There are some things to do in the Dominican Republic that are quite simply a must-do in order to have a fabulous getaway experience. I love the Caribbean – I have just returned from my holidays in Antigua and can never get enough of the area. Much like Antigua, the Dominican Republic is a great destination if you need to get some sun and tranquility.
A trip to the Dominican Republic can be planned any time of the year. The weather is pretty much perfect year-round. More than that: there are so many things to do in the Dominican Republic; endless activities and amazing food make it the perfect place to get away from life’s responsibilities.
This nation shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and is the location of many important historical Spanish landmarks. With so many things to do in the Dominican Republic, and so many accommodation options available, this is a place that can satisfy anyone’s travel needs. Not to mention, it is known for being an affordable destination to travel or live.
In this post, I will explain how to make the most of a trip to this gorgeous country, with tips on when to visit, on the places to see, the nicest beaches, what to pack, and needless to say on the best place to stay.
The Nicest Things To Do In The Dominican Republic
Enjoy the convenience of Puerto Plata
One of the top things to do in the Dominican Republic is exploring the island. There’s so much more than gorgeous beaches! The province of Puerto Plata is definitely a must-see. This area is located in the north of the island and has a good mix of tourist attractions and beautiful, calm lodging options. The Gregorio Luperón International Airport is conveniently located near the beach. This makes the accommodation options in the area favorable and sensible to optimize timing during your holiday.
Visit Charcos of Damajaqua
Just south of Puerto Plata, there’s one of the nicest places to visit in the the country. Here, the Cordillera Septentrional rises up from the Caribbean Sea, and visitors remain mesmerized by the beauty of the Damajaqua Cascades. Known as the 27 Waterfalls, they are in fact a series of canyons and natural pools. Visiting them is an adventure that involves hiking, climbing and getting into the cool mountain ponds, all the while admiring the beautiful wildlife.
These are some good guided tours that go to Damajaqua waterfalls:
Hang out in Punta Cana
Punta Cana is a prime holiday destination. It’s where you will find plenty of all-inclusive resorts, suitable for people in search of luxury; couples who are looking for a romantic retreat and even families traveling with children.
Located in Punta Cana, Bavaro Beach is the place to go. The white sand, the transparent water and all the activities on the beach make it perfect – but I warn you: don’t go there if you are in search of a secluded getaway!
Other fun things to do in the Dominican Republic that you can enjoy when in Punta Cana include spending a day at Sirenis, a massive water park; enjoying outdoor activities at Scape Park, a natural theme park with an incredible range of attractions, and visiting the Pirate Rum Factory, where you can learn about the production of rum and – obviously – sample it.
GOOD TO KNOW: At a short distance, the town of Higuey is another interesting place to visit. You will find the beautiful Basilica de La Altagracia and Saint Dionysus Church. It’s perfect for a half-day tour.
Visit the Taíno Caves
Not far from Punta Cana you will also find the Taíno Caves. Make sure to go on a tour to visit the underground cave system: it’s one of the best things to do in the Dominican Republic to learn more about the Taíno people.
If you are in search of a little bit of adventure, this is definitely a fun thing to do. Runners Adventures is the most reliable company for zip-lining expeditions: you will be flying over the forest on 12 different cables. Tours departs from Punta Cana and can be booked here.
For a truly unique zip line, head to Cap Cana. Here, the Farallon lines are attached to the cliffs overlooking the Caribbean Sea. It doesn’t get better than that!
Visit La Romana
If you are looking for a lesser-known place, you should head straight to La Romana, which is at a short distance from Punta Cana and at about 90 minutes drive from Santo Domingo. You will find some great accommodation options, stunning beaches, and even a golf course. The main attraction in the area (other than beaches, obviously) is Altos de Chavón, a village just outside of La Romana where you can shop for souvenirs. Other places to visit nearby are Bayahibe, from where you can reach Isla Saona. This tour to Isla Saona is one of the best.
