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The Dominican Republic is the most visited travel destination in the Caribbean. Every year, over five million travelers from around the world arrive at this beautiful tropical island nation–and for good reason! The Dominican Republic is considered a “micro-continent” because it offers a little bit of almost everything from bright blue beaches to chilly mountain towns surrounded by pine trees. However, with so many amazing places to visit in the Dominican Republic, tourism is not so consistently spread around the island. To encourage others to venture out beyond the beach resorts, here is an insider’s guide on the top 27 incredible things to do in the Dominican Republic!
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Related Resources on Travel to the Dominican Republic
→ Dominican Republic Tours & Excursions Around the Island
→ Best Areas to Visit/Where to Stay in the Dominican Republic
→ Santo Domingo’s Best Things to Do & See
→ See all of our Dominican Republic travel guides
→ Email us to support local small businesses by hiring local guides who can take you to any of the places listed below.
Incredible Things to Do in the Dominican Republic
1. Hike La Plaza & La Cueva
This is a full day, two-part hike in the beautiful province of Barahona. This stunning hike takes you through several crystal-clear blue pools surrounded by limestone rocks within a jungle. Both parts of the hike (La Plaza and La Cueva) are well worth it with several gems along the way. Because it is a virginal region, it is unpaved and thus not an easy hike. You must improvise the way: over rocks, jumping down, leaping over, swimming, sliding, crawling and climbing up natural “second floors” without stairs. It is like the ultimate obstacle course + hike. A full-body workout in the midst of pristine beauty.
2. Larimar Gemstone Mines & Shopping
Larimar is one of the rarest gemstones in the world. It is only found in the Dominican Republic and in only one mine located in the Barahona province. So don’t miss out on the lifetime experience to see how a local collective of miners extract this rare gem. You will need a 4×4 SUV to get up to the mining area. Below is a video of visiting the mines.
Please keep in mind: This is not to encourage poverty tourism but to recommend an experience of learning how locals have created a mining system to extract one of the world’s rarest gemstones. Please do not use locals, especially their kids as photoshoot props. And please consider tipping your guides for taking the time out of their workday to show you around.
Also, while you’re admiring the beautiful coastline of Barahona, take a moment to pull over and go shopping! Directly support the local small businesses by buying a beautiful piece of larimar gemstone. Some road stands sell them as raw pieces, polished stones, and/or as jewelry. Whichever form of larimar you choose, it will surely make for a lovely souvenir.
3. Los Patos Beach/River: Seafood Feast With Epic Views
Stop by the gorgeous Los Patos Beach and River for a fresh seafood lunch. My favorite place is Kathy’s restaurant right on the beach and in a more secluded corner. Her restaurant, a women-owned small business for many years, serves delicious food from a pristinely kept kitchen. Give her a call (829)988-1038 so she can have everything ready for you upon arrival. And let her know Isabelle sent you! 😉
4. Bahia de las Aguilas: The Best Beach in the World
Bahia de las Aguilas is the prize at the end of the scenic Southwest Dominican road trip from Barahona to Los Patos to Pedernales. I’ve traveled to over 45 countries in the world and Bahia de las Aguilas ranks as the best beach in the world for me. So if you love beaches, Bahia de las Aguilas is a must bucket list thing to do in the Dominican Republic.
Want to visit Bahia de las Aguilas independently? Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get to Bahia de las Aguilas from Santo Domingo via public transportation.
5. Los Pozos de Romeo
On the very road that leads to Bahia de las Aguilas beach, consider this refreshing detour. Los Pozos de Romeo is a crystal clear natural pool enclosed within rocks and cacti fauna. A perfect pit stop to re-freshen up before or after the beach!
6. Laguna de Oviedo: Iguanas, Flamingos & More
Laguna de Oviedo is a saltwater lake in Jaragua National Park in the Pedernales province of the Dominican Republic. Here you can hire a guide for a boat tour through the different islands to learn about the cacti fauna while bird and iguana watching. At the end of your trip don’t forget to ask for the natural mud bath stop! There is a lot of things to do in Laguna de Oviedo including unique caves and trying exotic cacti fruits. So plan at least half a day here to really appreciate all it has to offer.
