary main street, adorned with eateries predominantly managed by French expatriates, offering exceptional cuisine at affordable prices appealing to backpackers.

Las Galeras serves as an ideal sanctuary for those seeking refuge from bustling streets and the conventional tourist circuit, yet it ensures ample amenities to ensure a comfortable stay.

Las Galeras

3. Punta Cana

Punta Cana, where the Caribbean’s mesmerizing emerald waters meet an endless expanse of pristine white-sand beaches, is the Dominican Republic’s ultimate resort destination.

Renowned for its luxurious all-inclusive resorts catering to couples, and families, and offering an extensive array of water-based activities, it’s a prime spot for those seeking opulence and entertainment.

Bavaro Beach, a highlight of Punta Cana, stretches impressively along the coastline, inviting visitors to either dip into the crystal-clear waters or take strolls for hours along its soft sands. The beachfront is adorned with a line of resorts that grant convenient access to an array of activities, making it a vibrant hub rather than an ideal retreat for tranquil solitude.

The sea is a hive of activity, bustling with boats, parasailers, and sightseeing tour vessels constantly arriving and departing. Enclosed sections provide safe zones for swimming, ensuring a secure aquatic experience. Just off the beach, a scattering of modern restaurants and retail outlets await exploration, characterized by contemporary standards, particularly noteworthy in the Dominican Republic context.

Punta Cana

4. La Romana

Near Punta Cana, La Romana emerges as one of the Dominican Republic’s resort hubs. While boasting several large resorts, some of which cater to independent travelers seeking self-catering options, it doesn’t match the vastness of Punta Cana’s resort scene. The primary allure of this area lies in its stunning beaches.

A must-visit attraction here is Altos de Chavón, a charming replica of a 16th-century artisan’s village, offering a delightful shopping experience for crafts and souvenirs. Although set apart, organized shopping excursions are available for those without personal transportation.

A short distance from La Romana rests Bayahibe, a quaint fishing town featuring a public beach and serving as the launching point for excursions to Isla Saona. Moreover, it’s possible to take a day trip from La Romana to Santo Domingo, approximately 1.5 hours away. Golf enthusiasts will find the area appealing because of its popularity for this sport.

La Romana

5. Los Haitises National Park

Resembling the limestone formations found in locales like Thailand, Los Haitises National Park emerges as a lush, emerald paradise. Islands of limestone adorned with dense foliage, boasting towering peaks reaching 100 feet high, majestically ascending from the water’s surface.

The park, ideally explored via kayaks or small boats, provides a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, offering exceptional opportunities to witness diverse bird species in their natural habitat. Among the avian inhabitants are woodpeckers, hawks, pelicans, herons, and numerous other bird species.

The limestone terrain harbors an abundance of caves, some once utilized by the ancient Taino tribes, evidenced by their pictorial imprints. Several caves even feature small beaches, offering a refreshing respite for a dip in the water, a welcome relief in this hot and humid region.

Adding to its allure are the captivating mangrove tunnels, and tranquil yet occasionally eerie passageways waiting to be explored. Accessible by boat from the city of Samana, Los Haitises National Park promises an enthralling adventure through its unique landscapes and historical imprints.

Los Haitises National Park

6. Puerto Plata

A fantastic way to experience the panoramic vista of the northern coast of the Dominican Republic involves boarding the cable car in Puerto Plata. As it ascends nearly 800 meters from the warm coastal climate, the cable car swiftly transports you to the summit of Pico Isabel de Torres, where a refreshing and pleasant coolness envelops the air.

Upon reaching the top, take a stroll to explore and marvel at the Christ the Redeemer statue. The breathtaking views extend across the picturesque countryside, encompassing notable landmarks like Sousa, Cabarete, and the distant windmills dotting the hills beyond Puerto Plata.

For the best experience, it’s advisable to visit early in the day, as the area often becomes cloudier as the day progresses.

Puerto Plata

7. Cabarete

Cabarete embodies a serene coastal haven, characterized by its easygoing vibe and a sprawling, crescent-shaped beach adorned with laid-back eateries offering the option to dine directly on the sandy shores.

In contrast to the Dominican Republic’s more frequented resort hubs like Punta Cana or Puerto Plata, Cabarete sets itself apart by eschewing the prevalence of all-inclusive resorts and mass-packaged tourism.

Rather, it magnetizes a diverse mix of wanderers – from free-spirited souls and backpackers to retirees, as well as enthusiasts of kiteboarding and surfing. Many are drawn to spend extended periods, particularly through the winter months, cherishing the town’s distinctive charm and unhurried pace of life.

Cabarete

8. Bahia de Las Aguilas

Far from the typical tourist circuits, the secluded Bahia de Las Aguillas within Jaragua National Park unveils an exquisite eight-kilometer expanse of beach, often a serene sanctuary for those seeking solitude. Its unblemished beauty often offers the luxury of having the entire stretch to yourself on any given day.

The shallow, crystal-clear waters and pristine white sands, unmarred by tourism or development, establish this spot as one of the Dominican Republic’s most unspoiled beaches.

Nestled along the southwestern coast, near the Haitian border, this region exists in splendid isolation. Traveling from Santo Domingo demands at least a six-hour drive. Pedernales, the closest town to the beach, is nearly an hour away by car and boasts minimal tourism infrastructure compared to other parts of the country.

Don’t expect opulent resorts here; instead, anticipate tranquility, seclusion, and a chance for distinctive encounters. The semi-arid climate and the landscape dominated by cacti and scrub offer a unique setting distinct from other areas of the Dominican Republic.

