The Dominican Republic is a mixed bag of cloud-scraping mountains, crumbling colonial architecture, brochure-worthy beaches and desert scrublands. Though it’s most famous for the all-inclusive beach resorts of Punta Cana, anyone looking to escape the sands will never be bored with jungle treks, white water rafting, lively towns and even fascinating museums to choose from. Here are the things you shouldn’t miss when visiting this vibrant Caribbean nation.
Want to guarantee rain won’t stop play? Golfing in the Dominican Republic means long days in the sunshine, year-round, on one of nearly 30 top-notch golf courses. Don’t expect boring, holiday-standard rounds either. There are countless adventurous that make the most of the country’s extraordinary geography. Try the Lakes Barcelo Golf Course lined with mangroves or the oceanfront Teeth of the Dog, designed by Pete Dye.
December to March is peak season for the Dominican Republic, but not just for tourists. The months are also ideal to spot the thousands of majestic humpback whales who come to the area of Samana to mate near the coast. It’s one of the most awe-inspiring sights imaginable to spy the whales leaping through the year and ‘clapping’ with their tails to attract females. Head out on a boat trip and keep your fingers crossed.
With rainforests, mountains and waterfalls all within reach, it would be a shame if you only see the Dominican Republic’s beaches, beautiful though they are. Instead, try white water rafting on Rio Yaque del Norte – twisting and winding through frothing canyons –horse ride through the rainforest or fly over treetops at the Samana Treetop Zipline course. You’ll really feel like you’ve earned that pina colada on the sunlounger.
Sultry Santo Domingo throngs with life, part-chaotic urban metropolis, part-blissful beach resort. Zona Colonial is its beating heart, with cobbled streets leading to stately monasteries, humidors serving cigars on every corner and some of the oldest buildings in the Western hemisphere. Throw in exceptional restaurants, enthralling museums and a booming club scene, and you’ll discover Santo Domingo is no ordinary Caribbean capital.
Lapped by both the Caribbean Sea in the south and the Atlantic Ocean in the north, thrill seekers don’t need to go far to have fun on the water. Most hotels offer paddle boards, banana boats and kayaks but if you’re keen to kitesurf or windsurf, chilled-out Cabarete is the only place to be. Known for its warm water, steady strong winds and four-mile-long (6.4km) white beach, it’s a magnet for watersport obsessives and beginners.
With a mere 800 miles (1,300km) of coastline to choose from, you’re guaranteed to find the beach of your dreams in the Dominican Republic. Some wrap round sleep fishing villages with boats bobbing in the water, others have coves once commandeered by pirates or wild dunes hugging the coastline. The most popular are tourist-friendly tropical wonderlands of white sand, palm trees and glossy, clear water made for snorkeling and swimming.
Some countries have waterfalls but the Dominican Republic has a staggering series of 27 falls and rock pools in Puerto Plata that should be a must-do for any nature-loving visitor. Sign up for a tour and you’ll be strapped into a lifejacket and helmet before setting off on a watery assault course to remember – taking in jungle climbs, waterfall sliding and plunging into the pools fed by each torrent.
Music is everywhere in the Dominican Republic as the country’s bars, shops and streets pulsate to merengue, a mix of Latin percussion, piano, African drums, brass and traditional instruments. Hear it at its best as one of the many festivals and concerts that happen throughout the year including February’s carnival or the two-week merengue festival in July.
Treat yourself to a holiday souvenir you’ll still love after your tan fades by picking up some amber, the national gem of the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Plata, the Museo Del Ámbar (Amber Museum) offers tours in English and Spanish and a collection of rare amber exhibits, often featuring prehistoric fossils. If you’re in Santo Domingo, head to the Amber World Museum instead, which explains amber’s origins, the history of mining and how amber is turned into a covetable jewel.
Now that you’ve seen what the Dominican Republic’s got to offer, book your stay now through Culture Trip. Check out the best hotels in the Dominican Republic and the best resorts in the country now. For more things to do once you get out there, read how to make the most of your stay.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Shimon Brathwaite.
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