Are you dreaming about lying on a paradisiac beach, under the shadow of a palm tree with a book in your hand? Do you want to dance and enjoy life at one of the best carnivals in the world? Does exploring the streets of the first city in America sound appealing to you? If the answer is yes to at least one question, then the Dominican Republic should be your next holiday destination.
Located in the heart of the Caribbean, this island attract millions of visitors annually and tourists from all around the world fall deeply in love with its fascinating landscapes, friendly people and rich culture. I have been dreaming for a long time to explore this country and this year, my wish came true. I spent the whole month of February travelling around, discovering its charming places and having unique adventures that I recommend everyone for an authentic Dominican experience.
The top 5 travel experiences I had in the Dominican Republic are:
ROAD TRIP IN SAMANÁ TO SEE ITS HEAVENLY BEACHES
Situated in the north-eastern area of the Dominican Republic, the peninsula of Samaná is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. The starting point for our excursion was Cosón – my favorite beach in the country, which is said to be the one that inspired Julio Iglesias to compose the famous song “Agua dulce, agua sala“. In order to make sure that we manage to tick off all the beaches on the list in one day, we got in the car early in the morning and we started to explore this wonderful area of the island. We left Cosón and headed to playa Bonita, where we took a long walk and admired its impressive vegetation and the beautiful villas situated on the opposite side of the sea. The next on our agenda was playa las Ballenas, a place which is appropriate for people that look for tranquillity and I find it perfect for spending a relaxing day with the family. We left and after a few minutes on a road which had a breathtaking view of the sea, we arrived at Portillo, a beach fully decorated with palm trees where I took many photos as I loved this unique scenery. Then, we headed to the south-western part of the peninsula and arrived in Santa Barbara, a lovely town from where we took a boat to Cayo Levantado, a small paradisiac island located at only a few minutes away by ship, and, on our way there, we were lucky enough to watch a spectacle of whales swimming in the sea as they could be seen every year from January to March. Once this short trip finished, we came back to the harbour of Samaná and we continued our way to the last item on the list: playa Rincón, a semi-virgin beach, considered by UNESCO one of the best in the world. It was definitely an amazing tour that allowed us to discover the most picturesque spots of Samaná and made us fall in love with its crystal clear waters, secluded beaches and abundant vegetation.
EXPLORE CIUDAD COLONIAL, A UNESCO HERITAGE SITE IN SANTO DOMINGO
The historic central neighbourhood of Santo Domingo, Ciudad Colonial, represents the first permanent establishment of the New World and is home to more than 300 historical sites built by the Spanish colonists, among which: churches, memorial houses, fortresses, museums, parks and squares. In 1990, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and represents the only place in the Dominican Republic distinguished with this award. Our tour in the colonial city included the attractions with the highest historical significance: Alcázar de Colón – a palace built for Diego Colón, the first-born son of Cristopher Columbus – , Basilica Cathedral Santa Maria la Menor – the first cathedral in America, built in a gothic style, which is decorated inside with fascinating works of art -, Las Damas Street – the oldest street of the city, standing out due to its elegance, which got its name as a consequence of the fact that the wife of Diego Colón and her female friends liked to walk this avenue on a regular basis – , Ozama Fortress – the first military building of European origin in the continent, from where it can be admired a wonderful view of the Ozama River – and Plaza de España – a vibrant promenade located in the centre of the Colonial city, where tourists can enjoy walking between the palm trees and trying a Dominican dish at one of the many outdoor restaurants. Once we finished this amazing tour where we saw and learned so many interesting aspects about the foundation period of this city, we wanted to live another unique experience, so we chose to spend the rest of the evening at the Microteatro, a small theatre where visitors can enjoy a live 15 minutes show that takes place in the middle of them, this way allowing us to be close to the actors and be part of the play. Another thing that we loved about this theatre is the fact that the atmosphere is very relaxing and apart from the show, we could try a signature cocktail and a variety of tapas, a culinary experience that perfectly combined the cultural one.
RELAX AND ENJOY LIFE AT A LUXURY RESORT IN BAYAHIBE
One of the main reasons the Dominican Republic is such an attractive destination for people all over the world is represented by the presence of its luxury resorts, a complex type of accommodation units where tourists can spend their vacation doing a wide variety of things. We chose to spend an entire week-end at Hilton La Romana Resort, a five-star hotel located in Bayahibe, a resort town situated in the south-eastern part of the country. I consider this to be one of the best hotels I`ve ever stayed, it exceeded my expectations in terms of both facilities and quality of service. The highlights of our stay were: swimming in a sea-view infinity pool while listening to a live Italian music show, trying different food and drink specialties from the local cuisine, watch a spectacle in an open air theatre and dance bachata, a romantic Dominican dance style which was declared an UNESCO intangible heritage in 2019. Another thing worth mentioning is the beauty of the private beach of the resort, where drinking a Piña Colada under a palm tree while listening to the sound of the sea feels perfectly relaxing.
EMBARK ON A BUGGY TRIP IN PUNTA CANA
Even though its wonderful beaches are the main motivation for visiting Punta Cana, we wanted to take a break from the typical beach holiday and we embarked on an unforgettable adventure that allowed us to get in contact with the less known part of this area. If you like to feel the adrenaline in your body, then this is definitely an experience you cannot miss while in Punta Cana. The off road buggy driving experience is an activity that last for approximately 3 hours and it consists of driving in remote country trails and stopping to see 3 unique spots: playa Macao – a white sand beach, mainly known for being one of the surfer`s favourites -, a country ranch – where we met some local producers of coffee, chocolate, tobacco and Mama Juana (a typical drink made of rum, red wine and honey) who taught us about how these products are made – and a cenote – a secluded swimming pool hole where the water had an intense blue colour. We had a lot of fun both during the trip and at the stopovers and we feel like we wouldn`t have had a truly authentic experience without seeing this less-known part of the region.
TAKE PART IN THE LA VEGA CARNIVAL, ONE OF THE BIGGEST IN LATIN AMERICA
If you choose to come to the Dominican Republic in February, you should definitely spend one Sunday at the Carnival of La Vega, the oldest and most traditional festival in the country and the best in the Caribbean. Known as the heart of the Dominican Republic, La Vega is the third largest city in the country which becomes full of life, colours and tourists during the whole month of February, as it hosts the carnival every Sunday of the month and on the 27th of February – the Dominican Independence Day. Be ready to dance, watch amazing parades and admire original costumes of the many groups that participate in the carnival. If you are in the Dominican Republic in February, but you can`t go to La Vega, you can still live this experience as there are many cities in country that hold this type of celebration. Santiago, Puerto Plata and San Pedro de Macorís are other popular destinations where you can feel the vibes of one of the biggest carnivals in Latin America.
These 5 most beautiful experiences that I had in the Dominican Republic are the perfect illustration of how fascinating and diverse is this Caribbean island and how well it can suit any type of tourists, no matter their taste and preference. This unique country has something in store for everyone: breathtaking nature, rich culture, exciting events and tropical gastronomy which are the perfect ingredients for an amazing vacation.