7. Arroyo Salado
Located just 10 minutes from Laguna de Oviedo is Arroyo Salado natural pool. This is the perfect stop to wash off the saltwater from Oviedo Lake and any remnants of your mud bath! This natural freshwater pool is surrounded by mangroves and is home to little fish who will innocuously eat away at your dead skin.
Where to Stay in Pedernales
- Hostal Dona Chava – Super cute and cozy bed and breakfast, owned by a wonderful local family of Dominicans. It’s situated in a central part of town where you can walk to the many delicious restaurants or grocery stores in Pedernales town!
JARABACOA TOWN REGION
8. Hike El Pico Duarte: The Tallest Mountain in the Caribbean
The Dominican Republic is home to a significant amount of mountain ranges. The most well-known is the Cordillera Central range which stretches across the “heart” of the Dominican Republic for hundreds of miles, extending into Haiti. Because of its cooler climate, green valleys, and mountainous tall peaks, the Cordillera Central is referred to as the Dominican Alps. The prestigious and magnificent Pico Duarte is located in this range, soaring at over 3,000 meters (10,000+ feet) in altitude. Consider doing a multi-day hike up to the tallest mountain in the Caribbean. The hiking base is less than one hour from Jarabacoa.
Keep Reading: Guide to Hiking Pico Duarte in the Dominican Alps
Interested in Hiking El Pico Duarte? See our Pico Duarte Hiking Tour Package
9. Paraglide Over the Dominican Alps
Paragliding is a highlight experience for adventure lovers coming to Jarabacoa. You can go with a professional pilot and roam the skies above the Jarabacoa valleys. Costs start at $50 per person.
10. Enjoy Jarabacoa’s Various Waterfalls
You can actually chase waterfalls in Jarabacoa as there are various ones to choose from. Travelers can reach the different waterfalls by car, horse, and/or hiking. Consider visiting the top three most beautiful waterfalls on a full-day tour of hiking and swimming. Here are the three I recommend: Jimenoa I Waterfall, Baiguate Waterfall, and Salto Secreto Waterfall. Email us for tours with locals in this area.
11. Water Rafting Through the Yaque del Norte River
Raft down the Yaque del Norte River, the second-longest river in the Caribbean with Rancho Baiguate. Depending on the time of the year the rapids can be smoother or a bit stronger. The tallest drop is about 3 meters. This is the perfect experience for both beginners or more experienced rafters.
Continue Reading: Jarabacoa Travel Guide: 21 Reasons to Visit the Dominican Alps for more in-depth information on things to see and do in this region.
Where to Stay in Jarabacoa
- Jarabacoa Mountain Hostel offers budget prices and gorgeous quality. Prices range from $14/dorm (pictured above) to $28/private to $55/for a luxurious room with your own Jacuzzi. You can also rent an apartment entirely for yourself!
- Gran Jimenoa Hotel is a high-quality resort-style hotel on a very calming and almost spiritual Gran Jimenoa River (pictured above). It’s a great place to go if you want to have breakfast included, housekeeping and other hotel amenities.
Monte Plata Province
12. Salto de Socoa
This underrated gem in Monte Plata barely gets any visitors. You may likely have the entire place to yourself like I have several times. Yet, it’s very easy to access from the main road to Samana. Pay just $1 to enter and take a 15-minute walk down including some steps. The emerald green swimming area also extends to several other beautiful pools. To get to these pools you must walk over some wet rocks, so bring water shoes with grip.
13. Culturally Immerse Yourself in Campo Life & Cooking Lessons
One of the best (and most fun) ways to culturally immersive yourself is through food. Consider taking a half-day trip to the rural farms of Monte Plata for some cooking lessons by the town chef: my aunt Ramona. Along with other members of my family, they will teach you how to cook some of the most delicious Dominican dishes over a traditional wood fire outside. You can tour the farm, pick cacao, ride horses and more. Consider adding a visit to El Salto de Socoa as an add on for a full-day tour of fun in the lush province of Monte Plata. Book now by emailing email@example.com
The famous Salto Alto which is currently suffering from overcrowdedness. Skip the crowds coming out of the big tourist buses and head to the more quaint Salto de Socoa (listed above).
