Our must-see places to visit in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic offers so much more than incredible beaches, stunning resorts and world-class golf courses. Take the time to veer off the beaten track and you’ll discover a rich culture encompassing influences from around the world and a diverse range of extraordinary experiences that will surprise and delight. We’ve rounded up our favourite places to visit in the Dominican Republic to help you define your ultimate Dominican trip.
Best 7 places to visit in the Dominican Republic
1. Santo Domingo
First up in our shortlist of places to visit in the Dominican Republic is the capital, Santo Domingo is a sprawling metropolis that would find itself at home in any part of Latin America or even Asia, given the vast number of motorbikes buzzing around. However, as you approach the Colonial Zone, with its 16th century streets, plaza’s, cathedral and fort the unique identity of the city is revealed. Home to the first cathedral in the Americas, as well as the first paved street, it was also here that the Spanish based their New World operations – as you can imagine, there’s a rich history to discover. It’s not all about the past; this is a modern and vibrant city with fantastic restaurants, bars and bouncing nightlife – it has even featured in movies such as the Godfather part II.
2. Samaná Peninsula
From January to March this finger of land jutting out from the northern shore of the Dominican Republic is the go-to destination for whale spotting. Huge numbers of humpbacks gather in the warm, aquamarine waters, swimming huge cliffs, hidden caves and virgin beaches, accessible only from the sea. Fabulous snorkelling and diving opportunities present themselves here, joining waterfalls, hiking, zip-lining and horse riding inland at El Valle.
3. Santiago de Caballeros
About as far from the ocean as you can be, Santiago de Caballeros feels very different to the rest of the country and is well off the beaten path for most foreign travellers. With its neo-gothic cathedral and Victorian architecture, the bustling streets, markets and plazas are great fun to explore. At the Centro Leon you will find the best archaeological museum in the Dominican, alongside art galleries showcasing incredible talent, while overlooking the city is the Monumento de Santiago, dedicated to the heroes of the Dominican Restoration War. Sports fan? Then this the place to to watch baseball.
4. Cabarete and Sosúa
Welcome to the party towns of the Dominican Republic. This dynamic stretch of coast has become a mecca for all types of water sports enthusiasts, particularly kite surfers. Take a lesson, or just watch in awe as countless kites navigate each other, doing their best not to get tangled, launching their riders high into the air. There are quieter beaches to relax on too, as well as some fantastic hotels, from luxurious resorts to simple lodges offering sunrise yoga classes on the beach. Travel a short distance inland and you can even spend the night in a transparent bubble, relaxing in the embrace of nature under incredible starlit skies.
5. Puerto Plata
Christened Puerto Plata or the ‘Silver Port’ by Christopher Colombus as a reference to the way in which the sun reflects off the bay, this is one of the most visited towns of the Dominican Republic. Today, this stunning little fort stands watch over passing cruise ships instead of ancient galleons, but it remains a great place to spend a day or two exploring the sights. You’ll find cigar factories and coffee houses, chocolate shops and a great music scene. However, you should also know that this is one of the most popular ports for cruise ships in the Caribbean, so avoiding their arrival is key to ensuring a pleasant and stress-free experience. Our experts recommend staying in one of the fabulous beach hotels outside the city and popping into the port during a quiet time.
6. Punta Cana
Punta Cana is a 475km2 expanse of land with a 32km stretch of coastline that is specifically designated for hotels and residences. While it is part of the Dominican Republic, there are times when you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a separate state. The area includes airport (which you might well fly in and out from), and gated security measures as you enter by road, which combine to create a safe and sanitised area with stunning beaches and beautiful hotels. Our specialists have sussed out the very best of what’s on offer here, so if you want a luxurious, no hassle, breezy beach holiday then Punta Cana is hard to beat.
7. Casa de Campo
Last but not least in our places to visit in the Dominican Republic is Casa de Campo. In theory this is a single hotel, but the property is so huge that it really deserves to be mentioned as a region. With a vast range of villas, three world-class golf courses, a fabulous beach, several pools, tennis courts, horses, polo grounds, a shooting range, more than 20 restaurants, a fuel station, fire service and even its own security team, think of Casa de Campo as an established town. There’s not much in the way of culture here, but it is wonderfully easy destination if all you want to do is relax in stunning surroundings. Missing a spot of edginess? Check out the nearby town of La Romana and get your local fix.