Ranging from the brochure-worthy beaches of Punta Cana in the east (and all the uber-luxurious resort hotels that go with them) to the wild and cloud-topped mountain peaks of the Central Mountains in the west (the highest in the Caribbean), the paradisaical sands of Isla Saona in the southern swells to the virgin rainforests of Los Haitises on the north shore, it’s easy to see how the Dominican Republic commands such a respected and loved place as one of the top touristic draws in the region.
Visitors come to don the walking boots and spy out iguanas on the saline lakes, or to wax up the surf boards and hit the fabled left-to-righters.
They come to follow in the footsteps of Christopher Columbus, or seek colossal whales on the Samana coast.
The come to eat fresh seafood, smoke local cigars, and even party the night away Spring Break-style.
Let’s explore the best things to do in the Dominican Republic:
1. Roam the Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo
While Santo Domingo’s booming metro population of over two million people makes it the largest city in the entire Caribbean, the over 500-year-old town is also known for its rich history and heritage.
This is focussed almost entirely on the so-called Ciudad Colonial (or Zona Colonial), which buts up to the western banks of the Ozama River as it flows to meet the sea.
This collection of cobbled streets and regal residences is actually the oldest colonial city center in the New World.
Columbus himself trod here in the 15th century, and a grand bronze statue in the central Parque Colon stands as testimony to his enduring influence.
There are oodles of must-sees in the UNESCO district, especially the First Cathedral of America (the first of its kind in all of the Americas), the grand Alcazar De Colon, and the crenulated tops of the Ozama Fort.