The Dominican Republic is a country located on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. It is the second-largest country in the Caribbean, and it is known for its beautiful beaches, rich culture and history, and diverse natural landscapes. Here is our guide to the best things to do in the Dominican Republic.
1. Relax beneath palm trees at Playa Rincón
Visiting this country’s finest beach, where you can relax beneath palm trees, swim in turquoise waters and enjoy freshly caught fish grilled at a waterside shack is one of the best things to do in the Dominican Republic.
One of the main attractions of Playa Rincón is its unspoiled natural beauty. The beach is surrounded by lush vegetation, including palm trees and tropical flowers. It is also home to a variety of wildlife, including birds and reptiles. The clear, turquoise waters are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. The beach is also a popular spot for surfing and kiteboarding.
Before you set off on your trip to the Dominican Republic, explore our list of tips for backpacking Central America.
- Best for the sense of adventure: El Valle Lodge
- Best for backpackers: Hostel La Ballena
Where to stay near Playa Rincón:
2. Listen to Cuban son musicians
Buena Vista Social Club-style son clubs are prolific in Santo Domingo. Cuban son is a popular style of music that originated in eastern Cuba in the early 20th century. It is a fusion of Spanish and African rhythms and is characterized by its use of the guitar, percussion, and vocals.
In the Dominican Republic, Cuban son has also had a significant influence on the country's music and culture. Many Dominican musicians and bands have incorporated elements of Cuban son into their music, and the style has become very popular in the country.
3. See the pristine El Limón waterfall
Hidden deep within the Samaná mountains, but accessible on horseback, this pristine 150m waterfall is one of the loveliest spots on the island. The waterfall is located within the El Limón National Park, which covers an area of approximately 8,000 hectares and is home to a variety of plants and animals, including many species of birds, reptiles, and mammals.
In addition to the waterfall, the El Limón National Park is home to a number of other attractions, including hiking trails, picnic areas, and lookout points. The park is a great destination for nature lovers, hikers, and anyone who enjoys being outdoors.
4. Walk in Constanza valley
A circular Shangri-la valley set deep in the heart of the Caribbean’s tallest mountains. There are several attractions in the Constanza Valley that are worth visiting, including the town of Constanza itself, which has a number of historic buildings and landmarks.
Other attractions in the valley include the Salto de Jimenoa waterfall, which is a popular spot for hiking and picnicking, and the Lago Enriquillo, which is a large lake that is home to a variety of wildlife, including crocodiles and flamingos.
- Best for unique design: La Fuente House Hostel
- Best for families: Hotel Altocerro
Where to stay in Constanza:
5. Surfing at Cabarete beaches - one of the best things to do in the Dominican Republic
This lively beach town boasts the best windsurfing and kitesurfing in the Caribbean. Cabarete is a small town located on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, in the province of Puerto Plata. It is known for its beautiful beaches and is a popular destination for tourists, particularly those interested in water sports such as kiteboarding, windsurfing, and surfing.
There are several beaches in and around Cabarete that are worth visiting, including Playa Cabarete, Playa Encuentro, Playa Preciosa, Playa Kite Beach.
- Best for the ocean views: Velero Beach Resort
- Best for surfing: El Encuentro Surf Lodge
Where to stay in Cabarete:
6. Party at Santo Domingo Malecón
A scenic, 10km-long outdoor boardwalk and party zone dotted with music-blaring discos and bustling bars and cafés. The Malecón is a popular waterfront promenade in Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic. It stretches along the Caribbean Sea for several kilometres and is a popular destination for both locals and tourists.
The Malecón is lined with a variety of attractions, including restaurants, bars, cafes, and parks. It is a popular spot for strolling, jogging, and bike riding, and there are many benches and seating areas along the promenade where people can relax and enjoy the views of the sea.
- Best for luxury stays: Catalonia Santo Domingo
- Best for location: Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel & Casino
Where to stay in Santo Domingo Malecón:
7. Buy some amber souvenirs
Unbeatable as an authentic, locally produced souvenir, this semiprecious stone is stunning when set in jewellery. There are several shops and markets in the Dominican Republic where you can purchase amber souvenirs, including jewelry, figurines, and decorative objects. The most common type of amber found in the country is known as "Dominican amber," which is known for its bright yellow or orange color.
