The Ultimate Destination Guide to the Dominican Republic

Punta Cana

People love to live by the seaside. Perhaps because of the therapeutic effect created by the relaxed coastal environment. If living such a life is your way of unplugging from the bustle of the city, then traveling to Punta Cana is your ideal getaway.

Located in the oriental coastline of Dominican Republic, Punta Cana has received an influx of guests who come to relax in the sandy beaches of the Bavara coastal strip. The gleaming waters of the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea will have you swimming involuntarily. Revelers also have plenty of clubs to pass the night. Punta Cana also has a rich cultural heritage that appeals to those who wish to discover the arts and cultural scene. Here are some of the things to do and places to visit.

Saona Island
If you relish spending time with Mother Nature, then head out to Saona Island. Set off the coastline of Punta Cana, and the island is a free way to get away from the noise and crowds on the beach. The island is a gazetted national reserve with a self-sustaining natural ecosystem that hosts many species of birds. The beach here is teeming with life; from starfish to crabs, to hatching turtles.

Enjoy a Safari Tour
Super Truck Safaris is your green card to get to experience the tropical weather outside your villa rental. The excursion takes you through the vast cane fields of Higuey area where guests have a chance of interacting with the locals.

As religious a community as Punta Cana is, the trip allows travelers to enter one of the most significant churches in the region, Our Lady of Altagracia. People in Punta Cana make their products such as coffee, and cocoa, as well as the local alcoholic beverage (mamajuana) which appeals to gourmands.

Bask in Macao Beach
Getting to Macao beach is an excellent escape from the confines of your hotel room. The beach comes to life on Sunday, when locals swarm the place. UNESCO termed it as one of the best Caribbean beaches. Beach lovers engage in exciting activities like swimming, surfing, or relaxing on the white sand with their sunglasses enjoying the beautiful view of the sea.

Santo Domingo
Considered the oldest and largest city in the Caribbean, Santo Domingo is a historical delight. The old town is home to old ruined buildings and modern architecture that depicts its rich chronological background. Zona Colonial, its central area, is walled with ancient cobblestones that stand out even today, making the town a hybrid architectural and historical attraction. Besides, travelers can visit museums, natural caves, and gardens, or shop for souvenirs as they take a tour around the city.

Discover Santo Domingo Flora
The National Botanical Garden was originally designed to preserve the natural plants and flowers growing in the Dominican Republic. It has a beautiful setting with colorful and variegated plants. Domingo's tropical climate has sustained and preserved both indigenous and exotic plants including orchids and palm trees.

Santo Domingo Chocolate Museum
A trip to the city's core is not complete without a stopover at the Choco Museum. There's more to the 16th-century building than meets the eye. Educational sessions provide history lovers with insights on how the cacao agricultural industry grew. Furthermore, the museum has a vast latitude of chocolate bars and drinks that will leave your taste buds tingling. There's a retail store in the front area where you can buy choco items including cacao-based cosmetic products.

Alcazar de Colon Palace
Alcazar de Colon is one of the oldest structures in Santo Domingo. Recognized as a World Heritage Site, the palace was the dwelling of Spanish colonialists. Inside, there is an extensive collection of crafts and antiques from the medieval and Renaissance eras. Visitors and locals take tours within the vicinity to learn why the site is a critical facet in the country's history.

Just outside the Alcazar de Colon in the Plaza de Espana. Think of it as Santo Domingo's town square littered with doves and a beautiful central statue. And you can feel the Pilgrim vibe in Plaza de Espana. Food lovers can indulge in local dishes in various restaurants or go shopping for antiques in the local houses near the plaza.

Puerta Plata
Puerta Plata's natural attractions and waterfalls will bring out the adventurous side of you. San Felipe de Puerta Plata is its capital and is famous for its colonial-era buildings with Spanish influences. The Playa Doraya coastline buzzes with activities. Guests and locals enjoy the beach and fun-filled water sports. Nearby is an 18-hole, manicured golf course for avid golfers. There is more! Read on to discover other outdoor attractions.

