Destination Guide : Dominican Republic

Visiting Dominican Republic? Planning a trip and trying to choose an area? This article breaks down each major area for you. 

1: Puerto Plata


The mostly industrial city of Puerto Plata has a few tourist attractions in its Old Town quarters and along Malecon, its long beachfront drive. But most guests stay just outside it, in the Playa Dorada complex to the east or the cluster of resorts in Cofresi, to the west. Playa Dorada is a gated group of 15 hotels (with more than 4,000 rooms in total), plus a shopping center and golf course. It’s extremely safe and walk-able, even at night, making it a great place for families.

Getting In:

When planning a trip to Puerto Plata, you will be flying into the Gregorio Luperon International Airport also know as POP. The airport is located about 15 minutes east of downtown and between 20 minutes to an hour from most hotels. You will need a tourist card to enter and exit, be prepared with $20 cash and have a pen handy.

Getting Around: 

There are several options for local transportation between the city proper and the surrounding hotels and resorts.
Taxis are the most expensive option and not really more secure than other choices. You will probably prefer to book Private Transfers with a reliable company.
Buses are slower, but the cheapest, and, once you understand the routes, the easiest way to get around.

Guagua are the main common transportation system for locals but not really organized; you can stop practically anywhere along the main streets and wait for one to stop and climb up, the fare is normally cheap, but you’ll probably have to negotiate with the driver or the door operator. Guagas can often be identified by “Se Vende” stickers on the windows and a large rear view mirror pasted to the back door. 
Again, we recommend Private Transfers which are safe and secure. 
Shop:

If you are looking for good shopping (rum, cigars, t-shirts, etc.) the best place to go is Sosua, about 10-15 minutes from Puerto Plata. Sosua is a small town and easily walk-able. Sosua also has a main beach called Playa Sosua. If you head away from the beach down the main road there are larger markets and the prices are cheaper.

Eat: 


You will most likely be eating at your hotel, but if you wander into town, check these places out. 

  • Entre Amigos, located along the Malecon, which is the road that parallels the ocean in Puerto Plata. It’s an excellent restaurant! 
  • La Pescada, on the south side of highway 5, this small fish restaurant specializes in sopa del pescado, or fish soup. Have a bowl and add in some of their home-made citrus & lime sauce. 

2: Punta Cana

Punta Cana is commonly — and justifiably — said to have the finest beaches in the Caribbean. Located on the D.R.’s easternmost tip, the area is also characterized by near-perfect weather, as well as dozens of all-inclusive mega-resorts ranging from cheap to chic.  

Getting In: 

Flying into Punta Cana International Airport, also known as PUJ, gives you a beautiful view of not only the pristine water but also the density of greenery that makes the area beautiful and untouched. As soon as you land you know you are in a tropical paradise just by looking at the airport, designed with thatched roofs and stone walls. You will need a tourist card to enter and exit, be prepared with $20 cash and have a pen handy.

Weather:

In Punta Cana, over 80% of the year is rain free. Like most tropical climates, you can be strolling in a pleasant early morning shower, then the rain will stop, and before you know it, you’re dry.

December to April is known as the Caribbean’s cool season, with midday temperatures in the mid-eighties. It can be windy, and get as cool as the low-seventies. Our favorite time to go is March through Mid-May. This is when humidity is lowest and temperatures are in the mid-70’s to mid-80s. We have gone in September before because prices seem to be lower, but humidity is high and temperatures can be in the high 80’s to 90’s. 
The odds of a hurricane hitting a particular area on a specific date are remote, but take precautions when traveling to Punta Cana during hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. Even though the last major hurricane to hit the Dominican Republic directly was back in 1998. 

Getting Around:

Shop:


We usually don’t shop in town on resorts since prices are hiked up quiet a bit for tourists. You can find deals in small shops in town, or check out Plaza Bávaro, but only if you’re willing to haggle. Many of the prices at this shopping plaza are over-inflated, and if you purchase what’s on the price tag, you’re probably overpaying. 

The downside is that many visitors to Punta Cana feel that the vendors and store owners at Plaza Bavaro can be too pushy in trying to convince you to buy something, but if you’re prepared for that, and you’re ready to haggle, it can be a great place to go shopping in Punta Cana.

Tip: 

The Punta Cana and La Romana areas are also home to numerous world-renowned golf courses.

Eat:

Most likely you will be eating at your resort, but if you wander out, check out Fodor’s list of best restaurants.

3: Santo Domingo


The highlight of Santo Domingo is the Colonial Zone (an UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the city’s history and architecture is not to be missed. The capital city was founded by Bartholomew Columbus in 1498 and is the oldest city in the Americas. The area is a very walkable grid of 16 streets with architecture from the 16th to 20th centuries. The cobblestone streets and street lamps lead you to many small meuseums, shops, hotels, bar and restaurants.

Tip: 
The Chu Chu Colonial offers a 45-minute trip around the city to help newcomers get their bearings.

Notable place: 

We also suggest visiting Samaná – a lush area in the northeast part of the country filled with ecological attractions like pristine beaches, Los Haitises National Park, whale watching, Playa Rincón, El Limon waterfall and more.