10 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Dominican Republic

Jul 22, 2021

A little known gem of the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic beckons travelers with its deep culture, varied landscape, and rich history.

Unlike the Spanish-speaking nations to the south, the Dominican Republic is first and foremost a Caribbean country. Here, landscapes shift from the dry desert interior to lush tropical islands with powdery white beaches. The architectural style also reflects the island's climate: spires, minarets, and baroque Catholic churches are the dominating elements of Spanish colonial architecture, found mostly in Santo Domingo, while European buildings are also scattered around the coastal city of La Romana.

While its history is marked with vicious slavery and two violent civil wars, the Dominican Republic is now a country on the rise. The visitor's scene is quiet and under-developed, but that's slowly changing as business and tourism increase. Explore the Dominican Republic with our list of the top attractions in the country.

Puerto Plata

Photo of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic: en.wikipedia.org

Puerto Plata, just southeast of the capital, Santo Domingo, is a quaint colonial city located in a bay. Puerto Plata is about the same size as the smaller San Juan and nearby Santo Domingo, so the traffic can get pretty heavy during the weekends, and can get quite bad in the city during rush hour. However, the island has excellent beaches and is known for the Dominican Republic's best-known beach, the Yateras. Puerto Plata is one of the oldest towns in the country. Founded by Columbus' crew members, its historical buildings can still be seen in the colonial city center, which is also the site of the country's main University. Puerto Plata is a perfect starting point for trips to the larger Dominican Republic beaches, the Usina Luisa, located just on the outskirts of town, and the little village of San Francisco.

Cabarete Beach

Photo of Cabarete
Cabarete: en.wikipedia.org

Almost two hundred kilometers of white sand beach spread along the Caribbean coast of the Dominican Republic, Cabarete Beach stretches for nearly 16 km from the town of Cabarete to the little town of Puerto Plata. This beach is ideal for surfing and for some of the best kite surfing in the world. Most hotels are based on the beach or within easy walking distance of it.

Sosua

Photo of SosĂșa
SosĂșa: en.wikipedia.org

Also known as 'Nature's Stone Park' Sosua offers a chance to relax and enjoy stunning views of an enormous granite rock off the coast of the Dominican Republic. When time permits, take a bus tour or hire a boat to get out to see the island's largest rock. A number of shops selling souvenirs and fishing paraphernalia operate in the small village, from where you can also visit the local cocoa plantation. A further option is a guided day tour which includes travel to the foot of the spectacular massif and the trekking or mountain biking on trails leading to the caves and waterfalls.

Santo Domingo

Photo of Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo: en.wikipedia.org

The charming colonial town of Santo Domingo can trace its origins back to the 16th century when the Spanish erected the fort that would eventually be rebuilt and expanded into the town we know today. Since its arrival in the 1600s, the Dominican Republic has played host to a number of colorful names including Taino Indians, colonists and sugar barons. Today the city is the hub of Santo Domingo's beautiful colonial buildings and its lovely central square, the Parque ColĂłn. Santo Domingo also serves as the country's "winter capital" as it attracts visitors and visitors for the shopping, resorts and fabulous nightlife. In its colonial center, visit the beautifully restored El Castillo de ColĂłn or the nearby Dominican Embassy building to learn more about the city's history and other sights that cannot be missed. Santo Domingo is located on the south-western end of the Dominican Republic, just 35 miles from the Haitian border. There are many ways to get there, and on my trip there was an aeroplane that was great to have, especially because of its price and range.

San Pedro de MacorĂ­s

Photo of San Pedro de MacorĂ­s
San Pedro de MacorĂ­s: en.wikipedia.org

Once a protected colonial city on the outskirts of Santo Domingo and considered an idyllic retreat from the hectic bustle of the capital, the village of San Pedro de MacorĂ­s has lost much of its unique charm. It has a sizeable contingent of expats, many of whom have moved there to be close to the water, but the town remains mired in a sort of sleepy colonial pattern that belies its real value as a weekend getaway or short-stay vacation destination. A leisurely, scenic drive from the capital brings you to this area, a series of three islands located in the bay on the border between the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean Sea. The town has a variety of hotels, restaurants and bars to cater to the needs of those wanting a quiet retreat.

