A guide to things to do in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic‘s tropical climate means outdoor adventures are always in season. Activities here are all about getting in tune with nature, from ziplining above the lush forest canopy to swimming with dolphins and wading through natural pools. There’s also the chance to go golfing or raise the stakes at a casino, but the great outdoors is where the real adventures on your Dominican Republic holidays begin.
Explore the amazing sights and activities of the island’s diverse landscape
You can take a trip to the stunning surroundings of Scape Park. Take a trek here among the exotic wild orchids and ferns until you reach Hoyo Azul – or Blue Hole. It’s a natural limestone sink-hole at the base of a cliff where you can dive, swim and relax.
If you want to have some fun getting up close to some of the local wildlife, be sure to visit Monkey Land which lies deep in the heart of a jungle. Meet the inhabitants of the monkey sanctuary and also take a look at its botanical gardens.
The Dominican Republic’s mountain ranges have four main rivers running through them. Take thrilling action adventure trips to one of the most spectacular areas on the island at the waterfalls of Damajagua in Puerto Plata. With 27 waterfalls in total, you’ll experience some amazing scenery as well as the opportunity to swim and play in this breathtaking spot.
You may also take a closer look at the incredible diversity of the island’s natural landscape at Los Haitises National Park. Here you can explore dense mangrove swamps teeming with shrimp, carp and manatees, and discover caves with fascinating ancient cave drawings.
Wade in the Hoyo Azul
The richly-turquoise water in Hoyo Azul is something you have to see to believe. Hoyo Azul is a deep rock pool surrounded by tall, craggy cliffs and accessed only by a wooden bridge leading down to the centre. This is a cenote, which was formed by the collapse of limestone to reveal the water-filled cave below. Once down there, you can get your feet – or your entire body – wet and go for a dip in the natural water. It’s the ultimate way to stay cool.
Get sporty at the Bavaro Adventure Park
The Bavaro Adventure Park in Bavaro is a playground for outdoors types, as they’ve grouped together 15 attractions all in one place. There’s ziplining high above the treetops, flight simulators, horseback riding, bungee trampolines and mountain bike tracks. The grounds are even overrun with massive dinosaur statues, so that you’re not only embarking on the excursion of a lifetime, but in the company of some prehistoric baddies like the terrifying T-rex.
Hit the waves with watersports
The Dominican Republic knows a thing or two about watersports. They’ve got practically everything you can think of available somewhere along the coast. You’ll find scuba diving, kitesurfing, windsurfing, parasailing and jet skis, plus boat cruises and private catamaran rides. With weather this gorgeous and a watersport selection so wide, it’s no wonder people spend the majority of their time at the beach.
Jump into the Damajaqua Cascades
The Damajaqua Cascades are hidden behind a field of sugar cane and nestled within the hills of the Northern Corridor in Puerto Plata. Otherwise known as the 27 waterfalls, they’re just that – 27 naturally-formed waterfalls that holidaymakers are invited to jump, splash and wade around in.
You can join a guided tour and hike up to the falls, where a guide will show you around any number of the waterfalls that empty into pools surrounded by naturally-eroded walls of limestone. One of the falls – known as ‘La Tinajita’ – functions as a makeshift waterslide, shooting holidaymakers down the slick stone and into the water below.
Swim with dolphins or whizz down waterslides
Though there are plenty of natural waterparks to be found throughout holidays to the Dominican Republic – including the beaches, rock pools and 27 waterfalls – there are also man-made waterparks to enjoy. In Punta Cana, there’s the Sirenis Aquagames waterpark, which features a cluster of colourful waterslides and a splash park. Also there, Dolphin Discovery is a dolphinarium that gets holidaymakers up close and personal with some of the finned locals.
And then there’s the Ocean World Adventure Park in Puerto Plata, near Cabarete and Sosua, which gets you swimming with basically half of the sea. By that we mean you’ll get the chance to swim alongside everything from dolphins to sharks, high five a sea lion and snorkel past a coral reef – all in the same location.
Discover the architecture and history of the Dominican Republic
In the capital, Santo Domingo, Catedral Primada de America is a magnificent, 16th-century cathedral and was the first to be built in the Dominican Republic.
It was recently renovated to bring back to life the stunning interior, including a beautifully painted alter piece. There is a park to the side of the church dedicated to Christopher Columbus where you can stroll, relax and feed the doves.
Another first is La Aurora cigar factory, which was established in 1903 as the country’s first of many cigar factories. Housed in an impressive building, it produces award winning hand-made as well as machine-made cigars. You can find out more about the history of the place and how their world class cigars are made through a tour.
Santo Domingo is one of the oldest towns in the Dominican Republic. In its Zona Colonial you’ll find charming colonial architecture, lots of museums and churches and a lively hub of restaurants and shops.
Or for a move away from colonial architecture visit Altos de Chavon – an amazing recreation of a 16th-century Roman artisan’s village. Altos de Chavon has its own museum detailing how it was built for a 1970s film, and a large amphitheatre that’s used for big concerts. It also has a lively atmosphere with numerous restaurants, bars, shops and craft studios to explore.
Walk on the wild side at the National Park Del Este
Many people are surprised at just how gorgeous the scenery is in the Dominican Republic. The country is coated in greenery, stacked with national parks, rugged landscapes and, of course, some pretty beautiful beaches.
The National Park Del Este is a whopper, stretching over part of the mainland and onto the Isla Saona. It encompasses eight barrier reefs, hundreds of caverns and acres and acres of forest. It’s also home to more than 112 species of birds, including rare species like the brown pelican, 120 species of fish and even more species of insects and arachnids.
Enjoy a leisurely horse trek or an exhilarating buggy ride
You can take amazing trips on horseback out into the local countryside through some of the Dominican Republic’s most spectacular inland scenery.
Parts of the rural landscape around Punta Cana have large tobacco, coffee, vanilla and cocoa plantations that you can visit, while you can also take in vast areas of cattle farming land. Tours often include a traditional Dominican lunch, so you’ll get a real feel for the local culture and way of life.
If you’d prefer a wild adrenaline rush, have a go on a fast paced buggy adventure. Try to take in the scenery as you zoom through the countryside, across farms, around plantations and along beaches where you can admire the idyllic sea views.