What are the five best things to see and do in the Dominican Republic?

Melanie Nayer

When you visit the Dominican Republic, there are opportunities for high-flying adventure and low-key downtime — we suggest a healthy dose of both. Here are the five best things to see and do on the Caribbean island:
 
1. The beach. Depending on which resort you stay at in the Dominican Republic, you’ll likely have access to a private beach. Allot plenty of time to relax oceanside whether on a towel or in a cabana, as you take in the palm trees and watch the bright blue water crash onto the shore.
 
2. Shopping. While the D.R. may not have massive designer malls, it does offer unique local goods. It’s likely the resort you’re staying at will have an onsite gift shop, but buy straight from the locals. Many of the area hotels allow resident entrepreneurs to visit the grounds for a few hours to sell their merchandise by the pool or beach. It’s the perfect way to nab a small painting, T-shirt or wooden statue to take home — and you don’t even have to change out of your swimsuit to do so.
 
3. Horseback riding. Both scenic and a little bit adventurous, a horseback ride is a great way to take in the beauty of the Dominican Republic. Most tours will have you trotting right on the beach. If your hotel doesn’t offer its own horseback-riding tour, it should be able to hook you up with one nearby.
 
4. Adventure sports. When island life starts feeling a little too tame, pick up the pace with one of the many adventure sports the country has to offer. Try your hand — and bravery — at everything from kiteboarding to snorkeling.
 
5.  Cigar factories. Dominican cigars are getting just as good of a reputation as Cuban ones. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit a local factory to watch the stogies being rolled, and take a few home with you.

  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What are some travel tips for the Dominican Republic?

    Like most Caribbean islands, the Dominican Republic welcomes hundreds of thousands of tourists each season, mostly from the U.S. and Europe. Before you head off to the beaches and sunshine, take note of a few important travel tips from Forbes Travel Guide editors:

    1. Currency and documents. You’ll need your passport to enter the Dominican Republic, and upon entering the country; visitors will need to pay a $10 per person entry fee. The fee can be paid in U.S. dollars. The local currency here is the Dominican peso, but U.S. dollars and Euros are widely accepted throughout the island and at the resorts.

    2. The airports. The two airports, Santo Domingo and Punta Cana, host the international arrivals and require some skill to navigate. Both airports are small in size compared to most U.S. international airports, but that also means they’re quite crowded at any given time. Give yourself ample time, at least 2.5 hours, at the airport before your flight. Whether or not you check in online, you'll need to wait in line at the airport for your passport check and baggage drop off.  On heavy travel days, these lines can seemingly go on forever.

    3. Transportation. Transportation is a game for locals at the airports, so be sure to arrange transportation with your hotel or resort prior to arrival. You'll be approached upon arrival by local "cab" and transportation companies who will offer to take you to your hotel and resort, but their goal is fast money. While typically safe, these local drivers will pack in as many travelers as they can to garner a good amount of money. If you choose this route, you might be stuck in a van for over an hour or two as the driver drops off each passenger at their various hotels. Using the transportation service that contracts with your hotel means you’ll go straight from the airport to the hotel without stops.

    4. The beaches. The beaches in the Dominican Republic are some of the most beautiful in the world, which is why they attract worldwide visitors each year. That said, beaches have varying cultures, and while your hotel or resort beach might be tame, a few steps down the sand and you could end up on a nude beach without warning. If you're with kids, we suggest you stay at your hotel's beach.

    5. Duty-free. You'll need to declare your duty-free purchases when you arrive back in the U.S., if you've spent more than $500 on goods in the Dominican Republic. Cigar lovers will want to know you're entitled to bring up to 100 cigars (with proof of purchase) into the U.S. Any more than that, you'll be required to pay duty-tax on them, regardless of whether or not you've hit the $500 mark.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What are the five best Dominican Republic food experiences?

