The Dominican Republic is the undisputed most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, has, on average, 6.1 million people visiting for vacation. That is 2 million more than Cuba, the second most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean. So what are some of the more popular attractions in the Dominican Republic? Below we list out the top 10.
Places to Visit in Dominican Republic
Located on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana has some of the best beaches in the country. As one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Dominican Republic, thousands of tourists flock to the beaches of Punta Cana to relax and have some fun.
If you are looking for a premier resort destination, a couple’s retreat, and friendly accommodations combined with water sports activities, you should add Punta Cana to one of the places to visit in the Dominican Republic. The city has a 35km stretch of pristine beaches for ultimate beachside relaxation and is open to outdoor activities like golfing and horse riding. Punta Cana’s beaches are also famous for water sports, including surfing and kayaking. Other exciting things you can do here include swimming with sharks and dolphins, catamaran sailing, whale watching, zip lining, and speed boat racing.
You should spend several days in Punta Cana if you intend to experience it all. Pack your swimsuits, dive into the crystal-blue pool of the hidden cenote, or go off-road on buggies in nearby tropical jungles. Also, you can go on quick excursions to the nearby Saona Island, where you will find an unspoiled natural reserve filled with marine wildlife. Or, take a stop at Pirate Rum Factory, where you can learn about rum production and have a taste too.
Another notable site in this city is Scape Park, where adventure seekers can enjoy a zipline tour, dune buggies, and visit the refreshing Hoyo Azul Lagoon. Aside from beaches, Punta Cana also boasts excellent dining spots, bars, and spas to relax and refuel.
A parade of colorful kayaks along a beach in Punta Cana. Photo: ©Flickr/EdYourdon.
If you are coming to Playa Dorada, you should plan to be very busy because there are many things to do here. Playa Dorada is one of the most popular beach destinations on the Dominican Republic’s northern coastline. This massive resort complex, known as the country’s first tourism destination, lies on a gorgeous stretch of replenished beach surrounded by coconut palms. The resort area is home to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course and has many facilities and amenities, including restaurants, bars, and shops.
If you seek a less crowded beach, you’ll find Playa Dorado perfect. This location often has few people at once, offers privacy and tranquility, and is best if you want to explore the beach area without noise. The beach also has many luxury resorts with modern facilities, and it’s a good area to swim, snorkel, and kayak. You can observe the sea floors for coral reefs and varieties of marine fauna. Other fun things include taking a walk under the palm trees, taking a diving course, and enjoying golf on the beach.
Also, this destination is home to some fine restaurants, bars, and pubs where you can try local and continental delicacies and discover Dominican Republic culture.
Santo Domingo is the country’s capital and offers visitors some of the best things to do in the Dominican Republic. This is the city where Christopher Columbus first landed, so expect some Old World charm with remnants of the colonial past scattered throughout the city.
Santo Domingo is also the city of many firsts. It is the first city founded by the Spanish in the Americas and has the first fortress and first university. Santo Domingo also has the first and oldest existing cathedral in the Western hemisphere, aptly named the First Cathedral of America.
Furthermore, the historic city is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Colonial City (Zona Colonial), which boasts Spanish old-world architecture and quaint cobblestone streets. Other notable sites showcasing the country’s rich cultural history include The Plaza de la Cultura, which houses the Palace of Fine Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, and the National Palace. Also, while you are there, you should stop at the historic district, where you will see some of the country’s most majestic buildings reflecting Middle Ages architecture.
Most of the houses today in Santo Domingo have a colonial architectural style that takes you back to the old era, so history and architecture lovers will enjoy roaming this city a lot. Another notable spot in the area is the old colonial palace of Christopher Columbus’ familiarly called the Alcazar de Colon. This site is now a museum where visitors can explore and browse through period furniture and decorations.
As one of the largest cities in the country, Santa Domingo also boasts the bustle and beauty of modern-day life. Expect to find many fine dining restaurants, bistros, nightclubs, and bars where you can enjoy your nights or afternoons.
The National Palace in Santo Domingo. Photo: ©Flickr/Jean-MarcAstesana.
Lake Enriquillo (Lago Enriquillo) is the largest lake in the Dominican Republic and the whole of the Caribbean. The abundance of flamingos and iguanas is one of the main attractions at this large saltwater lake. Located in its center is the Parque Nacional Isla Cabritos, one of the largest natural reserves of American Crocodiles and home to over 100 species of flora. The park is also a refuge for about 62 bird species making it a great place to admire exotic birds in their natural habitat.