Spend a day in Saona
Easily reached from La Romana, Isla Saona is a top-rated attraction and the perfect destination for day trips. You will find a stunning beach with soft, white sand and crystal-clear water. It’s quite a popular place, so don’t expect to have it all to yourself. But it’s a perfect place to relax nevertheless. You can get there by speedboat or catamaran, or opt for a convenient guided tour. These are the best options:
- Saona Island and Altos de Chavón All Inclusive Day Trip
- Saona Island: Full-Day Boat Tour with Optional Upgrades
- Small-group trip to Saona Island Paradise
Explore Parque Nacional del Este
Founded in 1975, this national park is a great place to admire animals and birds in their natural environment. It’s been added to the tentative list of UNESCO sites in 2001.
Go whale watching in Samaná
Samaná Bay is the best place in the country for whale watching. If you happen to visit between December and March, which is when humpback whales head to this area to mate and later on give birth, this is definitely one of the things to do. Most whale watching expeditions depart directly from Samaná, which however doesn’t have much else to offer. You can stop there for a half-day tour on your way to Las Galeras or from Las Terrenas on the North coast; alternatively, there are full-day tours that depart from Punta Cana such as this one.
Spend some time in Las Galeras
This small, laid-back town located at the tip of Samaná Peninsula is another great getaway that is actually perfect for backpackers. Home to a few fabulous beaches such as Playa Rincon and La Playita, and a couple of nice coves, you will also find a couple of of good restaurants and enough decent accommodation options.
GOOD TO KNOW: Off the coast of Samana, consider going to the gorgeous Cayo Levantado. The beaches there are out of this world.
Enjoy the nicest beaches in the Dominican Republic
A trip to the Dominican Republic wouldn’t be perfect without beaches – it’s that simple. And sure enough, beaches in the Dominican Republic are stunning. Palm-lined, with fine sand, paradisiac – these are the ones you should visit:
A fantastic place to catch the sunset (the photographer in me can’t help it!).
One of the beaches in the Dominican Republic favored by the locals – and they sure know where to go. Located on the North coast, it is a nice, golden sandy beach lined with palm trees and where the water is beautifully turquoise. A few all inclusive resorts have facilities here, but it is open to the public despite all the private hotel areas. To make it even better, there are some nice bars, restaurants and even a kite school.
This beach is easily accessible and a favorite of local families as well as tourists. It’s very lively between April and December, and at weekends, and as a nice perk there’s a bunch of small restaurants and snack bars, and places to rent things such as kayaks, snorkeling equipment, etc.
One of the nicest things to do in the Dominican Republic is diving, and this is the best place to do so. You will find many diving schools offering a variety of courses and even night dives or dives to shipwrecks. Fun tubing is also on offer.
Located in La Altagracia province, this beach is a favorite of locals and tourists alike thanks to its beautiful white sand and clear waters. You will be able to enjoy activities such as riding buggies and surfing.
The area of Cabarete is perfect for kite surfing and stand up paddle, so perfect if you are a more active kind of person. Wind usually starts blowing in the afternoon. You will find schools to take kitesurfing lessons, plenty of good restaurants and other entertainment options. The annual Master of the Ocean competition is held here each February.
Bahia de las Aguilas
This beach in Jaragua National Park, on the southwestern coast of the Dominican Republic, is one of the most beautiful in the country and absolutely pristine, thanks to the lack of hotels, resorts and anything of the sort. The closest town is Pedernales – it will take you about one hour to drive there. This guided tour departs from Barahona.
Get in or near the water
The area of Puerto Plata is packed with fun activities. The beautiful ocean nearby makes this a perfect location to go snorkeling or spend the day in the water: this is by far one of the top things to do in the Dominican Republic. Some of the best day trips involve sailing or deep-sea fishing on the amazing, clear blue water.
Here are some great ideas for Puerto Plata:
- Samana Day Trip from Puerto Plata
- Cayo Arena: Paradise Island & Mangroves Tour
- Snorkeling Tour & Sosua Beach Day
- 2-Hour Stand Up Paddle Boarding
- Catamaran snorkeling cruise
Drive around the island
Another of the fun things to do in the Dominican Republic is taking advantage of the beautiful weather year-round and renting ATVs to take an adventure on the land.
