Here’s the best travel advice I can give you about the vibrant Dominican Republic:
Don’t be like most tourists!
The majority of the visitors to the island republic in the Caribbean fail to leave the artificial comforts of their all-inclusive resorts. Therefore, they miss discovering the best part of this tropical pearl.
Don’t be afraid to explore beyond the walls of your resort.
The Dominican Republic offers:
- Rich culture, represented in the peculiar art and the incredible local dances.
- Mesmerising natural beauty, where endless white-sand beaches, refreshing waterfalls, lush mountains, and magnificent caves cohabitate in perfect harmony.
- Delectable local produce that epitomises tropical fruits, coffee, cacao, rum, sugar, cigars.
And you simply can’t experience them properly in a closed resort!
So here are my best Dominican Republic travel tips to help you see all facets of this splendid destination:
Transportation Tips: How To Explore More Than Just The Hotel Beach
1. Go Road Tripping On Your Own Away From The Crowds
There’s no doubt about it:
The greatest way to experience any country, especially the vibrant Dominican Republic, is by taking a road trip.
Having the freedom to stop anytime you want, to visit any attraction on the road that catches your attention, to change your plans in a blink of an eye, and to be flexible is what a vacation in the Caribbean should be all about.
Forget the tourist buses, which stick to their schedule and rush you through the sights whenever it’s convenient for them, not for you. You’re on vacation and looking at your watch is unnecessary stress.
My best Dominican Republic travel tip for you is to have your own wheels.
I know what you’ve read:
- the roads in the Dominican Republic are dangerous;
- you’ll be robbed, carjacked, or worse;
- it’s unsafe to leave the comforts of your all-inclusive resort.
The truth is you should not trust the news too much. The Dominican Republic isn’t more dangerous than your backyard. There’s crime in any major city in the world and the Dominican countryside is, in fact, less dangerous than the neighbourhood you live in.
The roads are indeed challenging and the Dominicans are reckless drivers, but if you drive carefully and avoid altercations, you’ll be fine. Just think of all the great places you can explore that no tourist bus will take you to!
Remember to always tank enough fuel as gas stations can be sparse away from the major roads and settlements. Locals sell gas in reused beer bottles at the side of the road. I would suggest staying away from them as they’ve been exposed to the sun for hours or even days and the glass could shatter at any moment.
However, if driving around the island yourself doesn’t strike your fancy, continue reading these Dominican Republic travel tips to find out what you can do instead.
In addition to the above tip, beware of police officers stopping you for nothing and asking for a bribe. Be polite and decline with a smile.
2. Hire A Local Expert To Show You The Best Side Of The Country
If the thought of renting a car gives you anxiety, you have the option to hire a taxi.
The rates are very reasonable. At the taxi stand near all-inclusive resorts, you can check the fixed prices. Moreover, if you hire a taxi for several tours, you can negotiate a discount.
In addition to relaxing and not worrying about road conditions and navigation, you’ll have someone local to tour you around and reveal the best places and the hidden secrets of the Dominican Republic.
Attractions And Tours Tips: Where To Go For An Unforgettable Experience
3. Visit Some Of The Best Secluded Beaches In The World
Note, that no tourist bus will take you to these places. So check my top tip above again, please!
I know your resort has a perfect beach, but it’s not nearly as pretty and exciting as the hidden Dominican gems I’m about to share with you.
Does an empty stretch of sand, washed by the waves, and surrounded by lush coconut forest sound like a perfect place to visit on your Dominican vacation?
Then open a map and pick one of the best secluded Dominican Republic beaches! You’ll thank me later :)
4. Explore The Depths Of The Earth And Challenge Yourself
One of the largest caves in the Caribbean is located in a lush tropical forest in the middle of Los Haitises National Park. Cueva Fun Fun is approximately 20 million years old and the only way to explore it is by joining a tour.
If you’re staying somewhere in Punta Cana or Bavaro, joining this tour is one of my secret Punta Cana travel tips.
The tour is so well-organised that having your own transportation is meaningless. It is, in fact, one of the few organised Punta Cana excursions I can recommend.
