Most people only tend to visit the paradise beaches of the Dominican Republic. Although they are indeed very spectacular, there is much more to discover in this diverse Caribbean nation!
Let me take you with me on a road trip through the historic cities, lush jungles, tropical beaches, and stunning wildlife of the Dominican Republic.
Would you like to read more in-depth about this itinerary? You can read the full blog post about my road trip through the Dominican Republic here (NL).
Day 1 and 2: Santo Domingo
The stunning capital of the Dominican Republic is the best place to start your holidays! There really is no better city to get to know the vibrant culture of the Caribbean.
I suggest you take it slow and spend your two days mainly in the Zona Colonial, the historical center of Santo Domingo.
Besides sipping delicious cocktails or feasting on local delicacies, you must of course also do some sightseeing.
Since the colonial zone is rather small, it is very easy to walk around. Places like Plaza España and Parque Colon can’t be missed, but there are many more quaint squares to explore. Make sure to also strut around in the colorful Parque Rosado; the perfect place to relax in a green environment covered by walls of pink and Caribbean houses in all the colors of a rainbow.
Outside the Zona Colonial, there are of course also a few nice spots to discover. Go walk around the Malecon or take a taxi to the Los Tres Ojos National Park. In the latter, you’ll be able to discover an interesting limestone cave dotted with a few underground turquoise ponds. Quite magical, if you ask me!
Day 3, 4 and 5: Puerto Plata
During a holiday in the Dominican Republic (NL) you don’t have to limit yourself to Santo Domingo to see the colonial history of the Caribbean.
Puerto Plata is at least equally impressive compared to the capital.
Colorful houses surround lively squares here too and equally picturesque streets like El Paseo de Dona Blanca make sure you’ll have plenty of good pictures on your camera.
A bit further out of the city center and its cute alleyways that are reminiscent of Europe, you’ll find much more of these colonial leftovers.
Make sure to pay a visit to the gorgeous Fortaleza San Felipe. Besides an interesting history and its green surroundings, this very well-maintained colonial castle can also boast with some of the best views over the bay of Puerto Plata.
Speaking of magnificent views: don’t skip a visit to Pico Isabelle de Torres. You can reach this mountain quite easily with a cable car that hoists you over an untouched jungle.
Once on top, you are welcomed by a huge statue of Cristo Redentor. He watches out over Puerto Plata and its beautiful surroundings permanently. I wouldn’t mind trading places with Him! After all, the vista that you get from up here is really beautiful!
Day 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10: Samana
Samana is my personal favorite place in the Dominican Republic. This diverse peninsula has something for everyone.
Stunning beaches like Playa Rincon (the second most beautiful beach in the world!), Playa Fronton, or Playa Coson make you fall in love with this untouched place at once. Never have I ever seen a place where tourism and nature are so perfectly combined as here.
The many resorts and hotels are not built on the beach, leaving all the more space for swaying palm trees and pristine white or golden beaches.
Nature lovers will truly adore this region.
Los Haitises is probably the most famous national park in the Dominican Republic. Hundreds of limestone islands have created a truly magical place that attracts a vast array of wildlife. The sloshing water has slowly created caves under all of these islands and nowadays you can visit some of them. You might even come across some pre-Hispanic rock art down here. I told you: the Dominican Republic really is quite diverse!
Another highlight of the Samana peninsula is the El Limon waterfall. After a reasonably steep walk through the rainforest, you’ll reach a viewpoint from where you can hear the water splashing down.
From here it takes another five to ten minutes to finally set your eyes upon this huge waterfall surrounded by lush green palm forests. I really do wonder how many more of these places Mother Nature hides away under the dense jungle canopies.
If you are here in the right season, whale watching in Samana is an absolute must! This is without a doubt the best place in the world to see the stunning humpbacks and their calves.
I was lucky enough to have encountered these gentle giants on four different occasions, but nowhere was as thrilling as here in the Dominican Republic.
Mothers and their calves jump out of the water as if they are performing a perfectly synchronized ballet recital. Truly an experience to never forget!
Day 11, 12, 13 and 14: Punta Cana
You will not have had a proper road trip through the Dominican Republic without seeing its most prized region.
Punta Cana really is a place where dreams come true. The seemingly endless white beaches are engulfed with see-through turquoise water while rows of palm trees cast welcome shadows over the tanned bodies of all its visitors.
After this quite busy road trip through the Dominican Republic, you might want to relax a little. There really is no better place to do so than in Punta Cana.
Splurge on a luxurious stay in one of the many resorts or go daydreaming on the fantastic beaches. My favorites are Playa Juanillo, Playa Blanca, Cabeza de Torro, and of course Bavaro Beach.
If your urge to explore is still not satisfied, you’ll be happy to hear that there are plenty of excursions from Punta Cana on offer.
Make sure to spend a day at stunning Saona; an island with perhaps the most magical beaches of the Caribbean.
Do you need more ideas? Then also read my article about the best excursions in the Dominican Republic.
How to get around?
The easiest way to complete this road trip is by hiring a car. However, since driving around on this island can be a daunting task you can also choose to travel around with public transportation.
There are comfortable long-distance buses (so-called “expresos”) traveling to and from all these places almost hourly on a daily basis.
Make sure to check out the websites of Bavaro Expreso, Metro and Caribe tours for ticket prices and schedules.
Other places to include in your road trip
Because this is an island, people sometimes make the wrong assumption that you can see all of it in quite a short time. There are indeed many more things to do in the Dominican Republic than you would expect at first!
If you are feeling adventurous, I really recommend seeing the two provinces neighboring Haïti; Pedernales and Barahona.
The Pedernales province might be one of the most diverse provinces in the country, but still, it has not been discovered by most tourists just yet.
Make sure to spend some time on the pristine Cabo Rojo beach. You can only get there with the help of a little boat, and once you arrive you might even get this heavenly piece of paradise all for yourself.
In Pedernales, you can also encounter some wildlife. Go and see some Caribbean crocodiles in Lago Enriquillo or keep it more relaxed by watching flamingos at Laguna de Oviedo.
Barahona is the province right next to Pedernales. Here too you will be surprised by the stunning beaches. My two favorites were Playa San Rafael and Los Patos, but most of all I enjoyed our ride along the Barahona Enriquillo Coastal Highway. This panoramic route takes all of its visitors to some of the most beautiful viewpoints in the Dominican Republic.
Many thanks to Samanda and Hector from the tourism board of the Dominican Republic for letting me explore this stunning and diverse country with my fellow Belgian bloggers.
If you’d like to see more pictures of our road trip, make sure to check out their Instagram accounts as well.