Tourism in the Dominican Republic has been accelerating at a dizzying pace and it’s easy to see why it has become a highly-sought-after holiday destination owing to its hundreds of miles of coastline, picturesque views, and colonial architecture.
The country’s roller-coaster historical journey accounts for the wide diversity of ethnicities which, comes through in the cuisine on offer and the music blasting from the cafes and restaurants of the bustling cities like Santo Domingo to the smallest fishing village, here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in the Dominican Republic…
1. Punta Cana – one of the most popular and stunning places to explore in the Dominican Republic
Punta Cana is located at the easternmost province of the Dominican Republic and is known for its beaches which face both the Atlantic and Caribbean. The area is dotted with upscale hotels and amazing golf courses nestled in a truly romantic setting.
There are plenty of all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana, and numerous activities are available from reef exploring to catamaran sailing.
With average temperatures ranging from the late 20s to early 30s why not just enjoy relaxing on the sands of one of the world’s best beaches. We also have a post on the best things to do in Punta Cana.
2. Samana Province – a gorgeous beauty spot to explore in the Dominican Republic
Samana is an Atlantic-facing stretch of coastline including the beaches of Playa Rincón, La Playita Beach and Cayo Levantado in the northern area of the DR.
It was famously discovered by Christopher Columbas in 1492 who was greeted by a barrage of arrows by the locals, thankfully tourists are more welcomed now, with an international airport opening in 2006.
Its tropical forests, coconut groves, and hundreds of tiny, sandy alcoves are as yet still relatively unexplored by tourist hordes but its unique selling point is that it is the special breeding place of the humpback whale and thousands of them congregate off the coast of Samana from January to March.
Surely the national parks, unspoilt bays and peninsulas are only a bonus after watching these gentle giants cavort in the crystal, turquoise waters.
For an even more intimate experience, week-long live-on-board excursions can be arranged offering the rare opportunity to snorkel alongside the whales.
3. Parque Nacional del Este – one of the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic
A visit to the ‘Eastern National Park’ is a special treat for any nature enthusiast, as one of the largest marine parks in the Caribbean, it has an amazing offshore coral reef system which, offers stunning places to dive and where divers can encounter a myriad of marine life.
Those that prefer dry land will not be disappointed with over a hundred different species of birds, remote beaches and tropical forests. All the ingredients for a romantic getaway with a difference!
There is also evidence of early Taino activity and visitors are treated to the rare cave drawings that exist along the area, documenting early indigenous life.
4. Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial – a gorgeous historic neighborhood to explore
This historic neighborhood of Santo Domingo is the oldest European settlement of the New World and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it’s located on the west bank of the Ozama river and exudes romance with delightful pastel-colored buildings, colorful hanging baskets, beautifully restored mansions, and cobblestone streets.
There is a sense of nostalgia as you follow the footsteps of the conquistadors. Among the many tourist attractions of the quarter is the Calle Las Damas is the New World’s oldest paved street, dating from 1502, the 16th-century cathedral, 19th century bronzed statue of Christopher Columbas and the fabled home of Herman Cortes.
Spend an afternoon steeped in history, meandering through the area, sipping strong coffee in the many roadside cafes or checking out the local craft for sale in the many little shops on street corners.
5. Saona Island – a beautiful and popular vacation spot in the Dominican Republic
One of the greatest things to do in the Dominican Republic is to visit Saona Island. Although this little isle is part of the national park, it deserves some column inches of its own and is widely considered to be the most popular part of the park.
The panorama alternates between idyllic stretches of coastline to acres of mangrove swamp to the tiny fishing hamlet – the only inhabited part of the island.
For tourists, this tropical paradise island is easily accessible by boat or catamaran and tourism has increased significantly thanks to its desert island setting and its rise to fame as the location for the filming for the Bounty bar advert.
Definitely, a tranquil haven not to be missed on any trip to the DR.
