Dominican Republic Travel Guide

Holiday Vacation Tourism Travel Guide

The Dominican Republic can be found in the Caribbean, an area consisting of the islands and surrounding coastline in the Caribbean Sea, southeast of the North American continent. The region is also known as the West Indies, and when the surrounding countries include such places as the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands, you know that you’re headed for a prime vacation spot.

The Dominican Republic shares its island in the Greater Antilles with Haiti, where it is known as Hispaniola. The weather here is sunny and balmy, being tropical and maritime in nature. With the tradewinds from the Atlantic passing through the area, there’s no problem cooling down in the heat.

BeachesWith nine ecological zones in the country, the Dominican Republic is a great destination if you want to go for eco-tourism. The Caribbean islands are known as biodiversity hotspots because they support exceptionally diverse ecosystems, and Hispaniola by itself contains two species of solenodon (giant shrews), examples of the dozens of highly threatened species of fauna here. Since the country has the highest and lowest points in the Caribbean, there are a lot of different environments to try out between Pico Duarte (10,128 feet above sea level) and Lake Enriguillo (144 feet below). Eco-tourism also means experiencing the many adventure-type activities that many tour companies offer here, from horseback riding to kayaking to white-water rafting to windsurfing. The diverse geographical features here also offer you a chance to go canyoning, which is a blend of hiking, swimming, rock climbing, jumping, and rappelling. You can then wrap up with a dip in a cool mountain pool!

But most people don’t go all the way here to exert themselves. And with the beautiful white-sand beaches that they have here, why should you? Whether it’s on the North, Northeast, or East Coast, you’ll find the palm trees and fine sand like sugar, where you can laze the days away on a beach chair with a cold cocktail in your hand. Then you can take a dip in the clear, warm waters afterward while you decide what to have for dinner at that resort you’re staying at.

The South Central and South Coast offers an alternative to the more popular destinations up north. Peaceful gray sand dunes, natural waterfalls, and stronger waves characterize the South, while South Central offers a bit more local color than the others, with vendors ready with personal tours or delicious local food.

Some beaches are deserted, and some are filled with people and establishments ready for some partying. Some beaches are big, some are small, but all are beautiful. How can you go wrong going to a beach in the Caribbean? And there is so much more to enjoy in the Dominican Republic aside from its natural features. It’s a prime destination for golfing enthusiasts for instance, with amazing courses designed by legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Nick Faldo. And you can’t help but fall in love with the Hispanic-Caribbean cultural aspect of the country, including its delicious food, Merengue music, and love of baseball!

Plus, with its close proximity to Cuba, a visit to the Dominican Republic won’t be complete without sampling some of its cigars, which are at par with the best its nearby neighbor can offer.

About Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is about 44,440 square kilometers big, being the second biggest nation in the Antilles region with Cuba being the largest. The Dominican Republic has three major mountain ranges; these are the Cordillera Septentrional, Cordillera Central and the Cordillera Oriental of the East. Situated between the Septentrional and the Central mountain ranges lies the fertile, scenic and rich valley of Cibao, the valley where the Santiago De Caballeros city is located while the Dominican Republic’s capital city of Santo Domingo is situated on the northern part.

Getting Around

With a land area of more than 18,000 square miles, getting around the country can be a daunting task for the adventurous traveler. However, there are several ways of getting around the country’s varied terrain.

The most effective and cheapest way to get to the Dominican Republic from any part of the globe is by air, as part of a package tour. With seven international airports and more domestic airports, flying can be the most convenient and fastest way of roaming around the country. Domestic, as well as charter flights, are available at very low prices (around $60 USD). Nevertheless, travelers are well off to remember that the Dominican Republic does not comply with international standards in maintenance and safety in air travel.

Bus

Buses are the best way to travel around the country. They are cheap, convenient and comfortable. There is the Metro Bus or Carib Tours which are air-conditioned and there are also the gua-guas, the smaller buses that are favored by the locals. Their size allows them to move around faster and fares come up to just a few Dominican pesos.

Rental car

Rental cars are quite expensive but can be a great way to explore far off places at your own pace. There are rental agencies all around the major tourist destinations which offer fleets of four-wheel-drive cars or sedan cars. Driving in the Dominican Republic can be quite intimidating and you should be older than 25 years, own a credit card and more importantly have steady hands to drive.

Mopeds & Scooters

Rental companies also offer mopeds and scooters and might be the better idea if you want to travel on dirt roads and avoid traffic and corrupt police officers on the highways. They are cheaper than rented cars and can get you to places that buses and cars can’t reach. However, safety is still an issue with scooters and mopeds due to less than ideal road conditions. Always wear helmets and drive cautiously if you plan to travel the country this way.