Windsurf in Cabarete
Located in the east, Cabarete was originally the fishing village, but with time, it has experienced a new wind of guests. It achieved a high-spirited seaside life offering plenty of activities including windsurfing and jet skiing. And when you feel deadbeat from the sporty indulgence, grab a refreshment or delectable dish in one of the beachfront bars and eateries.

Scuba Excursions
Puerta Plata beaches bathe in azure, sparkling waters with flourishing marine life. Discover the underwater ecosystem with a guided scuba dive, which is great for amateurs. You require no certification to explore underwater coral fringes, boat wrecks as an opportunity to see interesting sea creatures like turtles, squids, parrot fish, turtles among others.

Mount Isabel de Torres
Tucked southwest of the city, Mount Isabel de Torres combines a monument, botanical garden and picturesque views of the city. You can access it by cab and get to the peak of the massive Christ statue using a gondola where you'll marvel at glorious views. At the statue's base is a retail market. Ardent traders welcome you to buy their crafts. If you appreciate the local language, then touring solo gives you the real native Dominica feel.

City Tour
Puerta Plata town has a lot to explore. Visitors with an affinity for cultural escapades are better off checking out the Malecon Boulevard bordering the beachfront. Whether night or day, the clubs, restaurants, and pub lining the streets will get you entangled in the haze of different dishes and spending time out at night. Central Park, at the heart of the city, has old houses from the Victorian age and museums for those who love art and artifacts.

Cabarete is a resort town known for its wind, water, and luxury resorts. Beautiful coral reefs act as the Cabarete bay barricades. When you head to the beach, guests are greeted to the sight of surfers flying their colorful kites in the sky. In the neighboring area, there are endless opportunities to discover what the town has to offer. Below are the top places to visit.

Cabarete Beach
The Cabarete beach is an ideal place to go with the kids. Although it may receive a high surge of visitors and plenty of lounge benches, it has secluded areas where you can relax and let the children run and play with the sand. The best time to visit is during peak season when families come to the beach bringing a new surge of life.

Events and Festivals
In October, during the Constitution Day Weekend, the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival brings you great music from famous jazz acts. It is perhaps the major nationwide event with the focus of enhancing freedom of expression and hope in society. Alternatively, head to the Carnaval Festival that takes place in February and March. The festival is characterized by traditional dancers dressed in traditional, hand-woven Dominican costumes. Remember to pack your camera and capture moments as you enjoy the music and arts.

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
Any family member can enjoy stand-up paddling, especially when the wind and waves subside. It is an exciting activity for the traveler who needs a low-spirited water sport. Not only does it help in exercising by holding your body upright, but it also connects you with the marine environment.

Venture into Las Cuevas de Cabarete
The Cabarete caves take you through the naturally sculpted Cabarete caves that let you appreciate the natural overhanging spikes hanging above the pathways. The 5-million-year-old limestone caves have natural streams and rivers where geography lovers enjoy a rejuvenating swim. As they point their flashlight, visitors meet with huge insects and spiders. The caves are part of the national park that also has hiking and biking trails, wildlife and a zip line.

We can term Samana as a hidden gem in the Samana Peninsula. Why? Because when most travelers consider going on a holiday in the Dominican Republic, only popular destinations like Punta Cana and Santo Domingo pop in mind. The town has a lot to boast of golden beaches, natural wildlife, delectable local cuisines, splendid views of the horizon and grand humpback whale watching (in winter). Here are other reasons to consider a vacation in Samana.

The resort town has stunning beaches. La Playita, meaning little beach, features lounge chairs and BBQ areas where you can relax and enjoy a roast steak. Besides the alluring clear waters, shacks are serving sumptuous seafood. Playa Bonita is close by. A nice aspect of Bonita is that it's only separated from vacation homes and restaurant by a rough road. Grabbing a quick dish and getting to the beach is easy. To the west lies Las Ballenas beach. Its seclusion and tranquillity make it ideal for watching sunset and sunrise.

