Dominican RepublicTravel Guide

The most-visited travel destination in the Caribbean, according to Tripadvisor’s 2023 “Traveller’s Choice Best of the Best” awards, the Dominican Republic offers more than a tropical paradise with palm-fringed, golden sand beaches, unbelievably blue waters and a coastline dotted with world-class resorts.  

Let’s start with the diverse landscape of this country, which is slightly bigger than Switzerland. From waterfalls and rainforests to mountain ranges, the Caribbean’s tallest peak (Pico Duarte) and largest lake (Lake Enriquillo), it offers the ideal setting for adventure activities and is an ecotourism hotspot.  

Culturally, the Dominican Republic has many influences; its Taíno indigenous roots are intertwined with African and Spanish heritage and this is reflected in the country’s art, music and dance — especially the rhythmic beats of the merengue and bachata.  
 
Then there’s the Dominican Republic’s rich history. The capital city, Santo Domingo, was established in 1498 by Christopher Colombus’s little brother Batholomew! It’s home to the first cathedral, hospital and university in the Americas and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

But what truly sets the country apart are the friendly people. The Dominican way of life is all about family, community and celebration, and you’ll be welcomed into the local culture whether at the colourful carnivals, tucking into the Spanish cuisine or dancing the merengue until dawn! 

Dominican Republic quick facts

Language

National language

Spanish

Beverages

Bottle of Coke/Pepsi (330ml)

CAD $1.31

Local time

Sunday

9:51am

Currency

Dominican peso

CAD $1.00 = DOP RD$42.79

Eating out

Restaurant meal (casual dining)

CAD $9.34

Electricity

Plug type: A

2 or 3 pins • 110V

Explore Dominican Republic

Where to stay in Dominican Republic?

Accommodation options are plentiful in the Dominican Republic. Luxury all-inclusive resorts, such as those in popular areas like Punta Cana and Puerto Plata, offer world-class amenities and beachfront locations. Family-run guesthouses provide a welcoming and more personal stay, while hostels and budget hotels are also easy to find, especially in the urban areas and tourist hot spots. 

Casa de Campo is where Hollywood’s A-listers stay, and it’s easy to see why. It takes the concept of a holiday resort to the next level. Located in the port city of La Romana, it has three world-renowned golf courses, a shooting range, an equestrian centre, several swimming pools and direct access to the beach. Whether you go all-inclusive or not, Casa de Campo won’t disappoint, as long as you have a sizeable budget! 


If the Dominican Republic’s second-largest city is on your radar, Sana El Jardin Secreto on its outskirts offers you two-in-one accommodation! It’s both a guesthouse and a comfy hostel with air-conditioned rooms, set in beautiful gardens with an inviting pool and friendly staff ready to help you settle in. This is a great option for the budget-conscious.


If you’re travelling to the Dominican Republic with your significant other, you’ll like the sound of Secrets Royal. Tucked away in Punta Cana, this all-inclusive, adults-only resort ticks all the right boxes if you want to escape the crowds and the kids! It has some great amenities like a fabulous spa, swim-up pool bar and in-room Jacuzzis.  
 
A family-friendly option is the Royalton Splash in Punta Cana. Set in a lush tropical setting and offering an all-inclusive stay, a variety of dining experiences and access to a beach, it also features one of the largest waterparks in the Caribbean. Then there’s a private spa and casino should moms and dads want some downtime, and a dedicated Kids’ Club to keep the little ones entertained.  


Barahona is a port city known for its ecotourism attractions. Keen to dodge the crowds? How about an immersion in nature? Then Platón Eco Lodge is for you. Surrounded by spectacular scenery and jungle, this three-star lodge offers a variety of wooden cabins and a waterfall and river on-site! Activities include hiking up the mountain to the springs, horseback riding and tubing.


Believe us when we say, this is just the start. Book your accommodation today!

