The Top Destinations in the Dominican Republic
Visiting the Dominican Republic is more than your typical Caribbean getaway. While the Dominican Republic does boast countless miles of breathtaking beaches, there’s way more to discover. You can scuba dive to shipwrecks, bike in the mountains, and hike to secluded waterfalls. How about the only spot in the Caribbean for whitewater rafting?
And if you’re not exhausted from outdoor thrills, you have energetic nightlife to keep you going. With natural wonders, historic treasures, and excitement around every corner, the Dominican Republic is the total package. The hardest task is deciding which destination you want your adventure to begin.
Best Time to Visit the Dominican Republic
There’s really no bad time to visit the Dominican Republic, and it all depends on your preferences. December to March are the most crowded months due to the winter holidays and the country’s drier weather. If you’re unable to cope with hordes of tourists, this might not be the right time for you.
While you can always keep tabs on the weather forecast, June to November can be risky due to hurricane season. For the perfect middle ground, April and May is the best time to visit the Dominican Republic. While it’s a little rainier than winter, the weather is still fantastic, and there won’t be as many tourists. Also, visiting Haiti this time of year is not a bad idea.
Best Places to Visit in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is among the most diverse countries in the Caribbean and has something for every traveler. From beachfront resorts to scenic mountain towns, you could spend months discovering new places. But to get you started, here are 10 of the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic.
1. Punta Cana
Punta Cana is the gold standard of beach resort destinations in the Dominican Republic. All-inclusive resorts dot its roughly 32 km of white-sand beaches and turquoise waters and offer access to tons of aquatic activities. Punta Cana caters heavily to the tourism industry and welcomes families, couples, and large groups for their island getaway.
Bávaro Beach is among the finest stretches of coastline in the Dominican Republic and has shops and restaurants near the shore. Learn to surf at Playa Macao or visit Arena Gorda Beach for thrilling water sports. Adventurous travelers can head to Scape Park to take a dip in the crystal-clear Hoyo Azul cenote. And Punta Cana is one of the best places for a scuba diving excursion when visiting the Dominican Republic.
Samaná offers the rare treat to witness thousands of humpback whales gather for their yearly mating season. The deep waters of Samaná Bay once hid pirates, but nature lovers flock here during winter to watch these enormous creatures. Start your whale-watching adventure from the city of Samaná to view the whales in their natural habitat.
After your cruise, soak up the views of dense jungles and sailing vessels from the Malecón. Cruise to the nearby Cayo Levantado for a refreshing swim in its dazzling azure waters. Cayo Arena is popular for diving excursions, and kayaking trips are available in the mangrove forests. Horseback riding to the cascading El Limón waterfall helps you explore the interior of the Samaná Peninsula.
3. La Romana
Situated on the Dominican Republic’s Caribbean coast, La Romana is gaining popularity as a resort destination. Its white-sand beaches, opulent resorts, and world-class golf courses bring a sophisticated crowd to its shores. Casa de Campo earns rave reviews for its deluxe suites, yachts, fine dining, and the Caribbean’s top-rated golf course. But there’s much more to discover when you visit this fabulous seaside resort paradise.
Altos de Chavon is a replica of a 16th century Mediterranean village and one of the Dominican Republic’s cultural gems. The cobblestoned village includes an amphitheater, an archaeological museum, and picturesque views of the Chavón River. La Romana is also close to Cotubanamá National Park, a renowned nature preserve with ancient Taino petroglyphs.
4. Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo was the first European settlement of the New World, and it’s one of the most historic places in the Caribbean. Step into Zona Colonial to feel like you’re living in the Dominican Republic during the 1500s. Music fills the airwaves of Parque Colón, and around the corner sits the oldest cathedral in the Americas. The crumbling ruins of Monasterio de San Francisco are the first monastery built in the New World.
The nearby Museum of the Royal Houses contains annals of Dominican history that include Taíno and colonial artifacts. Calle El Conde is the main drag for pedestrians and a fabulous place to eat lunch or shop for souvenirs. For a glimpse of modern-day Santo Domingo, head to the Malecón for hotels, restaurants, and pulsating nightlife.
5. Bahia de Las Aguilas
If you make the long journey to the southwest Dominican Republic near the Haitian border, a secluded paradise awaits you. Bahia de Las Aguilas is part of Jaragua National Park, and many consider it the most beautiful beach in the world. Rocky outcrops ring around its powdery beaches and translucent waters to create a setting from a tropical fairytale.
You likely won’t find another tourist for miles since this isolated corner of the Dominican Republic is nearly six hours from Santo Domingo. But its untamed nature and calm, shallow waters make it worth the strenuous ride. Surrounded by manatees, iguanas, and hundreds of colorful birds, you’ll gain an intimate connection with nature.
Known as the adventure capital of the Dominican Republic, Jarabacoa offers a packed line-up of outdoor activities. The town rests at the base of the Dominican Alps and earns praise for its scenic beauty. Start your thrills with a hike to the Baiguate and Jimenoa waterfalls, or go whitewater rafting down the rushing Yaque del Norte River.
At 3,098 m, Pico Duarte is the highest summit in the entire Caribbean for mountain climbers. You can also plunge into the depths of Jarabacoa’s canyons and enjoy a refreshing dip in the river. After a day of nonstop action, stop by the Jarabacoa Food Truck Park for international delights to boost your energy.
Cabarete is an adventure sports playground nestled along the Dominican Republic’s northern coast. With its coral reef and consistent winds, it’s one of the world’s top kitesurfing destinations. International competitors flock here to ride the fierce waves, and the town hosts intense events.
Just south of Cabarete, El Choco National Park lets you escape the beach with rugged trails for hikers and mountain bikers. When you explore the park, you’ll wander into pastoral farmlands, eerie caves, and pristine lagoons. Cabarete’s evening vibe centers around the chill bars and eateries on Calle Principal.
There’s no shortage of breathtaking dive locations in the Dominican Republic, but Bayahibe is the crown jewel. The old fishing village east of La Romana has some of the most striking coral reefs and shipwrecks near its shores. Head to the palm tree-fringed Bayahibe Beach to gaze at turquoise waters or catch a boat to the nearby islands.
There are two shipwrecks to explore around Catalina Island and tons of marine life by Saona Island. Stop by Parque Nacional del Este to swim in crystal-clear lagoons or book a catamaran tour.
9. Santiago de los Caballeros
Just two hours north of Santo Domingo, Santiago de los Caballeros lightens the pace compared to the bustling capital. The town sits in the cool mountains and offers a refreshing break from the typical beach vibe. Perfect for travelers wishing to escape the mass tourism around the beach resorts of the Dominican Republic.
While Cuban cigars get lots of buzzes, Santiago de los Caballeros is the cigar capital of the world. A visit to the La Aurora Cigar Factory teaches you about the production of this vital Dominican export. Mercado Modelo is the place to shop for traditional Dominican handicrafts, and Fortaleza San Luis played a major role in the War of Restoration.
10. Río San Juan
When visiting the Dominican Republic, sticking to the resort towns often leaves surrounded by tourists. But 55 miles east of Puerto Plata, Río San Juan offers a secluded paradise for intrepid travelers. Azure waters ring around its jungle-lined beaches and form a tropical paradise. Cruise through mangrove forests or take surfing lessons in a more authentic setting compared to more touristy locations.
Playa de Los Muertos has the unusual distinction of being named after a cemetery, and you’ll find graves on its golden shores. Don’t miss out on a Laguna Gri-Gri Boat tour to cruise to a crystalline lagoon set beneath rocky cliffs and dense jungle.