Dominican Republic Vacations - Destination Guide
Dominican Republic vacations are among the most popular Caribbean beach vacations. And for a good reason - Dominican Republic is an affordable country, with an enormous number of attractions, activities, and, best of all - all-inclusive resorts. The most popular vacation spots here are Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, Samana, La Romana, and the country's capital Santo Domingo. While the first four are tropical destinations appreciated for their white-sand beaches and all-inclusive resorts, Santo Domingo is more of a cultural destination. Because of the country's size and the poor state of the roads (unlit and too narrow and rough), it's not advisable to rent a car to explore it on your own unless you must, but rather stay inside your hotels or take guided tours.
In Red we marked the most popular destinations in the Dominican Republic, and in Green - small destinations within these areas.
Dominican Republic vacation spot - Punta Cana
Punta Cana province is, hands down, the most popular beach destination in Dominican Republic, also known as La Costa del Coco. Located in the eastern part of the island, Punta Cana is washed by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Beaches here are long, white or yellow sand, water is turquoise and warm. Bávaro, the popular tourist destination in Dominican Republic, is located in Punta Cana.
Punta Cana is a famous Dominican Republic vacation spot for its white-sand beaches adorned with coconut trees, clear waters and all-inclusive resorts. Multiple activities await tourists choosing Punta Cana as their vacation destination: 4WD and ATV tours, Zip lines, water sports, swimming with dolphins and stingrays, zip lines and many more adventures. Many Dominican Republic attractions are either located in Punta Cana, or are easily accessible: the nearby Parque Nacional del Este and Isla Saona, Bavaro Adventure Park, Marinarium, Dolphin Explorer, Manati Park and Isla Catalina in the nearby province La Romana.
Visitors that choose Punta Cana as their Dominican Republic vacation destination arrive at Punta Cana International Airport, that services all the international flights from United States, Canada and United Kingdom. Most tourists that arrive at this airport, already have prearranged transportation through their travel operator, and the representatives from those companies can escort the passengers to the proper bus that will take them right to their resorts. Those that do not have a travel operator, have an option of hiring a taxi that's easy to spot outside of the airport.
Dominican Republic vacation spot - Puerto Plata
Puerto Plata province is another attractive beach vacation spot. Puerto Plata is located in the southern part of Dominican Republic, with access to Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean Sea. However, the water here is calm and warm, great for swimming and beachgoers, although sand might be not as white as at other destinations. The best beaches in Puerto Plata are located in the touristic area known as Playa Dorada. Other great beach vacation spots in Puerto Plata are located in the resort towns of Cabarete and Sosúa.
Most famous attractions in Puerto Plata are Mount Isabel de Torres and a medieval Fort San Felipe (Fortaleza San Felipe), built in 1564, and Ocean World Adventure Park. Puerto Plata is a Dominican Republic vacation spot thanks to multiple activities such as sailing, dolphin swims, ATV and 4WD excursions, and Ziplines.
Passengers that come choose Puerta Plata as their Dominican Republic vacation destination arrive at Gregorio Luperon International Airport, that services all of the international arrivals from United States, Canada and United Kingdom. Prearranged transportation is available to those that have booked their vacation packages through a tour operator back in their home country. Taxis are readily available just outside of the customs area, and even though their rates are already set, it is advisable that the passengers agree on the price before setting off. All taxi drivers are required to carry a copy of the prices and must show same at the request of a customer.
Dominican Republic vacation spot - La Romana
La Romana is a another beautiful beach vacation destination in Dominican Republic. La Romana is located in the southeastern part of Dominican Republic, and it faces the Caribbean Sea. Beaches here are gold and white, water blue and calm. All-inclusive resorts are affordable and luxurious. The famous Bayahibe area is located only ten miles from the city of La Romana, and attracts tourists thanks to its beautiful beach, with diving and snorkeling opportunities.
Vacationers in La Romana have access to multiple tourist attractions that make the city a great Dominican Republic vacation spot. The picturesque medieval-style village Altos De Chavon, Cueva de las Maravillas, Isla Catalina (Catalia Island) and the famous Parque Nacional del Este are located close by. La Romana offers many beach activities such as cruises, sailing, snorkeling and diving, as well as many popuar activities such as ziplines and ATV rides.
Those travellers whose destination is La Romana, land in La Romana International Airport. This innovative airport has 2 ramps, one is used for commercial aircrafts, and the other ramp services all domestic and international flights. Taxis and car rental agencies are available to serve the passengers on-demand. Keep in mind, if you are renting a vehicle, the agency might require a 72-hour notice prior to your arrival date.
