Santo Domingo Zona Colonial in the Dominican Republic

7 Reasons To Visit Dominican Republic Beach Paradise 2023 (+ 11 Destination Guides)

There are infinite reasons to visit Dominican Republic, which has become one of the most sought-after Caribbean destinations with its tropical climate, stunning beaches, and captivating culture and history!

The Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean island after Cuba, and visitors will also be graced with amazing nature, water sports, charming people, great food, lush all-inclusive resorts, and lots of bachata and merengue dancing.

After traveling to all the corners and most popular destinations in the Dominican Republic for a couple of months in 2023, I have compiled a list of 7 reasons why this island nation is a great holiday destination!

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7 Reasons To Visit Dominican Republic In 2023?

The infinite number of these paradisiacal beaches are one of the many reasons  to visit Dominican Republic this year!

  1. Some of the world’s best whale-watching tours can be found outside Samana Peninsula between December and March.
  2. “All Dominicans” dance the bachata, and if you don’t already know this elegant and fun dance, you can learn it here.
  3. Every Sunday in the month of February, the destinations Santiago, Puerto Plata, and La Vega turn the city into a colorful carnival parade.
  4. The Dominican Republic offers some of the best scuba diving sites in the region, including coral reefs, cave diving, and wreck diving.
  5. With its range of terrains and climates, the Dominican Republics National Parks and protected areas are ideal homes to over 6,000 different species.
  6. In Santo Domingos Zona Colonial, you can explore the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement of the Americas, which is on the UNESCO protection list.
  7. There is a myriad of paradisiacal beaches on all sides of the Dominican Republic!

The Dominican Republic is situated on Hispaniola island, east of Cuba. It is on the northern side of the Caribbean Sea, a straight line up from the Dutch Antilles off the shores of Venezuela.

Sharing the island with neighboring country Haiti, the Dominican Republic has a tight border as the two countries are very different.

And it is super close; from Miami, a flight to the Dominican Republic will take around two hours.

From New York City, just under four, and around eight hours from most cities in Europe.

Below, you can read a short intro to all the most popular destinations in the Dominican Republic and what is special and unique about each one!

Dominican Republic Destination Guide!

The soft waves rolling in to the white sandy beach in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic.
Punta Cana beach and the pier

Despite its modest size, this beautiful Caribbean island can keep you busy for quite a while if you have unlimited time to explore.

And if you want to travel between destinations, you can do that by bus, taxi, private pre-booked transportation, or even Uber!

I am going to assume that you do not have that, so here is a handy travel guide giving an introduction to the most popular destinations in the Dominican Republic and what is special and unique about each one!

Hopefully, this will help you decide where you want to go and what you want to experience while you are there. Or maybe you would like to visit several and do a road trip?

🚗 Research rental cars in the Dominican Republic here!

The 11 Most Popular Destinations In The Dominican Republic

A perfect rainbow over the Atlantic sea, from Cap el Limon north east in the Dominican Republic is also one of the amazing reasons to visit Dominican Republic this holiday season.
A perfect rainbow at Cap el Limon outside Samana north in the Dominican Republic

We can divide the Dominican republic into three zones, as well as the Capital Santo Domingo.

There is the rugged and beautiful northern coast with Puerto Plata, Sosua, Cabarete, Las Terrenas, and Samana Peninsula.

Then the soft eastern resort zone with Punta Cana and Cap Cana, and even Bayahibe, which are dream destinations for any travelers looking for sand, palms, soft waves, and a Caribbean breeze.

Sunset outside the Hyatt Zilara resort in Cap Cana
Sunset outside the Hyatt Zilara resort in Cap Cana

The south” is what Dominicans call the area west of Santo Domingo along southern shores closer to Haiti. Here you find stunning beaches, but also sometimes crazy waves!

This area is home to Barahona, Enriqillos, and Paraiso.

All the way towards the border to Haiti is the secluded paradise beach Bahia de las Aguilas and Pedernales town.

In addition, there are small islands that are super popular for day trips and tours, like Isla Catalina and Isla Saona in the southeast and Isla Paraiso in the north.

And then there is the capital Santo Domingo, and the surrounding areas like Playa Boca Chica beach.

1. Tropical Beach Heaven Punta Cana

Walking along Punta Cana beach east in the Dominican republic
Walking along Punta Cana beach

Come experience the beauty of Punta Cana, a marvelous resort town in the Dominican Republic and also its most visited destination.

