If you’re coming to the Dominican Republic, you’re likely looking for a perfectly relaxing escape to one of the island’s best all-inclusive resorts along white sand beaches. However, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find this rich destination has so much more to offer – food, history, art, and incredible natural beauty.
This ultimate guide to the best things to do in the Dominican Republic includes everything you could possibly want to do – from what and where to sample to enjoy Dominican food to the best beaches and accommodations that make the travel experience truly special. Keep reading for all our favorite Dominican Republic things to do to enjoy this special Caribbean island.
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Things To Do in the Dominican Republic
1. Stay at a Private Island Resort
Located in Samaná Bay near both Los Haitises National Park and the nation’s best whale-watching spots, Cayo Levantado is a tiny island that boasts one of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic. With so much to offer travelers, it’s long been one of the most popular day trip spots in the country.
Cayo Levantado is well worth an addition to your itinerary, but an overnight stay at Cayo Levantado Resort is the only way to get the full experience. Resort guests have access to the whole island, including the beachfront that day trippers can’t reach, as well as an incredible host of amenities and activities that have made this one of the best resorts in the Dominican Republic.
We had an incredible experience staying at Cayo Levantado Resort and would return in a heartbeat. An incredible combination of personalized wellness offerings at the new Yubarta wellness space, along with great cuisine and beautiful scenery make it an unforgettable stay.
Reviews and Bookings: Cayo Levantado Resort
2. Yoga in Las Terrenas
Laid-back, lovely Las Terrenas is one of the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic for some serious rest and relaxation, with a small but growing yoga scene making it a popular destination for both yoga retreats and the growing number of digital nomads in the Dominican Republic.
Just about 15 minutes from Las Terrenas is Shiva’s Cave Yoga Studio, which offers retreats of various lengths. This studio is part of Monte Placido, which has its own villas for a dreamy yoga retreat from start to finish, complete with a front-row ocean view. Or, book with OndiYoga for individual and group classes.
3. Go Beach-Hopping
There are few islands in the Caribbean with such a diversity of different types of beaches, from tiny coves to long stretches of sugar-fine sand. The beaches in the Dominican Republic are truly a marvel.
For off-the-beaten-path bathes with few visitors to crowd out the spectacular scenery, you can’t get better than the beaches along the northern coast of the Samaná peninsula. Stay in Las Galeras and visit beaches like Rincón, Cosón, El Valle, and El Limón – the list goes on and on, making it the ultimate beach hopping beach destination.
Alternatively, enjoy an all-inclusive stay at a resort on the pristine beaches at Punta Cana or Cap Cana. Add in an excursion to Isla Saona or even Cayo Levantado to enjoy some of the other beautiful beach spots across the island.
Plan a Trip to the Dominican Republic
4. Visit Monte Cristi
While the province of Monte Cristi and its eponymous capital are hardly among the most visited destinations in the Dominican Republic, visiting this beautiful destination should certainly be on your list of things to do in the Dominican Republic.
The small city of Monte Cristi is laid back and has plenty of historic gems. Here you’ll find the home of the Cuban independence leader Máximo Gomez who led the neighboring island’s independence struggle. The city is also a gateway for the beautiful Playa El Morro and bout tours to Cayo Siete Hermanos.
This province, located along the northwestern section of the country’s international border, is also home to Punta Rucia and Cayo Arena, both among the most beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic.
5. Explore Santo Domingo Zona Colonial
The capital of the Dominican Republic may not be as stunning as Old Havana, Cuba, but it boasts plenty of gorgeous historical landmarks, colonial churches, and winding cobblestone streets to make the city’s historical heart a must-visit for travelers.
I always love a good free walking tour as one of the best ways to experience a new city, perfect for connecting with locals and getting recommendations for things to do and places to eat. Civitatis organizes excellent free walking tours in cities around the world, including Santo Domingo – just make sure to book ahead to reserve your spot.
Looking for a quick list of the best things to see in the historical heart of the city? Here’s our list:
- Alcazar de Colón and Plaza de España
- Santo Domingo’s Cathedral and the Parque Colón
- Museo de las Casas Reales
6. Eat Dominican Food
Dominican food is more than just rice and beans, though Dominicans certainly get this staple dish very right! Sampling favorite dishes like mangú, empanadas and pastelitos, and barbequed meats or guisado stews is among the best things to do in the Dominican Republic, no matter where your vacation takes you.
Skip the international foods and head straight for the local spots. One of the best ways to explore Dominican cuisine is by taking a foodie walking tour; in my experience, this is also a great way to connect with locals and get tons of recommendations, helping you decipher menus for the rest of your trip.