Here are some ATV tours to try:
- Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve: Buggy Tour
- Half-Day Adventure Tour: ATV 4×4, River Cave & Dominican Culture
- Flintstones off-road Buggy, Cave and Adventure in Bavaro
Admire local wildlife (but do so responsibly!)
I love monkeys. No matter how naughty they are, I still love them: I love waking up to the sound of howler monkeys, as it happens in Palenque, Mexico. I don’t mind when they try to steal my stuff as they did in Bali. I saw them in India, trying to get into people’s apartments, and in Sri Lanka and many other places. I just simply adore them. One of the perks of a trip to the Dominican Republic is seeing the monkeys.
When exploring the island, it is possible to see the adorable monkeys roaming around. I would never suggest running up to a wild animal, but these creatures are incredibly fun and friendly to tourists. One of the nicest things to do in the Dominican Republic is to experience the capuchin monkeys, and the best way to do so is to visit a park, such as Monkeyland, where trained guides monitor encounters with the animals.
Tours- which you can book here – last about 40 minutes and are offered at affordable package prices. The best part of visiting this particular venue is that all profits are donated to charities that help implement medical and dental clinics in the Caribbean!
Another of the places to visit in the Dominican Republic for responsible tourists is the Los Haitises National Park. The area is inhabited by pelicans and hutia rodents, who live between the mangrove swamps. It’s an incredible place to hike, and there’s also caves with petroglyphs.
Explore the Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is supposed to be the first place where Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas. It is a modern city, but it has a beautiful historic center (known as Zona Colonial, or Colonial Zone) packed with excellent examples of colonial-style architecture, nice streets and plazas, well curated museums, good restaurants and more. Calle El Conde is the place to be to catch a bit of local action.
Make sure to visit the Alcazar de Colon, home of Columbus’ son Don Diego, and the Ozama Fortress, which used to marked the entrance to the colonial city.
Another must-see is the Monasterio de San Francisco. Make sure to also pop into the Catedral Primada de América (known to be the first cathedral in the Americas) and at the ruins of Hospital of San Nicolas of Bari, famous for being the first hospital in the new world.
I recommend joining a guided tour to learn a bit more about this beautiful, interesting city. Here are some good ones:
- Santo Domingo full day tour from Punta Cana
- 3-Hour Santo Domingo Walking Tour
- Heritage of the Sugar Cane
- Santo Domingo Sightseeing Tour
GOOD TO KNOW: You may want to also see the cross-shaped Columbus Lighthouse, in Santo Domingo Este. It’s thought to be the final resting place of Christopher Columbus. You can read more about it here.
Learn more about the history of the country
One of the nicest things to do in the Dominican Republic is learning more about its history. Puerto Plata is a historical site for the colonial infrastructure that originated in this area. Fortaleza San Felipe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a Spanish fortress built in the 16th century to protect Puerto Plata from pirates and intruders. This historic piece of art has been turned into a museum for tourists to indulge in the Spanish history that surrounds Puerto Plata. The views from this monument are breathtaking and overlook the entire coast.
And about Dominican culture
Chances are that you will be visiting the country in search of relaxation, beaches and sun – but trust me, you’d regret not getting to know more about Dominican culture and art. Usually known for its bright colors, Dominican artists started expressing their own voices in the early 19th century, when the country became independent and they wished to distinguish themselves from the colonial past.
Visit Lake Enriquillo
If you want to get off-the-beaten-path, this is the place to go. It’s quite hard to get there – you need to cross the Cordillera Central. Yet, it’s a cool place to visit. The largest lake in the Caribbean – and the lowest place in the country – is a prime destination for bird watching and it is home to salt crocs and pink flamingoes.