6. Bahia de las Aguilas – a gorgeous Dominican Republic beach to see and explore
Dominican Republic beaches are known for their crystal clear water. Literally meaning ‘Eagle Bay’, this 8km stretch of sandy and blue water, is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by both locals and visitors alike.
The main reason for this is that it is completely unspoilt and virtually totally isolated, miles away from the major tourist regions, and needs to be accessed by boat or by finding a local tour guide from the tiny fishing village of La Cueva (the cave).
Once here a local villager will oblige you by driving you to the isolated sandy stretch for a small fee. Although getting here can be a bit of a mission, it is worth it to lie out on one of the world’s most utopian stretches of coastline.
7. Paradise Island and The Mangroves – for beautiful and unique Dominican Republic scenery
Speedboats take you to this breath-taking deserted island with rolling, white sandy beaches, perfect coral reefs, and sparkling turquoise waters.
Go snorkeling with a guide and allow the tropical fish eat out of your hand! If snorkeling is not your thing, take a boat ride through the mangrove forests or enjoy lunch in a traditional restaurant in a typical Dominican fishing village.
Day trips to the island operate daily and a tour guide will explain the natural history of both, the marine and land life as well as the conservation projects underway.
8. La Romana – one of the most stunning cities to explore in the Dominican Republic
At the southeast end of the Dominican Republic lies La Romana, which consists of numerous golf courses, beaches, diving locations, and many other outdoor adventures.
Stop by a working cigar factory to see how everything is put together or visit the 7,000-acre resort known as the Casa de Campo, which provides you with everything you need to make your vacation a memorable one.
The golf courses alone are considered some of the best in the entire Caribbean, but the area provides tons of activities that will make you never want to leave.
9. Mountain vistas in Constanza – a scenic area which is often called the Switzerland of the Caribbean
Constanza is the perfect place to take shelter from the blistering heat of the DR, the panorama of the central highlands is in stark contrast to the stretching kilometers of coastline that surround the island.
This unique micro-climate offers local, hard-working farmers the opportunity to grow produce unavailable in other parts of the Caribbean.
With lush green forests, rolling hills, and cloud-covered peaks, Constanza offers tourists chances to explore the Caribbean’s highest peak, Pico Duarte as well as exciting excursions like rafting and canyoning.
One of the most important natural and cultural monuments of the DR is located here, Piedras Letreadas is a collection of fascinating Indian rock carvings that document the life of a civilization that lived in this place more than 500 years ago.
This is truly a world away from anything you’ve already encountered in the DR and nowhere provides such spectacular sunsets. Remember a sweater though because the temperature does dip.
10. Playa Rincon – a beauty spot in the Dominican Republic
Some people claim that this beach is where Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492, but even if this cannot be proven, Playa Rincon is one area in the Dominican Republic that you don’t want to miss.
It consists of two miles of some of the whitest sand beaches and the most amazing water you’ve ever seen, and it is often thought of as one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire Caribbean.
It is only a 20-minute boat ride from Las Galeras, which in itself is a lot of fun. Most of all, though, it offers lots of opportunities for fun in the sun, regardless of what you enjoy doing there.
11. Basilica of Our Lady (Higuey) – an interesting attraction to visit in the Dominican Republic
A beautiful Roman Catholic church with an arch that is a full 225 feet, the building displays architecture that is absolutely stunning.
Between the exquisite details and the beautiful glass fixtures, the church is one of the finest examples of modern religious architecture in all of Latin America, and its sheer size makes it worth the visit there.
Officially inaugurated in January of 1971, it has been celebrated yearly on Altagracia Day ever since then, and just one visit to the church will prove to you why.
12. Bayahibe – a beautiful resort town and a vacation spot in the Dominican Republic
This gorgeous resort town and former fishing village offers a beautiful beach located a mile from town, some of the best scuba diving places in the country, and more than 20 dive sites.