On the way to the cave, you’ll drive through the Dominican countryside. You’ll have a chance to watch local people away from the tourist spots go about their everyday life as you pass through picturesque towns and villages.
When you finally arrive at your destination, you’ll have already experienced a great many sides of Dominican life.
The tour through the cave is quite adventurous but it’s truly one of the best experiences I’ve had in a tropical destination!
You’ll start the fun at the Rancho Capote. You’ll ride a horse before hiking through the lush tropical forest. You’ll then decline into the depths of the Earth through a small hole.
For the next hour, you’ll follow the underground Almirante River in almost complete darkness. When you finally reach the exit of the cave, the horses will wait to take you back to the ranch.
5. Bathe In The Prettiest Waterfalls In The Tropics
Having your own transportation can be of great benefit when trying to beat the crowds at popular waterfalls.
Especially if trying to reach Cascada El Limon on the Samana Peninsula, the most famous waterfall of the Dominican Republic. Don’t trust the cover of the Lonely Planet guidebook, though. Chances of getting a photo without a single person in sight are practically non-existent. Still, if you’re flexible and come as early as possible in the morning, you might at least beat the tourist buses.
Same goes for the 27 Waterfalls of Damajagua. You can arrive on your own and hire your personal guide from the visitors’ centre. You can then jump, slide, and walk undisturbed through as many of the 27 waterfalls as you dare!
You can best visit Cascada El Limon on a multi-day trip from Punta Cana or Puerto Plata or on a day trip if you choose to stay on the Samana Peninsula for your vacation. The Damajagua Cascades are easily reachable on a day trip from Puerto Plata.
6. Climb Mountaintops Without A Single Person In Sight
Most tourists visit the Dominican Republic simply for the endless beaches. However, if that’s all they see, they miss some of the best views this island has to offer.
The highest peak in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte, lies in the heart of the Dominican Republic. Very few tourists dare to climb it. If you’re not going to invest the time and effort to go up to the summit at 3,098 m (10,164 ft.), then at least jump in the car and drive to the nearest hill. I bet my cute Bulgarian tushie your pants will drop when you experience the breath-taking view.
If you’re staying in Punta Cana, Montaña Redonda is just about an hour drive away and close to some spectacular Dominican Republic beaches. You can thank me later for the ecstasy you’ll feel while swinging and taking in the gorgeous panorama from the top :)
Deeper Exploration Tips: How To Best Enjoy The Simple Things In Life
7. Observe Dominicans Go About Their Everyday Life
No tourist bus will take you through the cute, little, colourful Dominican villages, which make this island so vibrant.
You need nothing but a smile on your face and to make the effort to say ¡Hola! to the people you meet on the street to have one of the best experiences travel can offer you.
Eating at the only eatery in a village, located in someone’s home, is to-day one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had. I started salivating again… just by thinking about it.
Watching kids play baseball in the street or a boy driving his cattle are all precious images very few tourists are lucky to observe.
8. Entertain Yourself Like The Dominicans
Dominicans have two major obsessions: cockfights and baseball.
I won’t discuss the controversy of the fights here, but if you want to experience the local culture, visit one of the rings. They can be found in every community and usually host a large, noisy crowd on the Sunday afternoons.
If the sight bothers you, though, simply hang in the area and watch the crowd. People usually gather around the ring and in the nearby cafés and shops and are welcoming to strangers. You can listen to their music and try to strike up a conversation.
If that’s not for you, baseball league games take place in October through January.
Not a sports fan? Then learn to dance to the hot Dominican rhythms of the famous Merengue and Bachata dances. Nothing represents the local culture better than its national dances!
Shopping And Souvenir Tips: Where To Shop To Pay As Much As The Locals
9. Buy At Places Away From The Tourist Traps
Forget about the souvenir shops with greatly inflated prices or the “markets” all-inclusive hotels organise for tourists.
Visiting a real local market is an awesome cultural experience and it should be on your must-do list of activities in any destination.
In the Dominican Republic, the best goods to buy at the market are perhaps fresh tropical fruits. Their taste is as scrumptious as tiny drops of heaven.
Even if you think you’re getting enough variety at your lunch buffet, go to a local market to discover even more local produce. Just make sure to wash your fruits at the hotel before eating them to avoid bacterial infections.
