Looking for things to do in the Dominican Republic? These cool sights and activities are much better than pouring yourself another Pina Colada.
The Dominican Republic is about so much more than just the beach. This diverse Caribbean island is also home to rich rainforests, soaring mountains and fascinating colonial towns. Spanning its main tourist regions are endless things to do for visitors of all ages.
Up on the north coast is Puerto Plata where you can visit rum factories or take a cable car up to Mount Isabel. Over on the east coast you can spot humpback whales off the coast of Samana. The southern town of Punta Cana has lively nightlife, while La Romana in the southeast is home to the island’s most exclusive beach resorts.
This guide will give you a quick look at the best things to do in each of the main tourist regions – check it all out or skip straight to the area you’re interested in using the handy menu below:
- Things to do in Punta Cana
- Things to do in La Romana
- Things to do in Santo Domingo
- Things to do in Puerto Plata
- Other attractions
- Where to stay
Things to do in Punta Cana
Located on southeastern tip of the island, Punta Cana is known for it’s 32km stretch of white beaches and clear waters. It’s the most popular tourist spot and some of the best things to do in the Dominican Republic can be found here. Whether you’re traveling on your own, as a couple or with the kids in tow, you’ll find plenty of activities for all.
Try every watersport on the list
With its long stretch of glorious coastline, it’s no wonder that watersports are top of the list of things to do in Punta Cana. Snorkelling, diving and parasailing can all be found here. Fishing is popular too, with barracuda, mahi mahi and yellow tuna among the potential catches.
Saddle up for an adventure
For serious adventurers, Horseplay Punta Cana offers a range of tours complete with horse riding, zip-lining and sampling the local food and culture. The Adventure Combo Tour will take you riding through the countryside, galloping along the Anamya River and exploring a cigar plantation before soaring through the treetops on an amazing zip-line ride.
Swim in a hidden oasis
Tucked away inside Scape Park just outside of Punta Cana is Hoyo Azul (Blue Hole) where you can swim in deep, natural spring waters. Surrounded by lush rainforest, it’s 14 meters deep and sits at the foot of a 246-foot-high limestone cliff. You have to cross a suspension bridge and hike past myriad flora and fauna (including an orchid garden) to reach this hidden oasis.
Learn the art of surfing
Things to do in Punta Cana don’t get much better than learning how to surf. Macao Surf Camp operates from Macao Beach and offers private and group lessons for all levels of experience. Lessons include round-trip transportation, surfboard hire, refreshments and two hours of expert tuition. If you want to ride the waves in your own time you can rent a variety of boards including long, short, foam and soft options.
Do a bit of everything
Whether you want to drive an off-road buggy, roll inside a giant ball or style it out on a segway, you can do it all at Bavaro Adventure Park. This amazing park in Punta Cana features more than 15 adrenaline-pumping attractions. When you’re ready to cool down, you can make a splash in the on-site swimming pool.
Go dinosaur spotting
It may not be one of the most likely things to do in Punta Cana, but yes, you really can go dinosaur spotting. Also at Bavaro Adventure Park, Dinosaur World is home to more than 20 huge animatronic dinosaurs located in a woodland setting. The extensive display features a Tyrannosaurus Rex, an Iguanodon, a Diplodocus, a Stegosaurus and many more. There’s also a special educational zone packed with information and real-life exhibits.
Swim with dolphins
You can swim with dolphins and snorkel amid sharks and sting rays at Dolphin Island Park. Situated in the sea just off Bavaro Beach it offers a variety of experiences for everyone. There are family programs for those who want to swim with dolphins, and active programs where you get a handshake, a foot push and an exciting fin tow in the sea. Book a dolphin experience and you’ll get to snorkel with sharks and ride in a jet boat for free.
Party the night away
If you’re looking for things to do in Punta Cana at night, you’ll have a fun evening at Coco Bongo nightclub. One of the best nightspots on the island, it hosts amazing music, dance and acrobat shows. You can book regular tables, VIP tables and full party packages for bachelor and bachelorette parties. Regular tickets start at around $70 and include unlimited drinks from 9.30pm to 2am.
Things to do in La Romana
A city on the Dominican’s Caribbean coast, La Romana offers a more upscale vibe than Punta Cana. It has world-class golf courses, high-end resorts and the locals in La Romana say their beaches are the prettiest in the Dominican Republic. Whether you want to get out and explore or just laze in the sun, you’ll find plenty of things to do in La Romana.
Go wildlife spotting
Located at the southernmost tip of the island is the National Park of the East or Parque Nacional del Este as it is known locally. From the sandy beaches of Saona Island to the rainforest and limestone landscape of the mainland, it’s home to more than 500 species of plant and more than 1,000 bird, insect and fish species. The ideal spot to relax and unwind, you can explore on-land or go snorkelling in the crystal clear waters.