When shopping for amber souvenirs in the Dominican Republic, it is important to be cautious and make sure that you are purchasing authentic amber and not a synthetic or imitation product. It is also a good idea to shop around and compare prices to ensure that you are getting a fair price.
8. Watch a baseball game
See the best young players in the world before they’re whisked off to the US to make it big. Baseball was introduced to the Dominican Republic in the late 19th century by American sailors and quickly gained popularity, especially in the eastern and central regions of the country.
The Dominican Republic has a professional baseball league, the Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana (LIDOM), which consists of six teams that compete against each other in a regular season and playoffs.
In addition to the professional league, baseball is also popular at the amateur level in the Dominican Republic, with many youth and adult leagues and teams throughout the country. The sport is played in schools and parks and is a common pastime for people of all ages.
9. Experience local nature at Lago Enriquillo
A saltwater lake the size of Manhattan, populated by crocodiles, rhinoceros, iguanas and tens of thousands of colourful tropical birds. It is the largest lake in the Caribbean and is known for its unique characteristics, including its high salt content, which makes it inhospitable to most aquatic life.
One of the main attractions of Lago Enriquillo is the opportunity to observe and photograph the crocodiles that live in the lake. There are several tour operators that offer boat tours of the lake, which allow visitors to get a close-up view of the crocodiles and other wildlife.
Explore the area of the salty Lake Enriquillo, the biggest lake in the Dominican Republic, and go swimming in natural pools on this Lake Enriquillo Boat Tour.
10. Visit Museo del Hombre Dominicano in Santo Domingo
This impressive museum, one of four in Santo Domingo’s Plaza de la Cultura, houses an outstanding collection of Taino artefacts, plus exhibits on the island’s African heritage.
Some of the main exhibits at the Museo del Hombre Dominicano include a collection of indigenous Taíno artifacts, including pottery, tools, and jewellery. It also exhibits on the history of the Afro-Caribbean population in the Dominican Republic, including their contributions to music and other cultural traditions. The museum also has a number of temporary exhibits that focus on specific themes or events in the country's history.
11. Take part in La Vega Carnival
Each February, La Vega transforms itself with the biggest, wildest party in this Carnival-crazed nation. The La Vega Carnival is an annual celebration held in La Vega. It is one of the largest and most popular carnivals in the country, attracting thousands of visitors from all over the world.
The main event is the Grand Parade, in which participants dress up in elaborate costumes and march through the streets of La Vega, accompanied by music and floats. The carnival also includes a variety of other events, such as concerts, parties, and cultural exhibitions. The La Vega Carnival is a time for celebration and enjoyment, and it is an important part of the cultural heritage of the Dominican Republic.
12. Have a merengue dance lesson
The stuttering, fast-paced national music has been around in various forms for the past three hundred years. Merengue is a type of dance and music that originated in the Dominican Republic. It is a popular form of music and dance in Latin America and the Caribbean, and it is often associated with the La Vega Carnival in the Dominican Republic.
Merengue is a fast-paced, energetic dance that is typically performed to a 2/4 time signature. The dance involves a series of steps and turns, and it is usually performed by a couple. One person leads and the other follows, with both dancers moving their hips and feet in time to the music.
13. Explore Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo’s compact treasure-trove of colonial architecture. La Zona Colonial, also known as the Colonial Zone or Ciudad Colonial, is a historic neighbourhood located in the capital city of Santo Domingo. It is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the Americas, and it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Zona Colonial is home to a number of important landmarks and cultural attractions, including the Catedral Primada de America, which is the oldest cathedral in the Americas. The Alcazar de Colon, which is a castle and museum that was once the residence of Christopher Columbus's son, Diego; and the Fortaleza Ozama, which is a 16th-century fortress that has been restored and is now open to the public.
