Thanks to its ever-growing popularity and its sheer size, the Dominican Republic has become one of the top Caribbean destinations for excursions, culture, history, and adventure. Travelers to Punta Cana, in particular, get to enjoy a high number of things to do, which is a big reason why it’s such a popular Dominican Republic vacation spot. Read on to discover some of the best Dominican Republic attractions you can enjoy on your next trip and find out which are right for you.
Relax on the Beach
Not surprisingly, the beach is a focal point of many DR vacations. The island as a whole is famous for its beaches, but that’s especially true of the east coast (near Punta Cana). While the beaches here all share the white sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters that screensavers are made of, they differ in terms of activities, crowds and overall vibe.
Looking for a fun-filled, action-packed day at the beach? Look no further than Bavaro Beach. This tourist mecca over by Punta Cana features pretty much every activity you can think of – party boats, sailing, deep-sea fishing, windsurfing, jet skiing, snorkeling, kayaking, parasailing…all surrounded by world-class resorts, restaurants and nightlife. With so much to do, though, it should come as no surprise that Bavaro Beach can also get quite crowded, so it’s wise to show up early.
If you’re looking for something a little more low-key, however, then consider the beautiful Macao Beach. One of the best beaches in the Dominican for surfing, it also features powdery soft sand and beautiful azure waters, making it ideal for a lazy day at the beach as well.
Or, for the ultimate in beach relaxation, Juanillo Beach features pool-like water and silky-smooth sand, making it perfect for families.
I suggest trying out a few different beaches to get a feel for each one and to add some variety to your beach days. Just don’t forget the sunscreen.
Go Whale Watching
Whale watching season in the DR lasts from mid-December to April, when humpback whales cross over into the warm Dominican waters to mate and give birth. One of the best ways to whale watch in the Dominican is to visit the Sanctuary of the Humpback Whales in Samana, in the northeast corner of the island. Because the area is off-limits to boats (with the exception of select whale-watching boats), the whales and their calves show up in high numbers. And because they’re often there for mating season, you get to see male whales vie for the attention of females with tricks like fin and tail claps and giant leaps out of the water, a la Free Willy.
Check out the Pink Salt Pans
The salt mining town of Salinas is famous for its pink salt pans. The lovely pink color comes from the high concentration of marine salts, which, when coupled with the rapid evaporation caused by the high temperatures, results in an unforgettable scene. Experience the old-world charm of the salt mines themselves and be sure to check out nearby Salinas Beach, with its gorgeous mountain-backdrop and still, blue waters.
Recommended Accommodation Nearby: Salinas is tucked away in the southeast corner of the Dominican, making for a great day trip from Casa de Campo. For a wonderful nearby stay, be sure to check out Punta Aguila 28. This 6-bedroom villa features stunning modern architecture and a minimalist aesthetic that heightens the oceanfront experience and is at once exhilarating and romantic.
Visit La Zona Colonal
When Cristopher Columbus discovered the Americas, the first place he landed was the Dominican. Today, Santo Domingo still maintains the most robust and well-preserved colonial artefacts in all the Caribbean, and arguably even in Latin America, which rightfully earns it a designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
With plenty of buildings dating back to the 16th Century and a wide variety of restaurants, bars, cafés and galleries, the Colonial Zone maintains a strong sense of authenticity despite being one of the Dominican’s most popular tourist destinations, making it a local favorite as well. Notable highlights include Alcazar de Colon, the first castle ever constructed in the Americas and now one of the best museums in the Caribbean, the Church and Covenant of the Dominican Order, and Fortaleza Ozama, the oldest church and fortress, respectively, in the Americas.
Recommended Accommodation Nearby: A 2-hour drive away, Santo Domingo is a great day trip from Punta Cana. To get the best of Punta Cana, I recommend Corales 28 in the Puntacana Resort & Club. A perfect blend of comfort, style, and luxury, this 7-bedroom villa features a main house and guest house separated by a large set of infinity pools that overlook the stunning Corales Beach. The resort itself was designed by Oscar de la Renta is one of the most luxurious in the Caribbean, with award-winning dining and entertainment.