Take a gastronomical visit to El Cabito
El Cabito is set in a unique atmosphere overlooking the magnificent cliffs. The diner serves delectable exotic dishes in a compelling rustic atmosphere within thick green vegetation. Sunsets here are something to cherish. Combine that with the raging waves hitting the cliff and the view of a setting sun, and you get a strong blend nature's magnificence.

Take an Overhead Glide along a Zipline
The Dominican Tree-House Village gives guests a chance to take a high-spirited swing along a high zip line. The adrenaline rush caused by the glide subsides as you continue down the zip. The views of the green cover and breath-taking aerial views will create a memorable adventure. The tree houses at various points are quite attractive considering their unique designs and wooden character.

Hike to El Limon Waterfall
The El Limon Waterfall lies deep in the jungle. A network of hiking trails litters the thick forest to the falls. El Limon falls cascade from a 150-ft high cliff (Sierra Samana) giving travelers a glimpse of a natural spectacle. There is an education center nearby that takes visitors on cocoa growing lessons. If hiking barely appeals to you, there is an alternative to ride on horseback, which takes only 30 minutes to reach the falls.

Travelers flock the Caribbean Islands in large numbers which makes it a challenge to have a quiet relaxing time. Things are different in Bayahibe. Originally a fishing village, Bayahibe has grown to become a rising tourist receiving region. The town has diving sites, scuba expeditions, parks and jungles among others. A holiday in Bayahibe cannot be fun without visiting the following places.

A Food Lover's Haven
Traveling to Bayahibe is an opportunity to taste what the local community here eats. The Mango Festival showcases over 100 species of mango fruits which you can sample in combination with mouth-watering delicacies including seafood. To the south, there are beaches with an array of restaurants serving grilled shellfish and lobsters with incredible views of the sea.

Flounder in the Splendour of Sunset
Bayahibe is a getaway destination for lovers on a romantic honeymoon. The sailing catamaran ventures out in the sea during the evening for visitors to watch the golden sun rays before they wane beyond the horizon. The two-hour cruise also takes adventurous guests on a guided scuba and snorkeling tours to see the coral reefs. Aboard the catamaran is a bar that stocks snacks and beverages.

Explore the National Park with Jeep Safaris
Near Bayahibe is the National Park that covers the greater east Dominican. Take a guided Jeep Safari, which gets you to ideal bird-watching spots. You can also see beautiful swarms of butterflies and discover the natural flora, including old trees. However, the highlight of your tour will be a visit to the caverns, ancient limestone homes of the indigenous inhabitants of the forest, the Taino Indians.

Dance the Night Away in Calle La Bahia
If you love being out at night, then Calle La Bahia is the perfect place to be. Here, different clubs play different music fusing pop and jazz and the local bachata. Revelers indulge in a street-party vibe, so prick your ears and head to where the music soothes your soul. Moreover, you can break from the electric mood and grab a plate of food or sip your preferred beer or rum. If you travel in a group, Calle La Bahia will let you have stories to talk about.

Las Terrenas
Looking for a place that offers all the avenues that make up a bundle of attractive features? Las Terrenas welcomes visitors to the Northeast Dominican Republic with its warm tropical climate, beautiful beaches, sunshine, nature, and culture. Let out your daring persona and see the thrilling life of Las Terrenas.

Ride on a Horseback
There is no better-freeing feeling like riding on a horseback galloping on the wet sands of a secluded beach as the sun sets beyond the mountainous landscapes. That's what awaits you in Las Terrenas. It doesn't matter whether you have riding skills or you're still learning; the tailored horse-riding tours will accommodate every member of the family.

Go Sports Fishing in Samana
Sports fishing in Samana Bay is another way of venturing into the waters without getting clammy. With guidance from the experienced captain, travelers experience the feeling of throwing out their bait into the water. And if you're lucky enough, you can get a huge catch as you feel the rejuvenating marine air.

Rent a Quad Bike
Break the norm of trekking and hiking by renting a Quad or an ATV for an adventurous, adrenaline-inducing excursion. Guest have the freedom to choose a guided tour, but if you're an experienced solo traveler, riding solo is also an option. Both adults and children can transverse from rural villages and farms with beautiful landscapes or explore the rugged mountainous lands or the flat sandy beaches.