  • The white sands and crystal-clear waters that surround Saona Island in the Dominican Republic
    • The Christopher Columbus monument in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
    • A colourful fishing village on Saona Island, Dominican Republic
    • The El Limon waterfall in the Dominican Republic
  • The white sands and crystal-clear waters that surround Saona Island in the Dominican Republic
    The white sands and crystal-clear waters that surround Saona Island in the Dominican Republic
    The white sands and crystal-clear waters that surround Saona Island in the Dominican Republic
  • The Christopher Columbus monument in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
    The Christopher Columbus monument in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
    The Christopher Columbus monument in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • A colourful fishing village on Saona Island, Dominican Republic
    A colourful fishing village on Saona Island, Dominican Republic
    A colourful fishing village on Saona Island, Dominican Republic
  • The El Limon waterfall in the Dominican Republic
    The El Limon waterfall in the Dominican Republic
    The El Limon waterfall in the Dominican Republic

Things to do in Dominican Republic

Adventurers, outdoor enthusiasts, sporty types, beachy types, history lovers, party people and everyone in between — get ready to top up your itinerary. But where to begin? Here are some recommendations to help get you started: 

Santo Domingo is the Dominican Republic’s thriving capital and one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean. During the day, wander along the cobblestone streets in the buzzing neighbourhood of Zona Colonial (Colonial Zone), partly surrounded by old stone walls and extending across some 11 blocks. Admire the centuries-old architecture, pop into the historic houses that are now museums, and fuel up on locally sourced coffee or a rum cocktail at one of the colourful cafés. You’ll also discover ancient forts, impressive cathedrals and beautiful plazas on your walkabout. At night, the pulsating merengue beats will lure you into one of the many underground nightclubs.


Head off on a day trip to the bustling beach town of Cabarete. Known for some of the island's gustiest winds, it's a hotbed for kiteboarders. Cabarete is also popular with surfers, who head to the town’s main strip at the end of the day to tuck into Dominican fare at one of the local hangouts — Gordito’s Fresh Mex or La Casita de Papi.


The sloping valleys of the Northern Corridor mountain range are home to the 27 Waterfalls of Damajagua, a natural wonder near Puerto Plata. The journey there involves a trek through the rainforest — all part of the adventure — and afterwards you can take a delightful dip in the natural swimming pools created by the cascading water. Even more fun is a guided tour of the waterfalls, discovering caves and jumping ledges, and hearing about the fascinating legends of the falls. 


Punta Cana boasts some of the most scenic beaches in the country and also plays host to the island’s top casinos, luxurious hotels and resorts. Keen to channel your inner high roller? Dress the part and go forth, or simply mingle and watch. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is guaranteed to make your jaw drop with all the glitz and more than 500 slots and 28 tables!  


No, this is not one for hikers, and you need to leave your fear of heights at home! In Puerto Plata, if you take an 800-metre teleférico (cable car) ride to the top of the Pico Isabel de Torres mountain, you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the city and its port. It’s the only cableway in the Caribbean but get there early, as clouds tend to cover this flat-topped mountain as the day goes on.  


Looking for an immersive experience? Then a tour is the way to go.

Flights to Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic food and drink

Cuisine in the Dominican Republic is a delicious fusion of Spanish, African and Taíno influences. Expect hearty dishes with starchy staples like rice, beans and corn, and loads of seafood from crayfish done Caribbean-style to sushi.

Ajualä, an upmarket tapas bar and restaurant in Santo Domingo, is known for its adventurous fare created from locally sourced produce. The menu combines Caribbean-style cuisine mashed up with South American and Italian influences. The ambience is relaxed and welcoming and the service is muy bien

El Gallego in Santo Domingo is one of the best dining experiences in the Dominican Republic. Try to grab a table on the balcony of the second floor. The menu features delicious Spanish cuisine with a Dominican twist — do yourself a favour and order a hearty serving of paella. 

Also known for Spanish dishes done in the traditional and authentic way, Don Pepe in the Piantini District in Santo Domingo has hosted foreign dignitaries and celebrities over the years. Their salpicon de mariscos (seafood salad) is a must-try.  


Fancy great food in a vibey, quirky setting?  Square 1 in Santiago de los Caballeros is it! Designed with a New York subway theme, you can naturally expect American fare but also Mexican and Dominican dishes, and yes, sushi. The menu is extensive, and the place is really popular so you may have to wait for a table. 


Bao Restaurant, part of the prestigious Punta Cana Resort & Club, offers Asian cuisine dished up in a relaxed atmosphere. From Chinese fried rice dishes and sushi to dumplings and curries, you’ll find your favourite Asian dish on this eclectic menu. The resort has several other eateries on-site ranging from steakhouses to Mediterranean cuisine. 