For authentic vacation souvenirs and the best rates on Dominican rum, coffee, and cosmetics, you can visit the nearest supermarket. Find a good deal on Mamajuana, the Dominican signature drink, also known as Dominican Viagra.
Don’t forget to haggle. With the exception of supermarkets and malls where the prices are fixed, haggling is a big part of the culture and can lower the price of the goods even more. Additionally, it can be a lot of fun and will make a great story to tell your friends.
10. Visit A Cigar Factory, Even If You’re Not A Smoker
I’m not a smoker myself, but I can’t hide the fact that puffing on a cigar, flavoured with real bourbon vanilla, is to-date one of my fondest memories of the Dominican Republic.
Learn everything about the process of producing some of the finest cigars in the world, as well as what the industry means to the people of the Dominican Republic, at a factory. Sample the different tastes and find your own favourite size and scent.
Do buy cigars at the best possible rates directly from the manufacturer and bring home great souvenirs for your friends.
Don’t buy cigars from vendors at the beach. They don’t store their goods properly and the aroma is all gone by the time you light your cigar.
Climate Tips: When It’s Best To Go To The Dominican Republic
11. Avoid The Hurricane Season If You Want To Sunbathe
It goes without saying, that the Punta Cana hurricane season is not a great time to visit the Dominican Republic in order to get some tan.
The island is usually not as heavily hit by the hurricanes of the Caribbean as its neighbours.
Regardless, in the months July to November the heavy rains can spoil your vacation, so try to avoid this time of the year.
12. Find The Best Time To Travel To Dominican Republic
The best time to go to the Dominican Republic is from December to April.
On the other hand, the worst time to go to the Dominican Republic would be, as stated above, during the hurricane season. The heaviest rains fall from August to November but July can be very wet as well.
I’ve visited in June which is quite off-season and I’ve experienced some pour downs but they were much less than the sunny hours I’ve had.
Consider that the prices are lower and fewer people would visit the beaches in the shoulder season when choosing the right time for you to travel to the Dominican Republic.
Packing Tips: What To Bring In Your Luggage Along With Your Swimsuit
13. Choose The Right Adaptor To Be Able To Charge Your Devices
The Dominican Republic uses the same two-pin electricity plug as the U.S. The electricity is 110V/60 Hz. All-inclusive hotels often have adaptors integrated into the walls for the European two-round-pins plug as well.
If you’re not staying at a large resort, it’s wise to bring your own adaptor. If you forget it, though, you can probably borrow one from the hotel’s reception or buy it at a supermarket.
Electricity outages in the country happen quite often. Therefore, large hotels have their own power generators so you won’t be left in the dark with an uncharged smartphone.
14. Make Sure You’re Never Left Without A Dime In Your Pocket
You know how convenient credit cards are. The problem with them in the Dominican Republic is that sometimes ATMs run out of cash or their software crashes.
Make sure to bring some dollars or euros with you to change in case of an emergency.
In large hotels, supermarkets, and malls you can pay with your card but tours, souvenirs, and meals outside of your hotel will require a cash payment.
Safety Tips: The Dos And Don’ts For A Perfect Caribbean Vacation
15. Use Your Common Sense To Avoid Dangerous Situations
The Dominican Republic is much safer than your backyard. The crime levels are extremely low.
Just use your common sense, as you would do in any other destination. For example, don’t go out late in the evening, especially alone.
Remember, that even if you’re staying at a guarded resort, for instance in the popular among tourists Punta Cana, the beaches are still accessible to anyone. One of the best Punta Cana travel tips I can give you is do not wander at the beach alone after dark.
Seriously, that’s when and where I’ve been offered, in this exact order:
To be honest, the Dominican countryside is much safer than the tourist spots where the crowds draw all kinds of pickpockets and hustlers.
16. Don’t Forget To Take Good Care Of Your Health
The biggest don’t in the Caribbean is don’t drink the tap water.
In addition to this tip, don’t drink extremely cold beverages. The best drink to order at the bar in the humid and hot weather outside is a glass of (bottled) water with a splash of lime.
