U.S. travelers: Valid passport needed for entry
Official language: Spanish
Official currency: Dominican peso (American currency is widely accepted)
Climate: Average annual temperature is 77° F
The Dominican Republic is a widely popular Caribbean destination with almost 4 million visitors per year. I can honestly say that this statistic does not surprise me one bit! After visiting a couple of times I can attest to the fact that it's not only a beautiful country, but it's people are so friendly and welcoming as well. You will find an array of hotels, resorts and attractions to choose from. The landscape is unique and offers something for everyone including beaches, tropical rain forests, deserts, alpine ranges, and even mangrove swamps. The many miles of coastline allow for multiple water sports like scuba, snorkeling, and fishing.
Golf is a popular sport among tourists in the Dominican Republic. Many of the major cities have golf courses. There are currently six courses on the coast and twenty courses inland. Golfers can bring their swing to some of the most picturesque courses with a climate that is ideal for year round play. If you are an avid golfer think about choosing a resort that includes green fees to truly have an amazing all inclusive experience!
The Dominican Republic is also a popular spot for destination weddings. Beautiful shorelines create the perfect backdrop for that special day. Many resorts have wedding packages that can help ease the burden of wedding planning. If you missed it I did a whole blog post on destination weddings last week...check it out!
Although the Dominican Republic has several vacation spots we will focus on the 4 most popular ones which include La Romana, Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, and the country’s capital, Santo Domingo.
You can stay at a resort right on the beach, but many of the cruise ship itineraries will bring you to La Romana as well. We had a stop there while cruising with Carnival and decided to rent a car at the port to explore on our own. We ended up at an amazing beach where we had beach side service for cocktails and food. A very friendly local hooked us up with beach chairs and amazing piña coladas. Let's not even talk about the fried fish! So delicious and fresh! Just look at the picture below and you can see what I'm talking about. After a full day of relaxing at the beach we left our local friend a generous tip (they will take US dollars) and headed back to port with full bellies and happy hearts.
La Romana is home to the Teeth of the Dog golf course, the Caribbean’s highest-rated golf course. This city is truly a paradise for golf lovers. There are also many dive sites where you can explore colorful and exciting marine life like coral formations, dolphins, nurse sharks, and manatees.
The National Park of the East, established in 1975, is the most visited natural attraction in the Dominican Republic. At the park you can see the rare bayahibe rose, a cactus-shrub that serves as the country’s national flower. The most popular area of the park is Saona Island, which has a settlement of about 500 people and is also home to a turtle sanctuary. Throughout the nesting season, which lasts from March to November, green turtles, leatherback turtles and the endangered hawksbill turtles lay their eggs on Saona Island’s beaches, making it the most important area for marine turtles in the Dominican Republic...and who doesn't love sea turtles!
There is also an exciting dining scene in La Romana. Bakeries, cafes, Italian restaurants, and restaurants with classic Dominican cuisine. If you are a foodie like me you will definitely appreciate this! If you are into arts and culture you can visit Altos de Chavon, an artists' village with many galleries and shops that are very welcoming to tourists.
I absolutely loved our stay in Punta Cana. It is the leisure lover's ultimate getaway. Located on the most eastern cape of the Dominican Republic, the region looks out over the azure seas of the Atlantic Ocean and dense mangrove forests where a multitude of birds and animals unique to the Caribbean live. That's my nephew above holding that beautiful bird! Punta Cana is also a playground for all levels of thrill seekers. You can indulge in deep sea diving, windsurfing, snorkeling, parasailing, and so much more! Many of the resorts on Punta Cana have all-inclusive packages offering adventure and relaxation all on the same bill. But you can just as easily enjoy the spoils of the soft sands and ocean views on your own. And when that become repetitive, you can head out of town and find cigars, ancient petroglyphs, and culture that dates back to the arrival of Columbus.
If you are the social type you can also find plenty of activities at your resort. We spent many afternoons playing beach volleyball, kayaking, and participating in the many "contests" they had.
The eastern half of the Dominican Republic and the National Park of the East are famous for an underground labyrinth of caves, which is home to one of the largest networks of caves in the world. Manantial de Padre Nuestro is one place that takes spelunking and diving to new depths, conjoining the two to allow exploration of the underground, underwater maze of caves where the remains of Taíno culture await, perfectly preserved. And right in the heart of the resort scene is the remarkable Punta Cana Ecological Reserve that is considered one of the best kept secrets of eco-tourism. A huge array of creatures in this biodiverse setting live around the stretch of lagoons within the park.
