Traveling in The Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is not just a beach-dotted paradise in the Caribbean Sea. Mountains, deserts, swamps, and colonial-style cities mark the landscape of the Dominican Republic’s half of the island of Hispañola. Influences from Spanish colonists, African slaves, and the native Taino people shape the rich, vibrant culture of the island nation.
Although the country has undergone political turmoil and several revolutions, the Dominican Republic is the most visited destination in the Caribbean. Its climate and natural beauty—as well as its history and culture—fuel the Dominican Republic's tourism industry.
For the adventure tourist this Caribbean country offers a diverse countryside comprising tropical rainforests, arid desert expanses, alpine ranges and steamy mangrove swamps. It's a playground for trekkers, mountain bike enthusiasts and water-sport junkies.
48,442 sq km / 18,704 sq mi
9,445,281 (2010 census)
Some great photos of the Dominican Republic.
Useful information and recommendations for visiting Santo Domingo.
Catedral Primada de America Full of history, Catedral Primada de America is a stunning building with bold architecture. For one dollar, you can take a self-guided audio tour and learn about the 500-year-long lifetime of the cathedral. Nuns dressed in brilliant white still bustle about the grounds. Be aware that you must wear long pants and a shirt with sleeves to be granted entry into the building. You may take pictures inside if you choose.
Park of Three Eyes of Water For a small fee, you can hire a guide to take you out on the beautiful pools and into the caves that make up this park. Beautiful carvings etch the cave walls. Legend has it that one of the lakes, Lago Las Damas, can help women with fertility problems.
Alcazar de Colon This striking castle was originally built in the 1500s by Christopher Columbus’s’ son. It is one of the last remnants of the original European cities in the Americas. Well preserved and maintained, the building has a rich history that you can learn about through audio tours or a tour guide. Whether you want to enjoy the architecture or the artwork, it is a very picture-perfect place.
Aquamundo Sambil Aquamundo Sambil is a beautiful aquarium located inside a new shopping mall. Small sharks, crocodiles, and tropical reef fish fill the tanks.
Zona Colonial Outdoor cafes, historical landmarks, restaurants, and shops line the streets of the Colonial Zone. You can easily spend hours in the district, so bring comfortable shoes if you plan to tour on foot. A mix of commercial industry and historical character will allow you to get a taste of all the things the Dominican Republic has to offer.
Hotel Villa Colonial Situated in the middle of the vibrant Zona Colonial in downtown Santo Domingo, Hotel Villa Colonial will deliver an excellent experience. It perfectly blends a quaint resort atmosphere with the thrumming city scene just outside. With all the amenities and a friendly, helpful staff, you will want for nothing during your stay.
El Beaterio El Beaterio is perfect for travelers who want a haven after a busy day of sightseeing in the city center. It operates out of an old, historic building, which has been refurbished into a modern, boutique hotel. It has a beautiful outdoor courtyard and clean, spacious rooms.
Occidental El Embajador Occidental El Embajador boasts a beautiful garden and pool as well as taxi services, friendly staff, and an excellent location. Many restaurants and shops are within walking distance of the hotel. Relax with a drink or go explore the city with home base nearby.
Pura Tasca Although Pura Tasca has a tavern atmosphere, it is suitable for a wide range of occasions, whether for business or romance. Located in the historic Colonial Zone, it serves traditional Dominican cuisine for reasonable prices.
Chez Laurent A hidden gem in the bustling city, Chez Laurent is a French-inspired restaurant with an attentive chef, knowledgeable and friendly staff, and amazing food. In addition, they have an extensive list of house wines to accompany each meal. The welcoming, intimate ambience is ideal for a romantic night out.
Pat’e Palo Brasserie Because their chef often travels to learn new cooking techniques and flavor combination, their menu continually changes and sports beautifully prepared multicultural cuisine. The high quality draws large crowds, but the professional and friendly staff never rushes you out the door.
Heladeria Valentino Heladeria Valentino is rapidly expanding throughout the city, which attests to the quality of its homemade ice cream and gelato. They continually add new, exciting flavors. While you will have a hard time choosing what to get, you will not be disappointed by any option.
Useful information about visiting Santiago.
La Aurora Cigar Factory This well-maintained factory located just outside the city offers a thorough and engaging tour of its grounds and the process of cigar-making. Afterwards, your guide will teach you how to properly hold a smoke a cigar before letting you enjoy a freshly-rolled cigar. Even for those who don’t smoke, the passion of the employees will ensure that you have an amazing experience.
Centro Leon This beautiful museum will allow you to learn a lot about the art, history, and culture of the Dominican Republic. Allow for two hours to fully experience everything it has to offer. If you do not read Spanish well, or simply want a more in-depth understanding of the country, ask for a tour guide.
Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración This striking monument stands as a testament to the ability of the country to survive through hardship, dictatorship, and revolution. It will give you a good sense of the country’s history and national pride. The view from the top of the monument is incredible. In the afternoon, the grounds fill with local families who come to socialize and vendors trying to sell their wares. A lively place, it is absolutely worth the visit.
Catedral de Santiago Apostol You can enter the cathedral for free. Inside, it houses memorials to many famous figures in Dominican history. It is well-preserved and maintains much of its old charm. In addition, it has many beautiful stained-glass windows to admire.
Hodelpa Centro Plaza Hodelpa Centro Plaza is located close to the Santiago shopping districts, banks, and restaurants. Its convenient location allows you take a taxi to almost anywhere of interest for about $3. Fast WiFi, professional and friendly staff, and a free shuttle to and from the airport make Hodelpa Centro Plaza an ideal spot for those who want to get out and explore the city.
Hodelpa Garden Court Hodelpa Garden Court is located a short taxi drive away from the city center of Santiago, which makes it perfect for those who want to be removed from the action or who are visiting for business. Its amenities include WiFi, a gym, a laundry room, and a good on-site restaurant.
Hodelpa Gran Almirante Hotel & Casino Hodelpa Gran Almirante offers a rooftop pool, two bars, and a casino for guests to enjoy. The staff is very friendly and accomodating; they will go above and beyond to ensure that you have a pleasant stay.
El Tablon Latino With an outside patio offering a magnificent view, El Tablon Latino is the place to go in Santiago. The service and food are both excellent; people especially rave about the coconut mojitos. Whether you want to people watch, watch the sunset, or find a quiet area inside, El Tablon Latino has something for everyone.
Da Maurizio You will find some of the best Italian food in town for some of the best prices at Da Maurizio. Besides the incredible ambiance, created by soft music, there is secure parking and a variety of restaurants and shops nearby.
Brixx Brixx offers a wide range of food, from Cuban to pizza. When you walk in the door, you will see the brick oven. Everything is available at a low price and served with a smile by staff that is very accommodating for those who wish to practice their Spanish.
A commercial center in the south of the country
Teeth of the Dog Impeccably maintained, well-designed, and located on the waterfront, Teeth of the Dog is a golfer’s paradise. It is a long and challenging course, but it rightfully earns its place as one of the top golf courses in the world. For a small fee, you can hire a caddy who will give you the history of the course.
Cueva de las Maravillas Cueva de las Maravillas is an exceptional wildlife park with many stunning caves. Although photography is not permitted, the beautiful rock formations and etched art will leave a lasting impression. Along the grounds, you can find iguanas.
Altos de Chavon Village This village is a small art center that appears to be a small slice of Italy in the Caribbean. It is a great cultural experience with many small shops and restaurants to explore. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, as the roads are made from cobblestone.
Minitas Well secured, peaceful, and without many tourists, Minitas is good for those who want a quiet afternoon. While there are no opportunities to snorkel, the warm, clean, and clear waters are perfect for swimming.
Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville Don Pablo Collection The grounds and rooms at the Luxury Bahia Principe are meticulously maintained. The hotel offers a wide range of activities on site or can connect you with outside businesses. Horseback riding, bingo, shows, and Spanish lessons are only a few of the offerings. Finally, the food is amazing and is buffet-style.
Casa de Campo Casa de Campo has an incredible view of Teeth of the Dog and Playa Minitas. Nearby, you can horseback ride or relax on the beach with a drink. The staff is incredibly accommodating and will guarantee that you have a pleasant time. And the large, well-maintained grounds are peaceful and prevent the resort from feeling crowded no matter how many guests there are.
Le Vivier This small restaurant is located on the third floor of a light-strung building. The atmosphere is lovely, showcasing a variety of art that the chef himself made. With delicious food and an intimate feel to the place, it is perfect for a romantic night out to get away from hotel food.
La Casita Restaurant La Casita is situated so that it has a lovely view of the marina. Consequently, it has delicious seafood. Courteous staff and lively music create a fun ambiance. If you’d like a relaxing atmosphere, ask to be seated on the deck so that you can watch the waves.
Shish Kabab Whether you want to sit inside to cool off or relax outside on the newly renovated terrace, Shish Kebab has something for everyone. It has a variety of food, including Mediterranean (their specialty) and traditional Dominican food for very reasonable prices. The friendly and attentive staff does their best to accommodate dietary needs.
With the founding of La Isabela on January 2, 1494, Puerto Plata became the first European settlement in the New World.