One of the fun things you can do here is taking a boat trip along the waters while getting a glimpse of fascinating animals like pink flamingos, iguanas, salt crocs, and American crocodiles. We recommend you wear your hat and fill up your water bottle while coming here, as the heat is intense, especially when taking a boat ride. You should also keep in mind that there are no restaurants around this area, so you may want to bring your snacks. While you are here, you can visit Isla Cabritos, a small island within the lake where you find beautiful cacti and desert flora.
Eastern National Park features white sandy beaches, flora, waterfalls, and diverse animals, making it one of the best tourist attractions in the Dominican Republic. The rich biodiversity of the Eastern National Park (Parque Nacional del Este) has made it the ideal habitat for abundant tropical plants and animal species. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this national park covers a total area of 161.75 square miles and boasts a variety of biodiversity, including over 500 species of flora.
Eastern National Park also has one of the largest marine parks in the Caribbean, with manatees, bottlenose dolphins, four species of sea turtles, as well as numerous species of fish. The park is also home to the rare Paloma Coronita, also known as the crowned, or white-headed dove, in addition to the rhinoceros iguana and 112 bird species. This rainforest also boasts coral reefs and white sandy beaches, making it an excellent spot for snorkelers, scuba divers, and visitors who want to explore underwater treasures.
In addition to flora and fauna, Eastern National Park is also of historical significance as it features an archaeological site featuring artifacts, human remains, and cave art of the Taino Indians. You can also attend one of the educational seminars at the site to learn about the Taino people, their culture, beliefs, and myths about them. And to add to it, Eastern National Park has about 400 caves that visitors can explore through hiking.
Magnificent frigate bird nursery in red mangrove at Parque Nacional del Este. Photo: ©Flickr/Christine&JohnFournier.
Samana Bay is one of the best spots in the Dominican Republic to watch whales in the wild. In January and February, the Samana Bay Peninsula is a prime spot to see humpback whales birth their calves. While the whales are just one of many marine animals that frequent Samana Bay waters, they are the most popular reason visitors love coming here. If you are interested in whale watching, we recommend you plan your journey towards winter because this is when the big fishes migrate.
The bay of Samana is also an ideal spot for nature lovers. Here you will find the Parque Nacional Los Haïtises, a natural utopia of lush vegetation, crystal clear waters, thick mangroves, and unique rock formations rising from the sea.
In addition, you can take a boat or kayak trip around Los Haitises National Park. Visitors can also explore the bird-filled caves like the Cueva del Angel and the Salto El Limón waterfall, one of the country’s most scenic beaches. El Limon (The Lemon) drops 50 meters near the Atlantic Coast side of the Dominican Republic. Getting here is an adventure because you have to cross several rivers on horseback or walk a 40-minute trail over the steep terrain. But it’s all worth it when you take a dip in the spectacular swimming hole down the falls.
While you are here, we recommend you spend some time at Las Galeras, located at the tip of the Samana Peninsula. This spot is perfect for backpackers and beach lovers as you will find incredible beaches like Cayo Levanrado, Playa Rincon, and Playa Bonita.
If you love beaches, we recommend you add Bahia de Las Aguilas to your list of best places to visit in the Dominican Republic. The remote Bahía de Las Águilas is a six-mile stretch of magnificent, unspoiled beach on the Dominican Republic’s southwestern coast within the Jaragua National Park. The protected Jaragua National Park abounds with marine life and several species of birds. Also, this park has been on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage list since 2018. The nearest town to this tourist destination is Perdernakee which is about an hour away by car.
If you come to Bahia de Las Aguilas, it will surely become one of your favorite beaches in the world. The stunning turquoise water, the powdery white sands, and the lush palm trees make it one of the most beautiful and pristine beaches in the Dominican Republic. This area is a little bit isolated, and while you won’t find luxury resorts or hotels like in Punta Cana, you will find a very relaxed atmosphere and unique experiences.
If you are in for outdoor activities, you could also rent some snorkeling, paddle boarding, or kayaking equipment to explore the crystal clear waters. You will find some popular species in the water, including starfish, octopus, lobster, urchin, and other fishes. Another fun thing to do here is to view the pristine area through a scenic helicopter flight organized by Eco del Mar.
The Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia (aka Basilica of Our Lady) ranks among the most important religious sites in the Dominican Republic and draws people from all over the country to its annual Mass on January 21 each year. After the annual mass on this day comes a celebration that continues around the cathedral and involves food and drinks. If you happen to be in the country during this period, this is the ideal spot to be on that day.
The Roman Catholic Basilica honors Our Lady of Altagracia with a framed painting on display since 1571. The building, which is known as a leading pilgrimage center in Latin America, is also recognized as a modern architectural wonder. It stands out for its 69-meter-high arch and a bronze and gold entrance that thousands of people visit yearly. Architectural fans will, of course, love the beautiful, unique design of the place.
