Dominican Republic Holiday Planning Guide
Sharing the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, friendly Dominican Republic offers two distinct coastlines, one bathed by the Caribbean Sea and the other by the Atlantic Ocean. Nearly 1,600 km (1,000 mi) of palm-shaded beaches figure highly on most Dominican Republic itineraries, allowing visitors to design their vacation around a range of water-based activities. The sun-kissed country benefits from pleasant temperatures throughout the year, so it's no surprise that holidays in Dominican Republic remain a popular choice for visitors from distant and colder corners of the world. A big producer of coffee, cocoa, rum, sugarcane, and tobacco, the country provides a vibrant cultural experience in multicultural cities and quaint countryside.
Places to Visit in Dominican Republic
Regions of Dominican RepublicSamana Province
: Old fishing villages inhabited by the descendants of Spanish colonists, African slaves, and indigenous Taino people have been gradually transformed into popular tourist resorts in this province.Puerto Plata Province
: The scenic coastline of this northern province is a popular choice among water sports enthusiasts looking for an active Dominican Republic holiday.
Cities in Dominican RepublicSanto Domingo
: A visit to the oldest European settlement in the Americas provides an encompassing insight into the country's colorful past.Punta Cana
: Facing both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, this coastal town is known for its silky white-sand beaches and modern, all-inclusive, family-friendly resorts that place it highly on Dominican Republic itineraries.Puerto Plata
: This important trading port famous for its beachfront resorts boasts a 16th-century fort, the only aerial tramway in the Caribbean, and a museum housing a large collection of amber gems.Bayahibe
: This former fishing village turned beach resort with a buzzing nightlife scene offers plenty of opportunities for scuba diving and water sports.Jarabacoa
: A trip to this town nestled in the foothills of a mountain provides a window into the country's rural life, something few typical Dominican Republic holidays do.La Romana
: Thanks to its modern airport, this city offers visitors from across the world access to some of the country's most popular beachfront resorts.
Popular Dominican Republic Tourist Attractions
Isla Saona: Grab your snorkeling kit, hop on a boat, and head to the white-sand beaches of this tropical oasis lined with shady palm trees.Bavaro Beach
: This wide sun-drenched beach invites you to enjoy a laidback Dominican Republic vacation with a cold drink in one, and a book in the other hand; it's also ideal for sailing or snorkeling.Macao Beach
: One of the country's more secluded beaches provides a quiet spot to soak up some sun and swim while admiring scenic views of the coastline and its cliffs.Ocean World Adventure Park, Marina and Casino
: This adventure park/casino allows you to swim with dolphins and pet sea lions during the day, and attend costumed song-and-dance shows at night.Isla Catalina
: In addition to great snorkeling opportunities, this picturesque island offers water rides and tasty seafood snacks for you to enjoy on a Dominican Republic holiday.Damajaqua Cascades (27 Waterfalls)
: Witness the power of nature during your Dominican Republic tour at this water-carved limestone corridor harboring 27 falls and pools.Catedral Primada de America
: Immerse yourself in the area's rich history and admire the magnificent architecture of the first cathedral ever built in the Americas.Hoyo Azul
: Bring your snorkeling gear to the brightly colored pool of this water-filled cavern, reachable by a road snaking its way through orchid gardens.Manati Park Bavaro
: This attractions allows you to pet, feed, and observe the stingrays as they move along the shallow sandbars.Zona Colonial
: Incorporating a host of historic churches, forts, and museums, this World Heritage Site figures highly on every Dominican Republic itinerary as the oldest permanent settlement in the New World.
Planning a Dominican Republic Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Dominican Republic with Kids
Longs stretches of white-sand beaches lapped by azure waters remain primary tourist attractions in Dominican Republic for families traveling with children.
The north coast near the towns of Cabarete
offer many surfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, and boogie boarding opportunities older children and teenagers are sure to enjoy. Puerto Plata
is another suitable place of interest, with its resorts, botanical garden, and aerial tramway, the only one in the Caribbean.