    In the Dominican Republic, the local cuisine influenced by Africa, Spain and the native Taíno Indians is simple, but ample and tasty. While you're here, our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend that you try the following local staples:

    1. Plantains. A Caribbean favorite, plantains are served all different ways in the Dominican Republic. Often served grilled with rice and avocados, or mashed and mixed with eggs for a breakfast dish mangú plantains can be a snack or full meal.  We love them grilled and served on a skewer, or just fried and served as chips with a spicy sauce on the side. Wherever you eat here, a plaintain dish is likely to be on the menu.

    2. Quipes. A local favorite derived from Middle Eastern descent, quipes are fried and filled with meat, spices and always something sweet (often raisins, dates or figs). You'll likely find these as appetizers in local restaurants around town, and in some of the more casual restaurants at hotels and resorts.

    3. Empanadas. You can't go wrong with these fried favorites. In the Dominican Republic, you'll find them filled with everything from spicy meats to vegetables, and in some cases fruit and rice. The most common kind of empanada on the island is filled with chicken or beef and cheese, folded over and fried for a snack on the go.

    4. Paella. A Spanish specialty, paella in the Dominican Republic is served packed with local fish and typically served with black beans, rice and meat on the side. If you're a seafood lover, this dish isn't to be missed. Mussels, clams, local lobster and fish are cooked, spiced with annatto and blended with rice to create the traditional dish.

    5. La Bandera. It sounds so simple, yet it's a local delicacy. Beans, rice, meat, salad and side dish is known as “La Bandera Dominicana” (the flag) because it's as traditional to the Dominican Republic as the country's flag is. This dish helps define the local culture. There's little variation on how it's prepared, save for a few spices used by different chefs, and you'll typically find this as a plate served for lunch.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    Where is the best nightlife in Dominican Republic?

    If you're looking for the most entertaining nightlife, you have a few options in Dominican Republic. Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest you  head to Santo Domingo earlier in the evening for a night of theater and the symphony. The National Theater opens Symphony Season twice a year and hosts live concerts every Wednesday. Jazz lovers will want to visit La Cantina del Agave in the Olde Santo Domingo City for live music from a variety of artists every night of the week. If you're visiting in July, don’t miss the International Jazz Festival. Any time of year, the Santo Domingo Pier features live music and fine dining, and La Guácara Taína is the spot to dance until dawn at the city's discotheque.
     
    It's important to note that much of the Dominican Republic caters to the tourists, which means the best and safest nightlife is typically found at the hotels and resorts. Unless you're with a local or know the area well, Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest you stay at the clubs, bars and casinos within your hotel or a neighboring hotel. All the resorts on the island feature some type of nighttime event, whether it's a special night of dining or dancing until dawn on the beach.
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  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What is the best way to see Dominican Republic in one day?

    There are two ways to see the Dominican Republic: by car or by air. We suggest you give both a try. It's hard to see the entire country in one day, so you'll need to plant yourself in one location. To do Punta Cana or Santo Domingo in one day, consult your hotel or resort for a guided tour. Your tour company will take you around the cities, showcasing the top attractions, offering VIP access to museums, and allow for some time to shop and pick up unique, local items.
     
    If you want to see the country in a more unique way, take to the sky. Private helicopter and plane rides are offered on the island and can be arranged by your hotel or resort. These flights will show you the entire island, from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo, and even point out the man-made wall that separates Haiti from the Dominican Republic. True, you can't stop and shop when you're up in the air, but the memory of an aerial view of the island is a priceless souvenir.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    Where is the best shopping in Dominican Republic?

    Shopping is an adventure in the Dominican Republic. Here you’ll find everything from traditional artisan crafts to handmade jewelry to high-end fashion. Here are our Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the best shopping in Dominican Republic: 
     
    In Punta Cana, the place to shop is Palma Real Shopping Village, located in Bàvaro, next to Punta Cana. Here’s you'll find designer stores such as Armani, Swarovski, Guess and Vince Camuto. At San Juan Shopping Center, in Bàvaro-Punta Cana, you’ll see typical artisanal crafts, such as Taíno sculptures, typical seashell-made jewelry, organic handmade oils scented with coconut, carrot and monoi (coconut and Tahitian gardenia) and local sweets.