Bani City Region
14. Sand Boarding in Las Dunas de Bani (Sand Dunes)
Travelers to the Dominican Republic are often shocked to find out that this tropical island is also home to desert topography including tall sand dunes surrounded by cactus plants. Las Dunas de Bani (the Bani Sand Dunes) offer stunning views of the Caribbean sea juxtaposed against the desert landscape. Here you can hike over the tall dunes for fun or rent a board and surf the sand dunes!
15. Pink Salt Pans aka Las Salinas
Another underrated hidden gem in the southwest is the salt mines of Bani. The large salt pans are naturally pink before the salt is extracted by the local miners. Ask for permission to enter, and take a stroll down the trolley tracks to take in the view of these pink pools surrounded by beautiful mountains and piles of snowy-white salt.
16. Ocoa Vineyard
Wine lovers should stop in the province of Azua to visit the gorgeous and luxurious Ocoa Bay Vineyard. This vineyard offers wine tastings, guided tours, a beautiful outdoor restaurant, a clubhouse with an infinity pool and dozens of sustainable agricultural projects.
17. Los Tres Ojos
The Dominican Republic’s Three Eyes National Park is a nature reserve and open-air limestone cave system with a series of crystal clear lakes known as the “eyes.” Located in Santo Domingo, just ten minutes by car from the popular Colonial Zone, the park provides a sweet respite from the hustle and bustle of the busy city. Along with a guided tour, these stunning open water caves also offer deeper insights into the pre-colonial and ancestral origins of the Dominican Republic.
Keep Reading: How to Visit Los Tres Ojos Travel Guide
18. La Zona Colonial
If you can only do one thing while in Santo Domingo, then let it be this. La Zona Colonial is the historic colonial center of the city. Here you can spend days on end with things to do and see. This is also the best place for cultural events, social movements, art galleries, museums, nightlife, and trendy restaurants.
Continue Reading: The Top Things to Do in Santo Domingo including La Zona Colonial.
19. Ride El Teleferico
For less than .50 cents USD you can ride the spotlessly clean metro in Santo Domingo and then get a free connection to the teleférico (cable car) that takes you up and above and through various neighborhoods reaching just below the outskirts of La Victoria. You’ll see kids playing in the natural pools, hear dogs and roosters sing, and smell that nostalgic toasted wood campo aroma, as you fly above schools, homes, lush plains, busy streets, and rivers. There are so many stories to the views from above with every swing. While to us travelers this is a fun and exciting (when it swings out of the station it feels like zip-lining) ride through the northern outskirts of Santo Domingo… for many locals, it’s finally a way to get around and connect to more opportunities in the city center. This is a vital means of everyday local transportation that helps Dominicans and our environment.
20. Fiesta de Palo: Explore Afro-Dominican History in Villa Mella
Palo is Afro-Dominican sacred music with roots from the Congo region/West Africa. It has been preserved through us for hundreds of years despite colonial oppression and various attempts to suppress and repress it. Fiesta de Palo has become a “vehicle for anti-colonial, anti-hegemonic and anti-imperial” protest. Palo can vary by region around the entire country. In Villa Mella, in the outskirts of Santo Domingo, where the first recorded slave rebellion occurred and where African slaves fled for refuge, is where Palo is most famously known to have been preserved.
If you’re interested in cultural heritage especially in music and Afro-Dominican history, venture out to hear a brotherhood in Villa Mella do a ceremony/Fiesta de Palo.
21. Take a Kiteboarding Lesson/Go Kitesurfing
Cabarete is one of the best places, not just in the country, but in the world for kitesurfing. About a mile from Cabarete downtown is the popular Kite Beach where you can either sign up for kite surfing lessons or watch in awe as the local kite surfers leap high into the air with moves that almost defy gratify. Other options for kite surfing include La Boca and Bozo Beach.
22. Go Surfing or Take Surfing Lessons in Playa Encuentro
The northern shores of the Dominican Republic are home to some of the most popular surfing communities in the country. Playa Encuentro, less than 5 miles from Cabarete downtown, is one of the best beaches for surfing, especially if you’re a beginner. Surfing lessons average to about $50 for a 2-3 hour lesson. Prices depend on the business and lesson package. You are also free to rent surfboards without lessons if you wish.
