Surrounded by hundreds of miles of beaches, the Dominican Republic is the epitome of a perfect island getaway. The sun-drenched the Dominican Republic shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti, occupying the larger eastern section of the island. In addition to enjoying a multitude of water sports, you can also spend some time learning about the interesting history of the state and admiring the colonial architecture in the Zona Colonial in the city of Santa Domingo.
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The Amber Museum is located in the impressive Villa Bentz homestead in Santo Domingo, which was built in 1918 by one of the city’s most prominent German immigrants, Emil Bentz. The museum provides a suitably graceful home for a most impressive collection of amber sourced on the island and from all over the world. You can take a guided tour of the museum to gain insight into the prehistoric origins and uses of amber, which is composed of fossilized tree resin. The amber, which is mined in the Dominican Republic, is known to be of a particularly high quality, and much of it contains important fossilized plant and animal remains. Once you have viewed the impressive exhibits, you can visit the shop, which sells a wide variety of amber jewelry.
Amber Museum, Calle Arzobispo Merino 452, Santo Domingo 10212, Dominican Republic, Phone: 809-686-5700
2.Aquamundo Sambil Santo Domingo
© Aquamundo Sambil Santo Domingo
Aquamundo Sambil is an aquarium set right in the heart of the city of Santo Domingo, offering children and non-divers a unique chance to see the wonderful variety of marine life found in the waters around the Dominican Republic and the wider Caribbean. You can get up close to one of the world’s most feared marine creatures in the Shark Tunnel, a clear acrylic walkway through a huge tank filled with several species of sharks. Visit at 4pm to witness dinnertime in the shark tank. Other equally interesting exhibits include the Coral Garden (featuring a myriad of creatures that live on the coral reefs), the insect and reptile exhibit, and the Amazon, Ray, and Touch exhibit featuring a petting pond for younger visitors.
Aquamundo Sambil Santo Domingo, Avenida John F. Kennedy, Santo Domingo 11201, Phone: 829-547-4014
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Bayahibe is located about 10 miles east of La Romana at the southern-most tip of the Dominican Republic, encompassing the National Park of the East and beautiful Saona Island.
Bayahibe is the ideal spot to relax, unwind, enjoy nature, and feast on fresh seafood delivered from the ocean to your plate. You can simply relax and soak up the sun, go on a guided kayaking or Stand-up Paddling excursion, or go diving or snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of the National Park of the East and around Saona Island, where critically endangered sea turtles come to nest. Guided walks in the park will lead you to several historic sites, including a cave containing petroglyphs created by ancient Tainos tribes.
4.Things to Do in the Dominican Republic: Boca Chica
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Located on the south coast of the island near Santo Domingo, the town of Boca Chica lies on the largest reef-protected bay in the Caribbean. The beach town is famous for its white sand and clear sheltered waters that offer a plethora of water sports. You can try jet-skiing, water skiing, kayaking, sailing, wind-surfing and banana boats or opt to explore the underwater wonders of the reef on a snorkeling or scuba diving excursion. Land-based activities include horse-riding, cycling, motor biking, and golf, and there are several venues where you can dine on freshly caught seafood right on the edge of the water. The town is known for its lively “party” vibe, and the pedestrian-only main street is lined with clubs and pubs where you can mix with the locals and learn to dance the Merengue.
5.Choco Museo Punta Cana
© Choco Museo Punta Cana
Calling all chocolate lovers – come and find out all there is to know about your favorite treat at the Chocolate Museum (Choco Museo) in Punta Cana. A visit to Choco Museo includes a free tour of the cacao and chocolate museum followed by a free tour of the chocolate factory where a team of artisans transform raw organic Dominican cacao beans into sensational chocolate treats. If you would like to learn how to make your own chocolate from scratch you can join a “Bean to Bar” workshop. It goes without saying that you will be able to sample wonderful organic chocolates and buy edible souvenirs to take home with you.
Choco Museo, Carretera Barcelo, Bavaro, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Phone: 809-466-1022
6.Cueva de las Maravillas
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Located between La Romana and Santo Domingo the Cueva de las Maravillas is an enormous underground cave system believed to be over 100,000 years old. About 240m of the cave is open to the public (the remaining part of the cave is an important bat habitat) and has been expertly lit so that you can admire the wonderful collection of stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and pisoliths. There is clear evidence that the cave was once inhabited by ancient native Taino Indians who left a wealth of pictographs for future generations to admire. There is easy access to the cave via ramps, a concrete pathway, and an elevator. You’ll also find a small museum and gift shop.