Nestled near Mount Isabel de Torres on the Dominican Republic’s north coast, Puerto Plata has recently become a key resort destination in the Caribbean. It’s the eighth-largest city in the Dominican Republic, and has gone through a revitalization period with improvements to its beaches and the downtown park area.
If you are staying in all-inclusive resorts you don't need to stay at the resort for your entire vacation. You should venture out into Puerto Plata to visit local businesses, exciting restaurants, and wilderness excursions. The Malecon, Puerto Plata’s seaside boulevard, is lined with restaurants, bars and boutiques. It has a great view of the water and gives you an excellent opportunity to sit and be among the locals.
There are many museums and attractions if you are looking to learn about the art and history of Puerto Plata. Near the Puerto de Puerto Plata is the Amber Museum. The building itself is a beautiful example of Victorian architecture. Inside, it houses a unique collection of valuable Dominican amber, it is said to be the most transparent amber in the world. Guided tours are available every day of the week except Sundays. Just a few blocks from the Amber Museum is the Museum of Taino Art. The museum works to preserve the culture and tradition of the Taino people, who were the first inhabitants of the island of Hispaniola. It showcases artifacts like statuettes and ceramic pieces.
Puerto Plata also has several outdoor attractions. A large statue of Christ stands on Puerto Plata’s Mount Isabel de Torres. It closely resembles the statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Puerto Plata Lighthouse, located in what is now a national park, was once a beacon for ships sailing the Atlantic, but now serves as a world-renowned monument. It has been restored using grant money from the World Monuments Fund and is the only lighthouse of its kind in the Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo is the Dominican Republic's capital city. It's also the nation's largest city with nearly four million residents. This bustling Caribbean seaport is one of the America's longest continuous European settlements. Boasting Spanish colonial charm with its cobblestone streets married with a festive and colorful Caribbean culture, Santo Domingo is the cultural capital of the Dominican. The city is renowned for its rich history along with its urban appeal and lively nightlife scene.
This Caribbean capital city has a deeply rooted history as it is considered the oldest European city in the New World and is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Santo Domingo is located on the southern shore of the Dominican Republic where the Ozama River meets the Caribbean Sea.
The heart of the tourist part of Santo Domingo lies in its colonial core. The Zona Colonial contains many of the city's oldest structures from fortresses to historic churches all showcasing signature Spanish architecture and charming cobblestone streets. Visitors will be pleased with the vast array of restaurants and bars that stay open late into the night, providing the young population and visitors with a bustling nightlife. Santo Domingo is one of the Caribbean's most populous and lively cities with plenty of historic, entertaining, and relaxing attractions. Here you will find all sorts of attractions like sports facilities, museums, restaurants, bars, and historic plazas. Nearby resort and beach destinations as well as ecotourism in the Dominican rain forests provide additional opportunities if you are looking to explore beyond the core of the city.
So who's ready to hop on a plane and start exploring everything the Dominican Republic has to offer? I know I'm ready to start planning my trip back!
Until next time!
4 Reasons you should have a destination wedding:
You can save money and have choices.
Traditional weddings are now averaging about $29,000. Yikes! This is just for the wedding not including the cost of the honeymoon. Many couples just aren’t interested in spending this much money, but they also don’t want to sacrifice the quality of their special day. Enter the destination wedding. You can save a good amount of money by planning a destination wedding, and you will have many different package options and sizes to choose from.
You will be in control.
A common complaint among couples is the fact that everyone has an opinion on how they should plan their special day. Trying to please everyone can be exhausting! By taking your wedding to a totally different destination, you give yourselves the freedom to plan your wedding the way you want. You’ll be less likely to be tied to traditions and rituals, and more free to choose ways to celebrate that are unique to you and your relationship. You will also feel less pressure to invite people that are not really a part of your life, but you might feel an obligation to.
Your plans will be simplified.
Planning an amazing honeymoon can take almost as much time and effort as planning for the actual wedding. A destination wedding is the perfect way to combine all the planning, making the process easier and less stressful for you.
