No Matter Your Style, The Dominican Republic Has Got You All Covered.
1. Whale Watching in Samana
You might not realize how large a humpback whale is until you’ve seen one up close, and the peninsula of Samana is the perfect location to experience the immense presence one of the world’s largest mammals by the near hundreds, listening to the simultaneous male courtship song that drives the females wild.
For the best view, you’ll want to travel to the Dominican Republic between the months of January and March, when these magnificent creatures make their way from Canada, Greenland, and Iceland to the naturally formed sanctuary in the bay of Samana.
2. Wildlife Reserves
To feed that natural animal-lover in you, La Hispaniola is a dream for wildlife reserve enthusiasts looking to escape from the norm and explore the Dominican Republic in a new way, visiting places like:
Soana Island Reserve
The Saona Island Reserve is a sanctuary to a diverse ecosystem of endemic and endangered species of animals, located off of the coast of La Romana, on the South-east tip of the country.
At the reserve you’ll find vibrantly colored Green Parrots and dashing Pink Flamingos, swimming with the likes of Green Sea Turtles and getting up close to the Pre-Historic Manatee lounging at the Caribbean Sea bottom in a field of rare Starfish, all the while Seagulls hover about as Rhinoceros Iguanas race across the landscape.
Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve
This is the mother of all reserves in the Dominican Republic, comprised of the inspirational national parks Jaragua, Sierra de Bahoruco, and Enriquillo, each there with their own unique geographical characteristics made up of Dry and Humid Forests, and even arid desert land southwest of the Island.
We’re also talking about the home of the Caribbean’s largest and deepest Lake Lago Enriquillo and the emerald-colored lagoon Laguna de Oviedo.
So, you want to go rugged this season in the Caribbean? Visit the heartland of the country known as the Cibao and see the southern regions of Pedernales and Barahona for a different take on your paradisiac vacation, and here are the best areas to get your outdoorsmanship on.
In the province of La Vega, Constanza lays at the center of the Cordillera Central (the Central Range) mountain range where the country’s freshest fruits, vegetables, and tubers are organically and hydroponically grown for international and nationwide distribution.
In the months of January, February, and March, temperatures are reported to have dropped below zero, causing an icy dew to cover its historically indigenous lands in Valle Nuevo National Park that are revered to have been the “mother of waters”, for numerous rivers that spawn from the area like Yuna, Ocoa, Rio Grande, and Tireo rivers.
Pelempito is a geological depression beyond the deep forests in the highlands of Sierra de Bahoruco National Park, caused by a collapsing of ages-old subterranean cave systems, now reaching a depth of over 700 meters below sea level, you’ll be able to spend a night at a height of 400 meters in the surrounding barrier mountains.
4. Breathtaking satellite islands
Like diamonds on a ring, the Dominican Republic’s satellite islands radiate and accentuate the ocean landscape, offering a treat to the country’s beach enthusiasts, and an escape from the overly touristic areas.
Just about an hour’s boat ride from Saona Island on the Southeast coast near La Romana, Catalina Island (also Ikiita Island) is a heavily protected 3.7 square mile national treasure with waters as clear as the sky, and a Marine life eco-system of elaborate coral reefs, exotic schools of fish, and endemic bird species.
Heading up to the Northeastern Coasts in the Bay of Samana, Cayo Levantado (raised key) is a highly sought-after island location just a short boat ride away.
Although this lovely island is only a kilometer in length, the sheer impact of its beyond-VIP beach with the freshest of seafoods and healing waters will completely transform your vacation experience.
5. Explore Indigenous Caves
The appetite for Indigenous Taino History is just as relevant today as ever, attracting novice explorers to visit Hispaniola for hands-on experience, and a look into the life of a people that once dominated the landscape for centuries.
The Caves of Pomier
A few miles north of San Cristobal, Pomier is an extremely complex system of 55 caverns and tunnels created by subterranean waterways for thousands of years since the pre-historic Miocene era, with an encompassing 4000 square miles, reaching heights of 1200 ft above sea level and then plummeting to 3,300 ft below sea level.
The native Tainos and ancestors used these caves for shelter, rituals, and what appears to be art recreation by the over 4,000 paintings dating back to pre-history, and 500 cave drawings, making Pomier an invaluable cultural site.
Tres Ojos, meaning “Three Eyes” in Spanish for the lake this cave bares, naturally divided into three main circular sections, although in reality there are four sections:
- El Lago de Las Damas / The Lake of Ladies: a bathing area designated for only women and children for its shallow waters.
- La Nevera / The Refrigerator: due to the total lack of sunlight, this section’s temperature falls between 15 and 30 degrees Celsius.
- Lago Azufre / Sulfur Lake: just 4 meters deep, Lake sulfur gets its name from the bottoms white-ish coat.
If you’re into hiking, the Hispaniola has got everything you’re looking for, donning the highest peaks and mountain ranges in all the Caribbean.
Only 24 kilometers from Punta Cana’s gorgeous beaches, the Anamuya Mountains offer an “off the grid” hiking adventure.
The terrain might seem light to experienced hikers, but it provides an opportunity to get a quick workout to shed any extra poundage you might have gotten from the all-inclusive buffet, then cool off in one of the many waterfalls you’ll encounter.
Now, for the real hikers, there’s Pico Duarte, the highest mountain peak in all the Caribbean reaching a height of 3,098 meters above sea level, in the Cordillera Central (Central Range) mountain range at the Armando Bermudez National Park.
7. Diving and Snorkeling
Make sure you pack your snorkel gear when coming to the Dominican Republic, you’ll regret not bringing it along.
