The Dominican Republic is so much more than the tourist Punta Cana with all its ‘all-inclusive resorts’. The island has a diverse vegetation because of the large differences in altitude and different climate zones. In addition to the well-known tropical beaches, there are several mountainous areas to be found. These are surrounded by dense jungles that contrast with the lower-lying savanna-like vegetation.
If you want to get to know the real face of the Dominican Republic, be sure to do a roundtrip!
Round trip Dominican Republic
Would you like to travel around the Dominican Republic to get to know all aspects of the island? We can only recommend it! Forget that last minute dael or that all-inclusive stay! Let’s go!
First stop, the capital Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo, the colorful and charming capital of the Dominican Republic. We chose to start our round trip here, given its central location on the island. Since 1990 this historic city has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage List!
Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo is the old historic centre of the city, where most of the sights/highlights can also be found. Did you know that this city is the oldest city in the New World and also the largest city in the Dominican Republic? Expect to find yourself in the Colonian zone in a color palette of pastel shades, Spanish atmospheres, traces of Christoggel Columbus and old Colonian buildings that provide the necessary amount of charm.
Tip: looking for some good cigars to take home with you? You don’t have to buy them in a specialty shop (where you often pay blue). Cigars are for sale in almost every supermarket? Here they sell the most popular brands.
Want to know more about Santo Domingo? Read all about this colonial city here!
Need a challenge during your city walk? Try to find ‘Cocolo’, the man on the roof in Santo Domingo.
Barahona, known as Santa Cruz de Barahona, Pearl of the South
On the southwest part of the Dominican Republic is the province of Barahona located. It is an active port town located in a protected bay. In general, the western side of the island is less popular among foreign tourists. Barahona is known to the locals for its many fruit, vegetable and coffee plantations. Furthermore, this province is an ideal base for surfing!
The popular actress María Montez is the person who put Barahona on the map. To this day there are still no large hotel chains to be found due to the absence of large-scale tourism. What exactly does Barahona have to offer?
Pure nature, an enormous biodiversity and a great potential for eco-tourism.
Playa San Rafael, picture perfect
The road from Santo Domingo to Barahona (Barahona-Enriquillo Road) takes you along a beautiful bay, where Playa San Rafael beach is located. This southern beach is often used for all kinds of advertising purposes for the island. Tourists will not often encounter you here, as it is mainly the locals who come here to relax.
What makes this beach so special? Not only is it a beautiful picture to see, but it is also connected to a freshwater river that rises from the mountains. The perfect place to cool off for a while!
Pedernales, the unknown face bordering Haiti
This region is relatively unknown territory for tourists. Pedernales is located in the most southwestern corner of the island, bordering Haiti. Its biodiversity and dry climate result in a unique landscape. A rough face with a desert-like lunar landscape is for many an unknown fact of the Dominican Republic. It reminded us a bit of ‘the outback’ in Australia because of the many cacti, iguanas and endless landscapes.
Lago de Oviedo and Paseo de los Flamencos
Lago de Oviedo (Laguna de Oviedo) is an enormous saltwater lake 42 meters deep located in Jaragua National Park. The special green colour caused by the limestone deposits, makes the lake unique. This park with its unique vegetation is a popular location for birdwatching. You will find around 20,000 waterfowl, as well as flamingos, West India White-duck, pelicans, American Pied Piper, Great Yellow-legged Rider, Stone Runner, turtles… Enough of all that life on and in the water? The lake also contains some small islands where you can spot the Rhinoceros Iguana with red eyes (lizard type).
At the visitor centre you can pay a small entrance fee and then climb the watchtower for a nice view of the lagoon. Those who really want to discover the lagoon of Lago de Oviedo can have fun on the 2-hour boat trip. This way you can see waders, shorebirds, seagulls, terns and pelicans up close. If you can’t get enough of the fauna and flora, you can choose to make a longer boat trip to the island where the white ibis nests.
Did you know that? Lago de Oviedo is 3 times saltier than the Caribbean Sea!
Lago Enriquillo is the largest lake in the Caribbean. This lake doesn’t contain pink flamingos but huge saltwater crocodiles. Make your choice!
Jaragua National Park, the most pristine beaches in the Dominican Republic
In Jaragua National Park you’ll find the most amazing, crystal clear water and stretched out beaches on the entire island. Some examples are: White Beach, Trudille Beach, Long Beach, Short Beach, Chiquita Beach, Hot Beach, Caribbean Beach, Las Águilas Bay,… 13 paradisiacal virgin beaches that together form part of a beautiful Spanish Biosphere Reserve with a large number of endemic species.
Bahía de Las Águilas, a virgin Caribbean beach (Cabo Rojo)
Looking for a place of paradise to relax? Bay of Eagles in Jaragua National Park is an 8 km long bay with crystal clear turquoise waters. It has also been declared a “World Biosphere Reserve” by UNESCO. These coastal ecosystems contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use. Its name did not steal the beach, the shape of an eagle’s head with a point symbolising the beak gave it the name ‘Aderlaars Bay’.
