Size-wise, the DR isn’t daunting – but it does an awful lot with the available space. Our Grand Tour is a jam-packed, two-week route around the headline acts, while the other two itineraries can be done in a shorter space of time – or at a more leisurely pace – with no need to stay the night at every stop.
Allow two weeks for this whistle-stop tour, taking in distinctly wild, remote-feeling landscapes and the largest city in the Caribbean.
1 Punta Cana and Bávaro
Start at the country’s largest resort zone, which offers a good selection of inexpensive, independent hotels nestled amid the all-inclusives.
2 Santo Domingo
Give yourself at least three days to see the capital, prioritizing the Zona Colonial, but taking in at least one of the museums, restaurants or parks beyond the old city.
3 Samaná Peninsula
The Samaná Peninsula is mesmerizingly picturesque and perfect for independent tourists, with loads of great, affordable places to stay and unforgettable whale-watching.
One of the premier spots in the country for watersports, Cabarete can lay claim to near-perfect kiteboarding conditions.
The DR’s second city has plenty going on and combines a lively going-out scene with a laidback charm.
6 Cordillera Central
Pick your base for hiking in the “Dominican Alps” – Jarabacoa, the town best set up for tourism; San José de las Matas, a sleepy mountain village with breathtaking views of the mountains; or Constanza, a lush, scenic valley.
7 Lago Enriquillo
Enormous Lago Enriquillo is the headline attraction in the remote southwest, home to a large population of American crocodiles and tropical birds.
Travel from the south to the north coast via the Cordillera Central, the largest mountain range in the Caribbean, taking in the DR’s two main cities.
1 Santo Domingo
If short on time in the capital, restrict yourself to the Zona Colonial, with its historic sights, excellent restaurants and nightlife.
Right in the thick of the Cordillera Central, Jarabacoa gives easy access to whitewater rafting, hiking trails and four memorable waterfalls.
At 1300m above sea level, breathtakingly beautiful Constanza is the highest populated mountain valley in the country and another great base for hiking.
The country’s second city offers an entirely different experience to the capital – set against a mountainous backdrop and with its roots in agriculture, it’s less cosmopolitan and less urban but rich in cultural heritage.
5 Puerto Plata and Playa Dorada
Playa Dorada has passed the mantle of premier DR beach resort to Punta Cana, but with marvellous beaches and a cultural, history-rich neighbour in Puerto Plata, it still has the edge over its southern rival.
A pleasant little place with a set of inviting beaches, more tranquil than Puerto Plata to the west and Cabarete to the east, this charming resort town is a fine place to unwind. From here there are regular buses back to Santo Domingo, four hours away.
It’s at the heart of the package tourism industry, but the southeast has gorgeous, little-visited beaches, virtually tourist-free towns and a ferry link to the Samaná Peninsula.
1 Boca de Yuma
Just 40km down the coast from Punta Cana but not connected directly by public transport, Boca de Yuma may only have a pin-prick of a beach in comparison – but its end-of-the-road appeal makes up for it.
2 Playas Limón and Nisibón
These long stretches of pristine beach at the rugged edges of the Cordillera Oriental are two of the southeast’s hidden highlights.
3 El Seibo
This pleasant little town is as much about the journey as the destination, the twisting road from Miches passing through the most scenic part of the unspoilt Cordillera Oriental.
4 Parque Nacional Los Haitises
Few travellers actually spend the night at this unmissable national park, but they’re missing out on one of the most memorable hotels in the country: Paraíso de Caño Hondo.
5 Las Galeras
Catch the small ferry boat from Sabana de la Mar and head straight from Samaná to Las Galeras, a sleepy place full of fantastic independent hotels.
6 Playa Rincón and Playa Frontón
While in Las Galeras make at least one boat trip out to one of these outlying beaches – Playa Rincón with its 2km-curve of sand or isolated Playa Frontón, protected by black cliffs.