Part of Dominican life, street food can be found on every corner and on the beaches. Tuck into empanadas (fried pastry pockets) filled with meats and cheese, Dominican fried chicken (pica pollo), the iconic La Bandera (chicken, rice and beans) or sancocho (a hearty stew made of up to seven different kinds of meat). Wash it all down with fresh coconut water. Or maybe some local rum!


Get a real taste for the local cuisine by booking a tour.

Dominican Republic through your eyes

Where to shop in Dominican Republic?

The Dominican Republic is a shopping hotspot in the Caribbean. Malls, boutiques, curio shops and markets — it’s all here!  

In Santo Domingo, the Blue Mall is one of the go-tos, housing many top international brands, such as Rolex and Dolce & Gabbana. Take a break from shopping and pop into the Hard Rock Café for a meal or enjoy live music or a comedy show at Hard Rock Live while the kids hang out at the play zone called the Funny Factory. 

Uvero Alto Plaza in Punta Cana offers 24-hour shopping. This small centre features minimarkets and gift shops, where you can find souvenirs like traditional Dominican faceless dolls crafted from clay (Muñecas Limé) and semi-precious stones such as amber and larimar, as well as cigar stores. 


Located on Avenida Mella in Santo Domingo, Mercado Modelo has been going for over 70 years. Featuring an indoor section with little shops and an outdoor section of stalls, you’ll find all sorts of local crafts and treasures at this bazaar — from paintings, wooden carvings, pottery and sculptures to amulets, jewellery, bags and clothes. Oh, and even love potions! 

Staying in self-catering accommodation? Shop for locally grown produce at the Merca Santo Domingo on the Duarte highway. It’s the best place to stock up on fresh fruit, vegetables and other products grown in the Dominican Republic.  


Yes, the Caribbean has two Chinatowns and one is in Santo Domingo! Called the Barrio Chino, it is near the Colonial Zone and is as authentic as it gets with massive Chinese gates, sculptures, traditional eateries, a veggie market and a wonderful atmosphere you have to experience for yourself!


Looking for a safe and simple way to bring your money when you travel? Our Travel Money Card has you covered!

When is the best time to travel to Dominican Republic?

The Dominican Republic has a tropical climate, as one would expect in the Caribbean! Warm and humid throughout the year, the best time to visit for good weather is the dry season between December and March — the “winter months”. That’s when there’s less rainfall and the average temperature is around 25˚C (77˚F). But these months also fall within the high season, which runs from mid-December to April, and this means higher prices for accommodation and more tourists.  

The Dominican Republic’s two wet seasons occur from May to June and August to November, with heightened hurricane activity around September. During these wetter times of year, the average temperature is about 27˚C (81˚F), but the showers are generally short and intense, and thunderstorms are also frequent. 
 
If you’d like to take advantage of lower travel rates, the best months are late April and May — the country’s shoulder season. It comes right after peak tourist season and just before the start of the rainy season. 

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How to get around Dominican Republic

If you’re on a tight budget, public transportation is the cheapest option. However, the públicos (multi-passenger taxis), and inner-city guaguas (white minibuses) can be quite tricky to navigate. You can flag down guaguas mostly everywhere but they tend to be the slowest form of transport as they stop wherever passengers want to get off. Guaguas can also be a bit “rough and tough”, packed to the roof with passengers, luggage and the odd chicken, and you can only pay for your fare with cash. If you’re up for the challenge, can speak a little Español and don’t mind a few wrong turns, it’s bound to be a fun experience!

Travelling in comfort more your vibe? You’re in luck as Caribe Tours boasts a large fleet of luxury coaches with onboard WiFi, minibars, air-con, reclining seats and satellite TVs. Their routes cover the main cities and smaller towns, and you can book your spot online. 
 
In Santo Domingo, the subway is generally used by commuters to travel to and from work, and is a quick and efficient way to get around the city. 
 
Taxis are everywhere in the bigger towns, usually parked outside hotels and near tourist attractions. Ask your accommodation to book a taxi for you as they will know the major companies and can request the cost of the fare for you.  

E-hailing is another option. Uber is available in Santo Domingo, Santiago and Puerto Plata while Cabify operates in Santo Domingo. 

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What are the best beaches in Dominican Republic?

