Dominican Republic Things to Do Tips by micas_pt Top 5 Page for this destination
Dominican Republic Things to Do: 272 reviews and 344 photos
The calm, transparent, blue (green?!) waters are good for snorkeling. You can see lots of small fish swimming around, and in some places nice coral reef. We also managed to see some turtles and sting-rays when we went a bit further off the coast by boat.
So, as to fully enjoy the potentialities of this wonderful country and beaches, pack your equipment, and don’t forget a good sunscreen (but keep in mind that nowadays you may buy some types of sunscreen that are harmless on water and fauna and flora) - Watch out for sunburns on your back, as you might get one easily while snorkeling: it is so beautiful down there that you might loose track of time.
Boat and Isla Saona
Isla Saona is situated in Parque Nacional del Este, a protected park. The island is easily accessed by boat, as it isn’t hard to find locals available to take (by boat) tourists there.
Isla Saona was discovered in 1494 by Cristovão Colombo and it was named after the first sailor who saw the island - his name was Savones and the island was called Savonesa. Its previous name (in Taino) was Adamanay.
The island is about 110 square km (around 25 km long and around 5 km wide) with around 3000 inhabitants, and the main localities are Mano Juan and Catuano, the former a fishing village and the later a Marine location.
The island's beaches’ sand is very white and the water is warm and blue. With an average temperature of 26ºC all year round and 13 hours of sun every day ... I guess I wouldn't mind living there!! :-)
Higuey is a city situated somewhat near Punta Caña, and it is the capital of La Altagracia Province. We ventured on a public bus and visited Higuey for an afternoon. Visiting this city by ourselves, we managed to have a real feel of authentic Dominican lifestyle, and not only the idyllic beaches and landscapes that the guides showed us before. Looks like that “real life” is so different from the things we had seen so far on the island.
Markets are a place I like to visit, as I enjoy seeing food and habits. The market I visited here left quite a “big” impression on me, mainly the smell, as it wasn’t pleasant at all. Habits are undoubtedly different, and butchers, for example, hang the raw meat on front of the shops leaving it hanging there the whole day, … The main reason for the smell, is that there isn’t a sewer system and water and garbage run on the street on the open air.
There is also a part of the city that is tourist oriented – a lot of souvenir shops, mainly hand crafts and cigars.
In Higuey it is worth mentioning the Cathedral, the city’s main must see. Seen from the outside the Cathedral looks like just concrete and it is very discrete – unless I hadn’t learnt about it before I probably wouldn’t have noticed it when walking around the city. In fact, this Cathedral is made of concrete and isn't painted, so it is grayish (it has a modern look). But when I entered it I was so surprised - it has beautiful stained glass that, when the sun is shining through, giving a beautiful color to the inside.
On the altar there is a fabulous work of Virgen de la Altagracia, made with gold, diamonds and other precious stones. It is so valuable, that it has been stolen (but fortunately it was later recovered). So, to avoid further "temptations" it is now locked inside a special glass.
After visiting the cathedral, and as you leave, there is someone asking for money to the cathedral. A kind of "post-paid" entrance, and without warning, I don't remember how much did I pay but I think they leave it for you to decide how much you want to give.
Dominican Republic is much more than beaches. The island landscape is varied, ranging from the white sanded beaches to the mountainous green interior.
We booked a visit to the "interior" of the island on a 4wd vehicle, which allowed us to go off the beaten roads and discover both the landscape and the small villages.
At first, we were so surprised at the sight of luxurious green hills. There was green everywhere and the landscape was almost mountainous. The temperature is not as high (fortunately) and there is a kind of mist everywhere. The vegetation is thick and completely different from the palm trees we were used to see on the beach.
Altos de Chavón - Amphitheatre
Altos de Chavón is a village that recreates a 16th century Mediterranean village, with a church, amphitheatre, park, houses, art gallery, restaurants, museum, shops, disco, arts school and artist's studios. It all began in the 70's when Charles Bluhdorn had this idea of building a village on top of River Chavón as a birthday present for his daughter. The construction works begun in 1976 and they used materials such as coral block and terracotta. Nowadays this village hosts an arts school and many of its houses are inhabited by students (from all over the world).
This village has astonishing views over River Chavón and the Caribbean Sea; its surroundings are rather green, since it was built in the middle of vegetation. Altos de Chavón is located at about 100 km from Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic's capital).
Main places to visit: Amphitheatre, the river, Regional Museum of Archaeology, Art Gallery, S. Estanislao Church.
When traveling by boat to Isla Saona we visited a part of this protected park - the swamps.
Parque Nacional del Este is not only this little bit of sea that we visited plus Isla Saona: it's an enormous area also on the main island of about 430 square km!!! Hot climate and dry weather ... no water streams due to the high porosity of the soil, and the park is covered with a subtropical forest, a dry forest and a transitional forest. Looks like a nice place to visit ;-) Oh, since it's a protected place is not populated.
Beach at the Melia resort
Punta Cana is one of the most famous destinations in Dominican Republic, since it has natural white sanded beaches (unlike some beaches in San Juan area), being that some say that the best beaches in DR are situated here, in this touristy area. There are a myriad of resorts and hotels in Punta Cana, ranging from moderate to pricy solutions. Most of them are All Inclusive resorts and offer a whole bunch of services, including golf greens.
We stayed at the Melia complex, which has 2 hotels: the Caribbe and the Tropical, with several pools, a great beach and lots of restaurants. For further info check my Punta Cana page.
Punta Cana proved to be a good choice, not only due to the quality of the beaches and resort, but also because of its location, which allowed us to visit a lot around, sometimes on organized tours and sometimes on our own, using public transportation.
Beach, seen from the boat
When traveling to Dominican Republic, you can’t miss the beaches – that is the reason for going there. The white sand, the warm water, the Caribbean colour and the palm trees ... how I miss it! I visited some deserted beaches and they were even more fantastic. Not a soul in sight ... just a few crabs playing around in the sand. It was really great!
The colours are indeed great, as well as the temperature. I was surprised to see that that were waves on every beach I visited around the island ... I guess I had seen to many "idyllic" photos in traveling brochures. :-) Every time I went to the beach - no matter it was in the hotel or far away in any deserted beach - there was wind. Not that I was bothered about it, I even enjoyed since it made the heat more bearable.
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