There are so many things to know before traveling to Dominican Republic. First, it’s a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Great Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean. Moreover, its capital and largest city is Santo Domingo. Obviously, it’s one of the top tourist destinations in the world because of the various attractions that can be found there. There are beaches, year-round golf courses, Pico Duarte or the Caribbean’s tallest mountain peak, Lake Enriquillo or the Caribbean’s largest lake and point of lowest elevation, historical sites, and more!
Furthermore, it’s named after Santo Domingo de Guzman or St. Dominic, the founder of the Order of the Dominicans. Before its independence, the country was called Santo Domingo up until the residents were called Dominicans. When it finally got its liberation, it’s then called the Dominican Republic.
Where is it Located?
The very first of the things to know before traveling to Dominican Republic is its location. With that being said, this country occupies the eastern five-eighths of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. Furthermore, it’s between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
A Teeny, Tiny Bit of History
Having even just a small knowledge about its history is also one of the things to know before traveling to Dominican Republic.
The island of Hispaniola was claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain during 1492. He named it La Española because it reminded him of Spain due to its diverse climate and terrain. Around the 1560s, English pirates joined the French in pushing away the Spaniards. A lot of things happened until France has finally taken over. On the other hand, the British came into the scene and there were countless battles again. From time to time, the Spaniards came back to try to reclaim. Then around 1838, Dominican Republic which was still called Santo Domingo back then, sought for its total liberation without any kind of foreign intervention. It wasn’t a smooth journey because of oppositions and wars from and against Haiti. But in the end, the Dominican Republic gained its independence that it was so much longing for.
How’s the Climate There?
Whether if you’re going to tick another travel escapade or to have a good vacation, it’s just logical that the climate there should be one of the things to know before traveling to Dominican Republic. That way, you’ll know if the situation there will be applicable for the activities that you already planned ahead. If there’s something you can’t control during traveling, it’s the weather.
The Dominican Republic has a diverse topography that is why it experiences climate variation over short distances. Therefore, it’s categorized as having a tropical rainforest climate in its coastal and lowland areas. Besides, the country’s wet season along the northern coast lasts from November to January, so you may want to avoid that.
The People of Dominican Republic
Equally important as the other things to know before traveling to Dominican Republic is learning about its people. The people are well diverse with mestizo/indio, mulatto, black, and white. Also, the ethnic immigrant groups there are West Asians such as Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians. Additionally, the East Asians are mostly Chinese and Japanese. On the other hand, the Europeans in the country are Spaniards, German Jews, Italians, Portuguese, British, Dutch, Danes, and Hungarians.
The people of Dominican Republic are mostly Spanish-speaking, so you may want to learn some basic Spanish words and expressions before getting there. You can carry a language book with you too or download and install an app which teaches you to speak Spanish. However, they also speak English, so there is no need to worry that much.
Traveling Within Dominican Republic
Another one of the important things to know before traveling to Dominican Republic is the transportation system there. You’ll surely want to have a good and smooth trip, so you have to bear this one in your mind. At the same time, there are many different types of public transportation in the country, so you won’t really have a hard time there.
First, there are buses. So far, they have four main private bus companies: Bávaro Express, Caribe Tours, Metro Tours, and Terra Bus. Next mode of transportation is their Caro Publicos which are small cars that act as public taxis. This cars’ route fall in between the cities, towns, as well as villages. Moreover, remember that these are shared taxis, so don’t be surprised if your driver stops along the road to pick up someone else. Third, there are Guagas or the privately owned minivans which route is the same with Caro Publicos. Also, they are shared minivans.
Fourth, the Dominican Republic has a metro system or subway. Fifth, there are Motoconchos or the privately owned motorcycle taxis. You can opt for these if you only have short trips. At the same time, a ride in one is much cheaper than regular taxis. On the other hand, these don’t offer helmets, so decide if you really want to take the risk. Lastly, there are the taxis which cost really high because they don’t have meters. Instead, their fares are fixed depending on the distance covered to your destination.
Where to Stay in Dominican Republic?
Obviously, knowing about the best place to stay in is a top priority among the things to know before traveling to Dominican Republic. Luckily, there are many options in the country that you can choose from such as hostels, eco-lodges, all-inclusives, and hostels. So feel free to book a room depending on your budget and other preferences.
- Island Life Hostel
This hostel is situated near the Alcázar de Colón square as well as the Casas Reales Museum. The perks that you can get if you book a room in this colonial-era home turned into a traveler’s paradise hostel are numerous such as hot tubs, garden, swimming pool, games room, barbecue facilities, bar, free WiFi, and many more! Those are besides the basics such as fully-equipped dormitories.
