The Dominican Republic, situated on Hispaniola and neighbors Haiti, is the largest island in the Caribbean after Cuba.
You might be wondering... should I visit the Dominican Republic? More than 6 million tourists who visit the island annually think it's perfect. As a result, Dominican Republic tourism is one of the most bustling in the Caribbean.
One of the reasons for this is that it offers some of the region's top all-inclusive resorts. You might be reading that and think that's not really my style. Don't fret; there are also a bunch of adventures that await.
There are several off-the-beaten-path towns, pristine beaches, and activities waiting for you in the Dominican Republic.
Here are the best things to do in the Dominican Republic that'll satisfy travelers of every kind.
Top 8 Things to Do in the Dominican Republic
Indulge in resort luxury in Punta Cana
The Dominican Republic is an island known for its incredible resorts. Punta Cana is the spot you want to head to if you are looking for an all-inclusive resort experience. The town is practically built around tourism, so it has all the amenities and luxuries you could want in an idyllic location. While we love hostels and the adventure it sometimes brings, I think everyone should experience the luxury of a resort at least once. And there is no better spot than Punta Cana to do this.
Whether you want to just relax on the stunning 30 miles (48km) of white sandy beach or go on adventures like windsurfing, kayaking, or sailing, Punta Cana has got you covered.
Let your hair down in Bayahibe
If Punta Cana seems too busy for you, head to Bayahibe! It's a peaceful little fishing village that's less busy than Punta Cana but doesn't skimp on the clear water and perfect beaches.
Bayahibe also still has a bit more of an authentic feeling than bigger resort towns. One of the main departure points for Saona Island is situated here. Visiting Saona is a must if you are in the area.
See starfishes on Saona Island
Spending time on Saona Island is one of the top activities if you are visiting the Dominican Republic. Saona Island is a part of the East National park (Parque Nacional del Este), also known for its postcard-perfect palm-fringed beaches, mangroves, and coral reefs.
The Dominican Republic is known for its starfish. You have the highest chance of seeing these beautiful red starfish in this spot. It's not called starfish island for nothing! Head to Mano Juan, a cute little fishing village, to see the colorful shacks and visit the nearby turtle sanctuary.
Go diving in idyllic Isla Catalina
Isla Catalina is a diver's dream. Check out the "Living Museum of the Sea," a shipwreck turned underwater museum. Here divers can explore old cannons, anchors, and coral reefs found in and around this old shipwreck. Many other popular dive and snorkeling spots on this tiny uninhabited island.
However, even if you don't want to go diving, a day trip to Isla Catalina is still worth it. There are a bunch of restaurants around the water, and you can just wander around and enjoy this little piece of paradise.
Explore Zona Colonial
Many tourists head straight to resorts, skipping the country's capital city of Santo Domingo. In contrast, the city has so much to offer. Head to Zona Colonial, a central historic neighborhood, and step back into time to see their rich culture and history.
The younger brother of Christoph Columbus, Bartolomé Columbus, found the city in 1496. It was almost entirely built in the 16th century. Wander the cobblestone streets, dine in the many restaurants and cafes, and appreciate this beautiful old neighborhood.
It's the country's only UNESCO World Heritage site and home to over 300 historic sites. So, if you are a history buff, you need to make this a stop on your trip.
Explore nature and remote beaches in Las Galeras
Las Galeras is a quaint little fishing village at the farthest tip of the Samaná Peninsula. It's a bit more off the beaten path, so independent travelers favor this town. Instead of resorts, you'll find smaller accommodation options and fantastic cuisine at great prices.
If you dream of finding a quiet and remote beach for just you and your friends, look no further than Las Galeras. There are plenty of opportunities to rent your own boat and set off on an adventure.
Party in Las Terrenas
Las Terrenas is the perfect spot if you are looking for something laid-back but still has all the amenities of a bigger holiday town. The town has enough beaches and restaurants to keep you happy for weeks, but if you want to venture a bit further, check out Playa Bonita and Playa Cosón. Nights in Las Terrenas is lively, and there is a mix of music, bars, and lounges.
Jump and slide down 27 Waterfalls
The 27 Waterfalls is also known locally as the 27 charcos de Damajagua. It's one of the top-rated things to do in the country, and it's a perfect activity for those of you that like a bit of adrenaline. You first hike through a tropical forest until you reach a rocky hilltop. You jump and slide down 27 waterfalls until you get back to the bottom.
Some jumps can be up to 7.6 meters (25 feet) high. If you want to see the falls, but 27 waterfalls seem a bit much, a shorter route also covers 7 waterfalls.
Traveler's tips: What not to do in the Dominican Republic?
While the country certainly feels like paradise, it's still important to keep your wits about you.
In addition to taking the usual safety precautions we savvy travelers already do, keep the following in mind:
- The skies might be blue and the water tempting, but if beaches have raised danger flags, you need to avoid the water! The currents and riptides in this part of the world can be stronger than you expect, so always abide by these warning signs.
- While we absolutely encourage you to visit Santo Domingo, it can be less safe at night. So if you do go out, make sure you stick with your friends or ask your hostel to call you a cab to get around.
- Don't ignore hurricane season when planning your trip. The country is located right in the middle of the hurricane belt so keep this before booking your tickets. The stormy weather usually peaks in August and September.
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