You can also go snorkeling or paddle-boarding, and you can even catch a boat and visit Saona and the nearby national park. Bayahibe is conveniently located and easy to get to, and its tree-lined beaches are something to behold.
Regardless of what you enjoy doing outside, it’s very likely this town will provide it to you.
13. Cabarete – one of the greatest Dominican Republic tourism options to explore
Known as one of the best places for kite-surfing, the town also offers kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, and cave exploring, not to mention enough eateries and shopping opportunities to keep you busy for a very long time.
It has even hosted several international kite-surfing events, and in fact, this is one of the top surfing spots in the entire Caribbean. People who love action sports especially love the town because it offers so much to do, and it is small enough so that anyone can find anything they’re looking for quickly.
14. El Limon Waterfall – a natural beautiful attraction to visit
Found near the Atlantic Coast side of the Dominican Republic, this waterfall makes a 170-foot drop that looks nothing short of spectacular.
While getting there is sometimes a challenge – you’ll have to cross a few rivers – you can jump right in as soon as you reach the waterfall, and the swimming hole at the bottom is just as extraordinary.
You can also walk the 40-mile trail to get there, but regardless of which method you choose, you’ll definitely enjoy soaking in the nice cool water as soon as you arrive.
15. Jarabacoa – a popular city and eco-tourism hub
Located in the Cordillera Central Mountains, this is the Dominican Republic’s eco-tourism center that consists of quaint little stores and boutiques, hiking and mountain climbing trails, gorgeous waterfalls, wooden shacks, and everything else that makes the area unique and wonderful.
Commonly called the Dominican Alps, the town even offers rafting opportunities on the Yaque del Norte River, and the view of the waterfalls alone is worth the trip.
If you love lush green outdoor areas and appreciate nature, this is one town that you’ll want to be sure and visit when you’re in the Dominican Republic.
16. Las Terrenas – a great place to go in the Dominican Republic
Until 1946, this was nothing but a small fishing village. Now, however, it is a tourist spot unknown to many but which offers white sandy beaches, clear sparkling water, and some of the most beautiful landscapes you’ve likely ever seen.
Only a two-hour drive from the capital, Las Terrenas is popular with tourists and locals alike, and all of the beaches in the area are stunning.
There are also a few beaches you can visit if you want to watch the dolphins or the whales. If you want to get a taste of what makes the local areas so unique and you love spending time in the water, this is the town for you.
17. Playa Dorada – one of the most beautiful beaches to explore in the Dominican Republic
Located roughly three miles east of Puerto Plata, Playa Dorada is a set of 12 different resorts, all of which are all-inclusive and therefore offer everything you need to remain there for your entire vacation if that’s what you want.
With beautiful beaches and resorts that are there for your satisfaction only, you can enjoy a host of sights and activities that will keep you going the entire time, regardless of how long you stay there and what you were looking for in the first place.
If you visit Playa Dorada, one thing is certain: you will never be bored.
18. Puerto Plata – a city is best known for its gorgeous beaches
A renowned Dominican Republic city, Puerto Plata was once a very prosperous port city but still offers beautiful beaches, lots of distinguished places to shop, and quite a few places of historical and cultural significance. Included are landmarks such as Fort San Felipe, Mount Isabel de Torres, and the old quarter.
The city shows off the diversity of the Dominican Republican, with its unique combination of Victorian, modern, and colonial structures displayed all throughout the area.
Whether you want to shop, eat, or just hang out with some terrific people, this is known as one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Dominican Republic for a reason.
19. Lago Enriquillo – a beautiful lake to explore
This salty vestige of an ancient oceanic channel known for its elusive inhabitants of crocodiles and iguanas. In fact, it is one of the few lakes in the world that is home to crocodiles and has been declared a wild reserve offering sanctuary to many species of birds giving visitors a chance to observe many of these captivating creatures in their natural habitat.
Tourists check in at the small visitor center with information about the history of the island and local guided tours offer boat tours of the park that lasts about an hour.