Furthermore, this hostel arranges all-inclusive day tours to the attractions in the Dominican Republic at cheap prices. Indeed, you will surely be a satisfied vacationer if you pick this hostel.
- Jarabacoa Mountain Hostel
This hostel is situated near Salto de Jimenoa. The posh perks that you can get if you book a room here are too many such as Jacuzzis, garden, library, sun terrace, bridal suite, and many more! Also, pets are allowed too! Additionally, they offer horse riding as well as hiking activities in Pico Duarte located near the hostel.
Without a doubt, this is the perfect place for you to stay if you are planning to hike or trek in Dominican Republic. Besides being convenient, it also has various facilities to cater to your every need.
- Macao Beach Hostel
This simple hostel is situated in Punta Cana that is known for its beautiful garden. Besides the basic accommodations that it offers to its guests, you will be able to enjoy activities such as hiking in Punta Cana.
- Tubagua Plantation Eco-Village
This is a rustic but well-constructed mountaintop eco-retreat that is perfect if you want to wake up to stunning views around you. Moreover, there are various activities that are offered near this lodge such as the Plantation Safari Tour from Punta Cana and `La Esmeralda Cacao Plantation and Chocolate Factory Tour.
- Ecoturismo Comunitario Cachóte
Another rustic place is this one. If you want a place where you can just go hiking or birdwatching as soon as you step outside, then this is the best place for you to stay in? Why? It’s because it’s situated in a Caribbean cloud forest! At the same time, there are the Eco Adventures Punta Cana, POLARIS Eco Trail, and Ultimate Los Haitises Eco Tourism Adventure with Yanigua Spa which are some of the activities offered around the vicinity.
- Rancho Baiguate
Again, another rustic place is this resort which allows you to explore the mountains. At the same time, there are rooms available that are directly beside the river, so you can really feel close to the nature even in your sleep! Just think how relaxing the sound of the current will be!
Furthermore, other perks that you can get when you book a room here are an outdoor swimming pool, garden, bar, and activities such as hiking, rafting, and mountain biking.
- Dominican Tree House Village
This house village is certainly perfect for anyone who is dreaming to experience sleeping in a stilted cabin in the jungle! The tree houses here are surely made of 98% organic material. Also, these are open on three sides as well as having queen beds and hammock chairs. Moreover, they offer zip lining which is a 13-station activity that will give you with awe-inducing tropical forest views.
This place is situated within a jungle and also near a river. At the same time, it’s near a beach so you can just walk a bit and swim as long as you want without thinking of how long will it take you to go home. Additionally, they offer horseback riding tours too!
- Zoetry Agua
This resort is located right on Dominican Republic’s Caribbean coast. It also offers luxury with Balinese-style design touches. At the same time, the Playa del Macao which is a known surfing beach is just some kilometers away from this resort! Also, the famed White Sands Golf Course is just minutes of drive away! Talk about convenience, right?
Furthermore, the other perks that you can get when you choose to stay here are an outdoor pool, spa, wellness center, open-air restaurant that is overlooking a beach, as well as eco-friendly suites and many more!
- Paradisus Punta Cana
This hotel that faces the beach is located near the Punta Cana International Airport. If you want to settle easily right after you landed in Dominican Republic, then this can be a good choice for you. Another convenience that it offers is that it’s just some kilometers away from the Cocotal Golf and Country club.
Furthermore, the other perks that you can get if you decided to book a room here are a spa, five different pools, casino, 12 on-site restaurants, minibar, and more! Also, you can try the sushi making, wine tasting, and tango lessons offered in this hotel. On the other hand, outside, you can also try snorkeling at the amazing coral reefs surrounding the island!
- NaturaPark Beach Ecoresort & Spa
This resort has been awarded a couple of times for being an environment-friendly tourist accommodation.
- Hard Rock Hotel Punta Cana
This hotel had its name because of its rock-and-roll inspired lobby with memorabilia such as Madonna’s sequin-covered limo. Moreover, the other perks given by this hotel are a casino, restaurants, bars, and more!
- Casas del XVI
If you choose to stay here, you will be introduced to high ceilings as this is a restored colonial-era home. Moreover, there are archways, terracotta floors, and courtyards that are all screaming medieval. If you are a traveler that is interested with history and is awed by nostalgia, then this is the right place for you!
- Mahona Boutique Hotel
This boutique hotel is situated in Las Terrenas. Also, the Punta Popy Beach is just some meters away from this hotel which adds up to its other perks such as an outdoor swimming pool, garden, bar, and many more! Moreover, this is much more recommended for couples.
- Casa El Paraiso
This six-room B&B is situated within a jungle! Its Room 5 called “Africa” is open on two sides, so you can really feel the jungle experience as well as have a fantastic view of the mountain. Aside from these, this B&B has Indonesian and Indian furniture as well as rustic recycled elements which all add up to its aesthetic feels.
