This guide to the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic is authored by Chris.
The Dominican Republic is well-known for its endless beaches and fascinating all-inclusive resorts, but you can explore so much more when visiting the country.
Some of the best things to do in the Dominican Republic when discovering the country are endless waterfalls, incredible hikes, cute fishing villages, soaring mountains, welcoming beach bars, impressive panoramas, unique road trips, and several wildlife watching opportunities.
Let’s head on a journey through the country’s different regions to show you what you can expect when traveling the Dominican Republic. Get to know all the hidden gems from a local expert living in the country!
Best Places to Visit in the Dominican Republic
Make Sure You’re Covered Abroad!
Best Things to Do in The Dominican Republic: Punta Cana
Chances are high that you will arrive in Punta Cana when starting your trip to the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the Caribbean and counts plenty of direct flights from over 30 cities in North America and around 15 countries in Europe.
This is the perfect place if you’d like to relax on its miles-long beaches and prefer to splurge a bit in one of Punta Cana’s all-inclusive resorts. There are also plenty of things to do in this part of the Dominican Republic, even though most are focused on excursions and guided activities.
However, there is also a chance to explore Punta Cana and the east side of the Dominican Republic on your own, especially when you are considering getting a rental car. This way, you are flexible and can move around at your own pace.
There are so many things to do in the Dominican Republic—especially when looking for unique nature adventures! Some of the best are Montaña Redonda, Los Haitises National Park, and Salto de la Jalda, the highest waterfall in the Dominican Republic, which can be reached through a long, but beautiful hike.
Most beautiful place to visit in the Dominican Republic around Punta Cana
Montaña Redonda offers perfect panorama views and unique giant swings on the edge of a mountain less than 1 hour away from most of the all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana.
The most adventurous thing to do in the Dominican Republic around Punta Cana
Head to Bayahibe and catch a boat to Saona Island. The boat heads to the unknown and non-touristy part of Isla Saona, Mano Juan, where you can spend a night in paradise in a basic beachfront guesthouse with just 300 villagers and incredibly amazing beaches around.
→ Book this Punta Cana day trip to Soana Island.
Best Places to Visit in the Dominican Republic: Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is historically the most important place to visit in the Dominican Republic and the entire Caribbean. It is not only the oldest continuously inhabited European established settlement in the Americas but also the capital of the Dominican Republic and home to the unique Colonial Zone.
The latter is one of the most beautiful historical sights in the Caribbean, combining centuries-old buildings with colonial storefronts and an authentic historical vibe.
Furthermore, the Zona Colonial, as locals call it, is perfect for strolling around, taking plenty of photos, and enjoying the several cafés, bars, restaurants, art galleries, and family-owned shops.
But the Colonial Zone is by no means as touristy as it may sound: especially during the weekend, it is highly frequented by locals who love to spend some time here.
Besides getting an insight into the history of the Dominican Republic, it is also the perfect place to visit to do some serious people-watching. If you like to explore the local nightlife, the Colonial Zone is also your ideal place to go.
There are a couple of other things to do in Santo Domingo you can check out. Some top highlights are the Parque Nacional Los Tres Ojos, a national park with lagoons and caves in the city, and the Columbus Lighthouse, an impressive monument, and building. Both are located in the eastern part of the city called Santo Domingo Este.
Just note that you don’t need a car for Santo Domingo; it is better to move around by taxi or Uber. The Colonial Zone is entirely walkable. However, Santo Domingo is perfect to start your road trip in the Dominican Republic once you leave the city, as all major roads in the country start and end here.
The most adventurous thing to do in the Dominican Republic around Santo Domingo
Bonao, around an hour northwest of Santo Domingo, is home to some highly adventurous hikes, including some river or waterfall chasing tours or rappelling activities. Check out Ecoturismo Lynx for details, guides, and hikes.
Best Places to Visit in The Dominican Republic: Central Mountain Range
The Central Mountain Range, called the Cordillera Central, is the perfect region to start your Dominican Republic itinerary if you have rented a car in Santo Domingo.
It is just a 2- to 3-hour drive from the capital and is home to various outdoor activities, such as river rafting, hiking, paragliding, ATV tours, canyoning, or mountain biking.
Furthermore, you can also start your tours to the highest mountain in the Caribbean here, the Pico Duarte, with more than 10,000 feet.
The two best places to visit in the Dominican Republic’s Cordillera Central are Constanza and Jarabacoa. In these small mountain towns, you can find most accommodation and infrastructure, such as supermarkets or restaurants.