231 Provincial Trunk Hwy 12, Steinbach, MB R5G 1V3, Canada, Phone: 809-951-9009
7.Hacienda la Esmeralda
© Hacienda la Esmeralda
The Dominican Republic is widely acknowledged to produce some of the best chocolate in the world, and you can learn all about the process on a day visit to Hacienda la Esmeralda, which is located just a short drive from Santo Domingo. On arrival you will be served a traditional cup of freshly made hot chocolate before you set off to see how cacao beans are grown and harvested. The factory tour is your chance to see how the humble cacao bean is transformed into one of the world’s favorite treat. You will have the chance to make your own chocolate bar and see how delicate truffles are handmade. After the demonstration you will be served a traditional Dominican lunch on the terrace, accompanied by local music and dancing.
Hacienda la Esmeralda, Esmeralda San Francisco de Macoris, Duarte 31000, Phone: 809-547-2166
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8.Things to Do in the Dominican Republic: Columbus Lighthouse
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Located on the beach close to the town of Santo Domingo, the cross-shaped Columbus Lighthouse is dedicated to the memory of one of the world’s greatest adventurers, Christopher Columbus, who first landed on the island in 1492. The towering 10-story structure is both a tourist attraction and a cultural center, at the heart of which lies a chapel thought to contain the mortal remains of Columbus. Note that this claim has not been substantiated and is disputed by other tomb sites in Spain. The most unique feature of the lighthouse is the elaborate lighting system that projects an enormous illuminated cross into the night skies, which can be seen from over 40 miles away.
Columbus Lighthouse (Faro a Colon), Santo Domingo Este 11604, Dominican Republic, Phone: 809-591-4844
9.Hispaniola Aquatic Adventures
© Hispaniola Aquatic Adventures
Hispaniola Aquatic Adventures are a catamaran tour company based in Punta Cana on the east coast of the Dominican Republic. The company offers a variety of private or group catamaran excursions, which include snorkeling on the Cabeza de Toro reef, one of the premier snorkeling reefs in the area. In addition to sailing and snorkeling you will also stop at an idyllic palm-fringed beach to enjoy cocktails and fresh coconut. While you are admiring the amazing underwater marine life your guides will take plenty of photos to ensure that your excursion is unforgettable. Most of the aquatic adventures last for about four hours and include a seafood lunch along with all the necessary snorkeling equipment.
Hispaniola Aquatic Adventures, Plaza Bibijagua, Punta Cana/Bavaro, Phone: 829-305-2804
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10.HorsePlay Punta Cana
© HorsePlay Punta Cana
HorsePlay is a Canadian-owned adventure ranch covering over 300 acres of lush forests, cacao and tobacco plantations, and rivers where outdoor enthusiasts can choose from a variety of thrilling excursions in an authentic Dominican environment. The ranch offers you the chance to soar through the forests on their 5-line, 10-platform Zip Line Adventure Tour (half-day) or stay comfortingly closer to earth as you explore the tropical forest on horseback. You can treat yourself to the full-day Adventure River Tour (which includes horse riding, zip-lining, cigar rolling, lunch, and cacao sampling) and offers the additional option to join a Cattle Drive Tour. Equestrians who only want to ride can choose the JustWannaRide half-day riding package. All tours include hotel pick-up. (Phone: 829-956-6580)
11.Hoyo Azul Punta Cana
© Hoyo Azul Punta Cana
The remarkable Hoyo Azul (Blue Hole) is a natural sinkhole filled with crystal-clear water, located at the foot of a towering 75mt cliff, and it is one of the prime tourist attractions in the Punta Cana area. You can see this natural wonder on a full day tour, which will include a short hike through tropical rain forest where you will see many species of local plants such as orchids, ferns, and bromeliad. The almost-impossibly blue pool is reached via a series of stairs that will take you into the cave and down to the pool where you can take a refreshing dip. You also have the option of combining your Hoyo Azul tour with a zip-line adventure. Hotel pick-up is included in both options.