This place screams bohemian-chic and holistic retreat! Guests are welcomed into a dreamy place designed in pastel-hues which is serene and just totally relaxing. At the same time, Ki-Ra is located in front of the ocean. Furthermore, you can bask in the yoga and spa treatments offered here. The latter includes mud cleansing, Ayurvedic massage, reflexology, detoxification, medicinal herbs, and more!
- Eco Del Mar
This place consists of professional-style camping tents that are strewn on the sands of Playa Las Cuevas. Additionally, it has a restaurant, bar lit with fairy lights, garden, and more! If you are wanting to have a low key, hipster vibe, and at the same time amazing kind of accommodation, then this is the best for you.
Beaches in Dominican Republic
Clearly, one of the things to know before traveling to Dominican Republic is the location of its best beaches. These are the main reason why the tourism industry in the country is always booming every single year with the millions of visitors coming around.
- Playa Bavaro
The Bavaro Beach is the most well-known and the best white sand stretch in the Punta Cana region. At the same time, it’s one of the longest beaches in Dominican Republic. Visitors enjoy its sparkling sand and palm trees around which, according to them, is indeed a great place to take a leisurely stroll. Moreover, the turquaz water is also a real treat for them.
- Playa Esmeralda
To get to this beach, you have to take on a bumpy, dirt road. Don’t worry because it’s so much worth it! Visitors say that it’s a great place to swim, snorkel, and many other activities while you are having spectacular views around you!
- Playa Juanillo
The Juanillo Beach is located in Cap Cana. It takes pride on its sky-reaching palm trees that are lining the shore’s edges as well as its beautiful diamond-white sand.
- Playa Coson
Coson beach is the most popular beach in Las Terrenas. Without a doubt, it takes pride on its gold-colored sand and backdrop of hundreds of coconut trees. Visitors enjoy its majesty as well as its convenience because of the bars and restaurants near it.
- Isla Saona
This is Dominican Republic’s largest and most breathtaking offshore island situated on its southeast coast. Also, this island is a part of the Cotubanama National Park. Moreover, it has an enormous natural pool and sandbank where starfishes thrive. Furthermore, the tours offered in this island are very much recommended by visitors who enjoyed them a lot!
- Playa El Valle
El Valle’s backdrop differs from the other beaches in Dominican Republic in that instead of palm or coconut trees, it has green hills as well as dramatic boulders. Moreover, its water is deep jade turquoise which is indeed a real treat for both tourists and locals. On the other hand, it is advisable to stick near to the shore when you are swimming here because there are rip currents every now and then.
- Playa Rincon
The Rincon beach is located in the northeast corner of Dominican Republic. This is the best beach for you to go if you want your adrenaline to be unleashed. Besides the swimming and snorkeling, you can try a motorbike ride to the eastern edge of it where the river meets the sea!
- Bahía de Las Águilas
If you want a taste of solitude while basking in the glory of one of the beaches in Dominican Republic, then this is the right place for you. It’s the most remote of all the beaches. For this reason, it has an underdeveloped white sand which is perfect for people like you who like all things natural.
- Playa Fronton
The Fronton Beach with its emerald water is known for its unique topography of towering black cliffs. Also, visitors enjoy how you can see the bottom of the beach with its clear water. At the same time, if you ever get tired of swimming, you can opt for a sightseeing of caves there which are all important parts of the Dominican Republic’s history.
- Playa Punta Rucia
The Punta Rucia beach which, just like the other beaches, has a beautiful white sand, is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the north. At the same time, its turquoise waters is really good for swimming and snorkeling.
Golf Courses in Dominican Republic
The country is known for its many golf courses that indeed attract a lot of tourists, whether a golfer or not. Hence, it’s also one of the things to know before traveling to Dominican Republic, especially of course if you play golf. If, on the other hand, you’re not, you may still want to catch a glimpse of what everyone is fussing about.
- Punta Espada Golf Course
This golf course landed on top of this list because Golfweek has ranked this as the Caribbean as well as Mexico’s best golf course. Moreover, this par 72 golf course will give you a majestic view of the Caribbean while you are playing, wherever point you are!
- Teeth of the Dog Golf Course
This golf course is precisely hand carved from the rugged rock and coral of the Dominican Republic coastline! Golfers and other visitors say that it’s certainly a must-play course that is worth every penny.
- Hard Rock Golf Club
This golf club offers an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Design course. At the same time, its practice area includes a driving range, putting green, as well as chipping green and bunkers. Furthermore, visitors like how it’s a part of an all-inclusive deal with the Hard Rock Hotel. They also say that the golf course has lush fairways and razor smooth greens which are all amazing.