Furthermore, you can drive up to the Diviño Niño viewpoint in Constanza, have a hike through the Ebano Verde Natural Reserve, and eat strawberries!
Thanks to the colder mountain climate, which feels like a decent American or European spring, all fruits and vegetables that don’t like tropical temperatures grow in and around Constanza, including delicious Caribbean strawberries.
Most beautiful place to visit in the Central Mountain Range
One of the most beautiful views in the Cordillera Central is from Pico Duarte. It is a challenging 3-day hike to get there and return, but local tour operators can organize the logistics for you to enjoy the views and nature.
The most adventurous thing to do in the Central Mountain Range
The road from San José de Ocoa to Constanza is one of the best road trip adventures you can find in the entire Caribbean: 50 miles of unpaved road, winding up 9000 feet in altitude and 6500 feet down, without hardly passing any villages. You can enjoy spectacular views and the most pristine nature the Dominican Republic offers.
Best Things to Do in The Dominican Republic: The Northwest
The Northwest is a hidden gem for the best place to visit in the Dominican Republic. Or have you already heard of Punta Rucia, Monte Cristi, and San José de las Matas? You’ll hardly find a more authentic side to the Dominican Republic than you do here.
Punta Rucia is a small fishing village where time seems to standstill. It is a true Caribbean paradise like most bigger resort towns would have been 30 years ago.
The biggest draw of Punta Rucia is the sandbar located a 20-minute boat ride away, called Cayo Arena, which is the best snorkeling area in the Dominican Republic.
Monte Cristi is famous for its mini-adventures, such as the short hiking trail to El Morro viewpoint or the quick tour through the salt flats. Another thing to do in the Dominican Republic’s most northwestern area is chartering a boat to reach the outermost islands of the country, the Cayos 7 Hermanos.
San José de las Matas is a small mountain village only popular among local tourists. There are plenty of hikes and waterfalls here, such as Salto de Gallo or Salto Anacaona, and hot springs around 10 miles away from “Sajoma,” as locals call San José de las Matas.
Most beautiful place to visit in the Northwest of the Dominican Republic
The most beautiful place to visit in the Dominican Republic’s Northwest is Cayo Arena. The tiny little sandbar in the middle of the ocean is simply stunning and guarantees unique photo opportunities.
Pro tip: Stay overnight in Punta Rucia and head to Cayo Arena before 8 am to avoid the crowds from the bigger resort towns.
→ Book Cayo Arena Day Trip Here
The most adventurous thing to do in the Dominican Republic in the Northwest
Head to the Haitian border and visit the bi-national market on Mondays and Fridays. Continue your journey off the beaten track to Loma de Cabrera or Rio Limpio for super rural overnight stays, pristine waterfalls, and pleasant hiking trails.
Best Places to Visit in The Dominican Republic: The North Coast
While you ideally shall book a rental car in the Dominican Republic to discover the Cordillera Central and the country’s northwest, the north coast is also an option if you’d rather stay in one place instead of driving around. However, the fantastic north coast road between Puerto Plata and Samaná offers great road trip opportunities!
The best places to visit along the Dominican Republic’s north coast to base yourself are Puerto Plata and Cabarete. While Puerto Plata is perfect if you enjoy city life and history, Cabarete is most travelers’ favorite. It offers a unique combination of the beach, chilled beach bars, local energy, a surfer vibe, and a fantastic array of outdoor activities.
It is not without good reason that Cabarete is one of the surfers’ hotspots in the Caribbean and the outdoor capital of the Dominican Republic, especially when it comes to adventure activities.
The surrounding, the amazing Cordillera Septentrional (North Coast Mountain Range) with its striking blue rivers, is also home to some of the best waterfall hikes in the Dominican Republic, such as La Rejoya or Cola de Pato.
Once you explore the north coast further eastward, you’ll also find many other exciting things to do in the Dominican Republic. Laguna Dudu, a sweet water lagoon with a zipline, Cabo Frances Viejo (a viewpoint with a short hiking trail), or the amazing beaches Playa Grande, Playa Diamante, and Playa Arroyo Salado, just to name a few.
Most beautiful place to visit in the Dominican Republic on the north coast
Choosing the most beautiful place is tough, but Montaña Isabel de Torres in Puerto Plata might be the winner. It is a mountain pretty close to the coast with amazing views of Puerto Plata and the entire north coast. You can head up there either with your car or on a scenic and inexpensive cable car ride.
