The Dominican Republic receives nearly five million tourists every year -- and for good reason! Its proximity to North America means that just a few hours after leaving home you can be swimming with dolphins in warm Caribbean waters, yet it's a distinct culture and history also means you'll be speaking Spanish and dancing bachata under colonial arcades once you touch down.
This welcoming and geographically diverse Caribbean nation has something to offer every visitor. White-sand beaches and jungle-shrouded mountain ranges are just the beginning. Whether you come for wildlife, adventure, the beaches, or the culture, the Dominican Republic probably has what you're after.
As you repel past crystal-covered stalactites into one of the Caribbean's most stunning caves in Los Haitises National Park or leap off of a dozen different waterfalls in Damajagua you might wonder if the adventure ever ends. Fortunately, the Dominican Republic is chock-full of experiences like these for any active traveler.
Cabarete, on the north coast, is one of the world’s hot spots for kitesurfing -- you can learn to jump your board 20 feet above the surf to perform some epic aerials. Later you can snap into your harness and zip line through the jungle canopy waving at monkeys and parrots as you fly by.
The Dominican Republic is the perfect place for whale watching. Every year, from January through March, thousands of humpback whales congregate in the shallow waters here. This is where they come to give birth, rear their calves, court, and... umm… make more whales. You can observe them from one of many whale-watching boats or put on your snorkel and get in the water to observe these giants of the sea up close.
The Dominican Republic is also home to many smaller but no less impressive creatures. From rare colorful birds to tiny tree frogs and the threatened rhinoceros iguana, the country has no shortage of amazing wildlife encounters.
Surrounded by clear warm Caribbean waters, the Dominican Republic is an outstanding place to explore by sea. Take a small boat tour to Isla Saona or one of the other small islands off the coast for that castaway experience. Snorkel or scuba just offshore and meet turtles, dolphins, rays, and all the creatures of the coral reefs.
Culture & History Tours
Don’t leave the Dominican Republic without experiencing its rich culture. Play dominoes in the park in Santo Domingo, support farmers on a rural family cooperative, and dance bachata late into the night. If you are fortunate enough to be here during Carnival in February or August, get ready for a tour de force of dance, music, and costume.
For the history buffs out there, a visit to the Dominican Republic would be incomplete without viewing ancient petroglyphs or one of the many pirate fortresses around the island. While exploring the old town of Santo Domingo, the oldest continuously inhabited European city in the Americas, it’s easy to imagine Christopher Columbus or the Francis Drake walking the same streets.
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit the Dominican Republic
Even though it enjoys warm tropical weather year-round, there are better times than others to visit the Dominican Republic. The rainy season lasts from May through November, with the possibility of tropical storms rising toward the end of the season. Prices are lower during this time of year, but you risk having to reschedule or cancel your trip if there is a hurricane.
What to Look for in a Tour to the Dominican Republic
With so many different types of tours to choose from, make sure you pick one with activities you’re interested in. Read the tour's description and itinerary thoroughly to see if it's the right one for you. Some tours and experiences are family friendly with activities for children and some are not. Make sure your guides for any adventure activities are certified and have completed necessary safety inspections.
Also, it's always a good idea to read the reviews of any tour provider you're interested in and compare the itineraries of different companies. This will give you more insight when it comes to choosing the best tour provider for you.
Typical Tour Cost
How much a vacation in the Dominican Republic will cost depends on several factors. Prices come way down in the low season, but you trade higher costs for more rain. Expect to pay more in popular tourist destinations and near resorts. The more off the beaten path you get, the more prices will come down.
Expect to pay about $600 per person for a very basic week-long tour and as much as $3,000 for one with all the bells and whistles. Day trips organized in-country cost much less.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Check to see if your tour includes gear rental. If not, most of the gear you need can be rented on site. Flip-flops and sunglasses for the beach are a must, but also bring appropriate footwear for cobblestone city streets and muddy mountain trails if that’s where you’re going. Dominicans wouldn’t dare to wear beach attire in town. If you don’t want to stand out more than you do already, bring something more stylish for evenings on the town.
Other Tips for Travel in the Dominican Republic
Spanish is spoken all over the island. Don’t expect much English outside of the tourism industry. Learning a few basic phrases of Spanish will help a lot. For extra points, drop in some Dominican slang like ¿qué lo qué? (what’s up?) and you’ll be making connections in no time.
Tap water is not potable. Bottled water is inexpensive and can be bought just about anywhere.
Pay in local currency. You may see vendors accepting U.S. dollars. You should still pay in Dominican pesos if you can, as they often charge a large conversion fee for using dollars.
Get on island time! Things are more relaxed in this Caribbean nation, so prepare to be frustrated if you expect punctuality. Events may start late and the person you’re meeting may show up an hour after planned. Just relax, grab an ice-cold Presidente while you wait, and remember this is how life works around here.
Health & Safety
There are no required vaccinations to travel to the Dominican Republic, but the CDC recommends that you get vaccinated for hepatitis A and typhoid. Sunburns are probably your greatest health threat, so use plenty of sunblock.
Mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and zika are present but rare. Use insect repellent and avoid being out during the evenings and early mornings in marshy areas to decrease the chance of bites.
Fortunately, the Dominican Republic is a very safe destination for tourists. Violent crime and theft are relatively rare. However, exercising common sense precautions is always a good idea. Don’t leave your valuables at the beach. It’s best not to walk alone at night in cities or on the beaches. Also, be careful when posing for that selfie. Thieves have been known to snatch cameras and phones from unsuspecting visitors.