Take your kids to a safari, let them swim with dolphins, explore water-filled caverns, and hike through orchid gardens in Punta Cana
. The bay and the national park of Samana Province
offer an array of similar outdoor activities
You can also incorporate some history and culture in your Dominican Republic itinerary with a visit to Santo Domingo
, the country's capital and the oldest European settlement in the New World.
Things to Do in Dominican Republic with Kids
Given the country's long beaches and seaside resorts, Dominican Republic holidays with children mostly revolve around water sports and snorkeling.
You can easily join the fun by enrolling your kids in Macao Surf Camp
or by hopping on an organized tour by Marinarium Excursions Snorkeling Cruise
To add more outdoor and nature-based activities to your Dominican Republic itinerary, take a boat out to Isla Catalina
. For a close look at native marine animals, head to Ocean World Adventure Park, Marina and Casino
, which allows kids to interact with dolphins, sea lions, and docile sharks.
For an exciting history lesson, head to Fort Ozama
, the oldest colonial fort in the New World. World Heritage-listed Zona Colonial
, the preserved core of Santo Domingo, definitely deserves a day trip as well.
The country's mountainous areas are equally well worth exploring. You can take a cable car to Pico Isabel de Torres
, topped with a massive replica of the Christ the Redeemer statue. A horseback ride up a scenic hill and across a rushing river will take you to El Salto del Limon
, a 52 m (170 ft) waterfall.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Dominican Republic
To optimize your family holiday in Dominican Republic, stay in one of the many all-inclusive resorts, especially suitable for those traveling with toddlers. If your children are older and fit, changing a few places on your Dominican Republic tour can be a good idea.
If you're visiting or staying on the Atlantic coastline, keep in mind that many beaches there are not suitable for young or inexperienced swimmers. In addition, many Dominican beaches lack lifeguards, which means that you should supervise your children and keep an eye out for changing and dangerous water conditions.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Dominican Republic
Cuisine of Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is considered the "Breadbasket of the Caribbean." Its cuisine, popularly called "comida criolla," represents a blend of Spanish, African and Taino culinary influences.
Dominicans eat starchy and often large breakfasts consisting of fried eggs, ham, fried cheese and mashed plantains. Their lunches are equally greasy and hearty. Dinner represents the main meal of the day when the whole family gets together. The traditional side dish that accompanies most main courses is made with rice and beans (sometimes supplemented with chicken) and called "Dominican flag."
Some of the healthier offerings you'll taste on a Dominican Republic trip include seafood and simple yet nutritious stews made from staple foods--beans, rice, plantains, and meat. As they are inexpensive and easy to prepare, Dominican soups are quite popular in rural areas.
One of the best places to visit to experience local cooking is Samana Province
, which has its own traditional way of preparing fish "con coco" (with tomato, garlic, and coconut milk).
You must have a sweet tooth to appreciate Dominican desserts, which can give you an instant sugar shock. A wide variety of tropical fruit (including mango, papaya, pineapple, and bananas) can satisfy your craving for sweets in a much healthier way.
Shopping in Dominican Republic
To take care of your retail needs on a Dominican Republic holiday, head to Punta Cana
, one of the country's newer tourist destinations.
