Looking for the ultimate travel guide to the Dominican Republic? Look no further! Our blog post features the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic for every type of traveler! Whether you’re a beach lover, an adventure seeker, a cultural buff, a family traveler, a hiking enthusiast, or a foodie, we’ve got you covered.
When talking about the Dominican Republic, most people only think of its gorgeous beaches and dozens of all-inclusive resorts, mainly in Punta Cana. But the country has much more to offer, especially when looking for adventure, incredible hikes, gorgeous waterfalls, social interaction, or cultural immersion.
To give you an overview of all the opportunities you have when visiting the country, we’ll show you the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic – one of the most affordable countries in the Caribbean – for every type of traveler.
The Best Places To Visit In The Dominican Republic For Every Type Of Traveler
This section features the best destinations in the Dominican Republic, carefully curated to cater to your specific interests. Whether you’re seeking pristine beaches, thrilling adventures, cultural experiences, family-friendly activities, breathtaking hiking trails, or tantalizing food, we’ve got everything covered.
1. The Best Places To Visit In The Dominican Republic For Beach Lovers
As the country is famous for its beaches, let’s start with the best places to go in the Dominican Republic when looking for the most gorgeous and pristine beaches. Depending on the style of vacation you prefer, you have two options.
Option 1: Punta Cana
There is no doubt that the beaches in Punta Cana are gorgeous. If you want a relaxed holiday in one of Punta Cana’s all-inclusive resorts without worrying too much about what to do every day, where to eat, and which beach to visit, Punta Cana is the best destination in the Dominican Republic.
The most stunning place to visit is Bavaro Beach, which has a total length of 12 miles and is, in some areas, as wide as 400 feet.
It is lined with stunning palm trees, its water is usually turquoise to blueish, and the beach is home to many of Punta Canas’ all-inclusive resorts; hence, chances are high that you can stay right at the beach.
Option 2: Samaná
If you prefer to explore the country individually, Samaná is the best place to visit in the Dominican Republic. It has an enormous variety of beaches, most completely pristine without a single soul, but still easy enough to reach (at least most of them) by car or with just a short hike.
Samanás’ beaches are among the best beaches in the Dominican Republic. Especially Playa Frontón, Playa Rincón, and Playa Cosón are incredibly stunning (and popular), while Playa Lanza del Norte, Playa Jackson, and Playa Ermitaño are among the hidden gems of the peninsula.
When staying in Samaná, Las Terrenas and Las Galeras are the best places to go. They have the best infrastructure and feature many small guesthouses, apartments, or luxury villas, marking a great counterpart to Punta Cana’s all-inclusive resorts.
2. The Best Places To Visit In The Dominican Republic For Adventure Seekers
If the beach is not your thing and you’re craving some serious adventure, the Dominican Republic will not disappoint. The country is one of the most adventurous destinations in the entire Caribbean. Many people don’t know what amazing local adventures you can have in the country, as most tourism is focused on Punta Cana.
Option 1: Cabarete + North Coast
Cabarete is the best place to visit in the Dominican Republic when looking for some serious adventures. The surfer hotspot can be considered the outdoor adventure capital of the Dominican Republic and offers an incredible selection of outdoor activities.
Canyoning, kayaking, SUP, windsurfing, kitesurfing, hiking, rappelling, caving, waterfall chasing, or river tubing are some of the adventurous activities you can enjoy in a stunning environment, as the north of Cabarete is home to the Cordillera Septentrional. This mountain range is famous for its turquoise waterfalls, blue rivers, and spectacular canyons.
Cabarete has a range of accommodations, particularly guesthouses, Airbnbs, and apartments, in all price categories. If traveling without a rental car, it is recommendable to stay close to Cabarete’s main beach, which has a lot of affordable restaurants right on the ocean and features an awesome vibe. It is also one of the most active nightlife areas safe for tourists in the Dominican Republic.
Option 2: The Southwest
One of the most remote but beautiful Dominican Republic destinations is the Southwest of the country, which is particularly famous for adventure seekers and road-trippers. It is only feasible to visit when you have a rental car.
Still, once you head down the 4-hour drive from Santo Domingo, you can expect some of the Dominican Republic’s finest attractions and adventures, such as:
- Laguna Oviedo – a lagoon with animal-watching opportunities
- Los Patos – the shortest river in the Dominican Republic and a beautiful wild pebbly beach
- Cueva de la Virgin – an open cave with a stunning river inside
- Balneario La Plaza – one of the crystal-clearest rivers in the Dominican Republic
- Arroyo Salado – a typical Dominican “Balneario” (lagoon to swim and mingle), easy to reach
- Los Pozos de Romeo – small hidden lagoons close to Bahía de las Águilas
3. The Best Places To Visit In The Dominican Republic For Cultural Buffs
If you’re more interested in the country’s culture, there are plenty of places to visit in the Dominican Republic – even though it is more of a nature destination. Still, there are options for how you can get culturally immersed.