Take a Plunge in the Water at Las Terrenas Beach
Las Terrenas beach is one of the major attractions in the town. People come not to look at the fringes of swaying palms (though they capture nature lovers) but also to relax or stroll the beachfront. The beach has plenty of places to eat and unwind after a warm bath in the azure waters.

Whale Watching
Whale tours are also available for travelers who love these big, gentle sea beasts. Professional biologists explain the whale behaviors as you check out humpback whales in a glorious display during guided tours. From breaching, tail flaps and flipping, name it! You can catch the whales in their natural behavior in Las Terrenas. During courtship time, guests can listen to the male whales wailing rhythmically for the females' attention.

Catalina Island
Isla Catalina, as it is locally known among Dominicans, lies off the southwest coast Dominican Republic. Albeit it is a destination frequented by cruise ships, locals and visitors have a chance to discover some exciting attractions. Nature lovers can explore the island's wildlife, the jungle, zip line, water sports, and gorgeous beaches. Let us now look into the different must-see attractions.

Catalina Backcountry
Whether you need to bolster your holiday gear, enjoy a night in the wilderness, or take a hike as a form of exercise, Catalina Backcountry has it all. Every guest has personal needs, and while on the expedition, tour guides pay attention to every, so you don't miss any action. Besides offering a camping site, you can also plan for your dream wedding here in Isla Catalina.

Dive in the Deep Waters
Dive Catalina provides visitors who can take the leap of faith and dive at a strategic diving spot. You don't need to be a professional diver to partake in the activity. First timers receive diving instructions for open water diving from a trained instructor while pro divers can go on certified tours.

Scuba dive and go snorkeling
Scuba diving and snorkeling in Isla Catalina is the perfect getaway from the bustling world. The one-hour expedition allows travelers to explore "The Wall," a 15-foot high cliff on the east side. To the west, the water is so bright and visible that snorkeling enthusiasts can meet with several sea animals like fish, turtles, and the corals that form part of a beautiful underwater ecosystem.

A Birdwatcher's paradise
Catalina is an essential Natural gem of the Dominican Republic. The island is home to many species of birds that attract nature lovers who see and take pictures of the colorful birds. Near Playa Grande, there are crisscrossing trails that pass through natural habitats. Any family member can trek till the end of the path where there is a cliff. From this point, people have heavenly views of the island's beautiful, landscape.

Indulge in Cultural Dishes
Perhaps food is your reason for going on holiday. Catalina food tours let both adults and teens stroll the bay as they taste Catalina's cultural cuisines. The guided tours offer useful insights about the rich history of the enchanted island in an informative 3-hour gastronomic trip, which allows visitors to sample and sip different ingredient combinations.

Saona Island
Apart from Isla Catalina, Saona Island is another essential island of the Dominican Republic set off the coast of Bayahibe. Of course, you wouldn't wish to make your way back home before visiting the National Park whose Eastern part lies in Saona. With its fabulous views of the sea, beaches, the pre-historical caves, and the fishing village, you will barely lack something to excite you.

Go to the Parque Nacional Del Este
Visitors coming to the island have easy access to the Parque Nacional Del Este, whose eastern part lies is in the island. Covering over 305 square kilometers, the Dominican Republic gazetted it as a national park in 1975. With plenty of wild animals and plants, nature lovers come to watch birds. The lucky folks traveling between Match and November can catch sea turtles nesting by the beach.

Take an Island Tour
The fun of a tour experience you take on the island is hinged on the tour company you select while at Punta Cana. The island trips offer the chance to choose the sort of watercraft (catamaran, speed boat or sailboat). Choose a company that promotes eco-tourism as they provide detailed information regarding the island's history, its natural preserve as you go to great places of interest.

Stopover at Mano Juan
If you never knew, Mano Juan is the only part of Saona Island with human settlements. It is an eye-opening detour that lets visitors learn about the way of life of the community here. Inhabited initially during World War II, the fishing village has grown to accommodate over 300 persons. History lovers can take photos of the traditional shelters characterized by pastel-colored walls and ancient streets. The town sustains itself without cars and is a great place to visit for eco-friendly tours.