Dominican Republic vacation spot - Samana
Samana Province is another popular beach vacation destination in Dominican Republic. Samana Province is a peninsula, located in the northeastern side of Dominican Republic, washed by the Atlantic Ocean. Most popular vacation destinations in Samana Province are Playa Las Terrenas, village of Las Galeras, and the province's capital Santa Barbara de Samana. Samana is quieter than other Dominican Republic vacation spots, but it offers several all-inclusive resorts. Best white-sand beach in Samana is Playa Rincon, and many visitors of Samana take a boat trip to the nearby island Cayo Levantado to enjoy its white sand beach and azure water.
The most popular natural attraction in Samana is El Limon Waterfall. Los Haitises National Park is located very close to Samana peninsula and is a popular eco-adventure. Samana also offers cruises and whale watching tours, as well as a zipline and horseback riding excursions.
photo by Dustan Sept
Vacationers choosing Samana as their Dominican Republic vacation destination arrive at Samaná El Catey International Airport located in the province of Samana. Although this airport is somewhat smaller than all other international airports in the country, it still successfully services flights from Canada and the United Kindgom, but not direct arrivals from the United States. In order for U.S. citizens to get to Samana, they would have to travel to Toronto, Canada and catch a direct flight from there. Taxi service is readily available, where passengers are able to drive in comfort in spacious, air-conditioned vehicles. The airport's duty shop is small and tight, and if it takes you 10 minutes to glance, it will take you 4 times as long to be out the door. If there are at least a couple flights leaving together, expect delays in the cashier's lineup.
Dominican Republic vacation spot - Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo, is a popular Dominican Republic vacation destination, because it's a cultural treasure. "La Capital" of the Dominican Republic is one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean, and still has well-reserved Spanish colonial architecture. Zona Colonial is Santo Domingo's most popular tourist attraction, and UNESCO heritage site. Santo Domingo is a thriving and dynamic capital city and a business and political cente. It offers lots to do, rich night life, great restaurants, historical architectural sites to see. Tourists should, however, exercise caution when choosing Santo Domingo as their next vacation destination. While violent crimes are very rare in the Dominican Republic in general, petty theft is not unheard off. You don't have the comfort of security like in all-inclusive resorts - in Santo Domingo you are on your own.
Photo by Noeliz Diaz
Santo Domingo does not offer your typical "beach vacation" in the Dominican Republic. You will not find all-inclusive resorts in Santo Domingo, and no beaches. There are plenty of great hotels. For beaches, people go to the nearby areas - Juan Dolio and Playa Boca Chica - which are the area's most popular beaches and which have all-inclusive resorts. Other than beaches, there's not much to do in these areas.
Las Americas International Airport is located in Santo Domingo and is the official airport of the country's capital city. It is also the largest airport in the entire Caribbean region that serviced approximately 3.5 million passengers in 2015 alone. Las Americas is the second busiest airport after Punta Cana International Airport, that accepts direct international flights from some of the United States cities, Miami, Panama, France and others. There are no direct flights from Canada and a few of the European countries. Therefore, Canadian residents as well as european passengers would need to get on a connecting flight in order to travel to Santo Domingo for Dominican Republic vacation. Taxi service is available with the fare already being set, just agree on the price with the driver before starting your trip to avoid extra or hidden charges.
Best time to go to Dominican Republic
December to February are the most crowded months of the year for Dominican Republic vacation. Tourists come to celebrate Christmas, New Years and the Carnival. The number of visitors is high and hotel prices jump up accordingly. It's best to book your vacation in advance to secure yourself a spot for this time of the year.
March to May is the perfect time to visit Dominican Republic. Hotel rates are lower than in December, January and February, the island sees less crowds and the nice warm weather with clear blue skies allows for that perfect vacation.
If you are planning on visiting the island anytime from June to November, keep in mind that the hurricane season is in effect. Enjoying your time on the beach might not be an option due to rainfalls. However, the best thing about this rainy season is that tourists can take advantage of the super cheap accommodation deals and no need to book Dominican Republic vacation far in advance.
Why vacation in Dominican Republic
Tourists choose Dominican Republic vacation for a number of reasons. It's one of those Caribbean destinations that offers a perfect selection of all-inclusive resorts for any type of budget, superb attractions and activities from water-sports and horseback riding to exploring the beautiful cities of Dominican Republic and visiting the many historic colonial sites, and never-ending 1000 miles of white and velvety sandy beaches. The weather is pleasantly warm all year-around allowing for deep-sea fishing and scuba diving practically during any of the seasons.
Once you arrive in Dominican Republic, you will feel that you landed in a paradise. The welcoming hospitality of Dominicans will wrap you up in its' arms and will ensure you have the best Dominican Republic vacation.