Every year it lures over 4 million foreign tourists to its gorgeous beaches with azure waters – where else can you feel such an exotic ocean ambiance?

Here, at this easternmost point of Hispaniola Island, two majestic oceans embrace each other: The Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea!

There are many neighborhoods that comprise Punta Cana.

If you’re looking for luxury during your stay, don’t worry; there are lots of upscale hotels and resorts around.

Yet if this isn’t the experience you desire or fits within your budget, there’s no shortage of economical venues to choose from, such as hostels, apartments, and boutique hotels.

All offer a unique vibe while remaining affordable!

When the sun goes down in Punta Cana, located on the eastern side of the Dominican Republic, a world of nightlife opportunities comes alive.

Here, you can find some of the best clubs filled with breathtaking bachata and merengue beats that will make your feet move!

Music from all corners of the globe is also featured, so it’s truly an international party experience.

2. Infinite Luxury In Cap Cana

If you are into complete relaxation and luxury for your Caribbean holiday getaway, the many all-inclusive resorts on the island is one of many great reasons to visit Dominican Republic!
Stunning 5 star resort Hyatt Zilara in Cap Cana

Cap Cana is situated a few miles south of Punta Cana, a “sister area” that has the most luxurious and upscale resorts and vibe in the Dominican Republic.

A world-renowned real estate and hotel destination in the Caribbean, Punta Cana offers upscale experiences on everything from beaches to hotels and resorts.

The foyer at Hyatt Zilara in Cap Cana
The foyer at Hyatt Zilara in Cap Cana

Not only do you get to enjoy luxurious amenities, but Cap Cana is also known for its hospitable environment!

With open arms, this vibrant community welcomes visitors and residents alike, which makes it truly exceptional compared to other places of similar caliber.

3. Colonial Santo Domingo

Strolling the streets and the malecon in capital Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and its old city called the zona colonial, is a perfect reason to visit Dominican Republic!
The Malecon in Santo Domingo at Sunset

Santo Domingo, the captivating ‘Old City’ of Hispaniola and oldest permanent European settlement in the Western Hemisphere, is overflowing with a vibrant past.

Seated at the opening of the Ozama River on the Southeast coast is The Dominican Republic’s capital city, which houses one of America’s earliest Roman Catholic archbishoprics!

View of the rugged sea from the Malecon in the Dominican Republic capital Santo Domingo.

Established in 1496 by the renowned explorer Bartholomew Columbus, this city carries with it a storied past marked by centuries-old tradition and culture that remains vibrant today.

Santo Domingo is currently home to the largest population amongst Caribbean metropolitan areas, with over 3,5 million people.

4. Zona Colonial In Santo Domingo
Zona colonial in Santo Domingo window with flowers
Cafe in Zona Colonial Santo Domingo

In 1990, UNESCO formally recognized the old city, or Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo, as a World Heritage Site and awarded it for being one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful and best-kept old towns.

Those who explore the stunning avenues of the colonial zone will find structures from as early as the 1500s.

Visit impressive structures like Alcázar de Colón Fortress, Primada Cathedral, and Ozama Fortress, to name a few!

Zona Colonial Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

Meander along the streets of El Conde, Las Damas, or Las Mercedes to experience its cherished tradition firsthand!

If you visit Santo Domingo and want to stay in Zona Colonial, I recommend you stay in the area around Parqeu Fray Bartolome de las Casas.

The streets here are beautiful, and you can walk “everywhere!”

Zona Colonial is also a very safe place for tourists, as there is a dedicated Tourist Police here, guarding almost every corner in the city 24/7!

5. Samana Peninsula & El Limon

Stunning pristine beaches on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, from El Limon.

Samaná, located in the Dominican Republic’s northern Samaná Peninsula, offers a stunning view of the majestic Samaná Bay.

Thousands of humpback whales grace its waters yearly during winter mating season – an incredible sight!

Visit The Whale Museum here and check out their impressive whale skeleton exhibit.

Hiking in the jungle outside El Limon north on Samana Peninsula Dominican Republic
Hiking in the jungle outside El Limon north of Samana Peninsula

For something more laid-back, stroll along the Malecón waterfront promenade with plenty of eateries and bars to choose from.

Or catch a boat ride to Cayo Levantado – a tiny island adorned by serene palm-lined beaches perfect for relaxation.

The North Shores Of Dominican Republic

Three towns are located in a row from west to east on the northern shores of the Dominican Republic, around three and a half hour’s drive from the capital, Santo Domingo.

