About Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic (Spanish: República Dominicana) is the second largest and most diverse Caribbean country, situated just two hours south of Miami and less than four hours from New York. The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti to the west.
Dominican Republic is known for its beaches, resorts and golfing, Punta Cana, towards the east coast, is popular with tourists due to it’s great golf courses and luxury resorts. The capital city Santo Domingo is the perfect place for travelers with an appreciation for culture and has Spanish landmarks such as the Gothic Catedral Primada de America which dates back 5 centuries. The diverse landscape consists of rainforests, savannahs and highlands, including Pico Duarte, the Caribbean’s tallest mountain.
Dominican Republic Travel Info
Language: The official language of the Dominican Republic is Spanish. There are many variants of Spanish being spoken here; the common one is Dominican Spanish. Other dialects which form the minority language include Haitian Creole and Samana English.
Currency: Dominican Peso.
Visa: US citizens do not need a visa to stay in the Dominican Republic for up to 30 days. If you are traveling to Dominican Republic with a non-US passport, a tourist visa is required.
Electricity: The Dominican Republic operates on 110 volts to 120 volts with a frequency of 60 Hz. The power sockets are usually two-pronged and round. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Dominican Republic Festivals & Celebrations
Guloya Festival: The town of San Pedro is heavily influenced by Cuban culture since it was founded in the 19th century by Cuban refugees. Although there is nothing much of great significance to the town yet the celebrations of Guloya Festival has crossed borders. Every year in the month of January this fest attracts a huge number of people to experience drummer’s procession.
Carnival: Santo Domingo, the capital city of Dominican Republic, hosts its biggest Carnival which is popular throughout the entire Caribbean. The festival takes place in the month of February each year. People celebrate a street party on every Sunday that culminates in a huge all night, all day processions and party.
San Juan Bautista: The fiesta patronal of San Juan is celebrated in reverence of Saint John and Chango. The people’s faith in Chango is one of the oldest; the Chango deity till today is worshipped in Cuba, Venezuela, and Brazil and in the Dominican Republic. The festival of San Juan Bautista is full of religious diversity that defines Dominican people.
Safety In Dominican Republic
Just like most countries in the Caribbean, Dominican Republic is a relatively safe place to travel to. Thefts and scams targeting tourists are prevalent in all big cities around the world so be mindful of this particularly if visiting Santo Domingo. Based on my own travel experiences in the Caribbean, I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance no matter how safe the destination is considered. You can still miss flights, lose your luggage or break a leg, especially if you’re as accident prone as I am. For this reason I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks or months before you plan to visit Dominican Republic.
Top Things To Do In The Dominican Republic
Wander in Zona Colonial
The capital city of Santo Domingo is home to Zona Colonial which is the epitome of history in the Dominican Republic. The Zonal Colonial is full of old colonial buildings in Western Hemisphere. Walking along Calle de las Damas lets you explore the empire of Spanish Conquerors who tactically used Santo Domingo to conquer Latin America. The entire Zonal Colonial area is dotted by shops, cafes and restaurants many of them housed in refurbished old buildings.
Relax at Costa del Coco
Costa del Coco also knew as “Coconut Coast” along with reef-protected white sand beaches, and quiet waters is Dominican Republic’s ultimate tourist spot. Due to tourist flocking this place the most, Costa del Coco has seen tremendous development regarding maintenance and facilities. The never-ending vistas of sand, sea and coconut trees add distinctive features to this place.
Party at Santo Domingo
Just behind the Zona Colonial is situated a fast-paced and vibrant metropolis dotted with upscale suburbs and rubbing shoulders with desolate shantytowns that provide respite from the frenetic traffic. The city has big commercial districts and is surrounded by coastline and river. The Caribbean and Spanish influences are visible on iron balconies as well as ornamental wooden cravings. Santa Domingo is home to some of the pristine and largest beaches in the entire Caribbean. Due to a vibrant nightlife, you will find an array of lounges and nightclubs spread in the whole city.
Constanza and “The Dominican Alps.”
Only 80 kilometers away from Santo Domingo begins the cool uplands of Constanza and the Dominican Alps. The mountain range is the major tourist attraction. The central area of the Dominican Alps is heaven for tourists, full of streams, valleys and well protected national parks. The place is full of picturesque views. The high altitudes are a respite from the intense tepid climate that prevails in the entire country. The tallest mountain Pico Duarte is full of pine forests and green meadows, making it an exceptional sight.
Check out Puerto Plata
The Puerto Plata is a charming area full of pristine beaches as well as an astounding mountain range in the backdrop. Puerto Plata offers country’s best water sports. Cabaret, one of its many towns is also called as the Windsurfing capital of Dominican Republic attracting thousands of surfers from all over the world. Puerto Plata has a vivacious nightlife as well as rich culture.