If you visit Santo Domingo, be sure to check out Zona Colonial, it is the most appealing Caribbean district that is best explored by foot. If you arrive in La Romana, then Altos de Chavon is a must-see. It's a 16-century village with the Mediterranean style houses, lanterns and wrought-iron balconies. This is where the artists live and make their one-of-a-kind creations such as pottery, tapestry and art. If you visit Punta Cana or Puerto Plata - there are plenty of water and land sports activities. No matter where you go for Dominican Republic vacation, you will fall in love with this amazing and heart-warming country.
Where is Dominican Republic on the map
Dominican Republic is sharing an island with the neighbouring country Haiti. Although these countries share an island, they are two completely different countries. While Dominican Republic enjoys the mass tourism it receives every year, Haiti is considered as one of the poorest countries in the world.
Dominican Republic is located on the island of Hispaniola, and has access to both the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, 428 km (266 miles) northwest of San Juan, 755 km (469 miles)northeast of Jamaica, and 853 km (530 miles) southeast of Cuba. Dominican Republic is located on the second-largest Caribbean island (after Cuba) with a land area of 48,445 square kilometres (18,705 sq mi).
Capital city of Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo is Dominican Republic's capital and oldest city in the Caribbean. Even though Santo Domingo has a number of historical buildings and monuments, it brings the most vibrant nightlife and bachata music to it's visitors.
The population of Santo Domingo is approximately 2,201,941, while the total land area covers 104.4 km². There are a lot of fascinating tours to take while enjoying your Dominican Republic vacation in Santo Domingo. Visit Calle de las Damas, Los Tres Ojos (the underground caves), Columbus Lighthouse or if you are up to something more relaxed and laid-back, take a stroll through the ancient suburbs called Gazcue, there is always something interesting and intriguing to do for any member of the family.
How to Get to Dominican Republic
Tourists are able to travel to Dominican Republic from any major cities in the United States, Canada and Europe. Since Dominican Republic is known for its' vast variety of all-inclusive resorts, charter flights, that are included in the total Dominican Republic vacation vacation package price are popular and most tourists travel that way. Passengers that are coming from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have to keep in mind, that they will need to catch a connecting flight in either United Kingdom or Ireland and that their trip to the Dominican Republic will take longer. Dominican Republic is serviced by several airports: Punta Cana International Airport, Gregorio Luperon International Airport in Puerto Plata, La Romana International Airport, Samaná El Catey International Airport, and Las Americas International Airport in Santo Domingo.
Population in Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic is a large country rich inits' beautiful lands and solid cultural heritage. Dominicans take pride in their country, even though most of them live in poverty and try to survive any way they can. Based on the latest United Nations estimates, the population of Dominican Republic in 2016 is calculated to be 10,650,226.
Most of the local population is Roman Catholic, some are Evangelical and a some have no religion at all. There are several ethnicities that reside on the island of Dominican Republic, and most of the population are of a mixed race (European and African descent). There are also Caucasian and Black African residents, but they form a lower percentage among the island's nationalities.
Local Language in Dominican Republic
Spanish is the official language in Dominican Republic and all street, restaurant and shop signs are written in Spanish. If you are staying at the resort or a hotel during your Dominican Republic vacation vacation, then the staff there do speak English; however, if you go outside of the resort area, you will find that English is spoken less frequently among the locals simply because they do not service the tourists as the staff at the resorts.
Dominican Republic vacation options
Although, there are a couple of very attractive independent resorts that do not offer the all-inclusive options, Dominican Republic's main accommodations are all-inclusive properties designed for both families and adults-only. Some of them are more luxurious than others, some provide mid-range amenities while others include watersports activities into their prices. Choose the all-inclusive resort that best suits your budget and your personal preferences and enjoy your one of a kind Dominican Republic vacation.
Weather in Dominican RepublicPunta Cana Average Weather
Weather in Dominican Republic stays pleasantly warm all year round and tourists visit the island during both the dry and wet seasons. Dry season runs from December to April and it's the perfect time to do deep-sea fishing and scuba diving. Temperatures during the dry season get as high as 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees fahrenheit) and a low of 22 degrees Celsius (71 degrees fahrenheit).
Dominican Republic lies under the hurricane belt, so a chance of a hurricane becomes higher from June to November. Although, hurricanes do hit the island approximately once in about 10 years, it is still necessary to take this into consideration when booking your Dominican Republic vacation. The wet season begins from June to November and even though the island experiences heavy rainfalls, the weather is still hot hitting at 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees fahrenheit), humid and at times can become uncomfortable. The average yearly temperature in Dominican Republic is 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees fahrenheit).