Option 1: Santo Domingo
If you’re interested in the Dominican culture, Santo Domingo is the best Dominican Republic destination for your holiday. The country’s capital is like a melting pot of all the cultural influences. It is also home to different ethnicities, all socioeconomic groups, and all kinds of different people. If you want to learn more about life in the Dominican Republic, it’s a great place for this.
The Colonial Zone is the best place to visit in the Dominican Republic’s capital. It features the best infrastructure in terms of colonial guesthouses, charming hotels, and plenty of restaurants. Besides Santo Domingo’s occasional security problems, this area is safe to visit.
The Colonial Zone is home to many fascinating museums and historic buildings offering an authentic colonial vibe, guaranteeing the best insights into the Dominican Republic’s history. Some of the most popular attractions in the Colonial Zone are:
- Alcázar de Colón (or “Casa Colón” or the “House of Columbus”) – the first castle residence in the Americas
- Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor – the First Cathedral of the Americas
- Calle Las Damas – a historic cobblestone road and the oldest street in the Americas
- Fortaleza Ozama – the oldest fortress in America with views of the Ozama River
- Monasterio de San Francisco – the original burial place of Alonso de Ojeda and Bartholomew Columbus and home to a unique music event every Sunday evening
- Parque Colón – the Columbus Park with the Columbus statue
- Plaza de España – with magnificent views of the surrounding colonial buildings
Dominicans love going to the Colonial Zone and enjoying the enormous culinary diversity (restaurants, food stalls, and more) and the safe and fun nightlife. If you head to Parque Colón, Parque Duarte, Parada 77, or a local Colmado, it will be super easy to connect with locals and learn more about their life. They will likely invite you for a beer, as Dominicans are incredibly welcoming.
Option 2: Puerto Plata
Santo Domingo is the clear number one when it comes to cultural tourist attractions in the Dominican Republic. Still, Puerto Plata is also worth visiting if you want to get more insights or if you’re planning a holiday on the North Coast only (in which case Santo Domingo would be too far to visit).
If visiting Puerto Plata and looking for cultural immersion, the center of the city is a must. You can not only see the daily market life, eat in typical Dominican Comedores (local restaurants for lunch) and visit a couple of fascinating museums (such as the Ambar Museum or the Luperon Museum), but you can also see important historical sites such as the San Felipe Fortress, the Paseo de Dona Blanca or the Independence Square.
Furthermore, Puerto Plata is one of the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic when looking for cultural excursions, as several unique (cultural) tours starting from here, such as:
- Ruta Panoramica 25 – a panoramic road promoted by an association of local vendors and family businesses, such as fruit stalls, handicraft shops, or eco-lodges, perfect for a quick road trip
- Chocal Chocolate Factory – a great option to see a local cacao business
- Tubagua Eco-Lodge – a sustainable eco-lodge with a spectacular view close to Puerto Plata with solid ties to the local village community, which offers culture-focused tours to the nearby local villages and prepares meals the traditional Dominican way over the fireplace.
4. The Best Places To Visit In The Dominican Republic For Families
If traveling as a family to the Dominican Republic, you’re most likely looking for a worry-free vacation plus plenty of action and entertainment for your kids.
Option 1: Punta Cana
It is without a doubt that Punta Cana is the Dominican Republic’s number one destination for families, mainly due to the many fantastic family resorts in Punta Cana, with impressive water parks, spacious family suites, and a lot of entertainment for kids and teens, usually in their respective kids or teens clubs.
The ocean is also very kid-friendly, and when the little ones know that all the ice cream, juices, and buffet is available (nearly) 24/7, they will feel like they’re in a true paradise.
Hyatt Ziva, Finest Punta Cana, and Nickelodeon Resort are among the best family resorts in Punta Cana, while Tropical Deluxe Princess, Royalton Splash, and Dreams Onyx are among the more affordable ones. There are also plenty of family activities in Punta Cana, such as zip lining, a family buggy tour, the famous Blue Lagoon, or one of the tropical theme parks.
Option 2: Samaná
Samaná is the best Dominican Republic destination for family travel if you’re not into a resort holiday. The gorgeous beaches, which are usually calm and perfect for swimming or playing in the sand, were mentioned above.
Samaná is also the best place to visit in the Dominican Republic for families apart from Punta Cana thanks to its affordable apartments (often at or close to the beach and for half of the price of a similar Punta Cana accommodation), peaceful vibe, and good infrastructure.