Bayahibe Beach

Photo of Bayahibe
Bayahibe: en.wikipedia.org

The allure of this tropical paradise is that it is relatively inexpensive, is easy to reach from the major cities, and has a number of all-inclusive resorts for visitors to choose from. The island has a well-developed tourist infrastructure and experiences temperatures that range between a warm 30-degree high in the day and a cool 15 degrees Celsius at night. Water activities on the Caribbean Sea include snorkeling, scuba diving, and fishing.

Las Terrenas Beach

Photo of Las Terrenas
Las Terrenas: en.wikipedia.org

Las Terrenas Beach, in a small, picturesque coastal town called Puerto Plata, is the Dominican Republic's answer to the Caribbean Islands' beaches. This is a beautiful, almost idyllic beach with clear water and plenty of white sand. While Puerto Plata is a busy city of hotels, restaurants, and bars, Las Terrenas is quieter and more relaxed, with plenty of local activity. The Caribbean's best diving is to be found off the coast, and snorkelers will love the reefs offshore, some of which are protected areas. There are plenty of places to rent snorkel gear and kayaks for free or for very cheap prices.

Isla Saona

Photo of Saona Island
Saona Island: en.wikipedia.org

A mystical, volcanic archipelago located south of the Dominican Republic, Isla Saona offers nature lovers an abundance of nature and wildlife. Settle in for your stay and discover the real paradise of the Caribbean. Explore the best of the island's scenery, including the delightful village of Aguadas de la India, or climb its extinct volcano, OriĂłn, to the third highest point in the Americas, VolcĂĄn Ventisim, to discover the crater from which the island emerges. OriĂłn, which rises to 3,322 meters above sea level, boasts one of the world's best vistas, offering a jaw-dropping 360-degree view of the Caribbean Sea from the top of the stratovolcano. The best time to visit is November to March when temperatures are pleasant and clear weather prevails. Weather permitting, the island is a wonderful place for hiking and enjoying nature. The small island of Saona is home to a wide variety of tropical flora and fauna, making it a great spot for bird-watching. Rafting adventures through the Caribbean and island diving are also available. The total population of Saona is less than 2,000 people and the island is connected by air to the DR's capital, Santo Domingo.

Barahona

Photo of Barahona, Dominican Republic
Barahona, Dominican Republic: en.wikipedia.org

Barahona is a small but lively and bustling city in the Dominican Republic's south-eastern province of La Vega. Surrounded by the Caribbean, the sprawling colonial city sits on the banks of the Barahona River. The city of Barahona is famous for the barahona (black seashell) and beaches of Bahias de Jobos, a huge bay on the south side of the town where you can go to enjoy its crystal clear waters and scenic views of the Caribbean Sea. However, it's a very popular beach because it has hundreds of carnival boats and events that take place there throughout the year. It is also one of the best places to visit if you want to learn how the city is divided in traditional neighborhoods like El Pedregal, Bosque Atlantico or the district of el Parque. One of the best things to do in Barahona is visit Parque Yeyu, where you will see natural pools used to provide water to the homes of the people who live there. One of the most attractive areas of the city is the Lake Garda, a beautiful, fresh area where you can relax in the pine forests. The artisans of this district have several craftshops with great objects and local artisanal products, like ceramics, baskets, woodwork, paintings and toys.

La Isabela

Photo of La Isabela
La Isabela: en.wikipedia.org

La Isabela's history and culture are intertwined with the sugar industry in the southern part of the Dominican Republic. The vast majority of the work force is of African descent, who were brought to the Dominican Republic to work in the sugar industry by the Spanish in the 16th century. La Isabela is now the largest sugar plantation in the Caribbean, where the historical remains can be seen in the whitewashed villages of Hato Mayor and the Bejuquilla Waterfall. Further into the interior you'll find some of the country's most accessible kite flying, along with an inviting stretch of coastline with large beaches and coves such as San Pedro Bay and Toca. Travel to La Isabela is mostly by air from Santo Domingo or Santiago, but boat travel across the La Iguana Lake is also possible.