Damajaqua Cascades Located about 25 minutes outside the city center of Puerto Plata, Damajaqua Cascades (also known as 27 Waterfalls) is an amazing adventure. For a fee of about $10, you jump and slide down to the bottom of the clear, gorgeous falls after a scenic hour-long hike. Near the entrance is a bar and gift shop. Be aware that this can be physically challenging and you should be comfortable with jumping off 10–25 foot cliffs into water.
Mount Isabel de Torres Take the cable car up the beautiful Mount Isabel de Torres. It is a smooth, easy ride that will allow you to appreciate the views of the bay as well as the feeling of rising through the clouds. At the top sits a massive sculpted rendition of Christ the Redeemer. This experience is ideal for those who want to preserve memories with breathtaking photographs.
Sosua Beach The beach, often crowded, rose to popularity for a reason. It is about a 20 minute drive from the center of Puerto Plata. Relax and enjoy the clear, blue seas, a drink in the sparkling sand, and some delicious food from local vendors. You can snorkel or take scuba diving lessons to see the colorful fish that populate the warm ocean waters.
Playa Dorada Playa Dorada (The Golden Beach) sits on the Dominican Republic’s Amber Coast. As the name suggests, it is filled with a long expanse of golden sand. It is a hot tourist spot for its stunning view, excellent upkeep, and the stretch of hotels that line it.
Casa Colonial Beach & Spa Casa Colonial is a place of luxury. The spa services, the magnificent food, the rooftop pool, and the beautiful accommodations will guarantee that you have a relaxing and enjoyable stay.
Blue JackTar Located right on the beach, Blue JackTar is a quiet getaway. The friendly staff is not overbearing if you want to have uninterrupted relaxation. Lay out on the beach beds and enjoy a drink from the bar out on the sand.
Iberostar Costa Dorada Located right on Playa Dorada, Iberostar Costa Dorada is a beautiful location with excellent service. It has a rifle target range on site as well as a pool. During the weekend, the hotel comes alive with locals. For a boisterous party atmosphere, come during the weekend. For a peaceful, relaxing vacation, stay during the week.Jasmine Spa and Wellness Holistic Health The Jasmine Spa and Wellness Holistic Health Hotel will give you a healing and relaxing holiday. Excellent spa services, a delicious range of meals and tea, stunning mountain views, and the peaceful ambience make ideal for a quiet escape from city life and an activity-packed schedule.
Le Papillon The owner and chef, Thomas, will make you feel like family when you walk through the door. The menu features beautifully-presented and absolutely delicious cuisine, inspired by the food of France and Germany. All the ingredients are fresh, making it a nice counterpoint to all-inclusive hotel food.
Mares Restaurant & Lounge For a relaxing and romantic dinner, ask to be seated by the outdoor pool. Friendly staff will ensure that you have an unforgettable dining experience to complement the delicious and fresh food.
Los Tres Cocos Wonderful food and atmosphere characterize the contemporary restaurant, Los Tres Cocos. A continually changing menu to capture what is in-season will allow you to try something new each time you come. Fantastic service and an involved chef top off the Los Tres Cocos experience.
Punta Cana is the definition of a luxurious Caribbean getaway. Pristine beaches, excellent golf courses, and lagoons characterize the area. Whether you want adventurous excursions like zip lines or cultural experiences like traditional Dominican music, you will find something incredible at Punta Cana. Because it is a tourist hub, fabulous restaurants and resort hotels are easy to come by. If you get the chance, take a boat to nearby Isla Saona to enjoy the beaches and the native hospitality.
Cabarete is the perfect spot for those who want the beauty of a Caribbean location, but the liveliness of a large city. Kiteboarding and surfing provide daytime fun for thrill-seekers, but the true excitement happens at night. Music makes Cabarete come to life with dancing, passion, and the unique culture of the Dominican Republic.
Bayahibe is a small fishing village outside La Romana. Tourists seeking fun or relaxation will have no lack of things to do. For those who want busy days, take a diving lesson to explore the beautiful coral reefs or one of the three shipwreck sites. The national park, lagoons, and vibrant wildlife (particularly the birds) will delight nature fans. Finally, for those who want to enjoy the feeling of being in a tropical paradise, the countless, clean beaches will not disappoint.
Las Galeras is a seaside community that offers a variety of activities. Horseback riding at Rudy’s Rancho, many scuba diving locales, and even more gorgeous beaches always ensure there is something going on. In addition, you will find multiple spa resorts if you seek a truly relaxing vacation.
Dominican Republic Travel Links
Here are some links that we've found useful in planning our travels in the Dominican Republic.