In terms of family activities, you can zipline with your teens, head on an exciting ATV adventure or visit one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the Dominican Republic, Salto El Limón.
5. The Best Places To Visit In The Dominican Republic For Hiking Enthusiasts
Did you know that the Dominican Republic is a true hiker’s heaven? While you don’t have many marked hiking trails like in North America or Europe, you have a lot of great hiking destinations where you can either hike on farmers’ trails (and using a GPS) or with the help of a local guide.
The following options are the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic when looking for the most exciting hiking trails.
Option 1: Cordillera Central
The Cordillera Central is the central mountain range in the Dominican Republic and features mountains as high as 10000 feet. While Constanza and Jarabacoa are the best areas to base yourself in (they are the only two proper towns in the mountain area), a rental car is recommended to reach the trailheads easily.
The following are some of the most popular trails in this Dominican Republic’s hiking destination:
- Pico Duarte – the highest mountain in the Dominican Republic, a 3-day hike, a guide is mandatory
- Salto Jimenoa I – a 1-1.5 hour hike; a guide is not necessary
- Mogote Mountain – a 3-4 hour hike; a guide is recommended but not necessary
Option 2: Cordillera Septentrional
The Cordillera Septentrional is another great hiking destination in the Dominican Republic. While the mountains here (usually only up to 2500-3000 feet) are not as high as in the Cordillera Central, you can do hikes in the Cordillera Septentrional right from the beach vacation spots in Cabarete, Sosua, or Puerto Plata.
Furthermore, this area has many crystal-clear rivers and picturesque waterfalls, guaranteeing some exhilarating hikes.
The following are some of the most popular hiking trails in this area:
- La Rejolla – a series of 4 spectacular waterfalls), a 3-4 hour hike; a guide is recommended
- Charcos del Militar (a couple of hidden waterfalls), a 3-4 hour hike; a guide is recommended
- Cabo Frances Viejo and El Saltadero – easy 1 hour walks; a guide is not necessary
6. The Best Places To Visit In The Dominican Republic For Foodies
In the last section, we will explore the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic for foodies, where you can get the best food and find the best local delicacies.
Punta Cana’s resorts are great for foodies as at least 80% of all resorts feature at least five restaurants with different flavors, but let’s check what food lovers can expect outside of the resorts.
Option 1: Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone
The Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo is not only one of the Dominican Republic’s tourist attractions but also the number one spot for all local and international food lovers.
The sheer number of restaurants will please every kind of traveler, especially as you can find all different types: the rustic but delicious hole in the walls (such as Sicily Empanadas or Omeroliza D’ Comer), locals’ favorites (such as Jalao or Petrus) as well as international fine dining spots (such as Pat e Palo or Buche Perico).
You can even go to a restaurant or bar hopping, as the entire Colonial Zone is walkable and very safe at night.
Option 2: Samaná
Samaná might not have many world-class restaurants, even though some beach clubs, such as SO Beach Club at Playa Bonita or Porto at Playa El Portillo, offer top-notch service, delicious food, and a stunning location.
What makes Samaná the best place to go in the Dominican Republic for foodies are its several delicacies, mostly available at roadside stalls and, to a lesser extent, in local restaurants. Some of these local dishes and snacks are:
- Pescado de Coco – a local fish steamed and served with coconut sauce
- Arepas – local coconut-flavored bread
- Queso de Hoja – a locally produced fresh cheese
- Coconuts – Samaná is the biggest coconut producer in the Dominican Republic
- Salpicon de Camarones – a fresh seafood salad made out of shrimp from the Samaná Bay
Have you found your favorite Dominican Republic destination? As you can see, the Dominican Republic offers many different highlights and attractions; hence it is worth leaving your all-inclusive resort and exploring the country. What is your favorite place to visit in the Dominican Republic? Feel free to leave a comment with any experiences or questions.
About The Author Of “The Best Places To Visit In The Dominican Republic”
If you’d like to know more about Chris and his second home country, the Dominican Republic, check out his website Punta Cana Travel Blog. After traveling through all parts of the world, he has been living part-time in this beautiful and underrated country since 2015 – mainly in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana. Chris knows all the pristine beaches and secluded waterfalls you can explore in Punta Cana and the entire country and loves it if visitors leave their all-inclusive resort to discover the beauty, diversity, Caribbean smiles, and Latin vibes the Dominican Republic has to offer. On his blog, you can find all the valuable information and personal recommendations for a unique holiday in Punta Cana & beyond. Chris also provides travel coaching and can set up a personalized itinerary for your vacation in the Dominican Republic.
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