Remember to bring suntan lotion (temperatures in summer have been recorded as upwards of 45 degrees) and wear covered shoes, as the odd scorpion abounds.
The Dominican Republic is so much more than just beach resorts, it is one of the most geographically and naturally diverse countries of the Caribbean with stunning scenery, breathtaking sunsets, and bustling, evocative colonial cities.
Unfortunately, so many visitors spend all their time in their beach resort but following this list of must-sees, there’s so much more to be gained by stepping outside and experiencing the real Dominican Republic.
20. Damajaqua Cascades (27 Waterfalls) – for fun, adventure and beautiful scenery
This is one of the most popular tourist attractions of the DR and is located in Puerto Plata. Following admission to the park, travelers will follow an English-speaking guide for a 25-30 minute trek to the hills of the Northern Corridor where the 27 waterfalls are nestled.
Visitors to the park can opt for a different package and visit one or two of the waterfalls, they are offered the chance to climb to the top of each cascade with the help of a guide, the way down? Jump! What could be more exhilarating than splashing into a warm, sparkling pool of clear water at the base of a glistening waterfall? (Don’t worry safety gear is provided for each participant!).
Most visitors to the park comment that ‘La Tinjita’ is the most exciting of all the waterfalls as unlike its counterparts, it has raised curved edges either side of the torrent of water resembling a natural water slide.
This unique shape ensures tourists get a wild ride down to the pool at the bottom- definitely worth leaving your resort hotel room for.
21. Go whale watching in Peninsula de Samaná – one of the best things to do in the Dominican Republic for mature fans
If you want to go whale watching, Samaná is the ideal place for it. During peak season which is between January and March, there are over 300 whales in the bay coming all the way from Greenland and Iceland.
Once they start their journey towards the Samaná Bay their route includes Puerto Rico, The Bahamas and the Gulf of Mexico. There is a high chance that you will be able to witness their acrobatic moves.
The whale nursery is strongly protected and only credited boats are allowed to enter the bay, however, they also have their restrictions. As you can imagine the bay becomes a birthing center where they need all the care and peace as the new calves are born.
22. Take a dip in Hoyo Azul lagoon – a beautiful and incredible activity you can do when visiting the Dominican Republic
If you are looking for a famous destination, Hoyo Azul lagoon is your pick. This stunning place will offer you crystal clear water and memorable moments.
The lagoon is situated in Punta Cana, more specifically in the south where you can stay in luxurious resorts and villas. To access the lagoon you will need to go to Scape Park Cap Cana and after passing through a beautiful trail with plenty of fauna and flora you will reach the lagoon in less than 10 minutes walk.
A couple of things worth noting is that the deepest point of these blue waters is 37 meters.
We also have posts on…
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- Most beautiful places to visit in Puerto Rico
- Most beautiful places to visit in Barbados
- Most beautiful places to visit in the Cayman Islands
- The most beautiful places to visit in Jamaica
- The most beautiful places to visit in Antigua
- The most beautiful places to visit in Saint Lucia
- The most beautiful places to visit in The Bahamas
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Emma-Clair Ni Clearaigh – writer and photographer
With itchy feet, an inquisitive nature and an ardent wanderlust, Emma Clair has always been a traveller at heart. Hailing from the Emerald Isle she calls a small coastal town near Dublin home, but has lived in a few countries including Saigon, Vietnam where she resided for over a year, now she balances travel and travel writing with teaching and a passion for vintage interior design. She counts supping on Bloody Marys on a rooftop in Manhattan, downing Singapore slings at the Raffles Hotel, daring a paraglide on the Grand Cayman, spending an exotic Christmas in Malaysia and exploring the Angkor Wat, Cambodia as her all time favourite travel moments. Although, she’ll always have a special place in her heart for the city where she makes her annual pilgrimages – Paris, her true city of lights. Find Emma-Clair on Instagram or Facebook.