Taxi

If you plan to tour in a limited or small area, maybe just the city, taxis can be hired and are cheaper than renting cars. Some smaller taxis will have fixed rates and can be reached through a dispatcher that will send a taxi to your location. Travelers are advised to use well-known taxi companies to avoid incidents of mugging and theft.

Then there is the Carro Publico, a taxi that drives a certain route, usually, a major avenue, while loading and unloading passengers along the way. It is like a small bus built for four passengers, inexpensive but uncomfortable.

Ferry

There are also the Ferry and boat services. Service is limited but you can travel to and from Puerto Rico several times a week.

A few smaller ferries will offer to take you around the different destinations around the country.

With so many destinations to see around the Dominican Republic, tourists will continuously flock to the country. Helping you get around will not be such a headache as there are many available modes of traveling and sightseeing.

Tourist Attractions

The Dominican Republic offers a lot of tourist attractions that until now mesmerizes visitors upon arriving in this scenic island nation. Here are some attractions guides to show new travelers about some interesting places to visit in the Dominican Republic.

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo is the capital city of the Dominican Republic and it is also the largest and in this place, a lot of attractions are situated. This city has a thriving and lively port, restaurants that offer the best Dominican cuisine, Cultural Plaza, Museums, Parks, Casinos and world-rated hotels. The National Theater is also located in this city such as the Gallery or Modern Art as well. Any tourists who may want to immerse themselves in the culture of the people of the Dominican Republic this city is a good place to start. A few miles away from this city lies a splendid cave complex called the Los Tres Ojos De Agua or “Three Eyes of Water” has three unique lagoons seen on three varying levels with each one surrounded by lush tropical greens and an underground crystal clear river.

San Cristobal

On the Southern Coast of the Dominican Republic lies San Cristobal, a historic city where the first draft of the nation’s constitution was signed way back in 1844. Travelers interested in the history of the Dominican Republic may find this place a haven for such interests. The historical site along the city gives tourists a lot of new-found knowledge. Festivities around the caves and church of Santa Maria attract a lot of visitors annually. In La Romana, a 7,000-acre wide resort called as Casa De Campo offers travelers a paradise location as well as the Altos de Chavon, the Mediterranean inspired villa that expresses the rich art and culture of the country, located on the majestic cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, this place is widely considered as among the most scenic places in the Dominican Republic.

IslandOther places of attractions located in this region are the Manati theme Park, Cabritos Island, the Azua de Compostela and the colonial city of the stunning Pueblo Viejo which offers ancient ruins and historical structures.

Amber Coast

On the Northern coast which is otherwise known as the Amber Coast because it is the place where a lot of the most beautiful kinds of amber in the whole planet is found here. Also, the Puerto Plata offers some of the very best beaches in the world with its colonial style of architecture it boasts as among the leading honeymoon destination in the world. The Mount Isabel de Torres is a majestic location at 2,500 feet above sea level and offers a breathtaking and magnificent view of the large part of the Atlantic Ocean. Adjacent is the resort town of Playa Dorada, another tourist haven with beautiful beaches and lively nightlife.

Samana Peninsula

The Samana Peninsula which lies on the northernmost part of the island, offers some of the best blue waters, long stretches of white sand beaches, caves, lush forests all conspire to provide you a romantic tourist paradise.

These are just some of the attractions in the Dominican Republic a lot more awaits visitors as this country offers a lot and cannot be enumerated easily with many more cities and towns depicting a paradise-like setting.

Local Food

Being in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic is open to a lot of influences, and of course, those influences will be reflected in one of the most popular aspects of any country’s cultural expressions – its food. The cuisine of the Dominican Republic is similar to many other Latin American cuisines, with an overwhelmingly Spanish flavor, but with additional African and local Taino influences.

Appetizing Spanish cuisine is transformed by the availability of local ingredients in a Dominican Republic household, as it has been done in other Spanish colonies across the world. So what they’re serving up there in Hispaniola is at once familiar, yet different enough to get the mouth-watering at the thought of having something other than more Mexican.

Although the West Indies location has its influence over the cuisine, the spicing of the dishes here is milder than other areas there. Onions, garlic, coriander, and oregano are the primary spices of a Dominican meal, and chicken, beef, goat or seafood are the main ingredients, depending on whether the dish originated on the coast or in the mountains.