Scape Park, Cap Cana, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic, Phone: 809-469-7484
12.Things to Do in the Dominican Republic: Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park
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The Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park covers over 45 acres of amazing tropical forest dotted here and there by natural fresh water lagoons (called “eyes”) that are fed by an underground river. The best way to fully appreciate all you can see in the park is to take a guided tour (offered in English, French, or Spanish), which will explain the local flora and fauna. The park is home to over 100 species of birds, 27 of which are only found in the Dominican Republic. You can also tour the park’s fruit gardens, the botanical gardens, a petting zoo, and an iguana farm. Self-guided tours are also allowed, and you can have a refreshing swim in three of the lagoons where you may be lucky enough to spot a turtle, so bring along your goggles.
Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park, 960 Ave. Abraham Lincoln, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Phone: 809-959-9221
13.Larimar Museum and Factory, Dominican Republic
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Larimar is a fairly new addition to the gemstones and semi-precious stones of the world and is only found in the Dominican Republic. The gemstone is a calcium-sodium silicate or pectolite formed during the massive heat of volcanic eruptions and can be found in several colors, the most special of which is a clear azure blue, reminiscent of the brilliant waters that surround the island. You can learn all about the origins of the stone and how it is mined, polished, and turned into beautiful jewelry at the museum before visiting the shop to buy some wonderful souvenirs to take back home.
Larimar Museum, 54 Calle Isabel La Catolica, Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo, Phone: 809-686-5700
14.Macao Surf Camp
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If you would like to surf while on vacation in the Dominican Republic the Macao Surf Camp, operating out of Punta Cana, is your one-stop-shop for everything you need. The company is owned and run by three surfing veterans and has six instructors and 12 assistants who are dedicated to provide you with great lessons that will have you surfing like a pro in no time. If you are a beginner you will spend some time on the beach learning all the basics before hitting the water, while more advanced surfers can get straight into the water to hone their skills. Lessons are offered in English, Spanish, Italian, and Russian, and your hosts provide everything you need, including a rash vest. If you are an experienced surfer and just want to hire a board, the company has a variety of equipment available.
Macao Surf Camp, Macao Beach, Punta Cana, La Altagracia, Dominican Republic, Phone: 809-430-9017
15.Mount Isabel de Torres
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Visiting Mount Isabel de Torres near Puerto Plata on the north coast of the Dominican Republic is one of the most popular tourist activities when you need a break from the beaches. Tours are available from Puerto Plata, or you can take a taxi to the cable-car station and hire a guide on site. The scenic cable car ride will whisk you to the top of the mountain to enjoy the best views out over the city and the coastline. Other attractions at the peak include the National Botanical Gardens and an enormous statue of Christ. If you enjoy haggling for a bargain you will find many vendors selling jewelry and other souvenirs at the base of the statue.
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16.Museum of the Royal Houses
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When you need a break from the sun and the sea you can visit the Museum of the Royal Houses in the Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo to learn all about the Dominican Republic’s deep links to Europe. The museum is housed in a 16th century building that was originally built to house the administrative offices of the Spanish Colonies and contains a labyrinth of rooms offering displays on early legislation, historic ceramics, military artifacts, and much more. You are welcome to stroll around at your own pace assisted by an audio guide. There are several Santo Domingo City Tours available, which include the museum together with other historic sites in the city.
Museum of the Royal Houses, Santo Domingo de Guzman 10212, Dominican Republic, Phone: 809-682-4202
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17.Things to Do in the Dominican Republic: National Botanical Gardens
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The lovely National Botanical Gardens on Mt. Isabel de Torres offer locals and visitors a serene and beautiful environment for getting back to nature and learning about the amazing variety of tropical plants endemic to the Dominican Republic. The gardens cover a very large area of over 200 acres, and there is a network of paths and trails for walking and running. If you are not in the mood for exercise you can board the mini-train that takes you on a guided tour of the gardens. You’ll learn all about the various habitats and plants, including orchids, palms, bromeliads, and many more. There is also a very lovely Japanese Garden (which many consider to be the highlight of their visit) and a Butterfly Garden.