That is Puerto Plata, Susoa, and Cabarete.

In this vast and magnificent, more rugged terrain of ocean, mountains, and fertile valleys together, coffee and cacao production is abundant.

Inside the northern shores, there are also beautiful rivers and numerous beaches, and beneath the surface is a world-renowned source of crystal clear amber!

Up here, there are a plethora of adventure tours to embark on.

Puerto Plata province is even known as the Amber Coast because of the copious amounts of amber-hued semiprecious stones found on its grounds.

6. Puerto Plata
Puerto Plata from the cloud covered Mount Isabel de Torres Teleferico
Puerto Plata from the cloud covered Mount Isabel de Torres Teleferico

Immediately when you arrive in Puerto Plata colonial town, the first impression is that it is super clean (not all places in the Dominican Republic are), well-kept, and super pretty!

Puerto Plata is a historic town known for its spectacular Victorian architecture, but the skyline of this picturesque city is dominated by a natural feature, the remarkable Mount Isabel de Torres.

Get the cable car up the 2,656 feet above sea level to Mount Isabel de Torres to enjoy the view, have lunch and refreshments at the restaurant, and walk the stunning gardens up here!

One of the many pathways in the stunning gardens of Mount Isabel de Torres
One of the many pathways in the stunning gardens of Mount Isabel de Torres

At sea level, from the secluded paradise of Playa Cofresi to the vibrant shores at Playa Dorada, you have captivating coral reefs and golf courses, and an array of beaches await.

There are a variety of popular dive sites outside Puerto Plata or the calmer waters of Susoa Bay.

Discover local culture by visiting the Amber Museum or doing the Brugal Rum Factory tour (rum also being an important commodity in the area).

It can be a good idea to join an organized tour of Puerto Plata with a city guide if you have the time!

Old rum barrels at the museum of rum in Puerto Plata
Old rum barrels at the Museum of Rum in Puerto Plata

If you’re looking for an unforgettable adrenaline experience, then Monkey Jungle is the place to go.

From a 4,400-foot zip line course and three suspension bridges to a monkey sanctuary and cave exploration.

The Monkey Jungle is open seven days a week, and you can just show up there for tickets, or join an organized tour where everything is taken care of.

For history nerds (like me), a visit to the San Felipe Fort, the oldest standing structure in the city with its construction in 1477, is an interesting remnant of colonial times.

San Felipe Fortress in Puerto Plata, north on the Dominican Republic.
San Felipe Fortress in Puerto Plata is watching over the cruisers these days

The fort was initially built to ward off pirates who sought to plunder coastal areas; however, it later became a prison that held one of the Dominican Republic’s founding fathers: Juan Pablo Duarte.

7. Susoa

People from all over the world flock to Sosua for its lively nightlife. With a seemingly endless number of bars and clubs, this small town is perfect for anyone looking to party!

During the daytime, you can venture off to the beautiful Sosua Beach to relax and find your energy, ideal for water sports or simply lounging in the sun with friends after an evening out.

8. Cabarete

Cabarete has been a staple in the party scene “forever”, and its popularity only continues to grow.

Here, you will find an ample selection of restaurants and bars that appeal to young party crowds.

During daytime hours, this area is a more family-friendly hangout spot than later in the evening.

9. Las Terrenas

It is home to countless breathtaking beaches and a thriving culture of international eateries, boutiques, bars, and small hotels.

Las Terrenas is the ultimate destination for those looking for an unforgettable blend of paradise and cosmopolitanism!

With its captivating waterfront views, this area has become by far the most visited destination in Samaná – making it ideal for anyone seeking a dreamy beach village experience with all the amenities you’d find back home!

Soak up some sun and take a dip at the nearby white sand beaches of Las Terrenas, or venture further out to Playa Bonita and Playa Cosón – both will leave you spellbound!

When night falls, savor the succulent seafood dishes prepared on-site while grooving to an array of bachata beats, R&B numbers, and top hits in Pueblo de Los Pescadores’ row of bars and lounges.

Unwind under the starry skies as residents from all walks come together for one unforgettable evening.

There are a variety of tours available from Las Terrenas to other destinations in the Dominican Republic, where you will be picked up at your hotel and don’t need to think about transport or administration at all!

If Las Terrenas is your primary destination in the Dominican Republic, you can also book a private transfer directly from the airport to Las Terrenas, completely hassle-free!