I stayed at El Encuentro Surf Lodge which is a few minutes walking to Encuentro Beach where I took a morning surf class for beginners. My lesson was with Pau Hana. And I couldn’t believe they actually got me to stand and surf on baby waves not once or twice, but THREE times!
24. Half-Day Trip to Wilson’s in La Boca
This Dominican-owned restaurant sits at the foot of the Yasica River just before it meets the ocean. So the views are uniquely beautiful: part beach and part river with a few local kite surfers enjoying the perfect combo in a relatively remote and low key area. The cooks take you back into their kitchen where you choose your fish and weight it. For about $8-10 USD you can enjoy an entire fish cooked over a wood fire with tostones, rice, and salad. It is one of the best and tastiest meals you can have in the Dominican Republic.
Getting to La Boca, about 15 minutes from Cabarete downtown is a little adventure within itself and requires either an SUV or a proper motorcycle since you’ll be driving over/around streams of water, puddles, rocks, and sand. When you reach the end of the road, you will take a free boat over the river to this special restaurant! In my humble opinion, this is one of the best things to do in Cabarete!
Main Article: Top Things to See & Do in Cabarete – An Insider’s Guide
Monte Cristi City & Province
25. Visit Maximo Gomez’ House
Monte Cristi is home to some of the most impactful colonial history in Latin America– from being one of the first colonial cities in the Americas to having critical ties with Cuba’s independence thanks to Maximo Gomez. This alone is reason enough to check out his home/museum to gain a deeper insight into Dominican history and its connection with our Latino neighbors as well as how it affects us all today.
26. Island Hopping from Isla Cabra to Cayo 7 Hermanos
Isla Cabra is an uninhabited island that offers little hikes, naturally shaded areas for picnics, and a beautiful emerald-green beach all to yourself. What more can you ask for? You can reach Isla Cabra’s Playa Paraiso by taking a boat which you can hire at the town fishing dock. If you’re already on a boat tour going through the canals and Isla Cabra (#2 above), you may be interested in paying for the full day excursion and head to Cayo 7 Hermanos. This group of uninhabited island keys are also within the Monte Cristi National Park region. They are comprised of: Terrero, Monte Grande, Ratas, Muertos, Arenas, Tororu and Monte Chico.
27. El Morro/Playa El Morro (“El Morro Beach”)
This iconic view is probably what you get when you google Monte Cristi. And it not only lives up to but surpasses the expectations of the images you see online. Tall limestone mountainous cliffs surround the golden shores of El Morro beach. There are at least three hikes you can do here for beautiful views from above or you can just walk down to the beach to see the views from below. Both are stunning. At night you can also get some mesmerizing views of the night sky. Perfect for astrophotographers. The paths here are rocky so bring proper shoes if you don’t have strong ankles.
My Travel Guide: 10 Reasons to Visit Monte Cristi in the Dominican Republic
Intentionally not mentioned in this post for 2020: Samana, La Romana, and Punta Cana since they are getting a ton of tourism relative to the rest of the island. Samana was featured in our guide last year, 2019 Best Places to Visit in the Dominican Republic. There are an endless amount of things to do in different places around the Dominican Republic. Subscribe to get more travel guides! & follow me on Instagram: @dominicanabroad
Like this travel guide? Check out my 2019 guide to see some other amazing places in the Dominican Republic not listed on here!
Local Tours Around the Dominican Republic
Consider supporting local small businesses by contacting us to connect you with locals throughout the island who offer their tourism services. Or join in on one of our tours:
- Dominican Heritage Tour: Includes Santo Domingo, Monte Plata, Pedernales, Barahona, and Jarabacoa!
- Jarabacoa Weekend Retreat: Relaxation + wellness + outdoors
- Pico Duarte Hiking Tours: Ranging from 2-5 days hiking tours
- Jarabacoa Tours: Read everything we offer in collaboration with local guides
- Barahona & Pedernales Tours
- More Dominican Republic tours
- Email us for a custom tour: firstname.lastname@example.org
Like our the graphics of our maps above? Consider hiring local Dominican artist from San Cristobal: Flori Lorenzo!
Dominican Republic Itinerary
Planning a Dominican Republic trip but not sure where to begin or who to contact? Hire us for your Dominican Republic travel planning services. Rates begin at $150 per trip. Email us with your trip length, group size, and which of the above activities interest you and your daily budget.