- La Cana Golf Course
This golf course is designed by P.B. Dye and takes pride on its 14 ocean-view holes, wherein with the four, you are already playing right on the water’s edge. Additionally, golfers are more inclined to pick this golf course more than the others because of its well-fortified greens that are indeed challenging! And speaking of greens, its Seashore Paspalum grass demands an easy maintenance with just a very minimal environmental impact. Moreover, visitors attest to how pristine their playing experience was in this golf course.
- Iberostate Bavaro Golf & Club
This golf course is another one of P.B. Dye’s masterpieces. It absolutely takes pride on its 105 white silica sand bunkers that are dotted all throughout it which contrast the intensely green Supreme Paspalum grass in a very aesthetic way. Furthermore, there are lakes, streams, and some desert-like features around which all add up into an amazing golfing experience for both golfers and amateurs who come visit. People who have visited said that it was indeed a bit of a bummer that it has no ocean views, but the golf course itself is perfect with its amazing maintenance!
Sights and Landmarks in Dominican Republic
Visiting the historical sites in the country is, of course, one of the top activities that you can do there. Thus, it’s just reasonable to know beforehand the places you want to go since there are too many sites to choose from.
- Catedral Primada de America
This cathedral is situated on Calle El Conde and was built around 1510-1540. It’s also one of the first cathedrals in the Americas. Additionally, it has a statue of the widely popular Italian explorer and colonizer Christopher Columbus. This cathedral has majestic views in both its front and rear courtyards that really entice tourists and locals alike. Moreover, visitors say that the tour guide available for this exploration is affordable and that they were also able to explore other historical sites that are near this cathedral.
- Columbus Lighthouse
Speaking of Christopher Columbus, this mausoleum monument which is in tribute of him is located in Santo Domingo. It was constructed back in 1986 with the design coming from the drawings of Scottish architect J.L. Gleave from way back in 1931. Then it was later inaugurated back in 1992 at the same time of the 500th anniversary of the Discovery of the Americas. Additionally, its lighthouse-style features projecting beams of light which form a cross shape that can be seen as far as Puerto Rico. That commendable crossed-shaped architecture of this lighthouse is said to be representing the Christianization of the Americas.
- Zona Colonial
This place in Dominican Republic is characterized by its quaint cobblestone streets and stonework houses which is declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It keeps a tremendous amount of history and culture that everyone will never go to the country without visiting this area. Go here if you want to indulge in the nostalgia!
- Altos de Chavon
This is a 16th century replica of a Mediterranean village that is situated above the Chavon River. It was constructed back in 1976 with the design coming from Dominican architect Jose Antonio Caro as well as Italian master designer and cinematographer Roberto Coppa. Additionally, this architectural wonder is characterized by its handcrafted stone pathways, decorative ironwork, enchanting furniture and buildings, as well as other metal works and carvings. Furthermore, this was inaugurated back in 1982 together with a concert of Frank Sinatra.
People who come visit can’t help but feel awe in this castle-resembling place that also has an amphitheater outside with great views around. At the same time, they find the retail shops and restaurants around to be convenient for them.
- Calle de las Damas
This is a long strip which was once the busiest street there. Also, it’s characterized by its many beautiful structures from centuries past which all scream nostalgia! Indeed, taking a stroll here with your camera will surely be a delightful experience.
Additional Things to Know Before Traveling to Dominican Republic
- The Wi-Fi in some parts of the island can be really sketchy, so you may want to have a mobile hotspot device of your own.
- The nightlife in Dominican Republic is indeed a thing. Yes, going to Dominican Republic is always mostly because of the beaches. But remind yourself to pack other clothes besides your beachwear because you may want to go clubbing with the right outfit.
- You have to be reminded that in Dominican Republic, there is such a thing as “island time.” That pertains to how things go on their own pace in the island, regardless of what tourists that come visit want. For this reason, and since you are just an outsider, you certainly have to respect the order of things when you arrived there.
So there you go! That’s all things to know before traveling to Dominican Republic.
From the island’s location, jam-packed history, tropical climate, racial diverse people, modes of transportation, countless boutique/ hotel/ hostel accommodations, as well as fun beaches, golf courses, and historical sites, you realize that going to a certain place does require you to plan great. Planning great will make you make the best out of your travel escapade and at the same time save you from troubles of any kind.
If you already went to Dominican Republic, feel free to share your experience in the comments section below. If, on the other hand, you were yet to go there but this blog post just made up your mind to do so, then congratulations! You are definitely in for one of the best moments of your life! Take note of everything that is mentioned here, plan your trip, and don’t forget everything you learned. Go to all the attractions as much as possible and by the time you come back, feel free to share your story too.