Dominican Republic Travel Guide
Serving as the first beachhead that Christopher Columbus planted the Spanish flag on during his initial voyage to the Western World in 1492, the Dominican Republic served as one of the first bastions of European settlement in the Americas.
It was a truly beautiful place to begin a life in a new world, as this part of the island that was once known as Hispaniola is ringed by some of the most beautiful beaches on Earth, and its interior is crowned by mountains carpeted by lush tropical greenery.
From the colonial history of Santo Domingo to the remote beaches of Playa Rincon, there is much to discover here for the adventurous traveler.
Currency: Dominican Pesos
What To Do
If you are starting your time off in the Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo, make time in your sightseeing schedule for Catedral Primada de America.
Holding the record as the longest standing Church in the Western Hemisphere, as it has been around since 1541 (there was a church that was older in Mexico City, but it crumbled 40 years after being finished in 1524).
Despite the damage that a pirate raid inflicted on its collections and its interior in the 16th century, the repairs made after the fact have stood the test of time, and to this day, Catedral Primada de America is one of the most beautiful structures in all of Santo Domingo.
Access is prohibited to tourists wearing shorts and tank tops, so be sure to come dressed in respectable clothing.
While the Dominican Republic was the first land in the New World that Christopher Columbus claimed for the crown of Spain in the late 15th century, one of the most outstanding legacies of this clan in this country was built by his son.
Alcazar de Colon is an impressive manor that has been painstakingly restored to the state it was in during the 16th century. Times weren’t always as good here though, as after the departure of the immediate members of the Columbus family in the mid-sixteenth century, relatives allowed it to decay until they ended up converting it into a warehouse.
Things only got worse from there, as it was then used as a prison and then part of the city dump in subsequent centuries.
Reclaimed as a historical monument in the mid-twentieth century, the process began to restore it to the national treasure that it is in the present day.
When you have finished brushing up on the history of the Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo, escape the city and get out into the countryside, which is filled with all sorts of natural treasures and opportunities for adventure.
On the latter point, spending the day at the Damajaqua Cascades is a must for fans of adrenaline activities. Located within an easy drive from Puerto Plata, there are 27 waterfalls that are interconnected over the space of a few miles, making this place a canyoner’s dream.
While this may not be the best attraction for young children and those that are out of shape, able-bodied adults will have a hoot here, as there are plenty of opportunities to slide down waterfalls and jump off short cliffs into crystal clear water.
Get in touch with nature in the Dominican Republic by visiting Parque Nacional del Este. Protecting one of the most beautiful capes in the far eastern portion of this country, not only are there gorgeous wild beaches here, but you also have the opportunity to connect with fauna such as manatees, bottlenose dolphins and over 112 species of birds.
Of course, many people come to the Dominican Republic to enjoy the many world-class beaches that can be found around the coastline of this large Caribbean nation.
If you’re seeking an urban beach with all the conveniences and nightlife options that you could ever want, then planting your flag on the sands of Playa Boca Chica is what you want to do.
Known for having some of the clearest and calmest water in the Dominican Republic, those looking for a great swimming beach will be happy, and with plenty of restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, and bars, you won’t be bored for a second during your beach holiday in Boca Chica.
A downside of this destination is that it is crammed with people all the time, owing to its proximity to Santo Domingo. If you’re looking for a less crowded beach, but don’t want to leave all the conveniences of an all-inclusive resort behind, then Punta Cana is for you.
Known worldwide for the lengthy sands of Bavaro beach (it extends for almost 30 kilometers), you can socialize with newly found friends, or you can wander off on your own and find some badly needed solitude … the choice is yours.
Those seeking to get off the beaten track will be rewarded for their efforts once they reach the unspeakably beautiful Playa Rincon.
Located in an isolated cove on the eastern tip of the Samana Peninsula, there is little in the way of services (just a few small resorts), but the lack of modern attractions will melt away in the sight of towering mountains, cobalt blue waters, and a fine sandy beach with only a handful of people on it.
What to Eat
A common snack for many Dominican people is Yaniqueque, a variation on the Johnny Cake that many other people in Caribbean nations enjoy on a daily basis.
While Johnny Cake is usually baked in an oven, Yaniqueque is different in that it is deep fried, giving it a texture and flavour that is uniquely different from its cousins found on other islands.
The national dish of the Dominican Republic is Sancocho, a soup that is commonly enjoyed at celebrations and lunch counters alike.
Having many variations across the island, it typically contains beef (though other types of meat can be found in Sancocho as well), along with yam, taro, cassava, and corn cobs.
Pastelon is a dish that is commonly found at dinner tables across the Dominican Republic. This Caribbean take on lasagna first originated in Puerto Rico, but it has migrated to the Dominican Republic as well.
Its variant more resembles a casserole, containing shredded chicken, cassava, rice, sweet plantains, onions, garlic, tomato paste, various cheeses, among other ingredients that local cooks throw in.