Set on the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic, La Romana is home to the luxurious Casa de Campo Resort, where the rooms were partly decorated by famous Dominican designer Oscar de la Renta. The Teeth of the Dog golf course, one of the best in the Caribbean, is also located at this resort. La Romana is also close to the popular cruise destination of Isla Catalina.
One of the best things to do at La Romana is to visit The Altos de Chavón, a quaint replica of a 16th-century artisans’ village in La Romana. While at this Mediterranean-style village, you can shop for unique souvenirs and crafts to take home. You can also join a guided tour to go on a shopping trip to this artisan’s village.
The southern port of La Romana also once enjoyed a booming sugar industry in 1917. Even now, you will see the sugar plantations along the Chavón River. Other things to do here include visiting Bayahibe, a small fishing village now a full-fledged vacation destination where you can engage in exciting water sports activities, shop local artifacts, and have a glimpse of whales/dolphins. Also, from Bayahibe, you can take a ride to Isla Saona (Saona Island) for more things to do in the Dominican Republic.
La Romana is not far from Punta Cana and has a lot of large resorts and luxury hotels perfect for travelers looking to self-cater. Also, La Romana has a lot of galleries to view artworks, restaurants to enjoy great cuisines, and courses for golf lovers.
Workers at Altos de Chavon Village. Photo: ©Flickr/Puno3000.
If you are looking for things to do in the Dominican Republic, especially adventure activities, don’t miss out on going to Jarabacoa. Also known as the city of everlasting spring, Jarabacoa is a perfect spot for summer retreats and outdoor adventures, especially for nature lovers.
In Jarabacoa, you will find Río Yaque del Norte, the country’s only whitewater river. The area also offers an amazing taste of ecotourism with its waterfalls, including the Jimenoa and Baiguate waterfalls, rivers, and rugged terrain. The destination is fast becoming a popular spot for rafters and adventurers, and is perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and other types of exploration.
If you love adventures, consider crossing the Jimenoa River on the wood and rope footbridge available. You can also consider golfing on a nine-hole course or visit the Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria del Evangelio.
If you are spending more than a week in the Dominican Republic, then it’s worth coming up to Jarabacoa, especially if you happen to be traveling between Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata. You can also plan your trip in February to experience some of the most famous carnivals and parties in the country.
With the Dominican Republic being a hub for tourists, it is indeed a perfect place to have adventures, learn about their history, and relax. There are plenty of places to visit in the Dominican Republic, and it’s always a good time to plan a trip to this island.
Travel Deals for the Dominican Republic
For flight and hotel deals to the Dominican Republic and the rest of the Caribbean, check out our Caribbean travel partner, Expedia.com.
Where to Stay in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
For just hotel deals in the PUNTA CANA area of the Dominican Republic, consider:
Eden Roc at Cap Cana: This oceanfront resort is in a stunning location and provides the perfect place for rest and relaxation. The ultra-luxurious suites all have huge windows, high ceilings, and private pools. The hotel also has gourmet restaurants, a spa, three golf courses, and a full-service marina.
Barceló Bávaro Beach: This all-inclusive adults-only resort is located right on Bávaro beach, Punta Cana, which is recognized as one of the ten best beaches in the world. It is an upscale adult-only resort with spacious rooms and stylish decor, 80% of them being located right opposite the beach. The resort also has nine a-la-carte restaurants, a casino, a theater, 18 hole golf course designed by P.B. Dye, and a spa.
The Reserve at Paradisus Punta Cana Resort: With colorful suites, a Kids’ zone, and seven pools (five pools for adults and two for children), this is a great family option. There are also 8 bars and 11 restaurants, and a 27-hole golf course.
Where to Stay in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
For just hotel deals in the SANTO DOMINGO area of the Dominican Republic, consider:
Boutique Hotel Palacio: Two blocks from the Cathedral of America and right in the center of all the historical and cultural attractions, this boutique hotel is a handsome conversion of a former president’s home, with stylish yet electric furnishings.
Hodelpa Nicolas de Ovando: This exquisite luxury hotel housed in three restored early-colonial mansions is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The elegantly furnished rooms, with sumptuous linens and antiques, are open to lovely courtyards that are lit by candles at night.
Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel & Casino: Soaring over the Malecon, this hotel overlooks the Caribbean sea and has a huge swimming pool, a casino, a fitness center, a full-service spa, and lush gardens. The spacious guest rooms are all tastefully decorated.
Note: Originally published on September 10th, 2018, this post was updated on June 9th, 2023.