You’ll enjoy more quality time with your guests.
Destination weddings tend to be smaller than traditional ones, so you’ll have more time to be with your guests. Because of the planning and cost involved it is likely that only family and those friends that are truly close to you will make the journey. An intimate group of family and friends will give you a more quality experience, even if the quantity of guests is smaller.
Current destination wedding promotions:
Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril, Turks and Caicos
A Beautiful Beginnings wedding is always FREE, and now, when the couple brings along friends and family, their honeymoon is FREE too! When family and friends come to celebrate this special occasion now – thru 2019, the 6th, 12th, & 18th room will be free when traveling September 1 – December 25th. If the wedding is taking place between January 2 – August 31st, the 12th, 24th, or 36th room is free.
Hard Rock Resorts
Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Punta Cana, Riviera Maya
Celebrate the anniversary of your love within 24 months of your Hard Rock wedding and enjoy two complimentary room nights on us at any of the All-Inclusive Hard Rock Hotels including the Hard Rock Hotel Cancun, Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.
Couples Resorts Jamaica
Negril, Ocho Rios
Shift your destination wedding into high gear with our $500 instant credit toward airfare! Choose one of our four all-inclusive luxury resorts for your 2018 or 2019 island wedding and we’ll treat you to our easiest-ever instant credit. Hurry – this offer is available for a limited time only!
Palladium Hotel Group
Montego Bay, Punta Cana, Riviera Maya, Riviera Nayarit
Receive a complimentary wedding collection when booking a minimum of 12 rooms for 4 nights or 48 room nights with 24 paying adults at any Palladium Hotel Group resort in Mexico and the Caribbean.
Hyatt Zilara and Ziva
Cancun, Los Cabos, Montego Bay, Puerto Vallarta
Book 75+ room nights (ex.11 rooms for a 1 week stay) in a group and receive $1,000 Group Air Credit.
RIU Hotels and Resorts
Aruba, Cancun, Guanacaste, Los Cabos, Mazatlan, Montego Bay, Nassau, Negril, Ocho Rios, Panama City, Paradise Island, Playa Blanca, Puerto Vallarta, Punta Cana, Riviera Maya
Book 5 rooms and get your wedding for Free (Minister or Judge not included)
Sandos Hotels and Resorts
Cancun, Los Cabos, Riviera Maya
Wedding couples receive a $1,000 discount off their wedding package when booking a minimum of 90 room nights and even $2,000 off when booking 180 room nights! Plus many additional perks are available for couples such as special honeymoon amenities, room upgrades, massages and spa treatments, etc.
Antigua, Barbados, Great Exuma, Grenada, Montego Bay, Nassau, Negril, Ocho Rios, St. Lucia
A Beautiful Beginnings wedding is always FREE, and now, when the couple brings along friends and family, their honeymoon is FREE too! When family and friends come to celebrate this special occasion now – thru 2019, the 6th, 12th, & 18th room will be free when traveling September 1 – December 25th. If the wedding is taking place between January 2 – August 31st, the 12th, 24th, or 36th room is free
Playa del Carmen
Book 75+ room nights ( ex.11 rooms for a 1 week stay) in a group and receive $1,000 Group Air Credit.
So who’s ready to commit to a destination wedding? Are you currently planning a wedding or proposal? Is someone you know planning a wedding or recently engaged? Feel free to share this post with them! I would love to help you plan the destination wedding of your dreams, and as always, my travel planning services are 100% free! Comment below if you are considering a destination wedding!
Until next time!
Go swimming in a cenote. It’s a very cool experience and one unique to the Yucatan Peninsula.
Appreciate the history and the culture with a trip to Tulum to see the Mayan ruins or to the UNESCO larger site of Chichen Itza.
Take the ferry to Cozumel for great snorkeling.
Visit the Eco park Xel-Ha. You can learn so much without feeling like you are taking a toll on the natural beauty of the land.
Harness your adventurous side and go parasailing so you can see all of Cancun!
Visit Bonanza Ranch. This is a great family owned property where they take in animals that have been mistreated or left alone. They give you a tour of the ranch and offer horseback riding trips through the jungle that end at a cenote you can swim in.
For a quieter vacation, especially for families, you can't go wrong with a one hour transfer to a resort in Rivera Maya.