Ascend the 27 Waterfalls
Thanks to its large landmass and diverse landscapes, the Dominican is home to several different waterfalls that tourists can ascend. The 27 Waterfalls tour in Damajagua near Puerto Plata is especially popular – and with good reason. Visitors can hike up no less than 27 different waterfalls, and from the top of each they can zip line, cliff dive or take a natural waterslide down to the bottom. The tour is great for the whole family (though children less than 8 can only climb the first waterfall), and the tour guides are especially fun.
Take a Cigar Tasting Tour
The Dominican is home to world-renowned cigar brands like Montecristo, Romeo Y Julieta, La Aurora, and Don Lucas. Whether you’re a casual enjoyer or a serious connoisseur, a cigar tasting, and factory tour is sure to seriously step up your knowledge and appreciation. The Tabacalera de Garcia Cigar Factory in La Romana, which manufactures Montecristo and Romeo y Julietta, is the largest hand-made cigar factory in the world. Its tour shows you how the tobacco is selected, conditioned, classified, blended, and finally hand rolled, aged, and tested. After seeing all the work that goes into it, you’ll never complain about the price of a cigar again.
Ride in a Cable Car
El Teleferico is a gondola located on the Isabel de Torres Mountain south of Puerto Plata that has become a Dominican Republic landmark. Unique in the Caribbean, the gondola can be used as a legitimate source of transportation, but it is celebrated primarily for the outstanding views it offers to visitors, particularly as they approach the “Christ the Redeemer” statue at the top.
Visit the Amber Museum
If you remember the scene in Jurassic Park where they explain how they got the dino-DNA (or even just remember the park owner’s cane), then maybe you’ll get a kick out of the Amber Museum’s, which provided the film set with that very cane. The museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of amber, including a live demonstration of its formation, and has an impressive assortment of amber pieces on display, as well plenty of unique jewelry available for sale in the gift shop.
Enjoy Fine Dining
The DR is home to some of the best food in the Caribbean thanks to a food scene that has exploded over the last decade. It is now home to one-of-a-kind restaurants like La Yola in the Punta Cana Resort. Designed by Oscar de la Renta, it offers guests the experience of eating on a yola, or small boat, and includes a glass-bottom floor and pam-thatched roof. Or, for an avant-garde twist, visit La Palapa by Eden Roc in Cap Cana, where an international team brings forward Italian and Asian fusion specialties in a gorgeous, Mediterranean-inspired ambiance.
Take a Guided Hike
With such diverse landscapes, the wealth of hiking opportunities is really something that sets the Dominican apart from other Caribbean destinations. Taking a guided hike allows anyone, regardless of their skill or fitness level, to experience the very best of these lush landscapes while also gaining privileged knowledge of the local flora, fauna, and culture. Popular destinations near Punta Cana include the Anamaya Mountains, a beautiful and verdant mountain range; Cascada Blaca, an untouched and serine set of waterfalls; and Los Haitises National Park, which has amazing hiking and boating tours that range from the leisurely to the adventurous.
Learn to Kiteboard and Surf
With its smooth, calm water, the DR is the perfect place to learn to either kiteboard or surf (or both!). Instructors specialize in teaching first timers the basics and making sure it’s a fun experience, and your Rental Escapes concierge can be sure to pair you up with an awesome instructor who perfectly meets your skill level.
Book a Beachfront Villa
Of course, the very best way to experience the DR is with your very own beachfront villa. From personalized meals from your private chef to being steps away from the beach at any time, a beachfront villa will provide you with the views, convenience and above all memories that will make your next Dominican trip the best yet. Rental Escapes has the finest selection of beachfront villas in popular Dominican destinations like Punta Cana, Cap Cana, and Casa de Campo, and they all include award-winning concierge service that can help you book any of the activities listed above and more. Chat with one of our friendly reservation agents today and discover the perfect villa for you and your group.