Dominican Republic Travel Guide
“This is the most beautiful land that human eyes have ever seen” – said Christopher Columbus, when he discovered the Hispaniola island in 1492. He must have believed it was a paradise when saw the palm trees, swaying in a blue haze.Indeed, with so many lovely beaches and lagoons across the island, it is hard to believe you are still on Earth.
The Dominican Republic (DR) is the country that occupies the eastern side the Hispaniola island and the most renowned tourist destination in the Caribbean. The Hispaniola and several smaller islands are a part of the Greater Antilles archipelago and the most exclusive vacationing destination.
The capital city of Santo Domingo is home to cathedrals, historic forts, and houses, which make up the Zona Colonial that delivers a great opportunity for exploring a once proud city of Spanish possessions. The closest and most buzzing resort towns to Santo Domingo are Boca Chica and Juan Dolio. With the sounds of bachata and merengue at every corner, these towns have so much to offer.
The town of Puerto Plata, located on the northern coast and bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the magnificent mountain ranges, is another popular spot to chill out along with kite- and windsurfing city of Cabarete. Puerto Plata offers very much similar features like stunning beaches, Victorian architecture, but captivating magnificent panorama from the top of Mount Isabel de Torres makes this place quite special. I have put together this travel guide to reveal another side of the Dominican Republic apart from beaches.
While Dominican Republic is mostly an all-inclusive destination, there are still other accommodation options to choose from. Hostels are available throughout the major towns with prices start at about 15 USD for a dorm room. Expect to pay around 25 USD in budget hotels, which are popular with locals, but usually offer quite crappy amenities. It is common, they come with shared bathroom and the majority have cold showers. Mid-range hotels are common in tourist areas with prices ranging from 40 to 65 USD. While I stayed in such hotel, these are really good value for money. Airbnb is also an option throughout the Dominican Republic and you can find studio apartments starting at a 45 USD per night. These usually come with self-catering facilities.
Getting Around Dominican Republic
Buses are a convenient and cheap way to get around the Dominican Republic. There are two major bus companies that offer rides from Santo Domingo to Sosúa or Puerto Plata for around 9 USD. In addition there is a number of smaller companies that will get you anywhere for even lower fares.
For getting around in distant regions not covered by bus routes, guagua are great providing even cheaper service than buses. Very popular with locals, the ordinary guagua ride will set you back no more than 2-3 USD or even lower when traveling within a given city. As most guaguas are a bit cramped they might ride with their doors open.
For transportation within major cities, publicos and motoconchos are extremely inexpensive, under 1 USD per trip. While publicos are kind of private cars, motoconchos are small-engine motorbikes carrying up to 3-4 passengers with no helmets on and performing daredevil driving manoeuvres. Motoconchos are popular for shorter trips within towns and resort areas. Taxis are relatively inexpensive with prices around 5-6 USD average. You can pay with US dollars, Euros or Pesos, but it is wise to have the exact change since you don’t want the driver to keep the change. Santo Domingo has an underground system, that is less than 1 USD per ride.
Dominican cuisine can briefly be described as an unusual, but tasty mix of European, African and indigenous Taíno cuisines. It is based on extensive use of beans, bananas and vegetables (including exotic ones) in the original combinations with meat and fish. Such dishes like la bandera, asopao and Puerco en puya are traditional. Food in the Dominican Republic is cheap.
A meal from a street vendor usually come for less than 1 USD. For this price you may expect to get fried pastries, boiled corn, deep-fried pork or chicken. A meal in cafeterías usually cost between 2-3 USD. Comedores, or family-run restaurants with a homely atmosphere, serve delicious comida criolla for around 3 USD in small towns and 4-6 USD in major cities. There is a lot of fast food in resort areas, and it usually comes at 8 USD per combo meal.
Scuba Diving in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic has numerous diving sites across the island. As weather conditions deliver great diving almost all year round, the underwater sites vary from resort to resort.
Bayahibe area is known with its El Chico and Padre Nuestro caves. With a famous St George wreck nearby, Bayahibe area has more than 30 dive sites.
Cap Cana offers an opportunity to explore the Patricia wreck and check out barracudas and turtles in the lagoon. The Taino cave near Santo Domingo is a right place to enjoy white stalactites, winding tunnels and the halocline – the boundary between fresh and salt water.
The Underwater National Park of Monte Cristi is the major ancient shipwreck graveyard of the Caribbean with around a hundred ships can be found here.