Bahia de Las Aguilas

9. Las Terrenas

Far from the typical tourist circuits, the secluded Bahia de Las Aguillas within Jaragua National Park unveils an exquisite eight-kilometer expanse of beach, often a serene sanctuary for those seeking solitude.

Its unblemished beauty often offers the luxury of having the entire stretch to yourself on any given day. The shallow, crystal-clear waters and pristine white sands, unmarred by tourism or development, establish this spot as one of the Dominican Republic’s most unspoiled beaches.

Nestled along the southwestern coast, near the Haitian border, this region exists in splendid isolation. Traveling from Santo Domingo demands at least a six-hour drive. Pedernales, the closest town to the beach, is nearly an hour away by car and boasts minimal tourism infrastructure compared to other parts of the country.

Don’t expect opulent resorts here; instead, anticipate tranquility, seclusion, and a chance for distinctive encounters. The semi-arid climate and the landscape dominated by cacti and scrub offer a unique setting distinct from other areas of the Dominican Republic.

Las Terrenas

10. Samana Bay

Every winter, from December to March, an enchanting spectacle unfolds as thousands of humpback whales grace Samaná Bay, arriving to mate and nurture their young. This coastal region, specifically the city of Samaná on the Samaná Peninsula, stands as the primary launching point for Whale Watching excursions.

Though Samaná itself offers little beyond the whale-watching allure, its popularity as a tourist attraction prompts numerous companies to organize day trips from various spots across the island.

Travelers en route to Las Galeras or situated in nearby Las Terrenas, a mere hour away, can easily swing by Samaná and join a tour. Even visitors staying in Punta Cana can partake in full-day whale-watching excursions from this hub.

Samana, the capital of its eponymous province, sits gracefully on the northern shores of Samana Bay, boasting a charming historic aura. Notably, it marked Christopher Columbus’s final stop in the New World in 1493 before he set sail back to Spain.

In contemporary times, Samaná reigns as the epicenter of tourism in the Dominican Republic, drawing throngs of spectators eager to witness the awe-inspiring display of humpback whales birthing in the bay from January to March. Notably, for baseball enthusiasts, Samaná is home to several renowned pitchers, among them Wily Peralta, who honed their skills in this picturesque town.

Samana Bay

11. Bayahibe

Within a nation celebrated for its coastal getaways, Bayahibe stands as a prime example. This erstwhile fishing village has transformed into a premier destination within the Dominican Republic.

Bayahibe Beach situated a short distance from the town center, serves primarily as a launching point for expeditions to Saona Island and its stunning beaches nestled within a national park. Moreover, Bayahibe boasts the country’s foremost scuba diving spots, boasting over 20 distinct dive sites. Not an avid diver? Consider engaging in stand-up paddleboarding or snorkeling for an equally enthralling aquatic experience.

Bayahibe

12. Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo proudly stands as the capital and largest city of the Dominican Republic, boasting the Caribbean’s most extensive metropolitan area. Established in 1496 along the banks of the Ozama River, it holds the distinction of being the oldest European settlement in the Americas.

This vibrant city boasts numerous New World landmarks, including the first capital of the Spanish empire, the formidable Alcazar de Colon castle, a historic monastery, the illustrious Cathedral Santa Maria la Menor, and an esteemed university.

The heart of this rich history unfolds within the historic district, where grand edifices adorned with Middle Ages architecture enchant visitors. Here, one can immerse oneself in the ambiance of centuries past. The iconic Fortaleza Ozama also stands proudly, representing the oldest fortress in the Americas and offering a glimpse into the city’s enduring heritage.

Santo Domingo

13. Three Eyes National Park

Suppose you have a spare day in Santo Domingo; it’s well worth investing your time in a brief journey to the Three Eyes National Park. This captivating park has served as the backdrop for numerous thrilling jungle adventure films, and once you set foot here, its allure becomes unmistakably clear.

Descend through a labyrinth of staircases into a mesmerizing limestone cave, emerging beneath a canopy of entwined vines at the first of three crystalline pools. These enchanting pools lend their name to the park. Well-marked pathways meander from one pool to another, and for a dash of extra excitement, consider opting for a short boat ride to reach the farthest pool.

Winding trails atop the caves offer panoramic views into the depths of the caverns, allowing visitors to marvel at the park’s natural wonders. Accessing the Three Eyes National Park is hassle-free — a mere 15-minute drive from Santo Domingo’s historic old town will transport you to this captivating natural haven.

Three Eyes National Park

14. Isla Saona and Parque Nacional de Este

While the Parque Nacional del Este holds UNESCO World Heritage status as a tranquil haven of natural splendor teeming with diverse flora and fauna, it’s most renowned for the exquisite beaches of Isla Saona.

This island acts as a magnetic draw for tourists, attracting a myriad of day-trippers from neighboring resort hotspots like Punta Cana and La Romana.

Adorned with powdery soft sands and kissed by turquoise waters, Isla Saona embodies the quintessential imagery of a tropical island paradise. Even sans resorts, the island bustles with liveliness during the day as catamarans and speedboats ferry eager tourists to its shores, inviting them to unwind in cozy lounge chairs and bask under the sun’s warmth.

For those seeking a respite from the Punta Cana scene, embarking on a Saona Island Day Trip offers an enticing escape. A swift journey aboard a small speedboat transports you to the island, promising a day of leisure, where you can luxuriate on the beach and frolic in the serene shallow waters.

Isla Saona and Parque Nacional de Este

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