Dominican Republic travel guide


Discovered by Columbus in 1492, Hispaniola is divided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic. While the former attracts just a handful of travelers, the latter is the most visited destination in the Caribbean. The Punta Cana area, which has the highest concentration of all inclusive resorts in the world, swallows up many of the visitors, leaving much of the DR unexplored. And for Ďthe restí read four mountain ranges, desert plains, lush valleys, tropical rainforests and 27 different climatic zones Ė a topography way more diverse than on neighbouring islands.
Merengue music was born here, and blasts from the corner shop-cum-bars or colmados everywhere, while carnivals and fiestas pepper the calendar. Towns boast Spanish colonial architecture, crumbling mansions and friendly cafes where locals play spirited games of dominoes. Responsible tourism is still in its infancy, but itís gaining momentum, working to preserve and cherish the DRís culture and landscape, and providing an exciting alternative to identikit resorts.

Find out more in our Dominican Republic travel guide.
The Dominican Republic is...

a Caribbean dream, with wild landscapes complementing its tropical beaches.

The Dominican Republic isn't...

Dominica, which is the mountainous Caribbean island between Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Dominican Republic map & highlights


The Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation after Cuba. All inclusive resorts and a cracking coastline pull in punters looking for rum in the sun, but thereís space to escape the crowds and, increasingly, some really good responsible lodges, hotels and activities springing up. There are also seven international airports, so itís possible to fly straight to your vacation location, avoiding a long road transfer once you arrive. For the adventure sports and mountains of the north coast, fly to Puerto Plata and you can be on the beach at Cabarete in about an hour.
Cabarete Central Range El Choco NP Northern Range Puerto Plata


Once a fishing and farming hamlet, Cabarete is now busy and vibrant. You can easily reach the other north coast beaches from here, but this is the adventure sports capital of the country, so to try surfing, windsurfing and kite surfing you donít even need to leave town. Thereís more active fun just inland, in the nearby northern mountain range, including zip lining and hiking.

Central Range

The Cordillera Central is the DRís highest, most rugged range, with peaks towering over 3,000m, including the biggest, Pico Duarte. Itís cool up here, so a great place for a heat retreat. Enjoy watching the mist hover over the Valle del Cibao below, where merengue was born. There is hiking, horse riding and mountain biking here, and the only white water rafting in the Caribbean.

El Choco National Park

Just 3.5km from Cabarete, this is the newest national park in the Dominican Republic and boasts gorgeous fauna, two turquoise lagoons, forest, pasture land and 36 species of birds. There is a cave system, too, with underground natural spring pools that you can swim in. Explore on foot or bike, following numerous hiking trails that wind through the jungle.

Northern Range

The Cordillera Septentrional runs parallel to the north coast and with the Central Range forms the Dominican Alps, with the fertile Valle del Cibao, the breadbasket of the country, nestling between. In contrast to the resorts peppering the coastline, here you can stay in eco jungle cabins on an organic farm. Hike and horse ride, or jump, swim and slide through the 27 waterfalls of Damajaqua.

Puerto Plata

Known for its all inclusive resorts and golf course, this working port is actually the oldest city on the north coast. Walk the 3km malecůn which hugs the ocean, where locals play dominoes in small, friendly bars. Explore the downtown streets, discovering the once opulent, gingerbread-style homes of wealthy German tobacco merchants, built in the 1870s, and the 16th century San Felipe fortress.


The large, sandy beach at Sosķa attracts families, foreigners and Dominicans alike, here for the calm seas and snorkelling. Itís also catnip for divers, with 19 different dive sites, all between five and 20 minutes by boat from the beach. Here, some of the clearest waters in the West Indies allow you to easily spot the tropical fish, king crabs, moray eels, barracudas and even dolphins.

Photo credits: [Topbox: David Stanley] [Map topbox: Antonio Castagna] [Cabarete: Chris Breikss] [Central Range: Ken Mayer] [El Choco National Park: photochem_PA] [Northern range: adam w] [Puerto Plata: S. Rae] [Sosķa: Rob] [Helpdesk: Ben Kucinski]
Written by Joanna Simmons
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Photo credits: [Page banner: Ben Kucinski]