The Dominican Republic is a huge country—the second largest in the Caribbean—and the most diverse geographically. This 10-day itinerary will give you a solid glimpse into the DR’s beaches, culture, and adventure. It can also be used for a 4- or 7-day trip.
Santo Domingo: Culture and Nightlife
Arrive in Santo Domingo mid-morning and check into El Beaterio in the Ciudad Colonial. Grab an outdoor Dominican lunch on the sidewalk terrace of Cafetería El Conde and enjoy the views of the Parque Colón and the Catedral Primada de América while you eat.
Walk lunch off by exploring the area’s stunning architecture and museums on foot, or rent a bike from Zona Bici. Make your way down Calle Las Damas, visiting the Fortaleza Ozama, Museo de las Casas Reales, and Alcázar de Colón, the former palatial home of Diego Colón, son of Christopher Columbus.
For dinner, indulge in the seafood tasting menu at Pat’e Palo, the first-ever tavern in the Americas. Afterward, walk over to Lulú Tasting Bar for a cocktail on a colonial terrace. If it’s a Friday or Saturday, catch the free Santo Domingo de Fiesta folkloric dance show on the far end of Plaza de España. If it’s a Sunday, walk over to the San Francisco Ruins for the city’s most popular outdoor merengue, son, and salsa concert.
The Samaná Peninsula: Beaches and Seaside Landscapes
Rise early and walk down Santo Domingo’s Malecón, the waterfront promenade, to the neoclassical, neighboring Gazcue district. Have a Dominican breakfast at Hermanos Villar, a cafeteria buffet with staples such as fried cheese and mangú.
Ready for those sugary white beaches? Head north to the Samaná Peninsula by coach bus with Caribe Tours or by rental car (get your toll change ready). Enjoy spectacular views of coconut plantations on the 3-hour journey before arriving in Las Galeras.
Check into Villa Serena and have lunch there. Walk to the main village beach and arrange for your next day boat ride to three of the area’s most beautiful beaches, and then spend the afternoon at nearby La Playita, a less crowded stretch of white sand with shallow turquoise waters.
If you’d rather have a little more adventure, spend the afternoon horseback riding along the shoreline with Rudy’s Rancho. At sunset, walk back to the main village beach bar and join the locals with some rum and loud merengue or bachata music. For dinner, enjoy a casual Italian meal in the village at Ristorante Roma.
From the main beach, get whisked off to the Atlantic shores and towering cliffs of Las Galeras. You’ll have an entire day swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling at three postcard-perfect beaches: Playa Madama, Playa Frontón, and Playa Rincón. After your excursion, have dinner at a romantic cliff-top table at El Cabito and take in Las Galeras one last time.
Hop in a private taxi or catch a guagua (local bus) to funky Las Terrenas. Check into your cabin at Casas del Mar Neptunia and walk over to the beachfront. Stroll its length down to Playa Las Ballenas and have an affordable French gourmet lunch at La Vela Blanca. Spend an afternoon swimming and sunning on the beach.
For dinner, grab a seafront table at La Terrasse along the lively Pueblo de los Pescadores restaurant row. Head over to Replay and dance the night away to Dominican and international tunes. Arrange for a taxi to El Catey Airport the next day, or continue on your trip.
Puerto Plata and Cabarete: Cultural Tourism and Water Sports
Rise at dawn and head to Puerto Plata, four hours by car and five hours by public bus. Admire the rustic beauty of the North Coast as you pass multiple fishing villages. Once in Puerto Plata, grab lunch at Café Tropical and then continue on to Tubagua village by taxi or car, another 20 minutes into the countryside.
Drop your bags in your cabin at Tubagua Eco Lodge and take in the panoramic hilltop and sea views. The lodge’s local guide Juanin will take you on a three-hour hike through Tubagua village to gorgeous falls and pools at Charcos de los Militares. If you’d prefer to see the DR’s famous amber mines or a nearby coffee plantation, you can arrange it through your host at the lodge. Return to the lodge to enjoy the sunset while soaking in the pool tub.
Head out early by car or taxi to explore the northwest coast, stopping first at the Estero Hondo Marine Mammal Sanctuary. Go on a guided hike around the reserve’s mangroves and observe over a dozen manatees from a lookout tower. Continue on to nearby Playa Ensenada, for a Dominican lunch at one of several beachfront food shacks.
After lunch, head to adjacent Punta Rucia Beach, where you will find boat captains ready to take you to offshore Cayo Arena. The boat will take you through the mangrove channels of the Monte Cristi National Park. Spend the rest of the afternoon snorkeling around the gorgeous corals off this tiny cay.
Head back to Puerto Plata city and check into Boutique Hotel El Palacio. Walk over to Skina for dinner. This longtime local favorite serves authentic Dominican and Latin dishes.
If you’re up for it, catch the sunrise along Puerto Plata’s Malecón. Grab a morning breakfast and admire the Victorian architecture at Heladeria Mariposa, across from Parque Independencia.
Head to Puerto Plata airport for your flight home, or continue your trip and hop into a carrito (local shared taxi) heading to Cabarete. Check into the beachfront Villa Taina Hotel and grab a light sandwich at Mojito Bar, a short walk away. Spend the day learning how to windsurf or kitesurf at Kite Beach.
Later, have a beachfront dinner at La Casita de Papi for authentic Dominican seafood; burn the calories off at the two-story Lax Ojo dance club, Onno’s Bar, or one of the other numerous beachfront dance spots.
Jarabacoa and Constanza: Countryside Lifestyle
Experience the stunning mountainside of the DR in Jarabacoa, about a two-hour trip by car or bus. Check into Jarabacoa Mountain Hostel and head out for a casual Dominican lunch at El Taíno.
From there, meet up with local guide David from Jarabacoa Eco Adventures, who will take you on a horseback or motorbike ride to Salto de Baiguate for a swim in refreshingly cool waters.
In the evening, hop in a taxi for dinner at the mountaintop Aroma de la Montaña. Pick a candlelit table on the outdoor terrace and dine with views of the Cordillera Central.
After breakfast at the hostel, head out to neighboring Constanza by car or with César of Sindi-Taxi, riding through El Tireo village and its vast fields of vegetable crops and flower plantations. Once there, enjoy a fresh vegetable pizza and strawberry batida at Antojitos de Lauren.
Drive up to El Divino Niño Monument, just outside of the town center, to meet the 48-feet high statue overlooking Constanza’s hills. Head back to town for a local Ferringer brew at the funky La Esquina bar, a local favorite.
If you’re able to rent an all-terrain vehicle, drive to Valle Nuevo National Park, one of the DR’s natural wonders, and hike through its pine forests with a guide from Villa Pajón Eco-Lodge. Head back to Jarabacoa for the night and have dinner at Pizza and Pepperoni.
Grab an early coffee and breakfast from La Tinaja in downtown Jarabacoa before heading back to Santiago for your flight home. Hop on Caribe Tours (the bus terminal is a short walk from La Tinaja) or get a private taxi ride to the airport.
Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Dominican Republic.