Here are some food tours in different areas of the Dominican Republic:
7. Swim Under El Limón Waterfall
Towering over the rainforest at around 170 feet, El Limón waterfall is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Dominican Republic. Visiting this impressive waterfall and floating in its natural swimming hole below are among the best things to do in the Dominican Republic for travelers in the Samaná province.
The journey through the rainforest to reach the waterfall is doable, just around 1.5 miles. Though guides at the beginning of the trail will convince you that you need to ride a horse, the walk is certainly doable for those even with a basic level of fitness. It can get muddy during the rainy season though, so keep this in mind.
El Limón is an easy day trip from almost anywhere in the Samaná province. You’ll also find some day trips in the area that offer stops at El Limón, like those visiting Cayo Levantado from Punta Cana, though make sure to check your itinerary for specifics.
8. Learn To Dance
The Dominican Republic is known for its revolutionary contributions to some of the world’s most popular dance and music traditions, including everything from salsa and merengue to bachata. This makes it a particularly fantastic place to learn how to dance.
You’ll find established dance schools and private teachers no matter where you travel in the county. Even if you’re a total beginner, taking a dance class can be a great way to meet locals, experience an important part of Dominican culture, and have fun while learning something new and different.
Local recommendations are best for specific dance experiences, so check with your hotel or tour guides for recommendations specific to the area of the Dominican Republic where you’ll be staying.
9. Los Haitises National Park
Nestled along the shores of the Samaná Bay, Los Haitises National Park is packed with natural beauty and history, making this a popular day trip destination and one of the best things to do in the Dominican Republic.
While much of the national park is so lushly forested it isn’t accessible, many travelers explore the coastal areas of the park, where you’ll find age-old Taino cave paintings, untouched beaches, and colonies of birds, plus unique landforms called mogotes reminiscent of those found in Viñales Valley in Cuba.
You’ll find tours from basically every corner of the Dominican Republic, as it is such an impressive destination with so much to offer. Here are our recommendations:
- Los Haitises Day Trip from Samaná
- Los Haitises Day Trip from Punta Cana
- Los Haitises Day Trip from Puerto Plata
- Los Haitises Day Trip from Santo Domingo
Many trips include visits to Cayo Levantado as part of the excursion, making this a great way to see the national park and one of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic during one convenient day trip.
Read More: Los Haitises National Park Traveler’s Guide
10. Ride a Cable Car Up Mt. Isabel de Torres
If summiting one of the Dominican Republic’s many peaks isn’t quite your idea of a relaxing way to travel, consider enjoying expansive mountaintop views by taking the cable car to the top of Mt. Isabel de Torres instead. With vistas stretching over all of Puerto Plata and across the ocean, this cable car ride is easily one of the best things to do in the Dominican Republic.
Be warned that the line for tickets to ride the cable car can get quite long when a cruise ship is in port, as the excursion tends to be a popular one with cruise ship passengers. If you’re staying in town, consider visiting when a ship isn’t in port to make the most of your time (or booking ahead as part of a city tour to have tickets reserved).
11. Visit Isla Saona (Saona Island)
Isla Saona is more than just your standard (beautiful!) beach destination in the Dominican Republic: as part of the Parque Nacional del Este, this white-sand island off the southern coast of the Dominican Republic is truly pristine and protected.
Isla Saona’s beaches are so lovely and boast such impressive snorkeling and diving that they’re a popular day trip destination from resort towns around the entire country, including La Romana and Punta Cana.
Looking for day trips to Isla Saona? These are the options we recommend:
Even if your resort beach is beautiful, don’t count out a trip to Isla Saona! This island’s white sand beaches and impossibly-clear waters make it one of the most beautiful beach destinations in the Dominican Republic.
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12. Adventure Sports in Jarabacoa
Located in the lush, forested center of the country between Santo Domingo and Santiago de los Caballeros, the small town of Jarabacoa has the special distinction of being home to some of the most thrilling adventure sports activities in the country. White water rafting, canyoning, and even paragliding are all available here from local tour guides, drawing plenty of locals and international visitors alike.
Jarabacoa also has some really great hiking spots, including waterfall trails and lovely sections of forest with scenic views. It is also a starting point for the hike to the top of Pico Duarte.
13. Try Kite Surfing in Cabarete
For even more adventurous things to do in the Dominican Republic, head to the northern coast for a visit to Cabarete for the island’s most famous kite surfing at Kite Beach. Here you’ll find everything from lessons for first-timers to specialized experiences more tailored to expert kite surfers.
The beachfront of this small but energetic town also has plenty of beach bars, restaurants, and small hotels, so it’s a great place to visit… even if you’re not so sure about the whole kite surfing thing.
