If you are looking for a little taste of paradise then look no further! I would like to share with you some of the most beautiful and interesting places to visit in the Dominican Republic! Beaches, caves, restaurants, bars, shopping malls, adventure, everything you need for a perfect vacation! I was living the dream in this amazing country and want to write about all the fab things I experienced so that you can try them too!
Most people stick to the 5 star resorts when they visit but if you want to truly experience DR then I suggest going a little bit off the beaten track. Of course, as with everywhere you travel, stay safe. The Dominican people are very friendly and will make you feel at home however, there is a lot of crime and many people do carry guns. That being said, I was there for one year and never had a problem. I was careful not to wear too much jewellery and not to show my phone or wallet in public and this seemed to work just fine for me. I think if you stay alert and sensible you will have a wonderful time there.
The capital of the Dominican Republic is Santo Domingo, now, if you’re wondering what Santo Domingo has to offer, it is a vibrant and exciting city! With a major international airport, easy connections to the rest of the country and lots to see and do, Santo Domingo is really great.
Shopping malls, parks, cinemas and a great nightlife with many expensive and fancy restaurants and bars. The people here are glamorous and a night on the town requires smart dress and some very high heels! Of course, as with any city you can also find some more relaxed, down to earth places to enjoy a meal or simply watch the world go by, if that’s more your style.
Firstly, you have to visit the Colonial Zone where you will find many museums, restaurants and shops, this makes it the most popular place to visit in Santo Domingo! With so much history this is the place where you really feel the old Spanish influence. Beautiful old buildings are the setting for trendy bars and it’s so easy to spend a couple of days in this part of town. I’d recommend visiting all of the historical places of interest first, followed by lunch in one of the many restaurants. You can then do some shopping for local treasures such as Larimar Jewellery, a beautiful blue stone found only in DR, or maybe some fantastic artwork painted by the street vendors. Follow with dinner and drinks and keep in mind that most of the bars have a “Happy Hour” with buy one get one free drinks every evening, usually from 5pm-8pm! Segafredo is a hot spot and has great happy hour deals and some very strong cocktails! A favourite of mine is the Cosmopolitan, delicious!
After you’ve enjoyed all there is to offer in the Colonial Zone, the first little hidden gem I have for you in Santo Domingo is Los Tres Ojos (translated to The Three Eyes). About 20 minutes drive from the city, these hidden caves are definitely worth a visit. When you enter the park it doesn’t seem like there is much to see but as you walk down the steps into the caves it will take your breath away. You won’t need more than two hours here but it is a lovely way to spend an afternoon outside of the main city centre. The entry is 200 pesos each and I wouldn’t recommend paying one of the “guides” at the entrance as they will try to charge you USD20. There’s a little boat inside that takes you to the “fourth eye” and this is only a further 25 pesos each. Plus you really can enjoy the caves on your own without someone telling you all about them, in my opinion!
The second (and third) is Mirador del Sur Park. This park is popular with locals but that’s why you should visit, no tourists! Hire a bike for 300 pesos or simply stroll with an ice cream and enjoy the pretty surroundings. It gets very busy with locals at the weekend and you’ll see many families enjoying a picnic here in the afternoon. This place also has a little secret … there is a cave here too, but this one has been transformed into a club! La Guacara Taina is a huge underground club with local music and costs around 300-500 pesos each to get in. You will love it I’m sure! I’ve never experienced anything like it! It gets started late and although the park is safe during the day it can be a little dangerous at night so take care when arriving and leaving, no flashing around your wallet or phone for example and be sure to take a registered taxi home.
There are some great shopping malls to enjoy in the city too. I wasn’t expecting to see so many but in Santo Domingo within a few blocks there are several big malls! Agora Mall is my favourite, this one has lots of the high street stores along with some other local brands. There’s also a great food court and a cinema, in fact, you find these in most of the malls. You’ll also find there’s a McDonalds and Krispy Kreme in all of the malls too!
Now, on to the obvious Caribbean stuff, the beaches! As you can imagine, this place has many incredible beaches but I first want to share my personal favourite place with you because it is a little bit of a secret … sssshhhhh!
Cabarete on the North Coast of the island is my ultimate paradise getaway. It’s the kind of place you feel at home immediately! A small, friendly town full of people from all over the world and home to the famous Kite Beach, the BEST place to Kite Surf, or learn to Kite Surf if you are a beginner like me! Stay at one of the hotels along the beach front (some for as little as USD 40 per night) and enjoy everything Cabarete has to offer. For me, the perfect day is spent lounging at Lazy Dog, one of the many bars along the beach, with a cocktail and a great book! And while I do this my boyfriend hires a windsurf for about USD 30 and enjoys the water. In the evening you will be spoilt for choice with delicious food from all of the restaurants, what’s even better is that you eat on the beach with candlelight, how romantic! After dinner is when the party gets started here. The quiet bars become clubs and you will dance the night away Dominican style, Meringue or Bachata! Head to club Ojo where I guarantee someone will be dancing on the bar (it may even be me!)
Next up, close to Cabarete is Monkey Jungle in Sosua. If you’re looking for a little adventure I absolutely love this place and I cannot recommend it enough! First of all, it’s run as a charity to fund a medical centre for the local people who need care and all of the proceeds go to them, secondly, it’s so much fun! The cost is about USD 60 each and for this you can meet and feed the cutest little squirrel monkeys and then, take an incredible journey over the jungle on zip lines! Fantastic! I was terrified at first as I have never done anything like this, but the staff were amazing and helped to relax us before we got started. The first zip line is slow so you get used to how it feels and by the third fast one you don’t want to stop! I have never felt so alive!! There is a bar area too so if there’s anyone who wants to come along but doesn’t want to zip line they can relax with a cool drink while the thrill seekers have fun! The guides will also take loads of pictures so at the end you can buy a CD for about USD 15 to remind you of your super day!
Isla Saona is a beautiful Island about 30 minutes boat ride from the coast of Bayahibe, Dominican Republic. It’s very popular with tourists and locals alike and there are many organised tours that you can take here, usually going by catamaran and returning by a speed boat. As I was living there and not staying in one of the nearby hotels, I simply drove to Bayahibe and hired a captain and his speed boat for a few hours! He charged USD 85 which is a good price for 2 people. The tours are usually around USD 40-50 each at least.
The boat ride was a little bumpy but the scenery was stunning and I had the chance to take a lot of pictures. We stopped for a quick swim half way there in a lovely clear natural pool, we even found a Starfish! When we arrived at the Island it truly felt like a little paradise, a few small bars serving drinks (all included in the tour price) and some music playing while everyone relaxes, just perfect! We found a quiet spot on the island and just spent a few hours laying in the shade of a palm tree, bliss!
Las Terrenas is in the Samaná province of the Dominican Republic and is only around a 2 hour drive from the capital, Santo Domingo. This part of the island has some of the nicest beaches in the world, I fell in love with the place immediately. The centre of Las Terrenas isn’t very big, there are really only 3 main streets and you can easily walk around them all in no time. The food is great and everything is reasonably priced too, we never spent more than USD 30-40 on a meal for two and that always included a few drinks!
To my surprise, the beaches weren’t busy at all. I love going to the beach and feeling like I have the whole place to myself and that’s exactly how it is here, it’s heaven. Just sit back, feel the soft warm breeze and listen to the sound of the waves. That’s paradise for me.
Have you visited the Dominican Republic? What did you think?