- Best for comfort: Luca Hotel
- Best for modern stays: Hodelpa Caribe Colonial
Where to stay in Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo:
14. Whale watching - one of the essential things to do in the Dominican Republic
One of the world’s great natural spectacles takes place every winter in Samaná bay when thousands of humpback whales arrive to breed, give birth and fill the memory cards of the watching tourists’ cameras. The Dominican Republic is home to a variety of whale species, including humpback whales, which migrate to the area between January and March to breed and give birth.
There are a number of tour operators in the Dominican Republic that offer whale watching excursions, typically by boat. These tours typically depart from the towns of Samana or Las Galeras, and they offer the opportunity to see whales up close and observe their behaviour in the wild. Many tours also include other activities, such as snorkeling, swimming, and visiting nearby islands.
Enjoy Whale Watching Day Trip full of excitement visiting the whale watching sanctuary in Samana Bay on a journey through the sea to watch them swim , play and sometimes even jump and see their young calves.
15. Have a relaxing time at Punta Cana
Visiting Punta Cana should be on everybody's list of things to do in the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana is a popular tourist destination located on the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic. It is known for its beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, as well as its luxury resorts and golf courses.
Punta Cana is home to a number of popular tourist attractions, including the Punta Cana Beach, which is a long stretch of white sandy beach lined with palm trees; the Bavaro Beach, which is known for its clear blue waters and coral reefs; and the Cap Cana Marina, which is a popular spot for fishing and boating.
Visit Isla Saona, currently the most popular excursion offered in the Dominican Republic. Explore this quintessential tropical beach with swaying palm trees, bone-white sand, and lapping turquoise waters on this Catamaran Boat tour from Punta Cana.
- Best for hospitality: Impressive Punta Cana
- Best for budget: Costa Love Aparta Hotel
Where to stay in Punta Cana:
16. Go scuba diving at Playa Dorada
Playa Dorada is home to a number of hotels, resorts, and other accommodations, making it a popular destination for travellers looking for a relaxing beach vacation. The area is also home to a number of restaurants, bars, and cafes, as well as shopping centres and other amenities.
In addition to its beaches, Playa Dorada is also known for its recreational activities, including golf, tennis, and water sports. The area is home to a number of golf courses, as well as a variety of water sports rental companies that offer activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and jet skiing.
17. Taste local rum
Among other authentic things to do in the Dominican Republic is tasting local rum. Rum is an important part of the culture and history of the Dominican Republic. The country has a long tradition of producing rum, and it is known for its high-quality rum that is produced using a variety of techniques and methods.
There are a number of rum distilleries located in the Dominican Republic, which produce a range of different styles of rum, including light, amber, and dark rum. The country's rum is typically made from molasses, a byproduct of sugar production, and it is aged in oak barrels to give it a rich, complex flavour.
Discover how Dominican sugar cane is transformed into delicious rum on this tour of the Ron Barceló rum factory.
Another great rum destination in Central America is Puerto Rico, so you might be also interested in exploring our guide to the world's best rum in Puerto Rico while travelling in this part of the world.
18. Learn how to make chocolate in Choco Museo
The Choco Museo is located in the city of Santo Domingo. It offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the history of chocolate, how it is made, and how it is used in different cultures around the world. It also has a number of interactive exhibits and hands-on activities, such as chocolate tastings and workshops on how to make chocolate.
In addition to its educational exhibits, the Choco Museo also has a gift shop that sells a variety of chocolate-related products, including chocolate bars, truffles, and other confections.
Find more information about the chocolate industry in our guide to life-changing chocolate in the Dominican Republic.
It should be noted that apart from its exotic beauty Central America is also one of the cheapest destinations to travel. Read our guide to budget trips around the world and find more places which combine excellent leisure activities with accessibility.
If you prefer to plan and book your trip to the Dominican Republic without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.
Ready for a trip to Dominican Republic? Check out the snapshot The Rough Guide to the Dominican Republic. If you travel further in the Dominican Republic, read more about the best time to go and the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic. For inspiration use the itineraries from The Rough Guide to the Dominican Republic. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.
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