Where To Stay: Surfbreak B&B
14. Golf at Teeth of the Dog
Golfers will know that the Peter Dye-designed golf course at Casa de Campo Resort & Villas, known as Teeth of the Dog, is widely considered the best golf course in the Caribbean. Book your stay here to play this award-winning course during your stay – it boasts seven beautiful holes located directly along the coastline, making for some truly impressive views during your game.
Read More: 10+ Best Resorts in the Dominican Republic
15. Swim in the Dominican Republic’s Cenotes
Popular Mexican destinations in the Yucatán Peninsula, like Tulum and Cancun, might be best known for their numerous impressive sinkholes called cenotes, but did you know that the Dominican Republic has plenty of these sinkholes as well? Visiting and swimming in the sinkholes hidden across the country is a highlight for many travelers and is considered among the best things to do in the Dominican Republic.
You’ll find cenotes all across the Dominican Republic, but Hoyo Azul and Hoyo del Salado, both located near Punta Cana, are some of the most popular destinations for travelers.
Many affordable day trips from Punta Cana include visits to these cenotes as part of the itinerary, making a visit quite easy (our travel writer friend based in Punta Cana recommends this day trip: ATV, Cenotes, and Tastings Excursion from Punta Cana).
Visitors can also spend the day at Scape Park, which is home to Hoyo Azul as well as ziplines and other adventurous activities to pass the day.
16. Take a Rum Tour
The Dominican Republic produces some of the world’s best rums, so no trip to the island is complete without a rum tasting, tour, or experience, whether it be an official one or simply at the bar of your hotel.
For a behind-the-scenes look at the history and creation of the country’s best rums, a visit to one of the country’s main distilleries is a must. The distilleries at Barceló, Brugal, Macorix, and Oliver are some of the best choices for tasting the best rums that the Dominican Republic has to offer, and all offer tours and tastings for travelers.
Rum Tours from Santo Domingo
The best distillery tour and tasting experience for travelers staying in Santo Domingo is at the distillery of the most famous rum brand in the Dominican Republic: Barceló. While the plant is located almost an hour outside the city, this hands-on experience is so worth it. Visitors MUST book ahead of time for the experience.
Book Here: Ron Barceló Factory Experience + Tasting
Rum Tours from Punta Cana
While Punta Cana doesn’t have any rum distilleries like Santo Domingo does, Oliver Rums does an incredible rum-tasting experience in Punta Cana that is the best you’ll find in the city. Though Oliver doesn’t have as much brand recognition as Barceló, they have even more premium rums and put on a great job with the tasting experience here.
Book Here: Oliver Rum Tasting in Punta Cana
17. Visit Cayo Arena
Located in the little-visited but fascinating Monte Cristi province in the western part of the country, the white sand island known as Cayo Arena boasts one of the most impressive beaches in the Dominican Republic.
Little more than just a spit of white sand sticking out from above the waves, this tiny island is a great spot to hang out and enjoy a stress-free day at the beach. Whether you’re visiting from nearby Punta Rucia or on one of the popular day trips from Puerto Plata, you’ll love your visit to Cayo Arena.
Book Here: Cayo Arena Excursion from Puerto Plata
Plan a Trip to the Dominican Republic
18. Go Scuba Diving
With great year-round underwater visibility and an array of impressive diving locations, the Dominican Republic is a fantastic place to enjoy diving on your Caribbean vacation. With dive sites ranging from wrecks and walls to colorful reefs, diving is one of the best things to do in the Dominican Republic.
Here are some of the most popular dive spots in the Dominican Republic:
- Boca Chica: Just east of Santo Domingo, Boca Chica has two wrecks in close proximity to each other, explorable in just one memorable dive.
- La Sirena: This dive site offers incredible cave dives near Santo Domingo.
- Punta Cana: For diving options near Punta Cana, consider exploring the Astron Shipwreck and diving at Isla Saona.
PADI’s guide to diving in the Dominican Republic recommends that beginner divers stick to spots on the southern coast (with fewer waves and calmer waters), leaving spots on the island’s northern coast to more experienced divers. However, each dive site is different and there are destinations worth exploring – no matter your level of experience – all around the country.
19. Spot Humpback Whales
Every year, Samaná Bay welcomes humpback whales who come to the region to give birth to their babies in the area’s warm, calm waters. This migratory pattern makes the Samaná Bay one of the best spots for whale watching in the Caribbean.