Bahia de Las Aguilas
On the south coast of the Jaragua National Park and wildlife reserve, this 7 kilometers stretch of pristine beach is considered to possess one the clearest waters in the world along with Cabo Rojo.
Snorkeling in these waters you’ll get a chance to see Hawksbill Sea Turtles, Manatees, and the spectacular coral reefs that give this beach its distinct look.
Also known as Cayo Arena (sand key), this rather small but impactful island is located in the village of Punta Rucia in the northern province of Puerto Plata and is visited by locals and tourists alike year-round.
Eco-travelers love the area as there are camping installations, and Eco-hotels to satisfy their needs after an afternoon of deep-sea diving around the key’s coral-covered marine walls, full of hundreds of species of fish.
8. Kite surfing
The strong winds that blow across the Atlantic Ocean, and over Dominican shores create the right climate and conditions for windsurfing sports.
The town of Cabarete on the north coast is already synonymous with Kite Surfing in the watersport’s community.
There’s plenty of “Crash Course” KiteSurfing instructional schools to get you prepped, as every year the kite surfing festival draws athletes from across the country and worldwide, plus the annual Master of The Ocean Kite Surfing, Paddle-boarding, and windsurfing competition.
Puerto Plata City
Compared to Cabarete’s deeper water and broad beaches, the Long Beach and Cosita Rica area in the city of Puerto Plata would be the second most ideal place to go Kite surfing on the north coast, an excellent alternative for first-timers with shallower waters.
9. Paragliding, Mountain Biking, and White-water rafting
For a more adrenaline pumping and excitement filled time, you’ll want to travel to the mainland and mountainous regions like:
Known for its vast dry forests and principal rivers that run through it, Jimenoa, Yaque, and Baiguate, Jarabacoa is the best place for extreme sports on the island.
You can go White-water Rafting down the Baiguate River accompanied by professionals, where you’ll have to have some teamwork skills to stay above water and push on through.
Next, plan a mountain biking tour through mapped-out trails where you’re biking prowess will be put to the test, and to top things off with a bang, try your hand at paragliding across the Constanza valley that leads into Jarabacoa.
10. Carnaval month
Probably the most exciting time of the year for the entire nation, where children and adults alike celebrate their ancient Taino culture by dressing up in tediously detailed costumes that represent the various tribes that existed before the arrival of Europeans.
Each province celebrates with month-long processions every Sunday of the month of February and holds their own competitions before arriving at the national celebration in Santo Domingo where all tribes converge for the final selection.
La Vega has a long history of winning championships for the craftsmanship of their Diablo Cajuelo costumes and electric dance choreographies.
Also, in the province of Puerto Plata, sailing aficionados take advantage of the strong oceanic currents and travel across Sosua and Cabarete in record time, chasing the sunset on its Atlantic coasts.
Bay of Maimon
Home to local fishermen and professional hospitality workers, Bahia de Maimon has become a more prominent municipality with the addition of Amber Cove where Carnival Cruises disembarks.
Maimon is famous for its freshly caught fish restaurants by the roadside, where people from every corner of the country go to have their fish seasoned, battered, and fried on the spot, a perfect place to stop after a day of sailing along the Northern shores.
Punta Cana has a number of private Yacht Clubs to choose from with competitive prices so you can be the captain for a week, navigating the Caribbean Sea in search of adventure and oneness with nature, and if you want to just relax and have a great time, try any one of the Party Boat excursions and sip on your Banana Mama effortlessly.
Grab your favorite driver and putter for a round of Golf along the beautiful Caribbean shores that attracts pros and celebrity amateurs looking to get away from the spotlight.
Situated in the municipality of Rio San Juan which is becoming a hot spot for Hollywood actors and producers, the Playa Grande 18-hole championship Golf Course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., has more oceanfront holes than the famed Pebble Beach with 11 kilometers of seafront private property, frequented by NBA Legend Michael Jordan and even former U.S. president Bill Clinton.
Casa de Campo
The Casa de Campo Villa and Resort complex is equipped with over 90 holes in total, and out-does any other in the country, its most famous course designed by Pete Dye “Teeth of the Dog” with 27 holes located on a prime real estate spanning 7,471 acres and is considered to be the prime golf course in the Caribbean.
13. Horseback riding
Saddle up for a Caribbean Oceanview horseback adventure for the whole family, going over mountainous trails and through tropical palm-laced valleys for a nature-filled experience.
Santiago de los Caballeros
On the outskirts of the Dominican Republic’s second-largest metropolis of Santiago, you’ll embark on a two-to-three-day journey along the northern portion of the Central Mountain Range through the countryside, ending in Puerto Plata.
Horseback professionals will be with you every step of the way, molding you into a veteran rider so you can tell the friends back home how you rode that horse like a Pro.
Departing from Punta Cana, the Uvero Alto trail is mostly along the amazing beaches of Bavaro where you’ll be free to gallop your way into the sunset like a 16th-century explorer, maneuvering through the brushes, and splashing up water on the coastline.
It really doesn’t matter if you were born with two left feet or the dancing prowess of the “Hips Don’t Lie” musical artist Shakira, in Hispaniola everyone must dance!
One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the Dominican Republic is the infectious tropical music genres of Merengue, Bachata, and Salsa that fill the air with the sounds of pianos, trumpets, accordions, guitars, and congas, all melding perfectly into a melodically Pot Pourri.
Urban genres like Reggaeton and Dembo are very popular amongst the youth and can be heard on almost every radio and tv station in the country.
Just throw on a pair of flip-flops, grab a partner, and enjoy!