10. Barahona City

Charming evening view from my hotel in Barahona
Charming evening view from my hotel in Barahona

The town of Barahona, nicknamed “the Caribbean’s Bride”, was established in 1802 by the Haitian general Toussaint Louverture.

Barahona has some interesting sights to explore, like the Triumphal Arch, built during Rafael Trujillo’s era, and the Cathedral of Barahona (1948), Palace City Hall Central Park Clock Tower.

A fire station was also constructed here in the 19th century, with its unique original structure still intact.

After spending a few days in and around Barahona city in 2023, truth be told, this is the destination in the Dominican Republic that I like the absolutely least.

First, there are piles of garbage everywhere you go, all around the city. In parks, beaches, on the sidewalks, streets, and creeks – it is flowing everywhere.

Piles of garbage are absolutely everywhere in Barahona
Piles of garbage are absolutely everywhere in Barahona

Secondly, everything is very dirty everywhere, and to me, the city just came across as loud and unorganized.

And thirdly, as a solo female traveler, this is probably the worst place I have been in the Caribbean regarding street harassment. It was everywhere, all the time, day and night.

So for any solo traveling woman, be aware that when you are exploring the city of Baranona on your own, you will be the attraction in the zoo.

This food court was a nice quiet oasis in Baraona with great food and service!
This food court was a nice quiet oasis in Baraona with great food and service

Locals claim that the most picturesque beaches and seas can be found outside of Barahona, as the province is home to a stunning cliffside coastline!

So if you do go to Baraona, my advice is to use Barahona as a base camp for adventures outside the city limits!

11. Bahia De Las Aguilas

Remote beach on Bahia de las Aguilas, where you need to have a boat to access (or walk a little bit in the terrain)

And on that, I must agree! I made a day trip venturing further southwest to visit the Bahia de las Aguilas.

Miles and miles of pristine beaches, with (almost) no one else there!

This secluded bay is almost without road access, meaning that you can drive close to the beach, but from there, you need to navigate a bit of terrain to get down to the paradisiacal sands.

Or, get a boat trip here!

The most convenient way to get here is definitely by boat, and you can hail one from the Aguila restaurant, which really is the last stop before the wilderness.

And this restaurant, by the way, was AMAZING! I possibly had the best mixed seafood and meat platter here that I have ever had!

Places To Stay At Bahia De Las Aguilas

This is also a popular glamping site with tents three seconds from the beach right next to the Aguila restaurant, and the beach is also super nice.

And they have a super nice beach as well, a dive center, and even a spa!

If you want to go all in on the glamping side while visiting Bahia de las Aguilas, there is an amazing place called Eco del Mar, a little further along the beach!

Now remember, it is camping, but the tents are built like houses, with curtains as walls, where you can hear the wind and the sea as you fall asleep at night.

I took a day tour to Bahia de las Aguilas from Barahona, which was super convenient, and the guides also made sure I got all the information about other interesting sights in the area.

Like getting to jump into small but deep cenotes in the dry national park, you need to cross to get here!

Along the coast between Barahona and Bahia de las Aguilas, there are some truly amazing spots, deserted beaches, and the river mouths where the rivers meet the sea.

Wrap-Up Reasons To Visit Dominican Republic

After traveling in the Dominican Republic for over two months, my key takeaway that I want to give you is – it is a stunning, fun, interesting Caribbean destination!

In addition to the things you find in all Caribbean destinations, you have unique things that are special for just the Dominican Republic.

Like the carnivals in February, the whale watching in the mating season, and the unique culinary experiences that they created here in this small paradise of the region!

And after Uber arrived on the island (in a few of the most popular destinations), transportation in these areas is a breeze!

If you want to check out your options, here is an overview of the 14 best Caribbean islands for solo travelers in 2023, but they are just as beautiful if you travel with your squad!

Related blog posts:

The 5 Best Resorts In Punta Cana For Singles Traveling DR In 2023!

7 Top-Rated 5-Star Awesome Punta Cana Day Trips 2023!

The 8 Best Beaches In Punta Cana Dominican Republic (2023)

My Resource Go-To List For Best Travel Booking Deals!

Best Airfare bookings: Skyscanner, Wayway,

Best tour companies: Civitatis (for Cuba), Viator

Best Hotel Bookings: Booking, Expedia

Travel Insurance: IMG Medical Travel Insurance

VPN Secure Internet: ExpressVPN

Cuba Visa Online: Easy Tourist Card

Car Rentals Online: Discover Cars

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