Whether you’re staying near Samaná or somewhere else in the Dominican Republic, it’s worth adding a whale-watching excursion to your itinerary – they’re some of the best things to do in the Dominican Republic, no matter where you’re based during your vacation. Here are some of the best whale-watching excursions:
- Whale Watching Excursion from Samaná
- Whale Watching Excursion from Punta Cana
- Whale Watching Excursion from Puerto Plata / Sosua / Cabarete
Though it’s easiest for travelers staying in Samaná to enjoy this excursion, it’s worth the journey whether you’re traveling from Punta Cana or beyond. Stay at Cayo Levantado Resort, located right in the heart of the waters of Samaná Bay on a white sand island, for the best whale-watching experience; you can also book whale-watching tours from the island.
20. Learn to Make Chocolate
In addition to its spectacular rum and cigars, the Dominican Republic is known for its chocolate; in fact, it’s known as one of the biggest chocolate producers in the world. Try your hand at making chocolate or touring one of the country’s cacao farms as a fun addition to your Dominican Republic itinerary.
For the best chocolate-making experience in the Dominican Republic, visit a chocolate farm and experience the process of making chocolate, from bar to bean. El Sendero Chocolate Farm, located just east of Santo Domingo, is one of the best places for this – a visit is definitely among the best things to do in the Dominican Republic.
Alternatively, check out chocolate tours and experiences in Santo Domingo; these are less hands-on but just as informative about the process, with taste tests included. Or, check out the chocolate make experience at Del Oro in Puerto Plata for a hands-on experience that even cruise ship visitors can enjoy.
21. Go Ziplining in Samaná
The Samaná peninsula is home to some of the best ziplining courses in the country, especially the El Valle zipline near the small beach town of the same name. An extensive ziplining course makes this a popular day trip from Samaná or local activity for those staying nearby.
Alternatively, the ziplining courses outside of Punta Cana offer another way to experience this adventurous sport for travelers staying in the area. With transportation included or organized by most resorts in the area, it makes for an easy way to break up a long day by the pool or on the beach at your resort.
22. Relax at a Resort in Punta Cana
The resort town par excellence in the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana is one of the most beloved beach destinations in the country. For many travelers, simply kicking back and relaxing at one of the many all-inclusive resorts is among the best things to do in the Dominican Republic – the very best!
Lopesan Costa Bávaro Resort, Spa and Casino, located on a particularly beautiful stretch of world-famous Bávaro Beach, is one of the most impressive resorts in Punta Cana. The family-friendly and adults-only sections of the resort make this a great option both for travelers with kids in tow or those on a kids-free getaway.
Reviews and Bookings: Lopesan Costa Bávaro Resort, Spa and Casino
23. Climb Pico Duarte
Located in Jose Armando Bermudez National Park at the heart of the Dominican Republic, Pico Duarte is the tallest peak in the Caribbean, with over 10,000 feet in elevation. Climbing this impressive mountain in the Cordillera Central – sometimes known as the Dominican Alps – is no easy feat, but it’s one that even casual hikers should consider among the best things to do in the Dominican Republic.
You’ll definitely want to summit Pico Duarte with an experienced guide. I recommend looking to the Dominican Abroad for guide recommendations – this fellow travel writer used to organize these tours herself and now has passed off this experience to the local guides she’s worked with for years.
Make sure to bring some layers for your visit; this may be a Caribbean island, but the elevation of Pico Duarte means it can get quite chilly here.
24. Stay at an Ecolodge in Samaná
The Samaná peninsula is known for its laidback vibes and incredible natural gems, including everything from lush rainforests, hidden waterfalls like El Limón, and some of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic. It’s our favorite spot in the country for a true getaway.
If you’re headed to the Samaná peninsula, consider booking a stay in one of the area’s many eco lodges or eco resorts, which marry a jungle-like atmosphere with proximity to some of the nicest and most untouched beaches in the area. Near Las Galeras, Chalet Tropical Biohotel is a great choice for an eco-friendly getaway, though the gorgeous El Valle Lodge near the small town El Valle – home to one of the country’s best beaches – is our favorite recommendation in the area.
Book Here: El Valle Lodge
25. Hike to 27 Waterfalls in Damajagua
There are plenty of things to do in Puerto Plata beyond simply soaking up the sun at the beach – within a short drive, you’ll find some of the most beautiful natural attractions the Dominican Republic has to offer. Among them are the 27 waterfalls in Damajagua.
Also referred to as 27 Charcos, the waterfalls of Damajagua are one of the most visited attractions in Puerto Plata and the city’s most popular day trip. While most visitors tend to only see 12 waterfalls due to the time it takes to hike to them, it’s one of the best things to do in the Dominican Republic.
The easiest way to visit the waterfalls is by taking a small group day trip. Access to the waterfalls is via a walking trail, with some areas requiring individuals to walk along steep paths. This attraction requires some measure of physical fitness, thus making it unsuitable for small children and the elderly.