Source: Holiday Weather
Public Transportation in Dominican Republic
There are a few options for public transportation in Dominican Republic, but it's best to use a cab service to travel to your in-town and out-of-town destinations. Guaguas (mini vans), caro publicos (sedan-style taxis) and motoconchos (motorcycles) are all available for those that prefer a little adventure, because they don't run on a schedule, don't follow road rules, and you would have to squeeze hard to get on board.
Taxis are a perfect way to get around the island during Dominican Republic vacation. Taxi fares are fixed depending on your destination, but please confirm the rates and the currency they are charged in, before getting into the vehicle to avoid surprises. Taxi rates are fixed for longer and most popular tourist destinations in Dominican Republic, but you may negotiate the fare with the driver is you are going somewhere nearby. You may find taxis at the airports, hotels and most of them will allow you to travel in comfort because they provide air-conditioning and drivers drive safely on the roads.
Renting a car in Dominican Republic
It is not recommended to rent a vehicle during Dominican Republic vacation, as the roads are in a very bad shape, there are no road rules in effect, the locals drive anywhere they please, avoiding any possible road signs. Also finding a trusted rental agency can be a problem. If the travellers are seriously considering driving around the island in a rented car, it is highly advised that they choose a U.S. -based rental car agency to avoid any possible problems and to never, under any circumstances drive at night.
Money in Dominican Republic
The official currency in Dominican Republic is called "peso" and is abbreviated as RD$. It is not necessary to exchange the money, U.S. currency is widely acceptable across the island. The exchange rate in Dominican Republic is very high so the best way to pay for the services and the merchandise is by using U.S. dollars.
In case you need to withdraw pesos, use the ATM machines at one of the central banks, they provide a much better rate, but also charge a withdrawal fee. When planning your Dominican Republic vacation, set aside a certain amount of cash taking into account all the possible tips and other expenses and bring U.S. currency with you. This will avoid the confusion and several trips to the bank.
Tipping in Dominican Republic
All restaurants and hotels in Dominican Republic will add a 10% service charge on their invoices and bills; however, even then it is expected that patrons leave a 5% to 10% tip on top of the total price if the service was good and satisfying. Housekeepers normally get $2 per day, taxi drivers 10% per trip and hotel porters receive $1 per bag.
If you want to receive exceptional service during Dominican Republic vacation, leave a higher tip, for example, for the maid. Other than that, all the service staff, tour guides and anybody who gets in contact with you by providing their service, expect to get a tip. It's best to carry small bills, because getting change for large ones will be a problem. Poverty among the locals in Dominican Republic is still a problem and showing your appreciation to the service staff by providing a tip goes a long way.
Solicitation in Dominican Republic
Just like other Caribbean countries, many locals in Dominican Republic live off the tourism, so it's quite typical to see vendors on the beach and outside of the resorts trying to sell their products. Some of them can become too pushy, but if you are not interested in purchasing anything, just say "no Thank You" and walk away. It could become irritating, but keep it cool and let them know you are not interested in their merchandise. After all, you are there to relax and have the best Dominican Republic vacation.
Safety in Dominican Republic
Unlike other Caribbean places, Dominican Republic is a developing country and experiences poverty especially in more deserted areas.
Do not try to be flashy, wear or carry expensive items during your Dominican Republic vacation. Always lock up your valuables in the hotel/resort safe, and check your surroundings when leaving a bank or a casino. Do not leave the resorts unaccompanied, and definitely do not attend any establishments outside of your hotel late at night. Neighbourhoods far from the resort are more prone to poverty; therefore, petty theft is common there. Stay within the resort boundaries or take a guided tour, after all you want to have a fun and safe Dominican Republic vacation.
Another factor to consider when travelling to Dominican Republic is that local mosquitoes can become a nightmare and they also may contain a desease called malaria, a bug repellant will become extremely handy to avoid mosquito bites and to stay healthy and safe during your vacation.
Water in Dominican Republic
Water in Dominican Republic is not safe if consumed from the tap, especially for those with sensitive stomachs. However, bottled water is available throughout the island inn all of the resorts, but purchasing food, water and juices from the street vendors on your Dominican Republic vacation will be at your own risk, since the weather is hot and the produce spoils in the sun very quickly. Purified and totally potable water is used to make the ice, so that is also safe.
Please remember, local water in Dominican Republic contains some microbes that are not detected in the water supply in other countries; therefore, it might affect some people if the water is consumed directly from the tap. When taking a shower, watch so the water doesn't get into your mouth, and it's best to use bottled water to rinse your mouth and toothbrush after brushing your teeth.
Electricity in Dominican Republic
Voltage in Dominican Republic is between 110-120 volts (60 cycles) just like in the United States and Canada. In some other parts of the island the voltage can be between 220-240 volts. When packing your electrical devices, please remember that a transformer and an adapter plug will be needed in order to charge and use your devices.