Bienvenido a Republica Dominicana! If you’ve been contemplating a visit to this extremely diverse Caribbean country, I’ve got you covered. I recently explored part of Dominican Republic – starting in Puerto Plata, the birthplace of tourism, and then heading down to Santo Domingo, one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean. The beauty of this country may have been what lured me in, but it was the culture that made me want to stay. I also noticed that it’s surprisingly vegan-friendly, thanks to a recent push from locals demanding plant-based eateries.
Here are 15 ways I toured DR from Puerto Plata to Santo Domingo.
THINGS TO DO IN PUERTO PLATA
1. Fortaleza San Felipe
On our way to the downtown area of Puerto Plata, we stopped at Fortaleza San Felipe, which is a good option for history and architecture lovers. This historic Spanish fortress was built to protect Puerto Plata from the British and the Dutch, as well as French pirates back in the 1500s! This shouldn’t be too surprising being that their neighbor, Haiti, was controlled by the French in the 1600s.
2. Explore the Streets of Downtown Puerto Plata
Crack open a coconut and take in the colorful houses all around the city. The local square is charming and the colonial architecture is fun to look at while walking around.
3. Roll Some Cigars
Learn how to roll a cigar like a pro while you’re here. We popped our heads inside Espigon Cigars & Gift Shop where we watched cigar makers do their thing and even tried it ourselves. Even if you don’t smoke cigars, it’s a pretty cool experience to see how they are made.
4. Drink Up at Macorix House of Rum
You can’t visit Dominican Republic without sampling some premium rum. Enjoy tasting several rum varieties while getting a history lesson in the process.
5. Ride the Teleférico
For a killer vista, hop aboard the Teleférico for a pleasant ride up to the top of Pico Isabel de Torres. It was a perfectly clear day, which meant we were able to take in the splendor of the city and Puerto Plata coastline during the ride. Once you get to the top, you can see the Christ the Redeemer statue and pretend for a moment that you’re in Brazil.
6. Tour the Countryside by Electric Bike
I lovvvvved this. We booked an electric bike tour via Outback Adventures that took us throughout the countryside, villages, and ended at a hidden lagoon. Electric bikes amplify your pedaling power so you can do and see more. They allow you to go much further and across terrain that you normally wouldn’t dare tackle on a regular bike.
THINGS TO DO IN SANTO DOMINGO
7. Experience FOMO at the Carnaval Museum in La Vega
This museum, located in La Vega on the way to Santo Domingo, was also a highlight of my trip. I’m obsessed with Caribbean Carnaval festivals so this museum was a joy to explore. Seeing the costumes and learning the cultural significance behind the celebrations got me really excited about Dominican Carnaval. It gave me fomo! I’d love to go back and experience Carnaval in Dominican Republic one day.
8. Enjoy a Beach Day in Boca Chica
Who visits a Caribbean island without spending time at the beach? Not me. That’s always a must! It wasn’t crowded when we went, but it is known to be a tourist hot spot, so it may get crowded during certain seasons. That wouldn’t surprise me if it does – the beach is gorgeous. There’s also a restaurant there called Boca Marina where you can dine with an incredible view all around you.
9. Explore the Streets of Zona Colonial
There was just something really special about Zona Colonial. It’s the oldest city in the New World and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO back in the 90s. As old as it is though, not once did I feel like it was outdated. They have been able to preserve and honor the old while also making room for the new. It’s an old city with modern vibes. A place where I could frolic along aged cobblestone steps on my way to a hip vegan restaurant. A city where I could feel at home while stepping out of my comfort zone.
10. Do Some Local Shopping
Whilst exploring, you gotta hit up some of the local shops. My favorite was La Alpargateria, a workshop of handmade espadrilles with the cutest restaurant in the back. What I like about their espadrilles, is that they are not only incredibly stylish, but they allow you to customize them into vegan versions.
11. Hit Up Bonye
Personally, I’m a big fan of exploring what a city is like when the sun goes down. You learn a lot about a country by the way they party! For example, the music and dance culture here is electrifying. Every Sunday, Bonyé does a free concert in the Colonial Zone – and it’s liiiiiit. I wish my city was this dope on a Sunday night.
12. Eat Vegan Food!
Although vegan food wasn’t always a thing here, you can tell Santo Domingo is making a real effort to make the city vegan-friendly. You can use the Happy Cow app to find vegan eats nearby, but my absolute favorite restaurant was Time Vegetarian Kitchen, which offers cruelty-free fine dining options. When in doubt, there’s no shortage of rice and beans on the island, and you’re sure to find plenty of fresh coconuts, avocados, bananas, pineapples, watermelons and mangoes. Mmmm.
WHERE TO STAY
Casa Colonial Beach & Spa: Where we kicked off our trip in Puerto Plata! And what a relaxing way to do so. As Dominican Republic’s first and only member of the exclusive Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, this property is where you want to be. It’s located right along a beach and is just as beautiful at night as it is during the day. I loved the way it was lit up in the evening.
Seahorse Ranch Villas: Simply amazing. This luxury beachfront villa resort has scenery straight out of a fantasy film. I mean the views y’all. Just. Epiiiic. It’s located in Cabarete on the north coast of Dominican Republic and offers exclusive vacation home rentals and villas for sale in a gorgeous location.
Hodelpa Nicolas de Ovando: This 5 star hotel is centrally located in Zona Colonial and I never had to catch a cab anywhere. It was within walking distance to everywhere I wanted to go.
Casa Del XVI: This is a collection of old colonial homes that were restored to their former glory. I didn’t stay here, but I was allowed to tour the facilities and was blown away by the beautiful designs found throughout the property. One of the homes included in the collection belonged to the late Dominican-born designer Oscar de la Renta.
FAVORITE PART OF MY TRIP
This is hard. I loved everything about my DR getaway. If I had to pick one thing, it would be the nightlife. When the sun went down in Santo Domingo, the party got started and I wanted to be right there in the mix. My favorite observation was the way in which men and women interacted with each other, especially out on the dance floor. The dance culture there was sensual but never aggressive. People moved together in sync so effortlessly, as if the dance moves were rehearsed. But nope, they just have a whole lotta rhythm.
Everyone danced, young and old. Strangers, couples. Salsa. Merengue. Bachata. And no matter how intimately they danced, the men still had this gentlemanly way about them. Dancing is something that brings a pure joy out of people here and you can really feel it radiating around you.
* This adventure was sponsored by Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, but please believe all opinions are ALL me. In other words, I legit had fun on this trip and believe you will too.