    If you're in Santo Domingo, head to Blue Mall, the newest shopping destination where international brands like Ferragamo, Carolina Herrera, MAC Cosmetics, L'Occitane and Louis Vuitton have all set up shop.  
     
    Novo-Centro, located on Lope de Vega Avenue, is the most contemporary architectural concept in the Dominican Republic. NovoCentro is an 18-story building comprised of a boutique hotel, corporate offices and a four-level shopping center that blends brand names with local designers. Pekepolis is a children's park in Novo-Centro, so your kids can stay entertained while you hit the stores. 
  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Dominican Republic?

    A trip to the beach alone will keep the kids busy (and happy) all day, but if you’re looking for something a little different, there are plenty of family activities to keep kids entertained in the Dominican Republic. If you're vacationing in Punta Cana, nearby Bàvaro or Santo Domingo, here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best things to do with your kids in tow:

    1. Manati Park. Walking around the Punta Cana nature-themed amusement park is an overload of fun for kids — the park is packed with animals, gardens, shows and hands-on learning. Visit the Taíno Village for some cocktails and shopping, let the kids play with friendly snakes or talk to parrots, and enjoy a fun-filled day with the family. 

    2. Horseback riding. There’s no better way to learn about Dominican Republic than on horseback. At La Rancheta in Las Galeras, you can book an intimate trip for six people or fewer. They have the staff and the horses to accommodate even the most inexperienced riders.

    3. National Botanical Gardens. If you're touring in Santo Domingo, take a visit to the gardens — the largest of its kind in the Caribbean — with tropical palms, 48 pools and a 12,000-square-meter arboretum. Be sure to check out the Japanese Garden with more than 300 orchid species.
     
    4. National Theater. Head to the National Theater in the center of the Plaza de la Cultura in Santo Domingo. Here you and the little ones can sit down and take in a musical or play, or enjoy the International Book Fair (every April in the Cultural Square). You’re also close to the Museum of Modern Art so if the kids are up for it, stop by.   
     
    5. Water activities. Simple pleasures in the Dominican Republic include anything in the water. Sign the kids up for some pirate ship excursions, kayaking, kite surfing, parasailing, snorkeling or scuba diving. Your hotel or resort will likely partner with specific tour companies to provide these options, and often offer discounts for families or group tours.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What is the best thing to bring home from the Dominican Republic?

    Bring home a piece of the island when you visit the Dominican Republic. One of the more popular souvenirs is a hand-rolled cigar. The Caribbean island has a long history with the tobacco industry and is littered with cigar factories, where you can get a tour, watch the stogies being rolled and purchase some to take home.
     
    If drinking is your vice, pick up a bottle of mamajuana. Unique to the Dominican, this stiff drink is a mix of rum, red wine and honey that’s soaked with tree bark and herbs. It’s often served as a shot — ask for one at a local bar if you want to sample it first — and is said to be an aphrodisiac.
     
    For something more artsy, visit the beaches, which are often lined with local merchants selling their goods. In fact, depending on where you stay, your resort might even invite them on the grounds for a few hours to allow for convenient poolside shopping. These entrepreneurs have souvenirs that you won’t find anywhere else. Browse their small paintings, wooden statues and beautiful pieces of amber or larimar (a sky-blue gem) jewelry. 
  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What should I pack for a trip to the Dominican Republic?

    Pack your bags for the Dominican Republic with sun and adventure in mind. You will most likely spend your days lounging by the beach, so come prepared with all the necessities — sunscreen, a bathing suit and reading material. Also be sure to bring along a cover-up or a few extra T-shirts, since you’ll probably spend a lot of time going back and forth from the beach to the pool bar, to the resort restaurants and back to your room.
     