The tropical climate can be extreme to your stomach, so have diarrhoea tablets and vomiting pills at your disposal. There are pharmacies everywhere, even in small villages, but it is still wise to have your own emergency medicine.
Also, take good care of your skin by using enough sunscreen during the day and bug repellent in the evening and during inland tours.
The food and the eateries are generally clean but use common sense when you order outside of your hotel.
No matter how cautious you are, though, always have travel insurance. If you plan to engage in adrenaline-rising adventure activities, make sure it covers them as well.
17. Know The Emergency Numbers And Embassy Addresses
In the rare event of an emergency, the number to call in the Dominican Republic is easy to remember: 911.
Also, note the address of your country’s embassy down and contact them if needed. Below are the web addresses of several of the embassies in the Dominican Republic.
Note, that EU citizens can contact any EU-member’s embassy for assistance.
Food And Drinks Tips: How To Tickle Your Palate And Satisfy Your Belly
18. Try The Surprising Signature Dominican Drink, Along With Other Local Beverages
You’ll be surprised to learn that rum isn’t the signature Dominican drink.
The one drink that you’ll be offered everywhere on the Caribbean island – and you absolutely must try – is the mysterious Mamajuana.
Why mysterious, you might ask?
Rum, red wine, and honey are poured over a mixture of tree bark and herbs. The recipe was first used by the native Taino Indians. Every mixture is different and unique, so at the end, only the maker of the Mamajuana batch knows what’s in the bottle.
Of course, your education in the Dominican culture and lifestyle won’t be complete without having a sip of the famous Dominican rum.
Three brands produce this liquor on the island: Barceló, Brugal, and Bermúdez.
Forget the unaged ron blanco, because it’s only good when mixed in a cocktail. Instead, have an añejo or an extra añejo rum (aged for either 3 or 7 years). It’s milder to the palate and the smooth taste will remind you of the gentle sea breeze.
Of course, if drinking pure rum in the heat doesn’t sound logical to you, try the local premium beer. The best brand is Presidente and if your hotel serves anything else, it’s worth going out and buying a few cans.
From the non-alcoholic drinks, I can highly recommend a fresh coconut from one of the machete-carrying men at the beach. There’s nothing better than the slightly sweet, refreshing coconut water on a hot day in the tropics!
Ask the men to cut your coconut in half after you’ve consumed the liquid to devour the flesh of the fruit.
Another typical and very refreshing drink is the freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice. It’s sold from small carts at the side of the road. Please take a good look at the hygiene levels before purchasing.
19. Experience Interesting Food Combinations At Unusual Places
The Dominican cuisine doesn’t feature a world-famous dish you won’t be able to resist trying. However, the fresh ingredients make the food you’ll be served taste so scrumptious that it’s impossible not to empty your plate and even ask for more.
In the capital Santo Domingo and in the large resorts you can try fine dining. But the real Dominican cuisine is best consumed in small eateries at the beach or in the villages where you can eat a whole meal for as low as $3.
Chicken, beef, or goat meat is often served with a side dish of yucca roots, sweet potato, or rice with beans and a salad.
My personal favourite is the fresh seafood. It is usually prepared on an open-fire grill and is served with deep-fried plantains.
Being a sugar-producing nation means that the Dominicans love their sweet desserts. The most famous one is the dulce de leche. Don’t count the calories and devour the mouth-watering, cream-like dessert!
Are You Ready To Use The Best Dominican Republic Travel Tips?
The diversity of adventures and experiences the Dominican Republic offers will satisfy any visitor who’s willing to be challenged.
If you only lie on a sunbed with a cocktail in your hand all day, you’ll miss all the fun activities this tropical Caribbean paradise has in stock for you.
Trust yourself, jump behind the wheel, and venture on a road trip you’ll never forget.
Meet friendly people and learn about their lives.
Escape the crowds on pristine, secluded beaches.
Hike to a mountaintop for a spectacular panorama of the lush tropical forests.
Or simply drive to the nearest supermarket and stock on some of the finest rum in the world for pennies.
Moreover, don’t be afraid to put these Dominican Republic travel tips in use and enjoy the perfect vacation that you deserve!