Dominican breakfast

Ready to start your day off with a typical Dominican breakfast? Then you’ll probably be having some hearty eggs and mangu, which is a puree of plantains and cassava or taro, either boiled or fried. It’s a savory dish, which goes well accompanied by fried red onions, meat or white cheese.

Lunch

Lunch is the most substantial meal of the day, Spanish influence on their lifestyle from all those years of colonization. And if you ask a Dominican what he would recommend for lunch, the answer would most probably be La Bandera Dominicana, which means “The Dominican Flag”. Now, this is a complete meal in itself, and consists of rice, beans, and meat, with fried plantains and maybe a vegetable salad as add-ons to this tri-color national dish.

Dinner

Local FoodIf you’re looking for something just as hearty to add to an already super-sized meal, then there’s Sancocho, which is a Spanish-style stew made with various root crops, green plantains, avocado, and meat. When they use seven different types of meat, it’s known as Sanchocho Prieto. For something lighter, there’s Chicharrones de Pollo, which are deep-fried chunks of chicken. For the more adventurous, there’s Chivo, which is a roasted goat, while Mondongo is a type of stew made with tripe and entrails. And then there’s street food for those who really like to immerse themselves in culture. Frituras (fried snacks), chicharrones (pork rinds) Pollo Frito (fried chicken) and chimichurri (hamburgers) are just some of what you might discover being sold around the corner from where you’re staying.

But those are specific dishes. Typically, you may encounter a variety of meats or seafood in different kinds of sauces, like “sofrito”, and “criolla” (Creole) which are spicy and tomato-based, or “con coco”, which is coconut-milk based, and “al ajillo”, which is heavy on the garlic or “a la crema”, which creamy like Bechamel sauce.

Dessert

And what about dessert? Local island fruits like mangoes, pineapples, oranges, and bananas just can’t be beaten, and you can find them prepared in a variety of ways if you’re not satisfied with having them fresh in your hand.

Presidente is the most popular brand of beer there, while your Caribbean experience won’t be complete without some rum, of which Barceló and Bermúdez are good examples.

Dominican Republic’s Nightlife

Tourists and locals are commonly seen dotting the stunning beaches of Dominican Republic during the day. They usually take advantage of the tropical weather as they frolic on the pristine beaches or bathe their bodies under the sun. But when the sun starts to set, everybody rushes to their hotel rooms to change into different clothing that would fit the Caribbean atmosphere of Dominican Republic during the night. The bars and restaurants start to set their establishment’s lights on as they get ready for the rush of loyal clients and new customers by the time the sun lost its rays in Dominican Republic.

Bars & Nightclubs

There are a lot of bars and nightclubs to choose from. These are great places with excellent services, gorgeous staff, and loud music. Visiting some of the nightclubs and bars of the Dominican Republic is a prime way to enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages, socializing with the beautiful Dominican Republic locals and dancing. You can find most people dancing and grinding to the latest upbeat tunes played by the disc jockey or sung by live bands. These establishments are usually open up to the wee hours of the morning. If you want to have an authentic Caribbean nightlife experience, there are some clubs that are Dominican-owned that only play Bachata or Merengue music. Moreover, they only serve locally-made drinks to their customers.

Popular Drinks

The most popular local drink enjoyed by many on the island of Dominican Republic is known as the Cuba Libre. It is usually accompanied by a local rum and a soda. The glass is adorned with a small piece of lime. For those who love to drink beer, Dominican Republic boasts it’s a locally brewed beer called the El Presidente. It is commonly served ice-cold and by far, hasn’t disappointed anyone who tasted it. There are also several tropical cocktails listed on the menu of Dominican Republic bars and nightclubs. Common orders include Cahparinas, Banana Mamas, Pina Colada, and Rum Punch. However, if you go for good-tasting wines, browse the luxurious hotels, bars, and restaurants typically located at the high-end resorts of Dominican Republic.

Fine Dining

For those who do not want to blend with the lively people in the nightclubs, there are several restaurants that cater fine-dining along the streets of the Dominican Republic. There are many places to choose from depending on your budget. Culinary specialties are served and it varies from one region to another. Most of the meals are served with rice, seafood, vegetables, and meat. The dishes are much alike of the native Antillean or Creole recipes inspired by the South and Central American cooking style. The spices are just light for your taste buds. However, if you are up for a more daring local delicacy, you must not miss getting an order of the infamous Sanchoco Prieto. It is a local Dominican Republic dish which is a perfect combination of seven different types of meat including lamb and goat meat. The popular El President beer is usually recommended to wash down the heat brought about by the spice of the local dish.