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Travel Guide: Dominican Republic

In Travel by Continental StaffLeave a Comment

It’s hard to pinpoint what the ultimate vacation is – but I’m sure that if you asked around, relaxing on a beach in the Caribbean would be a popular response. The Dominican Republic offers all that and more! It’s got all-inclusive resorts and secluded fishing villages; plus throw in some vibrant cities and beautiful inland scenery and you have the complete package. Come with us and we’ll let you know where to go in the Dominican Republic!

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History and Culture | Currency

How do I get around?

Many people who visit the Dominican Republic do so through cruise ships or flying directly to resorts around Punta Cana and other similar areas. If you want to explore more of the country, you have a few options. Motorcycle taxis known as motoconchos are popular, but they can be very dangerous. Private buses will likely be the cheapest method to get around between the major destinations in the country – and are safer to say the least. Renting a car is another option, but rural roads are often dangerous and unlit – so you should be very careful when planning your route.

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When should I go?

As a popular tourist destination in a perpetually warm part of the world – you can expect the Dominican Republic to be busy year round. Late spring and early fall can offer slightly better deals (though be wary of rain and possibly hurricanes in the later). All told, you can visit whenever works for you – just expect resorts to be busy most of the time.

Here’s where to go in the Dominican Republic

Cabarete | Constanza | Las Galeras | Península de Samaná | Punta Cana | Santiago | Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo

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It doesn’t get much more historical in the Americans than Santo Domingo. Founded in 1496, there isn’t a European city in the ‘New World’ that can match the long and proud history of this one. The past is all around you from the minute you arrive. Old churches, fortresses, cobblestone streets, and much more bring the long colonial history to life as you explore the city. That’s not to say there’s nothing here for those without a history minor – quite the contrary in fact. As the capital of the Dominican Republic and largest city in the entire Caribbean, there is a wealth of cultural events, tourist attractions, and entertainment to keep you occupied. Performances, great clubs and bars, seaside resorts, and an eclectic mix of cuisine are within easy reach here. As the centre of life in the country, Santo Domingo deserves a visit even if you’re just here for the newer resorts.

Punta Cana

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Speaking of resorts, the Dominican Republic is home to some of the world’s most popular. If you’re looking to relax at one of the state of the art, all-inclusive resorts that have become so popular amongst tourists from around the world – Punta Cana is your best bet. If you want an ‘authentic’ Dominican getaway however, this is not the place. Crowds can be brutal, especially during peak vacation times, but there’s a reason throngs of people flock here every year. The waters are pristine, the sandy beaches are picturesque, and the weather is unbeatable year round. The resorts are well maintained and bursting with amenities, so you won’t get bored. If you’re just looking to get some sun, swim in the sea, eat solid (though familiar) food, and sample plentiful drink options – the all inclusive resorts of Punta Cana will check every box.

Península de Samaná

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For something a little different, the Samaná Peninsula offers a unique experience that feels both Dominican and European – with some whales thrown in for good measure. There’s a relaxed, albeit cosmopolitan feel to the communities here – with French and Italian influences alongside the more prevalent Spanish. There’s also a selection of more secluded beaches to discover if the resorts of Punta Cana aren’t for you. However, the peninsula’s main claim to fame is the huge number of humpback whales that make their way into the bay. Visit between January and March and you’ll be treated to more of these massive mammals than you’ve likely ever seen before.

Las Galeras

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This small fishing community on the Samaná Peninsula offers a unique mix of isolated hidden beaches and an interesting, vibrant collection of visitors and locals in town. There aren’t any large resorts, but the town still caters to independent travelers of all sorts who want to experience something a little different. The most famous attractions are the secluded palm beaches – particularly Playa Fronton and Playa Rincon. It can be a bit of a hassle to reach these (and the town in general) but you’ll be greeted with an experience you can’t find anywhere else.

Cabarete

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Relaxing on the beach and soaking up the sun is all well and good, but the ocean (and the waves that come with it) offers so much more if you’re willing to be adventurous. This built up beach town has expanded over the several years to become one of the best places in the Caribbean to learn surfing, kitesurfing, and windsurfing. Beginners and experts flock to the town to take advantage of the wind and waves, so there’s no excuse to not give it a try when you have the chance! The town itself is relatively small, but features great food, bars, and more all within easy reach.

Santiago

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For something completely different, try visiting the country’s second largest city – Santiago. It’s not all pretty, but the city offers a glimpse into what Dominican life is really like. This stands in direct contrast to the wealthy Cerros de Gurabo district. As an inland city, don’t expect any beaches here, but there’s still a lot to take in. Santiago is well known for exporting cigars and rum – both of which you can find in abundance here. After you’ve gotten a taste for the lifestyle, get a feel for the nightlife by heading to the Monument – the place to be once the sun goes down.

Constanza

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When most people think of the Dominican Republic, it’s all about lounging on the sand or in the clear waters. But that ignores the sheer diversity of the country (especially staggering for one that’s relatively small). Constanza is one of the best examples of this, lying inland in a lush agricultural valley, surrounded by imposing mountains. The views here are absolutely staggering, and the feeling of seclusion sinks in here more than anywhere else in the country. Keep in mind that the roads might not always be the best, so be careful if you’ve decided to drive here – especially at night.

How much does it cost?

Getting to the Dominican Republic can vary in price considerably, but there are often some great deals out there. Many vacation packages (especially those based around resorts) will bundle airfare with accommodation, so there is a lot of fluctuation here. A separate round trip between Pearson and Punta Cana can run around the $800 Canadian mark while a round trip flight to Santo Domingo is slightly cheaper (around the $700 mark). Your price will really depend on what type of vacation you’re going on, when you’re leaving, and what type of deal you can find – so shop around!

Once you arrive in the Dominican Republic, prices can be pretty expensive or relatively manageable. Again, this’ll depend on what you’re doing in the country. All-inclusive resorts will vary depending on the quality and how much (if any) extra stuff you want to pay for while you’re there. A less structured vacation is likely to save a bit of money – but again, this’ll depend on how you like to travel. On average, expect a day in the country to cost about $179 with $114 for accommodation and $49 for food. This can be whittled down to about $70 per day or balloon up to $461 depending on how rustic or luxurious you want your trip to be.

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Health and Safety

The Dominican Republic is a heavily touristed country, and most people travel without any issues whatsoever. That being said, the Canadian Government does recommend a high degree of caution throughout the country due to a high crime rate. Violent and petty crime directed at tourists is known to occur, especially in the cities. Theft is also known to occur specifically from checked baggage as you leave the country, so don’t check valuables (and generally limit what valuables you bring to the country). Women traveling alone should be wary when dealing with strangers and should never leave drinks unattended.

Road travel in the Dominican Republic can be very dangerous (the country has one of the world’s highest accident rates). Avoid driving at night especially if you do rent a car. Public transportation in the country is not good, with private buses remaining the better option. Be wary of excursions that aren’t recommended by tour companies as well. Overall though, as long as you’re careful and use common sense, there shouldn’t be anything standing in the way of a memorable trip.

These are just a few examples of where to go in the Dominican Republic, there’s tons more to see and do. If you think somewhere else should be on the list, let us know in the comments. Check out our Country of the Week for more general information about Dominican history and culture as well as our Currency Spotlight for information on the Dominican peso.

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