National Botanical Gardens, Mt. Isabel de Torres, Santo Domingo 10507, Dominican Republic, Phone: 809-565-2860
18.National Park of the East
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The magnificent National Park of the East lies at the southern-most corner of the Dominican Republic, covering an enormous area of over 790km². The landmass is covered in Subtropical Forest, which was once the home of the native Taino Indians. The park includes the wonderful off-shore island of Saona, offering brilliant azure waters, pristine beaches, coral reefs, and a myriad of marine creature to be observed by snorkelers and divers. You can explore the coastal waters on a catamaran excursion, which will usually include a stop for snorkeling, a beach stop with lunch, and the chance to visit the turtle sanctuary. It is also possible to explore the forested area on a guided hike and to visit Mano Juan, a small fishing village on Saona Island.
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19.Paradise Island and the Mangroves
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Just close your eyes and imagine a tiny strip of pristine white sand peeping out of the azure waters of the Caribbean, and you will have a good idea of what to expect from Paradise Island. The tiny coral island forms part of the National Park of Montecristi in the north-west corner of Dominican Republic, which covers almost 1600 km and protects essential coastal mangrove forests. An excursion to Paradise Island will include time for you to snorkel on the surrounding untouched reef, which is bristling with marine life, or to just relax on the beach, and it includes the chance to see an abundance of wildlife, lagoons, and channels that make up the mangrove forests. Your access point to Paradise Island is the small fishing town of Punta Rusia on the mainland.
Paradise Island Tours, Av. Luis Genebra, Puerto Plata 57000, Dominican Republic, Phone: 809-320-7606
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20.Parque Zoologico Nacional (National Zoological Gardens)
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The National Zoological Gardens are located in Santo Domingo, offering a great day out for both locals and visitors without having to travel far from the city. The zoo has been well designed, and the animals are housed in large enclosures that resemble their natural habitat as closely as possible. You can stroll around at your own pace or hop aboard the train, which will take you all around the zoo to see endemic Dominican Republic animals as well as exotics from all over Africa and South America, including lions, tigers, zebras, and much more. Children will particularly enjoy the petting zoo, pony rides, and the amazing colors of the birds in the aviary. There is a shady picnic area where you can relax and enjoy a snack.
Parque Zoologico Nacional, Santo Domingo de Guzman, Dominican Republic, Phone: 809-378-2149
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21.Tabacalera de Garcia Cigar Factory, Dominican Republic
© Tabacalera de Garcia Cigar Factory
Whether or not you are a smoker you should not leave the Dominican Republic without visiting a cigar factory and Tabacalera de Garcia, which manufactures some of the most popular brands like Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta, is one of the largest on the island. Your one-hour tour of the factory will show you all the intricacies that go into producing a world-class hand-made cigar. You will be able to see all the production stages, including bunching, rolling, maturation, packaging, and labeling. After the tour you can spend some time in the Dominican Flower Shop where you can buy cigars and other Dominican specialties like coffee, cacao, chocolates, and vanilla. Tours includes hotel pick-up and drop off.
Tabacalera de Garcia Cigar Factory, Zona Franca, Casa de Campo, La Romana 809, Dominican Republic, Phone: 809-550-3000
22.The 3 Eyes National Park (Los Tres Ojos)
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The 3 Eyes National Park in Santo Domingo is a must-see attraction for all visitors to the Dominican Republic. The “eyes” are three underground lakes or lagoons that were established thousands of years ago as a result of seismic activity. The deep water of the three lakes and the sunlight filtering in from above are responsible for the almost iridescent blue/green of the water. Your tour of the caves and lagoons will require some effort as you have to navigate some steep stairs to reach the first lagoon. Once you reach the third lagoon you have the option of a raft ride to the fourth lagoon, which is located in the open and surrounded by amazing tropical plants – it is well worth the small additional fee to see this final lake, which can only be accessed through the cave system.
Los Tres Ojos, Santo Domingo Este 11604, Dominican Republic, Phone: 809-877-7000
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23.Tubagua Plantation Eco Estate, Dominican Republic
© Tubagua Plantation Eco Estate
The Tubagua Plantation Eco Estate is surrounded by dense tropical jungle, sugar cane plantations, and gently swaying palm trees, approximately 20mins from the beaches of the Dominican Republic’s wonderful north coast. Nature lovers will particularly enjoy the remote and rural location of the estate, the outdoor dining room, airy haciendas, and wonderful views of the coastline. The estate offers a full range of eco-friendly activities, which include hiking to some near-by waterfalls for a dip in “God’s Swimming Pool,” tours to nearby attractions, guided hikes through the sugar plantations and horse-back rides through the beautiful tropical landscape. The lodge is the ideal place to escape the tourist throng for a few days and discover the “real” Dominican Republic.