Explore ancient caves
Also at East National Park is Jose Maria Cave and other caves where you can see paintings left by the island’s long-lost Taino people. Most of the drawings and paintings date from the 14th century and portray a variety of animal and human faces intertwined with abstract patterns. Cave tours leave daily from La Romana, and include lunch, round trip transportation, entrance fees and free time to explore the rest of the park.
Feel like you’re in the movies
At first glance, Altos de Chavon looks like a real-life medieval village with its cobblestone streets and 16th-century architecture. But it was was actually built in the 1970s by a Paramount Studios set designer. Wander around and you’ll discover art studios, galleries and restaurants inside the buildings. It’s also home to the St Stanislaus Church and a 5,000-seat amphitheater which hosts regular music shows.
Tour the largest cigar factory in the world
Cigar-making is big business in the Dominican Republic, and La Romana is home to the world’s largest handmade cigar factory, Tabacalera de Garcia. Take a tour and you’ll see the proud handiwork of the cigar industry’s most experienced craftspeople. You’ll see inside the curing rooms where the tobacco is dried, and the rolling stations where staff expertly twist the cigars – the fastest can roll up to 1,500 a day!
Get treated like royalty
Stay at one of the villas at Casa de Campo resort and you’ll live like royalty throughout your vacation. Each villa is staffed and features a private pool, stylish living areas and gorgeous unique touches. You can also make the most of amazing resort amenities such as a private beach, restaurants, pools, golf courses, a spa and nightly entertainment.
Tee off on a top golf course
When you step up to the tee at one of Casa de Campo’s three legendary golf courses you’ll enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience. Designed by World Golf Hall of Fame member Pete Dye, the courses have been meticulously carved from the coral shores, craggy mountains and rolling hills of the Dominican Republic landscape. Only at Casa de Campo can you play on three different courses at the same resort.
Laze on the beach
With so many beauties to choose from it’s no wonder that beach days top the list of things to do in La Romana. The beaches here have white sand and glass-clear water that’s perfect for snorkelling. There’s a laid-back vibe, but you’ll still find plenty of beach bars that offer front row seats for the amazing sunsets. Playa Minitas Beach is ideal for all the family and is just a stone’s throw from Casa de Campo resort.
Things to do in Santo Domingo
The capital of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo is one of the Caribbean’s oldest cities. Its walled historic core, the Zona Colonial features buildings that date back to the 1500s. Sightseeing, exploring and soaking up the culture are among the many things to do in Santo Domingo.
See a free concert
Head to the Centro Cultura de Espana (Cultural Center of Spain) in Santo Domingo and you’ll find heaps of fun things to do. Among its many offerings are live music, performing arts and theater shows. The calendar of events includes monthly concerts featuring well-known local and international artists. These take place on the main stage in the gardens and you can watch them for free.
See a special tribute
The Columbus Lighthouse or Faro a Colon, was built as a tribute to Christopher Columbus who first landed on the island in 1492. It features high-powered lights on the roof that project a blinding white cross in the sky that can be seen from neighboring Puerto Rico. Inside are exhibition halls displaying artefacts related to Columbus’ voyages. There’s also a tomb purportedly containing his remains.
Explore the historic center
At the heart of Santo Domingo is the Zona Colonial where you’ll find one of the oldest churches and the oldest surviving European fortress. You can also see other important buildings like The Sundial of Santo Domingo, built in 1753, the ruins of the Hospital of St Nicolas (the first hospital in the New World), and the Museum of the Royal Houses, constructed in 1511.
Dine inside a cave
If you’re looking for unique things to do, how about dining inside a cave? At El Meson de la Cava you can do just that. Perfect for a romantic night, this renowned restaurant is tucked away in a cave once occupied by buccaneers. It’s located in Santo Domingo’s Quisqueya district and has three entrances at street level. Visitors then descend a 40-foot spiral staircase to get to the lobby, which is filled with stalactites and stalagmites.
Taste the local rum
Discover the island’s history of rum production at the Museum of Rum and Sugar Cane. Housed in a restored 16th-century building, it runs free rum tours daily where you’ll learn all about the history of rum and see how it’s made. At the end of the tour, take to the rooftop bar where you can enjoy free samples and tasty rum cocktails. There’s also a shop in the front that sells locally produced rum.
Things to do in Puerto Plata
Situated up on the Atlantic north coast, Puerto Plata is known for its amazing beaches, stunning mountain scenery and fascinating history. Dubbed the birthplace of tourism in the Dominican Republic, it’s packed with cool attractions and fun things to do.