The Dominican Republic has some of the most pristine beaches in the Caribbean. Many of them are fringed by coral reefs, making them popular with snorkellers and divers. With almost 1,300km of coastline and too many beaches to count, you’re spoilt for choice — whether you enjoy the busy, touristy hotspots or prefer a tranquil, secluded patch of beach sand to call yours. Here are some of our favourites: 

The water at Bávaro Beach in the Punta Cana area is wonderfully warm, and a designated swimming area prevents bathers from getting too close to the coral reef. Although there are several resorts here, this palm-fringed beach is never overcrowded. If you’re an experienced diver, discovering the sunken ship The Astron, will really float your boat!


If you’re keen on an underwater adventure, Bayahibe Beach, in the tiny fishing village of the same name, should be on your list! A spectacular coral reef is the starting point for diving and snorkelling excursions (shipwrecks included). If you’re here just for the sun and the sea, it’s perfect for that too. With nearby restaurants and shady palm trees, you can spend all day here if you like. 


Some say this is THE most beautiful beach in the Dominican Republic! Part of the Jaragua National Park in the Pedernales Province, this beach is as secluded as it gets, accessible only by all-terrain vehicle or boat from Cabo Rojo. Imagine: no resorts, no tourists, no restaurants, no trees, just 8km of white sand!


Condé Nast Traveler has ranked this beach among the Top 10 in the world! Located a short drive from Las Galeras, this 3km stretch of golden sand dotted with coconut trees and picnic tables offers the best of both worlds. One side has calm waters for swimming and snorkelling and the other has rolling waves for the surfers. There are several restaurants to choose from, but even better, enjoy freshly caught fish barbequed for you in the local way at the bar and grill spots on the beach.  


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Dominican Republic Frequently asked questions

The Dominican Republic is world famous for its pristine coastline. A tropical paradise in the middle of the Caribbean, a holiday to Dominica is all about relaxing by the sea. There are a few different resort towns which offer a wide range of accommodation and all-inclusive holiday packages – Punta Cana and La Romana being the top picks for holiday-makers and celebrities alike. But you will also find some quieter spots that offer up an authentic Dominican experience. With its vast beaches, beautiful rainforests, and charming hospitality, you’ll soon discover the most beautiful part of the Dominican Republic is wherever you find yourself.


Being a small island, you are never really far from the Caribbean coastline, and with tourism being one of the biggest contributors to the Dominican economy, most villages are well set up for visitors. What part of this beautiful country is best for a holiday depends on what you seek. If you’re hunting surf breaks, you’re going to want to stick to the northern coastline. If luxury resorts and spas are more your scene, then you’ll want to make a beeline for the southeast to Punta Cana or La Romana. Whether you’re seeking ecotourism and adventure holidays, wildlife experiences, or a golfing trip, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in the Dominican Republic.


This tropical beach holiday destination is a great place to visit all year round. December through April is generally the best time to visit due to there being very little rainfall and more mild temperatures. Rainy season begins in June, but showers tend not to last long. The Caribbean can be prone to hurricanes – if you’re going to get one it’s usually around August to October.


A holiday in Dominica is all about ‘vitamin sea’ – swimming, sunbathing and snorkelling! Whether you dip your toes in the ocean or enjoy it from atop a boat spotting whales and dolphins, you will be mesmerised by the clear turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. But step off the sand and you will discover another side to the Dominican Republic. With stone carved Mediterranean villages, world class golf courses, lush rainforests and a bustling arts and cultural scene, you will certainly find your days fill up pretty quickly.


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If you’re hitting the beach to surf, the northern coastline disappears into the Atlantic Ocean, which presents some awesome surf breaks. The eastern and southern parts of the Dominican Republic where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean sea are calmer waters. Regardless of where you land, you will find excellent beaches dotted with palm trees all around the Dominican Republic. This Caribbean nation is world famous for its pristine beaches, and with 1,200 kilometres of coastline, you’re bound to find paradise.


Everything you need for a relaxing holiday by the sea! Swimwear, sunglasses, sunscreen, hats and reef shoes are essential items to enjoy your time here.


It really depends on what you want out of your Dominican holiday. If luxury resorts and spas are high on your agenda, then Punta Cana or La Romana have plenty to offer by way of high-end accommodation and experiences. If you’re seeking a more authentic Dominican experience, somewhere like Santo Domingo, Playa Dorado or Bayahibe Beach might be more suited to you. Wherever you land, rest assured you are in for a real treat.


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