    Other days might call for more gear; the Caribbean island offers everything from snorkeling and horseback riding to golf and helicopter tours. Look into the adventures you want to take before you leave, so you can be ready with the right supplies (though, anything you don’t bring, you’ll likely be able to rent). Finally, be sure to have some extra cash on hand when you land at the airport — you have to pay a small fee to enter the country, and credit cards aren’t accepted. 
  • On September 18, 2012
    Melanie Nayer answered the question: Melanie Nayer

    What are the five best things to see and do in the Dominican Republic?

    When you visit the Dominican Republic, there are opportunities for high-flying adventure and low-key downtime — we suggest a healthy dose of both. Here are the five best things to see and do on the Caribbean island:
     
    1. The beach. Depending on which resort you stay at in the Dominican Republic, you’ll likely have access to a private beach. Allot plenty of time to relax oceanside whether on a towel or in a cabana, as you take in the palm trees and watch the bright blue water crash onto the shore.
     
    2. Shopping. While the D.R. may not have massive designer malls, it does offer unique local goods. It’s likely the resort you’re staying at will have an onsite gift shop, but buy straight from the locals. Many of the area hotels allow resident entrepreneurs to visit the grounds for a few hours to sell their merchandise by the pool or beach. It’s the perfect way to nab a small painting, T-shirt or wooden statue to take home — and you don’t even have to change out of your swimsuit to do so.
     
    3. Horseback riding. Both scenic and a little bit adventurous, a horseback ride is a great way to take in the beauty of the Dominican Republic. Most tours will have you trotting right on the beach. If your hotel doesn’t offer its own horseback-riding tour, it should be able to hook you up with one nearby.
     
    4. Adventure sports. When island life starts feeling a little too tame, pick up the pace with one of the many adventure sports the country has to offer. Try your hand — and bravery — at everything from kiteboarding to snorkeling.
     
    5.  Cigar factories. Dominican cigars are getting just as good of a reputation as Cuban ones. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit a local factory to watch the stogies being rolled, and take a few home with you.
  • On July 9, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in Dominican Republic?

    The cuisine of the Dominican Republic is a soulful blend of Spanish, African and native Taíno Indian dishes and ingredients. While the island’s cuisine is satisfying, most of the best restaurants tend to be on the casual side. However, more resorts are introducing well-known chefs from around the world to the island, giving tourists a little something more gourmet to explore while they're here. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best places to eat in Dominican Republic:

    1. Passion at Paradisus Palma Real. Acclaimed Basque Chef Martin Berasategui recently opened two restaurants in Dominican Republic. The first is Passion at Paradisus Palma Real. The restaurant is open to the public for à la carte dining or a fixed price tasting menu.  Passion features innovative and seafood-heavy Spanish cuisine, a sommelier and an extensive wine collection, some of which is drawn from Berasategui’s personal collection.

    2. Natura. Nestled in a boutique hotel, Natura is the perfect spot to dine on fresh seafood and produce, while you take in the salty sea air and peaceful views. A must-try signature dish is the Shrimp Natura, sauteed shrimp tossed in a creamy curry and rum-based sauce.
     
    3. The Beach Club. Located in La Romana at the Casa de Campo hotel, The Beach Club by Le Cirque is the Caribbean sister property to other Le Cirque favorites in New York, Las Vegas and Paris. Situated on the beach and adored by candlelight, The Beach Club offers high style, European inspired seafood, meat and pasta entrées daily.
     
    4. Gourmand. The Sivory in Punta Cana has three restaurants on site, but Gourmand is the one to visit. The well-executed, classic French menu of dishes such as romaine lettuce salad with foie gras and caramelized apples or spiny lobster with garlic foam is accompanied by wine list featuring more than 8,000 bottles.

    5. Mesón d’Bari. For traditional Domincan fare, head to this institution in a charming two-story house in Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial. Expect dishes starring local ingredients such as filete a la criolla (Creole style beef filet with tomatoes, sweet peppers and onions or cangrejo guisado (crab stewed in brown sauce). This is where local movers and shakers dine.
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