The Dominican Republic (República Dominicana) is the second-largest country in the Caribbean. It’s a place with great history, natural beauty, and diverse culture. It also just happens to be where I grew up!
The country is known for its hospitality. The people are incredibly friendly and warm! One of the most exciting things about this island paradise is definitely its astounding beaches (1,000 miles of it, to be exact!). But there is far more to this wonderful country than sand & sun, which is why I am writing this bucket list of the top 10 things you can’t miss if and when you travel to the gorgeous Dominican Republic (DR)!
This is local advice from me to you if you want to enjoy the country as a local, all the hidden gems without the usual tourist rip-offs! I have been to all the places I reccomend in this blog and I can honestly tell you they are the best!
In no particular order…Let’s get on with it!
P.S. All these pictures are unedited because this is truly a country that needs #nofilter
1. TOUR THE HISTORICAL ZONA COLONIAL
The Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo was the first European Colonial district in the New World (founded by Christopher Columbus in 1496). It has also been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Us locals call it ‘La Zona’. Here, you can explore the historical buildings and museums. Shop at El Conde, or simply have a cold Presidente beer at one of the many trendy restaurants and bars!
2. GO TO A CONCERT IN ALTOS DE CHAVÓN
This village is located in La Romana. It is in very short proximity of luxury villas and celebrity homes, but this model Mediterranean village, which is built entirely out of stone, is anything but pretentious! There is an art university campus, small restaurants, and a river. The views are truly wonderful, but the best part about this architectural wonder is the amphitheater. Needless to say, it is also built out of stone and resembles the shape of a Colosseum! Artists like Sting and Pitbull have performed here, it is an experience you shouldn’t miss! However, (so you don’t say I didn’t warn you) there are TONS of steps, but they are worth it!
3. RELAX IN PUNTA CANA
If you planned a visit to the Dominican Republic, you’ve probably heard of the famous Punta Cana! It is nothing short of incredible! There is something for everyone here as it is the most popular tourist destination, so if you’re not into that, the top thing I recommend is to relax! Go to a spa, have a nice dinner and enjoy the waves of one of the Dominican Republic’s best beaches. However, if you are an adrenaline seeker these are some places you should definitely check out: Scape Park, Outback Adventures, and Macao Surf Camp.
4. ENJOY THE NATURAL WONDERS OF SAMANÁ
This place is truly a dream! Situated in the Dominican Republic’s northeastern shore, this peninsula is home to a town you shouldn’t miss! During the winter mating season, you can take a trip in a small boat to see loads of humpbacks whales! If you come during another season, not to worry as there is still plenty to see and do in this seaside town. Take a trip around the Samaná Bay, visit El Salto del Limón (Waterfall), and eat some fresh fish in any of the many local family-run restaurants!
5. CAMP IN BAHÍA DE LAS ÁGUILAS
A trip to Bahía de Las Águilas is essential if you are having a longer visit to the Dominican Republic. Near the border with Haiti, this place is definitely far from all the other adventures. However, it is by far my favorite. Visiting ‘Eagles Bay’ makes me feel like I own this private beach. It is never crowded and you can see the sea for miles on end. The water is on another level of clarity. If you had the time, I reckon you could count how many grains of sands there are! This place is also greatly untouched by humans, so the best way to stay here is to camp! Imagine waking up to this view… Check out Eco del Mar for a great experience of this kind!
6. SNORKEL IN CAYO ARENA
This island in the Northwest Coast of the Dominican Republic is known as Paradise Island. It is very small and you have to get there by boat, but this is extremely affordable and is a business run by locals! The only way I can describe snorkeling here is comparing it to that underwater screensaver we have all seen! Corals, colorful fish, sun, and extreme relaxation!
7. EXPERIENCE THE MOUNTAINS OF CONSTANZA
Constanza is a town in La Vega Province. This is the coldest area of the Dominican Republic, so cold (for this country) that as a kid we always thought that if we climbed a high enough mountain we would find snow! Of course, that never happened but we always found incredible spots for extraordinary views. Here is also the only place where you can find locally grown strawberries so don’t forget to try them if you see a vendor on the streets! Also…by ‘cold’ I mean 15 degrees Celsius.
8. CLIMB PICO DUARTE
This is tough, but lots of fun. I did this when I was 11 and all I can remember is almost giving up halfway, but I’m so glad I didn’t! My dad vlogged the whole thing so check it out on his youtube channel. This is a trek and you have to camp at several points along the way, but if you make it all the way to the top you have bragging rights to say you climbed the highest peak in the Caribbean. Not quite a world record, but close enough!
9. LEARN HOW CHOCOLATE IS MADE AT SENDERO DEL CACAO
For any fellow foodies out there…would you ever turn down the experience to make your OWN chocolate? Thought so, now let me tell you here you get to tour the wonderful journey of how chocolate is made, from beginning right through to the end. The tour is available in both English and Spanish, so you won’t miss out! In the end, you go to the kitchen and make your own chocolate bar in any shape, I made a sun! They also have performances of traditional dances and dress!
10. RIDE THE CABLEWAY IN PUERTO PLATA
This is something I never thought we would have in the Dominican Republic, but we do! This cableway is very affordable to take and you can enjoy views of the entire Puerto Plata city. At the top, a range of attractions waiting for you! There is plenty of fog because you are very high up, so this isn’t one for any of you that are afraid of heights!
A little bit about me…
My mum and I were born in the Dominican Republic, but my dad is English! I grew up on the island, but now I live in Bournemouth. All of this advice is based on my real experiences and sincere recommendations! I hope one day you get to visit this wonderful island and check off some places from this bucket list…In the meantime, why not check out our previous blog?
Love Scape xxx