Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, the Dominican Republic is one of the best places for a visit in the Caribbean. With many tourist attractions, all-inclusive resorts, historical sites, gorgeous beaches and mangrove forests (and more), it’s easy to see why the main attractions keep visitors coming back again and again.
This small country the Caribbean sea shares an island with the nation of Haiti. In 1978, the Dominican Republic became a democracy, growing into a tourist destination known for some of the best beaches, luxury resorts, friendly island people, and a fascinating blend of cultures. Tourism, whether from the visiting independently or by cruise ship, is a robust part of the island economy.
The Dominican Republic is filled with rich history and has activities and things to see for all age ranges. Nature lovers as well as beach lovers will find the island is a perfect place for a vacation, full of value-for-money tropical sunshine.
Planning a trip to the DR? We’ve got you covered with the best places to visit in Dominican Republic, and recommendations about things to do.
Where To Go
- If you are looking for a little history, visit the capital city of Santo Domingo. This historic city is one of the oldest in the Caribbean, and is brimming with history. Walk the walled cobblestone Zona Colonial, visit a museum, view the colonial architecture. The colonial zone of Santo Domingo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1990). The island has a complicated history worth learning about.
- Sosua has one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. There’s a cosmopolitan feel to the beach town, and it has long been a popular destination for those looking for sun, natural beauty, the clear waters of the sea and its white-sand beaches. Known for its vibrant nightlife, you’ll find sots of restaurants and bars in this resort town.
- Bahia Principe is a resort made up of perfect white sand beaches and turquoise waters. The resort offers more of a secluded retreat than other beaches and resorts. Water sports, and other beach outdoor activities are available.
- Juan Dolio is a small beach community on the southern coast of the island. The town was the site of an indigenous settlement of the Taino people with a cemetery. While visitors today come for the palm trees, coral reef, and to relax, don’t pass up the opportunity to learn more about the island’s history.
- Boca Chica is near Santo Domingo and known for its white sand beach and sheltered bay. There is a mangrove-covered islet in the bay that is a bird habitat. The main street is pedestrian-only and has restaurants and bars for a lively nightlife.
- Playa Dorada has crystal clear water, perfect for viewing the coral reefs and marine fauna. Luxury resorts are the primary draw for tourists, offering the expected range of beach activities as well as an 18-hole golf course.
- Puerto Plata is the birthplace of island tourism and is a popular choice for cruise passengers. The city is set on the ocean and has historic buildings and sites, museums, beautiful architecture, and is just a short distance away to the beaches. The city offers a good reason to get away from the beach for a little history.
Things to Do
- Enjoy the beach, of course. The Dominican Republic is one of the top places for sandy beaches and warm water.
- Book horseback trek. Generally available for booking through your hotel or resort, and suitable even for novices, a guided tour through the Dominican countryside is a change up from the white sandy beaches the island is known or. The slow pace through the countryside gives an alternate look at the island often missed by the beach lovers.,
- Tour the island on a day trip by jeep. Rent a 4-wheel drive and discover the tropical forests along the north coast. Waterfalls and shady lagoons are aplenty, providing lots of places to stop for a picnic lunch.
- Get out on the water on a catamaran. A sun-filled day of relaxation and sunbathing aboard a catamaran is a great way to spend the day. You’ll see some of the most beautiful places on the island, enjoying the sun and breezes of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Speed things up with a speedboat adventure, a faster water experience than sailing.
Need to Know
The Dominican Republic is an independent country covering two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola. There is a very strong American feel to the island, and baseball and basketball are just as popular here as in the US.
The US dollar is widely accepted on the island, although you may get a better price if using the Dominican peso. Haggling is typical in the local markets, although not in brick and mortar stores.
Spanish is the national language of the country. You’ll find English spoken at most resorts and tourist centers, but knowing a few key Spanish phrases is always helpful.
The Dominican Republic is close to the equator, so doesn’t have much seasonal change. Hurricane season is generally August and September for this island. December through April is a popular time for US visitors looking to escape colder weather.
There are three international airports in the Dominican Republic. The island is larger than most Caribbean islands, so choose carefully which airport to arrive in to avoid lengthy cab rides. Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) is the typical airport used for flights from, or connecting through, the United States. Las Americas International Airport(SDQ) serves the southeast region, including the capital, Santo Domingo. Puerto Plata International Airport (POP) serves the north coast area.
US citizens need a passport to visit the Dominican Republic, but do not need a visa for visits shorter than 30 days. There is a tourist card fee of $10 that is incorporated into the cost of your flight, and this is often confused with the need for a visa. Check for current information on the State Department’s website.
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Anthony has found travel provides a healthy balance to his day job as a criminal defense attorney. Living on the periphery of blogging for years, he’s now decided to flex his creative muscles with a little writing and photography of his own. Anthony’s favorite travel destinations are the Caribbean, Italy, and Ireland.