Hiking is hardly the first thing you may think of when thinking of a Caribbean getaway. Yet, you will have plenty of chances to stretch your legs on this part of the world too. Pico Duarte, the highest peak in the country and in the Caribbean region. It’s a two-days hike to get all the way to the peak, and I recommend not attempting to go by yourself. For a less challenging experience, you may want to join a half-day hiking expedition to Anamuya Mountain such as this one.
GOOD TO KNOW: If you are looking for more adventure activities during your trip, consider spending a few days in Jarabacoa. Located at 500 meters above sea level, this town offers plenty of opportunities to go hiking, biking and more!
Enjoy Dominican cuisine
I love Caribbean food! I even wrote a post about all the Cuban dishes to try when there.
One of the things to do in the Dominican Republic is trying Dominican cuisine. The closeness to the ocean means that you can enjoy fresh fish and seafood all the time, cooked with a twist of Caribbean culture and flavors. Many of the restaurants in the country specialize in serving seafood — one of my favorite spots near Puerto Plata is a restaurant called El Toro Negro. Located on Playa Sousa, this restaurant serves Hispanic and Central American-style food with vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Many of the brunch spots in the area are equipped with a quaint atmosphere and a beautiful view of the ocean. The fresh fruit found in the Dominican Republic cannot be beat.
Practical Tips To Plan Your Trip To The Dominican Republic
When is the best time for a trip to the Dominican Republic?
I have been to many destinations in the Caribbean – some islands, such as Cuba, as well as all of Central America, with countries such as Costa Rica and Panama which, though hardly considered Caribbean, technically are since their eastern coast is directly on the Caribbean Sea. Planning a trip to the Dominican Republic means taking account of the weather.
Like many of the tropical destinations in the Caribbean, daily rain showers are extremely common. However, the months of May and October observe the most precipitation, while the early months of the calendar year show records of the lowest precipitation. Luckily, the average temperature in the Dominican Republic stays well over 20 degrees Celsius all year, making a trip to the Dominican Republic perfect as a winter getaway or as a spring break vacation!
What to pack for a trip to the Dominican Republic
Packing for a trip to the Dominican Republic is easy: I suggest bringing light clothing options for daytime activities. Although the temperature is typically mildly warm, packing items such as shorts, skirts, dresses, and short-sleeve shirts will save you from discomfort under the powerful sun during the daytime. Since Puerto Plata is close to the coast, the ocean breeze can cool down the place after sunset, so I would suggest bringing a jacket or sweater to throw on for evening activities.
Make sure to bring sensible shoe options as well! This is a common mistake for first-time travelers to the Caribbean. Tennis shoes will be necessary for things to do in the Dominican Republic such as exploring the cities.
The best places to stay in the Dominican Republic
One of the most important things to do in the Dominican Republic is selecting a good hotel or resort. Picking the right one in Puerto Plata can be challenging. With many options available, it can be difficult to select the best accommodation that will enhance the experience of a trip to the Dominican Republic. I advise to look for lodging that offers clean amenities, private pools and excursions.
One of the best places to stay is Villas Agua Dulce, located on the edge of El Choco National Park in Cabarete. This exclusive luxury resort offers the best views of the natural beauty found in the Dominican Republic. The resort includes spas, beach access, casinos and water sport rentals. Villas Agua Dulce also offers complimentary transportation, which makes commuting to and from the airport convenient. For those who go on a regular trip to the Dominican Republic, the good news is that many of these tranquil villas are available for purchase.
Villa owners at Villas Agua Dulce can rent property out to visitors and gain revenue during the time not spent in the Dominican Republic. This can turn a fantastic vacation spot into an investment and in return can make recurrent trips to the Caribbean effortless. Check here for prices & availability and check here for more reviews
Some other places you may like in Puerto Plata:
For more hotels in Puerto Plata, check here.
With the Dominican Republic growing as a tourist hub, this getaway destination is the perfect place to go on adventures, have fun and relax. After the first time visiting the alluring province of Puerto Plata, discovering there are so many things to do in the Dominican Republic, I have been wanting to return to this serene place.
There truly is never a bad time for a trip to the Dominican Republic.
Have you ever been to the Dominican Republic? What did you like the most about it?