If you can swing it, 10–14 days in the Dominican Republic would give you sufficient time to dive into each of the various regions. With such biodiversity in one country, you may be surprised to discover just how wide the spectrum of activities ranges.
This itinerary is for someone who is active and excited to dig into the nature and culture of the Dominican Republic. It is meant only as a “highlights to hit” itinerary. If you’re traveling along and happen to fall in love with the surf scene in Cabarete, for instance, simply stop and keep surfing.
Arrive at Aeropuerto Internacional Las Américas in Santo Domingo and settle into your hotel in the Ciudad Colonial. If you arrive during the day, set out on foot to explore the colonial sights and orient yourself. For dinner go to one of the restaurants on the Plaza de la Hispanidad.
Spend the day exploring the Ciudad Colonial and all of its sights, including the New World’s first street, Calle de las Damas, and ruins of the first hospital, Ruinas del Hospital San Nicolás de Barí. Leave time for the oldest cathedral in the western hemisphere, the Catedral Primada de América, and the Museo de las Casas Reales.
Have dinner along the water at Adrian Tropical for a wonderful view of the stars and the surf while enjoying typical Dominican favorites like mofongo (mashed plantains). Afterward, stroll along the Malecón to find a hot club and dance the night away.
In Santo Domingo’s Plaza de la Cultura, the Taíno artifact exhibit at the Museo del Hombre Dominicano is a first-rate way to learn about the pre-Columbian history of the nation. Catch a taxi to the peaceful Jardín Botánico Nacional to learn about the biodiversity of the Dominican Republic.
Grab dinner in the Ciudad Colonial and save all your energy for dancing at Guácara Taína, located in the belly of an enormous cave. Make sure your rental-car reservations are in place for your drive to Barahona the next day.
On your way to Barahona, in the arid region southwest of Santo Domingo on the Península de Pedernales, detour to see the Reserva Antropológica El Pomier north of San Cristóbal and marvel at hundreds of ancient Taíno drawings. Check into the Hotel Costa Larimar before heading out to dinner and dancing at Los Robles.
Get up very early for a day of beautiful scenery and a visit to a deserted beach. Drive to Las Cuevas, a small community of fishers who can also give you a boat ride to your ultimate destination, one of the last completely unspoiled and most remote beaches in the country, Bahía de las Águilas. If time permits, on your way back stop for a dip in the freshwater lagoons (balnearios) of San Rafael or Los Patos.
Take Highway 46 toward Lago Enriquillo, making a quick stop at the Polo Magnético to witness first-hand the quirky phenomenon of your car rolling mysteriously uphill. Continue your drive around the Lago Enriquillo loop, stopping at the Parque Nacional Isla Cabritos to see crocodiles, flamingos, and iguanas lounging by the saltwater lake. Head back to Barahona by night and enjoy a more casual dinner at the locally popular Restaurante and Pizzería D’Lina.
Return to Santo Domingo to return the rental car and catch a bus to the cooler mountainous village of Jarabacoa. Visit the waterfalls and swimming holes of the Saltos de Jimenoa and Salto de Baiguate. Stay at the Rancho Baiguate and make reservations with its excursion team to try an adventure sport such as canyoning or rafting on the Río Yaque del Norte. Rest up for your next day of adventure.
While canyoning is indeed a thrilling and mind-boggling adventure, don’t forget to enjoy the scenery as you navigate down waterfalls and across streams. Later go for a nice dinner on top of the hill at Jarabacoa’s Jamaca de Dios just outside of town, overlooking the city lights.
Catch an early bus north along Highway 5 and stop in Santiago to visit the Centro León cigar factory and art museum in the morning. Eat lunch in Puerto Plata at Aquaceros Bar & Grill, right along the Malecón, and then take a taxi to Fuerte San Felipe and the Museo del Ámbar Dominicano before heading to the snorkeler’s favorite haunt, Sosúa (about 25 kilometers east of Puerto Plata) via bus or guagua.
Dive or snorkel off the coast of Sosúa with a reputable outfitter like North Coast Diving. Have dinner at Sosúa’s romantic La Puntilla de Piergiorgio for Italian food with an out-of-this-world view of the Atlantic.
Early in the morning take off to the surfer-filled hot spot of Cabarete and settle in to your hotel. Explore the one main drag running parallel to the beach and then head over to Playa Cabarete and sign up with a windsurfing outfitter, like Vela, to teach you the ropes or rent you equipment. Cabarete’s lively yet casual nightlife revolves around the bars along Playa Cabarete.
Head over to Kite Beach to try out kitesurfing. Kite Club has lessons available, and you can join the club for weeks at a time. It’s also a super-cool place to just chill by the surf and watch an international cast of surfers. Enjoy your last two days beach bumming in Cabarete before catching a guagua back to Santo Domingo for your flight out.
Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Dominican Republic.