Use the transportation included in the package. Don't worry about renting a car as the resort can set up excursions that are worry-free.
Bring lots of U.S. one and five dollar bills for easy tipping and bargain shopping. It makes it really easy to bargain in straw markets and with street vendors when you have plenty of the proper amount of money to exchange.
Make sure your passport has at least 6 months left before expiration. Make a copy of your passport photo/info pages to carry with you and leave your passport locked in your hotel.
So who's ready to hop on board a plane to Cancun? What other tips would you like to add to this list if you have already been? Leave a comment below!
Until next time!
Sustainable travel, eco travel, ecotourism, responsible travel…no matter what you call it, this travel trend is only growing in popularity. This type of travel supports the management of resources so that economic, social and aesthetic needs are fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems. Basically, it's choosing suppliers and destinations with environmentally-focused practices. From Costa Rica to the Maldives, see where eco travel can take you!
El Mangroove, Autograph Collection - Guanacaste
In 2015, this hotel earned the highest ranking of a level 5 from the Certification for Sustainable Tourism program. Their sustainable practices include water-efficient faucets, dual-flush toilets, irrigation water treated on-site and LED and fluorescent lightning. Most food products are organic and local and the wood of trees that were cut down during the hotel's construction were recycled into furniture and mirror frames.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge - Monteverde
This ecolodge declares that it is "all about 'GO-GREEN,' meaning it's environment-friendly and nature-friendly and has minimal or no harm on its ecosystems or the environment." It does not use any chemical products and instead uses organic and biodegradable products that don't have a negative impact on the environment. It also has a waste center that is used to recycle solid waste like plastics, tin cans, paper waste and glass to do its part to fight climate change.
Grand Palladium White Sands - Cancun
The Grand Palladium White Sand Resort & Spa is a luxury eco-hotel that has won a global certification of sustainable tourism by EarthCheck for adhering to the highest standards of environmental conservation and the Travelife Gold Award, an international sustainability certification.
Sandos Caracol - Riviera Maya
The resort was built around a natural ecosystem and its dedication to low impact on its environment means the monkeys and tropical birds are right outside the door. Guests are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the region's unbelievable natural beauty while learning about the local landscapes and wildlife.
Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa
For a vacation that's closer to home, look beyond Mexico and consider eco-friendly Nicaragua. The Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa resort has made a name for itself for its top-of-the-line wellness program along with its attentive customer service. Mukul is also committed to aiding its community with local furnishings and decorations appointing each of the property's 37 guest rooms. The resort also prides itself on its sustainability initiatives. The immaculate golf course, for example, was built around the landscape, and the hotel was built with the use of rainwater catchments and timber from sustainable forests.
Jade Mountain's commitment to eco-friendly practices began before the resort opened. The resort was hand-built by locals from the island's Soufriere community and incorporates recycled products. The elaborate and lavish plunge pools were built from recycled glass tiles that give each suite its own identity and electricity. What's more, each room is outfitted with sustainable features and boasts only has three walls with views of the Piton Mountains and the Caribbean.
Taj Exotica Resort and Spa - Maldives
The Taj Exotica Resort and Spa almost has to consider the environment first, based on the delicate ecosystem of the Maldives that it's located in. The resort recently installed a more efficient water heating system to reduce the use of fuel, a rainwater retention system and garden beds with succulents like jade trees and sea hibiscus that reduce the need for daily watering. All of these efforts make "green" the essence of this resort.
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru - Maldives
Another beautiful resort in the Maldives, Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru has a marine conservation lab that regularly conducts research on coral biology and ecology as well as green sea turtle conservation. Resort guests can join in-house divers to assist in coral reef and species inventory checks, and also sponsor their own coral gardens.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort
For a sustainable resort set in paradise, travel to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji. Named and modeled after famous conservationist and ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, the resort has the first-ever water reclamation plant, low-flow showerheads, efficient toilets and a comprehensive recycling program. Even the brochures are printed on recycled paper and use soy-based inks. Aside from its wealth of amenities and practices focused on sustainability, the resort provides one of the best dive programs in the world, candlelit dinners on the beach and other one-of-a-kind experiences.