This area has an important function for the nesting and reproduction of different species of turtles (hawksbill turtles, leatherback turtles,…). Tortoises come from miles away to this virgin and peaceful place, because it is perfect as a temporary habitat.
In short, an endless pristine beach where nature is central.
Where to stay: Rancho Tipico Cueva De Las Aguilae
Hoyo de Pelempito, the endless road
Can’t get enough of the unique landscapes of the Pedernales region? Looking for that ‘little bit more adventure’? Then Hoyo de Pelempito is your thing!
Pelempito’s Hole (Hoyo de Pelempito) is located in the Parque Nacional Sierra de Bahoruco. This huge deep red gorge is surrounded by unique fauna and flora. It is exceptional in the Caribbean, with dense jungles on the one hand and red desert on the other. I never thought I would find this type of landscape on a Caribbean island! From the observation platform at an altitude of 1,300 m, you can let the surroundings completely surround you.
Attention: this natural wonder is not easy to reach. For example, the last 7 km is an unpaved road. In case of heavy rainfall, the road is washed away so a 4×4 is certainly not a luxury!
Puerto Plata, real Caribbean vibes
The 19th century Victorian-style houses and ‘Caribean vibes’ managed to put Puerto Plata on the tourist map for quite some time. The colonial remains and lively colourful villages will add some value to your cultural experience. This northern town is one of the larger ‘cities’ (don’t take this too literally) in the Dominican Republic and is home to several (all-inclusive) hotels.
Mount Isabel de Torres, meet Cristo Redento
There are 2 options to reach this viewpoint at 800 meters, on foot or by cable car (teleferico). This cable car is also the longest in the Caribbean! At the top of Mount Isabel de Torres you can admire the statue of Cristo Redento, which reminded us a bit of Rio de Janeiro. Then you have an endless view over the wooded slopes, the Atlantic Ocean and the white beaches.
The old historic centre of Puerto Plata
Our opinion? Puerto Plata is nice town to see with its colorful Victorian houses, but on the other hand there are not many sights. You’d rather come here to soak up the local atmosphere and enjoy the Caribbean vibes and beaches. There are some nice stops you can make in Puerto Plata, namely:
- El Marcado, the local shop for fresh produce, handicrafts and souvenirs.
- Amber Museum, where you can see the different amber deposits
- Victorial times, the heart of Peurto Plata
- Umbrella street, a street with a sky of umbrellas
- El Paseo de Dona Blanca, a completely pink street that appeals to every woman’s imagination.
Fortaleza San Felipe
This colonial fortress dates from 1577 and functioned as a strategic coastal town that had to offer protection against all kinds of intruders. It is the only remaining structure of Puerto Plata from the 16th century. Subsequently, the fortress was given a function as a prison and eventually became a museum, open to tourists. Finally, the fort offers a beautiful view over the bay.
Tip: At a 45-minute drive from Puerto Plata are the 27 Damajagua Falls located, where you can enjoy clear blue water .
Samana, palm trees and pure nature
Samana remains our favorite place in the Dominican Republic! This beautiful peninsula treats you to tropical nature and exotic beaches. The first thing you will notice are the immense palm trees that really dominate the landscape everywhere. Not strange that this place has the most palm trees (per m2) in the world!
Beaches that make you dream away
Everyone knows that the Dominican Republic is known for its pristine white beaches. However, the most beautiful beaches are not to be found in Punta Cana, but in Samana! The local Caribbean ‘atmosphere’ is still present here, which makes it just as much fun. If you are looking for a mix of natural beaches and local culture, you will find it here!
Read all about our favourite beaches in Samana here.
Immersion in the El Limon waterfall, Samana
This waterfall is the highest waterfall on the island with a height of 47 meters. A beautiful piece of nature in the middle of Samana. Despite the fact that this waterfall is quite popular among tourists, it is worth a visit. Let me give you 1 tip, do the walk yourself and not the horse! The walk will take you along some rivers and through the real Dominican jungle!
Read here all the practical information for your trip to El Limon waterfall.
Whale watching in the Dominican Republic (Samana), an indescribable experience
Everybody’s got this on their bucket list. It’s an experience you’ll never forget (then we can tell you for sure!). Whale watching can be done in Samana in the period from mid January until the end of March (peak period in mid February). Only during this period tours and excursions are organized to see these beautiful animals. Of course you can never predict what you will see. We were very lucky and saw several times a youngster jump out of the water with his mother! Phenomenal!
It is the humpback whales that you will see in Samana. They return to Samana every winter to mate and calve. Annually about 10 000 whales (10% of the population) would come to Samana Bay. After this they leave for Canada, Greenland, Iceland,… Samana Bay and Silver Banks at Puerto Plata are the 2 ideal locations to see these friendly giants. The Silver Bank is part of the ‘Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic’ and is a safe haven for the humpbacks.
We did our excursion with Whales of Samana. This organization is led by Ken De Pree (Ph.D.) who has been monitoring humpbacks since 1987. They work with fairly large boats (up to 50 people) but follow strict guidelines to protect the welfare of the animals.
Tip: take something with you against seasickness, you will need it. If you forget, they will give you something.
Looking for practical tips for your stay on Samana? You’ll find them here!