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!