The 7 must-do things to do in the Dominican Republic

Visiter la République Dominicaine

Visiting the Dominican Republic: what are the best things to do and see on a trip to this Caribbean country?

What to do in the Dominican Republic? That’s been your main concern since you booked your plane ticket to Punta Cana or Santo Domingo. Situated between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, the Dominican Republic occupies two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. With an estimated population of 10,734,247 spread over 48,442 km², it is the second most populous and largest country in the Caribbean after Cuba. Visiting the Dominican Republic gives you access to paradisiacal sites that are sometimes overlooked by tourists, who flock to Guadeloupe or Martinique instead.

Idyllic beaches lined with blue-green waters and coconut palms, lush tropical nature and a warm, welcoming population: that’s how to sum up this paradise country in a nutshell. What to do in the Dominican Republic? Here are our top 10 must-sees when visiting the Dominican Republic.

1. Punta Cana

Punta Cana, République Dominicaine

Photo credit: Flickr – Blobber

Punta Cana is a small town with a population of just 54,218, but it’s the first port of call for most tourists visiting the Dominican Republic: Punta Cana is home to numerous seaside resorts along its paradisiacal coastline. Punta Cana is often associated with long, white sandy beaches, where resorts and hotels spring up like mushrooms. But the region also has its green and wild spaces to offer visitors: to the south of the international airport lies the Ojos Indigenas Ecological Reserve. This 600-hectare rainforest is home to over 80 species of birds and more than 500 varieties of plants, in a series of peaceful, crystal-clear lagoons.

2. El Parque Nacional del Este

Parque Nacional del Este, République Dominicaine

Photo credit: Flickr – David Kirsch

Parc national de l’Est is renowned as one of the most beautiful areas on the island. More than 300 species of birds live amidst a verdant paradise of over 500 varieties of flowers. This national park is one of the must-sees when visiting the Dominican Republic. If you love diving in the coral reefs and watching manatees and dolphins, take a boat to Saona Island, a must-see, especially if you’re looking for peace and quiet. With an average year-round temperature of 26°C, it’s simply a little corner of paradise. Enjoy the villages of Mano Juan, Playa del Gato, Playa Bonita, Catuano, caves and pre-Columbian feudal paintings. You can also catch a glimpse of the island’s endemic mammals, including the solenodon (the oldest mammal in the Antilles and the only insectivorous animal in the region) and the jutía. The Padre Nuestro ecological and archaeological trail is a great place to hike amidst this spectacular flora and fauna.

3. Santo Domingo

Saint-Domingue, République Dominicaine

Photo credit: Flickr – Dianne Rosete

Santo Domingo – or Santo Domingo – is the oldest European settlement in the Americas: it was the first city in the New World, colonized by the Spanish from 1496 onwards. For the record, historian H. Zin recounts in his book A Popular History of the United States, that when the conquistadors arrived on the island of Hispaniola in 1492, they were welcomed with open arms by the local natives, a hospitality which Columbus took advantage of to subjugate the islanders to the Spanish crown. In 2014, the city had a population of 3,516,597. A visit to the Zona Colonial, the historic heart of Santo Domingo, is well worth the detour. Here you’ll find an open-air museum of old 16th-century Western colonial buildings, a maze of narrow streets and colorful houses, a singular blend of tradition and modernity. In the city center, you’ll be captivated by the city’s dynamism and the festive mood of its inhabitants. The city’s colossal historical heritage has earned it UNESCO World Heritage status. A must-see when visiting the Dominican Republic.

4. Central Cordillera

Cordillère centrale, République Dominicaine

Photo credit: Flickr – Damian Dominguez

The Cordillera Central is the island’s green lung, providing fresh air and allowing you to stop off in picturesque villages. Constanza, for example, is a typical Dominican village, albeit a very small one. It is best known for being just a stone’s throw from the Valle Nuevo Reserve. The massif is dominated by the highest peak in the country and in the Caribbean: Pico Duarte, at 3,175 metres. The « Dominican Alps » will undoubtedly satisfy nature hikers. Beware, though, that frosts are not uncommon – 3,175 metres above sea level, after all! -even in this tropical country. In the area, don’t miss Jarabacoa, Concepción de La Vega, Moca and its coffee and tobacco plantations. This region is sometimes called the « Switzerland of the Caribbean » because of its mountains.

5. Santiago de los Caballeros

Santiago de los Caballeros, République Dominicaine

Photo credit: Flickr – Marcelo Gonçalves Neves

Francized as « Santiago de los Caballeros », Santiago de los Caballeros has a population of 535,362, making it the country’s second-largest city. It is one of the oldest cities on the American continent, founded by 30 Spanish conquistadors in 1495. It is a hub for the exchange of the country’s agricultural wealth and for the wealthy families who made their fortune in tobacco and sugar cultivation. The historic center and the Monumento a los héroes de la Restauracion are among the city’s must-sees.

6. Puerto Plata

Puerto Plata, République Dominicaine

Photo credit: Flickr – Pherit

If you’re wondering where to go to visit the Dominican Republic, take a trip to Puerto Plata, the « Silver Port ». This town bears witness to a bygone era when wealth was made from the tobacco trade. Those prosperous days are gone, but the town’s roots go back to 1495. At the end of the 20th century, the area saw the arrival of mass tourism with resorts such as Playa Dorada and Sosua, along the Costa Dorada (the golden coast). Downtown Puerto Plata boasts colorful Victorian architecture, numerous art galleries and charming winding streets.

7. Las Terrenas

Las Terrenas, République Dominicaine

Photo credit: Flickr – rey perezoso

Once a small fishing village on the Samana peninsula on the country’s northeast coast, Las Terrenas attracts tens of thousands of tourists who come to enjoy the sublime, wild, tropical beaches of white sand and crystal-clear waters. Once popular and authentic, Las Terrenas has been transformed into a trendy party spot attracting a wealthy European clientele. If you want to enjoy lush natural surroundings just a stone’s throw from the country’s most beautiful beaches, this is one of the must-see places to visit in the Dominican Republic and make your trip even more memorable.

How to get to the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic has several international airports. To get to the Dominican Republic, several airlines (Air France, XL Airways France, Air Caraïbes) operate flights from France. To find a cheap flight to Santo Domingo or Punta Cana, you can search on the website of our partner Ulysses.

Where to stay in the Dominican Republic?

Accommodation in the Dominican Republic is relatively affordable. You can either take one city as your « base » for touring the island, or stay in several cities on the island: Santo Domingo, Punta Cana, Santiago de los Caballeros, Jarabacao, Barahona, Las Terranas, Puerto Plata… You can find a cheap hotel in the Dominican Republic by searching on this hotel comparator.

Main photo credit: Flickr – Ben Kucinski

Map of hotels and accommodations – Dominican Republic