While there, you can drop by Palma Real Shopping Village
or sort through the goods on sale at San Juan Shopping Center
. The modern Plaza San Juan offers clothes, shoes, souvenirs, electronics, cosmetics, perfumes, and jewelry. You'll find some of the country's most famous products--cigars, rum, chocolate, and coffee--at Mundo Autentico
You may find it easier to find bargains in Santo Domingo
and Puerto Plata
You'll find an abundance of Dominican products, including cigars, local jewelry, liquor, and artworks at Santo Domingo's Mercado Modelo
and many branded international stores at Agora Mall
Remember that the American dollar is the most transacted currency in the Dominican Republic and the easiest to exchange.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Dominican Republic
Interesting Facts About Dominican Republic
● The Dominican Republic was the first place reached by Christopher Columbus in 1492, which makes it the oldest country of the Americas
● Given its Catholic background and the fact that Dominicans are very religious, its no surprise that this is the only country in the world that has an image of the Holy Bible on its national flag
● Dominicans love baseball--many of the game's best players, including Sammy Sosa, were born in the Dominican Republic
● Oscar de la Renta, one of the best-known fashion designers of the 21st century who dressed the likes of Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush, was born in Santo Domingo
● The Amber Museum in Puerto Plata
deserves to be included in every Dominican Republic itinerary due to its most precious possession-- a prehistoric mosquito preserved inside of an amber stone featured in the movie "Jurassic Park"
Things You Should NOT Do in Dominican Republic
A few simple etiquette tips can keep you from making serious social blunders during your Dominican Republic holiday.
Limit your public displays of affection to avoid uncomfortable situations and possible embarrassment with the locals. Women should avoid visiting nightclubs and bars alone--exploring the nightlife scene with friends will keep aggressive macho men at bay.
Keep your conversations with the locals light and respectful. Unless you're thoroughly familiar with the topics, avoid discussions of politics, religion, and relations with Haiti.
Holidays & Festivals in Dominican Republic
Regardless of the time of the year you choose for your visit, you'll likely witness some kind of celebration on during your Dominican Republic vacation.
The country's most important festivals occur during the first two months of the year. On January 21, you can see the faithful followers of the Spiritual Mother of the Dominican Republic, the Lady of Altagracia, flocking to Basilica Catedral Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia
in the city of Higuey.
Just a few weeks later, the end of February sees parades of the Dominican Carnival in the country's major cities, namely Santo Domingo
and Santiago de los Caballeros
. This and the weeklong Merengue Festival (in July) are the most vivid and colorful celebrations filled with music, dance, costumes, and masks.
Useful Dominican Republic Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Dominican Republic
Besides Spanish, which is the country's official language, English, Italian, German, and French are also spoken in the Dominican Republic. Learning a few key phrases in Spanish will help you mingle with the friendly locals.
As you meet someone on your Dominican Republic holiday, a firm, sometimes lingering handshake is in order. You'll find that women usually share a light kiss on the cheek with friends and acquaintances, while men tend to hug good friends and family members.
During conversation, try to maintain direct eye contact to show respect to your interlocutor. Single women, however, need to be mindful of their verbal engagement with men--your interest and desire to discuss casual topics might be interpreted in the wrong way.
Climate of Dominican Republic
Thanks to the country's year-round tropical weather, the Dominican Republic's climate has earned the nickname the "endless summer." That said, visitors need to remember that coastal areas enjoy much higher temperatures than the mountainous interior--so pack for your trip according to the region you're about to explore.
The best time to plan your Dominican Republic vacation depends on the region you'd like to visit. As you make your decisions, keep in mind that the northern areas receive the greatest amount of rainfall, especially in the winter season between November and January.
The northeast coast is the windiest due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. The hurricane season officially starts in June and ends in November, but the average annual temperature hovers around 25 C (77 F).
Transportation in Dominican Republic
Dominican buses are budget friendly and reliable means of transportation, so give them a chance during your trip.
A fun way to get around the country and meet the locals on your Dominican Republic tour is to flag down a "guagua," usually a minibus or van, or "publico," a shared car. The advantages of these informal means of transportation are that they are inexpensive and available to take you almost anywhere.
Renting a car remains the more expensive option, though it allows for greater flexibility in scheduling various tours and activities. If you do choose to drive, keep in mind that Dominican traffic may not be what you're used to at home--obey all rules and regulations to avoid penalties and stay safe on the road..
Tipping in Dominican Republic
By local law, hotels and restaurants are obliged to add a 10 percent service tax to your bill. This tax is shared among all employees, so if you feel particularly satisfied with the service received, don't hesitate to award an individual server with a more generous tip.