Swim in 27 waterfalls
Things to do in Puerto Plata don’t get much better than visiting its natural waterpark. The 27 Charcos of Damajagua waterfalls offer days of climbing and sliding around a series of 27 spectacular waterfalls. Run by local guides, tours include the helmets and safety gear needed for this adventure. Most excursions take you through the first seven falls. Reaching the 27th is reserved for the most active and physically fit climbers.
Tour an amber mine
The Dominican Republic is known for producing some of the oldest and clearest amber in the world. You can tour the actual mines where the stone is unearthed in the hills of La Cumbre, just outside Puerto Plato city. You’ll tour an on-site educational display, then hike the field leading to the mines, passing entrances to holes that run 61 meters deep (200 feet). Purchase amber raw on site at a fraction of the price you’d find elsewhere.
Hike up a mountain
Hike your way up or hop on a cable car to reach the peak of Mount Isabel de Torres, flanked by a giant statue of Jesus Christ. When you’re at the top you can get up close to the iconic statue and explore the beautiful mountain-top gardens filled with exotic flora and fauna.
Sample sweet delights
Run by a small group of locals, Chocal Chocolate Factory is a place where you can learn all about Dominican cacao, from tree, to bean, to bar. You’ll tour the plantation and make your own chocolate bar on site. Tours comprise of a half day trip that takes you into the hilly area of Palmar Grande where you’ll get spectacular views over Puerto Plata province. After the tour, stock up on chocolate and liqueurs at the shop.
Have some family fun
For a family adventure visit Ocean World Adventure Park located in Cofresi just over three miles west of Puerto Plata. Visitors can pet and feed dolphins, and enjoy a variety of other experiences like sea lion shows, exotic bird encounters and snorkelling in a coral reef aquarium. At night, the venue transforms into a family-friendly nightspot with a restaurant and a Las Vegas-style show.
The birthplace of many local creatives, Puerto Plata is filled with amazing shopping opportunities. You’ll find jewellery stores that stock pieces made using original amber stones mined nearby. There are shops that stock local coffee and chocolate and musical instruments, and numerous locally produced arts and crafts are on sale. There’s a market downtown and indoor shopping at the Playa Dorada shopping complex.
Other Dominican Republic attractions
Be at one with nature
For nature lovers, there’s no better thing to do in the Dominican Republic than to visit its beautiful botanic gardens. Dr Rafael Moscoso Botanical Garden is located just outside of Santo Domingo and is home to 400 acres of stunning flora and fauna. The park was founded in 1976 and was named after Rafael Maria Moscoso, a famous Dominican botanist.
Sail to a tropical island
Located just off the southeastern tip of the Dominican Republic is Soana Island. Famous for its mangroves, coral reefs and palm-fringed beaches, it’s the perfect place to sail to for the day. You’ll find Mano Juan, a laid-back fishing village with colorful shacks and a turtle sanctuary. It’s also home to the Cave of Cotubanama where you can see pre-Columbian rock art. Full-day tours run from Santo Domingo, Punta Cana and La Romana.
Take the kids to an aquarium
If you’re looking for things to do with the kids, head to Aquamundo Sambil. This aquarium in Santo Domingo is one of the newest aquariums on the island and features 72 displays of sea life from around the region. There’s a coral zone and a shark tunnel where your little ones can walk beneath the sharks.
See the largest lake in the Caribbean
For something a little more far flung, travel to Lake Enriquillo near the Haitian border. This remote lake serves as a refuge for the island’s wildlife such as crocodiles, flamingos, iguanas and exotic birds. This can be a great spot to simply walk around and explore nature. There are no restaurants in the area, so if you plan on spending the afternoon near Lake Enriquillo, you may want to bring your own snacks.
Party like the locals
You can party like the locals at the Carnival of La Vega which takes place every weekend through February. Expect lots of music, parades, dancing and costume competitions. Parties kick off in the main cities on the first Sunday of February and continue through the month, culminating with a closing party over the final weekend.
Where to stay in the Dominican Republic
If you’re looking for the best places to stay in the Dominican Republic, the options offered by Top Villas are some of the best on the island. You’ll find everything from cozy hideaways to huge villas where you can relax in ultimate style.
Most of our villas in the Dominican Republic are located in the exclusive Casa de Campo resort in La Romana. Not only does it boast beautiful vacation homes, it’s also home to golf courses, a private beach, tennis courts and a selection of restaurants and bars.
How to book
Book your villa in the Dominican Republic with us and not only will you get beautiful accommodation at great prices, you’ll also benefit from amazing round-the-clock customer service and access to a wide range of travel extras such as car hire, babysitting or help with arranging a special experience.
Follow our simple online booking process and you can secure your dream vacation home instantly without any phone calls or fuss. It’s easy to check availability, get a quote and book instantly online. Alternatively, submit an enquiry and we’ll get straight back to you.