The most adventurous thing to do in the Dominican Republic along the north coast
The north coast is ultra-diverse; hence this is a tough decision. Pick between those three must-do adventures:
- catch a zipline for 3 USD at Laguna Dudu and let yourself fall around 25 feet down into the refreshing lagoon
- book the Magic Mushroom tour, the most exciting canyoning tour in the Caribbean
- hike the La Rejoya waterfalls (preferable with a guide), a series of four exciting and breathtaking waterfalls (find a GPS track here)
→ Book the Magic Mushroom canyoning tour from Cabarete.
Best Places to Visit in The Dominican Republic: Samaná
Samaná is another favorite for individual travelers when it comes to the best place to visit in the Dominican Republic.
It is not only home to many cute fishing villages but also features a perfect combination between local authenticity and touristic infrastructure without being over-commercialized. You still can feel this genuine beach town vibe, especially in Las Terrenas and the smaller counterpart, Las Galeras.
Samaná can be visited either on a road trip or as an entire holiday, as it is home to so many activities. Some of the best things to do in Samaná are:
- explore El Limón waterfall, one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the Dominican Republic (the feature photo of this post!)
- go whale-watching in the Bay of Samaná (from January to March)
- do a kayak tour or hiking tour in Los Haitises National Park
- explore the many pristine beaches of the Samaná peninsula
- pick a different beach bar every day for sunset
- try local coconut delicacies, as the peninsula is home to thousands (or millions?) of coconut trees
Most beautiful place to visit in Samaná
The beaches are the biggest draw of Samaná. Can you imagine having a 2- or 3-mile long beach nearly entirely to yourself? Check out Playa Cosón, Playa Lanza del Norte or the beaches between Playa El Portillo and Playa Punta Popi for some genuine Robinson Crusoe beaches. There is also a hike along many pristine beaches from Las Galeras to Playa Rincón.
The most adventurous thing to do in Samaná
Hike and explore the triple beach combination of Playa Ermitaño I, Playa Ermitaño II, and Playa Onda Samana – beaches only accessible by a 1.5-hour hike, or an easier way is by boat.
→ Book a whale watching tour from Samana
→ Book a boat trip to gorgeous Samana beaches
→ Book a tour to Los Haitises National Park
→ Book a tour to El Limon Waterfall
Best Places to Visit in the Dominican Republic: the Southwest
The southwest can be considered a bonus when speaking about the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic.
On the one hand, most travelers visiting the Dominican Republic for one or two weeks don’t have the time to explore this remote region. Still, on the other hand, it is one of the most untouched and underrated regions in the Dominican Republic. Especially if you love nature and wildlife, the southwest will wow you.
The southwest is a 4-hour drive from Santo Domingo, and you have to drive back to Santo Domingo once you want to connect to other regions in the Dominican Republic, as there are no other roads.
If you want to see one of the most famous things to do in the Dominican Republic’s southwest, the Bahía de las Águilas, it is even a 7- to 8-hour drive from Santo Domingo.
However, once you decide to head this far, you will be rewarded with fantastic scenery, different vegetation zones, and charming local villages which are not yet included in the billion-dollar tourism industry of Punta Cana and beyond.
You can see flamingos and many bird species at Laguna Oviedo, search for crocodiles at Lago Enriquillo or get super close to giant iguanas in Cabo Rojo.
→ Book a tour around Bahía de las Águilas
Most beautiful place to visit in the southwest of the Dominican Republic
The most beautiful spot is the pristine beach of Bahía de las Águilas. There’s a unique glamping opportunity where you’ll sleep right at the beach, making it one of the best places to visit when looking for a unique Dominican Republic experience. Furthermore, there are plenty of incredible viewpoints along the road when driving in this area.
The most adventurous thing to do in the southwest of the Dominican Republic
Glamping at the beach is already pretty adventurous. Still, the most remarkable thing to do in the Dominican Republic’s Southwest when it comes to adventure is a river hike to Rio La Plaza, one of the crystal-clearest rivers in the country.
Are you convinced that the Dominican Republic has more to offer than just an all-inclusive resort? Which adventure will be your favorite experience? We hope this helped you plan which are the best things to do in the Dominican Republic for you!
If you’d like to know more about Chris and his second home country, the Dominican Republic, check out his website Punta Cana Travel Blog. After traveling through all parts of the world, he is living in this beautiful and underrated country since 2015 – mostly in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana. Chris knows all the pristine beaches and secluded waterfalls you can explore in Punta Cana and the entire country and loves it if visitors leave their all-inclusive resort to discover the beauty, diversity, Caribbean smiles, and Latin vibes the Dominican Republic has to offer.
Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad since 2011 and blogging on Where in the World is Nina? for nearly as long. Nina helps people like you move around the world while making money. She loves talking about how to work abroad and online to travel longer!