Canto de La Playa: One of the Stunning Beaches in Saona
That is not to say that other beaches on the island have less to offer. Encanto de la Playa, as it is also known, stands out in particular. And if you are searching for a place to take a photo, look no further. The white sands beset with towering palms provide an area where you can feel unchained from the city crowd and activities.

Ciudad Colonial
The second name of the area is "Colonial," and for all the obvious reasons. Occupying the heart of Santo Domingo, Ciudad is a gem for history lovers. History has it that Colonial Zona, as it is also known, was home to the first European settlers in the Caribbean. Scattered all around the area are old buildings and shambled structures dating back many centuries ago. Due to its rich history, UNESCO was compelled to name it as a World Heritage Site. Here's a list of where to go in your visit to Ciudad Colonial.

Catedral Primada de America
The translation of its name is the First Cathedral in the Americas; travelers have to stroll the town to Parque Colon to gain the information behind the basilica's historical background. The church was erected in the early 16th century and was the first cathedral to be built in the Americas. It remains functional till today and has preserved most of its features from the old time including its mahogany doors and the large painting of the Virgin Mary at the altar.

Palacio Consistorial
Palacio Consistorial is situated just opposite the Basilica Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor (another fascinating attraction). The white building is notice-worthy, its bell towers located on the buildings corners and curved arches on window apertures lure many architecture enthusiasts. It's a landmark that also has a clock tower that helps most visitors who've lost track of time. Originally built as an assembly hall in the 1500s, the place stand-out among the arts and cultural centers in Zona.

Monasterio de San Francisco
One of the significant historical places in Ciudad Colonial is the Monasterio de San Francisco. Today, only the ruins of the old monastery remain as proof of the trials and tribulations that the town has endured. The monastery has succumbed to raging hurricanes, battles and wars, and earthquakes. It has been rebuilt time and again only for it to fall. Visiting the site gives you the real aura of how life was in the early days.

Jaragua National Park
The park will put a smile on the faces of all nature lovers. Jaragua National Park lies in the Southwest of Dominican Republic. Visitors of the park can come at arm's length with fascinating wild animals in their natural setting. Birdwatchers have a chance to take a glimpse at some unknown species of birds.

Feel in Contact with Mother Nature
Botanical specialists will understand why a visit to Jaragua Park is worth the trip. The park is home to countless species of indigenous and exotic plant species. The green cover carpeting the seaside terraces and the beachfront comprises mahogany trees, oaks, seagrape, Guanabara, and guayacan.

Watch Many Species of Birds
Coastal plains and beachfront terraces give character to the landscape. The park covers 1375 square kilometers of land. Within this area is a bird sanctuary, boasting of more than 130 bird species. It also plays host to the Antillean manatees and endangered species such as solenodons, which have protection from the self-dependent ecosystem. Head out to the Isla Alto Velo, and you may be lucky to observe bottlenose dolphins racing in the water.

Bahia de Las Aguilas
In English, the name Bahia de Las Aguilas translates to Bay of Eagles. It is one of the most peaceful and secluded beaches in Jaragua National Park. The bay is easily accessible by boat, or you can hire a cab. With no amenities and services, pack some snacks and refreshment but remember to leave the beach cleaner than you found it. The crystal clear waters of the beach allow you to take your time while floating facing the blue skies above. Relaxing, right?

Ride a Boat to Laguna de Oviedo
There is more to Jaragua than the gorgeous beaches and the sea. There are small lakes within the Laguna de Oviedo, and you can travel to and from each to seek the thrill of marine life. Despite having three-time salty water than the sea, still, the lagoon plays host to diverse wildlife including iguanas, flamingos, and seagulls.

Are you learning about the beauty of the Dominican Republic now? The city gleams with breath-taking landscapes, culture, and history. Even repeated travelers can vouch that they'd like to make another trip to the Caribbean country.