Tubagua Plantation Eco Estate, Km19, Hwy 25, Tubagua, Puerto Plata 5700, Dominican Republic
24.Bavaro Adventure Park
© Bavaro Adventure Park
The 110-acre Bavaro Adventure Park is a must-visit attraction located in the Punta Cana region. The park has been established in a large tract of natural forest offering a back-to-nature feel with exciting eco-friendly adventure activities for the whole family. There are 16 activities available, including three zip-line adventure options, biking, Segway, Paintball Rapid Shooter, the Climbing Garden and a Flight Simulator. Younger visitors can have fun exploring Dino World (with animatronics dinosaurs) and the playground, which has miniature zip lines, tightropes, and climbing walls for 2 – 7 year olds. In between activities you can relax and cool off in the Waterfall Pool and go on a guided Eco Tour to see butterflies, orchids, parrots, turtles, and more.
Bavaro Adventure Park, Bulevar Turistico del Este, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic, Phone: 809-933-3040
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25.Canopy Adventure Zip Line Tours
© Canopy Adventure Zip Line Tours
Located in Punta Cana, Canopy Adventure Zip Line Tours is a great family attraction featuring two separate and exciting half-day jungle adventures. The Canopy Adventure Tour starts with a safety briefing and instruction class before you set off on an adrenalin boosting ride through the canopy of ancient trees. Along the way your guides will be on hand to assist and teach you about the flora and fauna of the park. The Extreme Swing adventure is even more thrilling and involves flying through the air in a horizontal position (like Superman) and free-fall jumping from a 100-ft high tower. Back at ground level refreshments are served as you catch your breath. (Phone: 809-468-4041)
25 Best Things to Do in the Dominican Republic
- Amber Museum, Photo: Courtesy of kazu - Fotolia.com
- Aquamundo Sambil Santo Domingo, Photo: Aquamundo Sambil Santo Domingo
- Bayahibe, Photo: Courtesy of pakofer - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in the Dominican Republic: Boca Chica, Photo: Courtesy of franco lucato - Fotolia.com
- Choco Museo Punta Cana, Photo: Choco Museo Punta Cana
- Cueva de las Maravillas, Photo: Courtesy of ojoel - Fotolia.com
- Hacienda la Esmeralda, Photo: Hacienda la Esmeralda
- Things to Do in the Dominican Republic: Columbus Lighthouse, Photo: Courtesy of Maciej Czekajewski - Fotolia.com
- Hispaniola Aquatic Adventures, Photo: Hispaniola Aquatic Adventures
- HorsePlay Punta Cana, Photo: HorsePlay Punta Cana
- Hoyo Azul Punta Cana, Photo: Hoyo Azul Punta Cana
- Things to Do in the Dominican Republic: Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park, Photo: Courtesy of eugenesergeev - Fotolia.com
- Larimar Museum and Factory, Dominican Republic, Photo: Courtesy of Michael Tieck - Fotolia.com
- Macao Surf Camp, Photo: Courtesy of oneinchpunch - Fotolia.com
- Mount Isabel de Torres, Photo: Courtesy of Stefanie Erxleben - Fotolia.com
- Museum of the Royal Houses, Photo: Courtesy of robert lerich - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in the Dominican Republic: National Botanical Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of Konstantin - Fotolia.com
- National Park of the East, Photo: Courtesy of elens19 - Fotolia.com
- Paradise Island and the Mangroves, Photo: Courtesy of 2436digitalavenue - Fotolia.com
- Parque Zoologico Nacional (National Zoological Gardens), Photo: Courtesy of Gerisima - Fotolia.com
- Tabacalera de Garcia Cigar Factory, Dominican Republic, Photo: Tabacalera de Garcia Cigar Factory
- The 3 Eyes National Park (Los Tres Ojos), Photo: Courtesy of Maciej Czekajewski - Fotolia.com
- Tubagua Plantation Eco Estate, Dominican Republic, Photo: Tubagua Plantation Eco Estate
- Bavaro Adventure Park, Photo: Bavaro Adventure Park
- Canopy Adventure Zip Line Tours, Photo: Canopy Adventure Zip Line Tours
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Federico Rostagno - Fotolia.com