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?
- Some of the world’s best whale-watching tours can be found outside Samana Peninsula between December and march.
- “All Dominicans” dance the bachata, and if you don’t already know this elegant and fun dance, you can learn it here.
- Every Sunday in the month of February, the destinations Santiago, Puerto Plata, and La Vega turn the city into a colorful carnival parade.
- The Dominican Republic offers some of the best scuba diving sites in the region including coral reefs, cave diving, and wreck diving.
- With its range of terrains, and climates, the Dominican Republics National Parks and protected areas are ideal homes to over 6,000 different species.
- 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.
- 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!
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
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.
“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 Sando Domingo, and the surrounding areas like Playa Boca Chica beach.
1. Tropical Beach Heaven Punta Cana
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 discos 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
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.
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
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!
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
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, such as Alcázar de Colón Fortress, Primada Cathedral, and Ozama Fortress to name a few.
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”
5. Samana Peninsula & 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 each year during winter mating season – an incredible sight! Visit The Whale Museum here and check out their impressive whale skeleton exhibit.
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 ocean, mountains, and fertile valleys together, there is an abundant production of coffee and cacao.
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!
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
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!
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).
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 3 suspension bridges to a monkey sanctuary and cave exploration.
The Monkey Jungle is open seven days a week, and you don’t need to book in advance.
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.
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.
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.
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 crowds. During daytime hours, this area is a more family-friendly hangout spot than later in the evening.
9. Las Terrenas
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 are coming together for one unforgettable evening.
10. Barahona City
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.
There is also a fire station constructed in the 19th century with its unique original structure still remaining 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 do not like.
The first thing is that 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.
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.
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
And on that, I must agree! I did a day trip venturing further southwest visiting the Bahia de las Aguilas.
This secluded bay is almost without road access, meaning that you can drive close to the beach but you need to navigate a bit of terrain to get down to the paradisiacal sands.
The best way to get here is by boat, and you can hail one from the Aguila restaurant, which is also a popular glamping site, where they have a super nice beach as well, a dive center, and even a spa!
I took a day tour here from Barahona, which was super convenient, and also made sure I got all the information about other interesting sights in the area, like small but deep cenotes in the dry national park you need to cross to get here!
Further along the coast, 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!