Tioman Island is a sacred place for divers, but it's also a haven for eco-minded travelers. Japamala Resort transports visitors to their part of their world, while also providing them with the best Malaysia has to offer. It rivals any luxury resort you would find in the Maldives –without the high crowds. What's more, Japamala was built without disrupting the land around it. Even rocks were carefully avoided. The wood accents on display throughout the resort were salvaged from dilapidated houses in the nearby villages, and though the resort touts its property as "Rustic Luxe," it doesn't compromise on high-quality guest experiences or an impeccable attention to detail.
Have you visited one of these resorts or another eco friendly resort not listed? Leave a comment if you have!
Until next time!
So you have decided to take the plunge and finally take that vacation you have been dreaming of. Good for you! Remember you only regret the trips that you don’t take.
Here are my top 5 tips on how to travel well and still stay on budget!
1. Find a great travel agent
This might seem like a no brainer to some of you, but the single best thing you can do to save money on a trip is to find a great travel agent. You see travel agents are experts at finding good deals and many times have special insights into hotels and tour packages that you might not find by doing an internet search. By using a travel agent you also save the time it takes to sift through all the different sites trying to sell you essentially the same thing. Let’s not forget that time is money. The best news is that using a travel agent is free! Travel agents make commissions from their sales and those commissions are paid by the vendors NOT you. A good travel agent will quickly learn your travel preferences and be able to line up a vacation that not only fits within your budget but is tailor made for you.
2. Travel all inclusive
The truth is that although the price of all inclusive resorts is higher you are saving a lot of money by not having to pay for everything out of pocket. Most of your vacation money usually goes to drinks and dining, but what if that is already covered ahead of time? That’s where the all inclusive concept comes in. It is a lot easier to budget for your trip ahead of time if the trip cost already includes food and beverages. Does this mean you can never leave the resort and explore on your own? Of course not, but the cost of one or two meals out of the resort will be minimal compared to having to pay for all your meals and drinks out of pocket. This also allows you to travel with less cash on hand.
3. Fly midweek and travel during the off season
This is really two points in one, but they go hand in hand. After booking many reservations this is one thing that remains true for most destinations. On average you can find cheaper flights if you are willing to fly in the middle of the week. Your travel agent will know this and will usually steer you in this direction if you have a semi flexible travel schedule. Keep this in mind when requesting that vacation time at work! Many people will look at booking a trip from Friday to Friday, but this really limits your airfare possibilities. The off season will vary depending on your destination. Again, if you have a great travel agent they will know what the off season is for the particular trip you are interested in. Travelling during the off season saves you money on airfare, hotel, and tours. Depending on your destination, travelling during the off season can save you anywhere from 30-60%! That is a lot of money that you can put back into your vacation or save for your next trip.
4. Enjoy the free activities and amenities offered to you
Don’t feel like you have to take every paid tour and buy every souvenir that is offered to you. Most hotels will have several free amenities and activities even if they are not all inclusives. You don’t need to go everywhere with a guide to have a great vacation. Venture out on your own and you will have a much cheaper and often more exciting day of exploring. Most places will have local taxis that are knowledgeable and more than happy to take you where you want to go. Make sure you are negotiating the price for the trip upfront. The exception to this in my rule book is destinations where it is not safe to explore on your own. Your travel agent can advise you further on this depending on where you are going.
5. Take a cruise
Taking a cruise is one of the best ways to get the most out of your budget. Not only are cruises cheap, but they allow you to go to some of the most exclusive destinations without breaking the bank. Your cruise will include all of your meals and you can add on packages to include alcohol if you wish. Alcohol on a cruise is priced pretty competitively with most restaurants in the US so unless you are a big drinker I don’t usually advise purchasing the extra package as you most likely won’t use as much as you spent. Cruises also have the advantage of having on board entertainment and extras such as on board credit to spend depending on when and for how long you book. In general you can get the best cruise deals by planning ahead and booking 6+ months in advance. Cruise lines will sometimes run special deals that include discounts on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th guests and other freebies. A good travel agent can advise you when these promotions are happening so that you don’t miss out!
There are many more tips and tricks that I would love to share with you, but I cannot stress enough the importance of having a knowledgeable travel professional on your speed dial. I hope this has encouraged you to take that first step into booking your next travel destination. I would love to answer any questions you might have, and to help you book the vacation of your dreams.
Until next time!