Head to Los Haitises National Park
The meaning of Haitises is “mountainous land.” The Los Haitises National Park is now listed among the very few existing tropical forests of Dominican Republic. Most of the area of the park is covered with mangroves. Los Haitises is full of caves and an assortment of diverse wildlife like the Hispaniolan piculet, the Hispaniolan woodpecker, pelicans, the Spanish emerald, frigate birds and several others. The hills inside the park are as high as 40 meters.
Explore wildlife at Lake Enriquillo
The lake Enriquillo of Dominican Republic is the biggest lake in the entire Caribbean and inhabits a varied range of wildlife that includes pink flamingoes, saltwater crocodiles, and lizards. Lake Enriquillo attracts wildlife lovers from all parts of the world. It is highly recommended to pre-book a tour with an experienced travel agency to Lake Enriquillo to avoid unwarranted circumstances while visiting dangerous wildlife considering its remote location.
Samana is home to Humpback whales and is the only location in the entire Dominican Republic where each year starting from December until March, the humpback whales return to have children in warm waters. Samana has also emerged as one of the many spots in the Dominican Republic thronged by tourists each year for whale watching. The humpback whales can easily attain tremendous growth and perform a lot of acrobatic acts like jumping and making peculiar noises.
Enjoy serene Damajaqua Cascades
The Damajaqua Cascades also called as the 27 waterfalls, is the major attraction for many nature lovers visiting the Dominican Republic. Thousands of tourists arrive each year to visit these waterfalls. The waterfall offers a range of canyons and pools. A trip to mesmerizing Damajaqua River involves climbing rocks and diving into cold mountain ponds. Since the river is entirely surrounded by dense forest, it is recommended to accompany an experienced guide for an adrenaline-pumping trip to Damajaqua Cascades.
The Basilica of our Lady
Standing tall in Art Deco is the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia of Higuey. It is one of the few astonishing religious structures situated in the Dominican Republic. It has emerged as one of the many important Holy Pilgrimages of Catholics.
Other than these top things to do in Dominican Republic, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Be prepared to be flexible because sometimes other travelers that you meet on your travels will have the best suggestions for things to do in Dominican Republic that are off the beaten path.
What To Eat In Dominican Republic
The Culinary Heritage of Dominican Republic is very rich. Like most Hispanic nations, the cuisine is a combination of African, Tainos and Spanish Culture. Here are some of the best Dominican dishes that you must try.
Quipe: Quipe is among the best examples of dishes brought by immigrants which were later adopted by the locals. This is a savory snack made with wheat, ground beef, minced onions and is deep fried. This has become a Dominican staple that you must sample while you visit the country.
Sancocho: This traditional soup is available in most Hispanic countries, but the Sancocho of Dominican Republic is superb. The Dominican variant of this soup includes meats and is thickened by adding a puree of carrots, squash, and cooked vegetables.
Empanadas: Empanadas have been very dear to Latin America and are delicious pastry stuffed with cheese or meat. They might be baked or fries, made from corn flour or meat, depending upon the country. The smaller versions of Empanadas are also available in this country which is the perfect finger food.
Roasted Pork: Dominican streets smell of excellent roasted pork. You will find many roadside stands preparing the delectable smoky dish in the open. The meat is perfectly charred, seasoned, smoky and tender.
Chivo Guisado: Goat might not be your favorite source of protein, but that is not the case in the Dominican Republic. Chivo guisado is a tasty goat stew that is tender and flavorsome. The stew is served with white rice, beans, and plantains.
Where To Stay In Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic is a very affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Dominican Republic is easy even if you’re on a tight budget. Dominican Republic hostels and dormitories make travel here very affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best accommodation options have already been snapped up. Dominican Republic is a very popular year-round destination.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Dominican Republic.
If you’re backpacking in Dominican Republic or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in the Caribbean very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Dominican Republic Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Dominican Republic
Consider avoiding the tourist high seasons visiting the Dominican Republic. Expect tourist crowds during mid-December to mid-April and potential hurricanes during Hurricane season from the beginning of June until the end of November. The best time to visit Dominican Republic, in my opnion, is from March to May, when the peak season rush is coming to an end yet the weather is still warm. Dominican Republic has average highs of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
Dominican Republic Travel Budget
Dominican Republic is generally an affordable destination for travelers on a tight budget. The cost of your trip to Dominican Republic really depends on the level of comfort you will want while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between $35 to $50 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $50 to $100 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants then budget about $250 plus a day.
- Budget: $15 – $35
- Mid-range: $35 – $100
- Splurge: $100 +
Meal For One
- Budget: $8 – $25
- Mid-range: $25 – $60
- Splurge: $60 +
Dominican Republic Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Dominican Republic, like most places in the Caribbean is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing for dry season and warm, waterproof clothing for trips during the rainy season.
Be prepared for the weather to get extremely hot during the summer so pack a high factor sunscreen and a sun hat. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need while you’re in Dominican Republic. Prices are generally higher in smaller boutiques (aimed at tourists) than they would be online so expect to pay a premium if you don’t have the option of shopping around due to time restraints on your Caribbean trip.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Dominican Republic include a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Dominican Republic check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Caribbean Packing List For Female Travelers.