Nature and culture meld seamlessly at every corner of the Dominican Republic. Both rich in colonial history and tropical landscape, the island shares many of the same allure of nearby Caribbean countries, but not without a few surprises of its own.
Biodiverse and home to several types of ecosystems, Dominican Republic is incredibly well-rounded as a destination. The island offers a wide range of things to do at its beaches, classical colonial neighbourhoods in the cities, and mountain ranges in the heart of the country.
Here is our list of the best 7 places to visit and things to do in the Dominican Republic.
1. Santo Domingo
The Dominican Republic’s capital city, Santo Domingo crawls along the coast to the river inland, switching between the old world charm of its colonial buildings and modern-day skyscrapers that dot along its beaches.
Visiting its historic Zona Colonial neighbourhood, you’ll find Spanish fortresses, cathedrals, and ruins from its colonial past mere steps away classical townhouses with wrought iron-grated windows. Along the Ozama River, the area bustles with roadside cafes, boutique shops, and contemporary art galleries and museums spread around European-style plazas.
At night, Santo Domingo radiates with the lights of fine-dining restaurants, bistros, bars to trendy nightclubs, all within walking distance of UNESCO World Heritage sites and beaches.
2. Punta Cana
Not just another resort town, Punta Cana is the place to dive into in the unspoiled natural surroundings of northeastern Dominican Republic. From diving into the crystal-blue pool of the hidden cenote, Hoyo Azul, at the foot of a 75-m tall cliff, to going off road on buggies in the nearby tropical jungles, Punta Cana’s rugged coast begs to be explored.
Beyond water sports activities by the city’s famous 35-km stretch of pristine beaches, Punta Cana offers chances for the ultimate beachside relaxation, horseback riding, and golfing at its Bávaro resort area, and quick excursions to the nearby Saona Island.
3. Puerto Plata
Known as the “Silver Port,” Puerto Plata is a blend of the old and the new. With the lush green tropical greenery of Mount Isabel de Torres as its backdrop, the city’s urban landscape enjoys dashes of nature and colonial history.
Walk among the many 19th century Victorian-style houses and streets leftover from its once-booming tobacco industry, and you’ll find unique restaurants replete with local charms hidden behind faded facades.
The city is also known for its 16th-century Spanish fortress, Fortaleza San Felipe, that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, and cable car ride to the lookout points at the top of Isabel de Torres with a Christ the Redeemer statue.
4. La Romana
The southern port of La Romana once enjoyed a booming sugar industry that was single-handedly created by the Central Romana sugar mill in 1917.
Although the city’s economy has shifted from sugar to tourism in recent decades, La Romana’s sugar plantations still prosper along the Chavón River.
As a corporation run “company town,” La Romana’s has a well-developed infrastructure and hosts one of the biggest resort complexes in the country, Casa de Campo. Nearby, one of La Romana’s main attractions, a recreated 16th-century Mediterranean style European village, Alto de Chavón, sits high above the river and draws visitors in with its clusters of stylish medieval architecture, including an amphitheatre that hosts concerts for Grammy Award-winning artists like Shakira, Sting, and Elton John.
5. Explore National Parks and Ecological Parks
From beaches, jungles, cenotes, to valleys, Dominican Republic’s biodiverse landscape lend itself to many ecological parks and national parks.
Among the most visited, Jaragua National Park features marine terraces, coastal plains, dry forests, and mangroves that shape the habitat of 130 bird species, including a constant flock of flamingos at its saltwater lake Lago de Oviedo.
Meanwhile, Los Haitises National Park, located off the northeastern coast of the country is a maze of mangrove forests sprouting along limestone karst plateaus. With lush, green conical hills rising above glassy, turquoise waters, the park is both a marine park and coastal park. A hotspot for ecotourism, Los Haitises is perfect for birdwatchers to spot endemic bird species and intrepid travellers to explore hidden caves with ancient pictographs and petroglyphs.
Along the eastern coast, the Indigenous Eye Ecological Park is consist of 45 acres of tropical forests speckled with crystal-clear freshwater lagoons called “eyes.” Fed by underground river systems, these lagoons are surrounded by mangroves, indigenous tropical flora, fauna, and wildlife. Ideal for both guided walking tour and self-guided tours, the park can be fully explored on foot, and offer opportunities for quick dips and swim in some of its more massive lagoons.
6. Visit Constanza and the Dominican Alps
Dominican Republic’s heartland couldn’t be further away from the tropical heat and humidity of its sandy coast. With a series of mountain ranges that form the country’s spine, the higher altitude creates balmy temperatures for growing strawberries and other vegetable crops.
Heading into the valleys around the village of Constanza, you’ll find a part of the island covered in green meadows, river streams, and pine forests as if you’re walking through the Alps in the Caribbean.
7. Saona Island Excursions
Just south of Punta Cana, Isla Saona is a tropical island and government protected natural reserve filled with indigenous marine wildlife.
Rimmed by pearl-white sandy beaches and tall, leaning palm trees, the island is a popular destination for day trips from Punta Cana through catamaran tours.
Do as much or as little as you like on this postcard-perfect island. From water sports activities to trekking across sandbars to its ocean-fed lagoons, to visiting laidback fishing villages, Isla Saona’s unspoiled landscape offers opportunities for quiet island getaways.