The Dominican Republic is Latin Caribbean life taken to a higher degree. Visit for justifiably famous beaches, hidden villages and cloud-forest treks.
Home to the highest peak in the Caribbean, sparkling lagoons, exotic wildlife and pristine shores, it has, rather unfairly, been dubbed a bit of a one-trick beach-holiday pony. But away from the all-inclusive resorts at Punta Cana in the east and Puerto Plata in the north, a more beguiling pictures emerges.
The capital city, Santo Domingo, contains the oldest buildings in the Western hemisphere, and has a great attitude, traditional feel and locals who like to party. Head for Cabarete, famous for its windsurfing and kitesurfing, if you want an aqua adventure. Or whale watching is popular with visitors: spot humpbacks returning from northern climes to give birth off the Peninsula De Samaná.
The Dominican Republic has an extremely good road network, and exploring the country under your own steam in a hire car is an easier option than on neighbouring Caribbean islands. If you don't want the hassle of a car hop on a local bus – the public transport system here is extensive and also easy to use.
This being the Caribbean, temperatures are warm year-round. Mountainous places such as Jarabacoa and Constanza are considerably fresher than the rest of the country.
The winter (November-April) is the cooler time to visit but good for trekking; expect mid to high 20s with cool nights. Jan to March is best for whalewatching.
From May to July is the best to spot wildlife at Lago Enriquillo and the Laguna de Oviedo (feeding season), with large groups of flamingos visible. August is the active hurricane period for the Caribbean. September and October are the active hurricane periods for the Atlantic.
BA flies to Santo Domingo or Punta Cana from Gatwick; Thomson flies from Manchester and Gatwick to Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. Flight time is around 10 hours.
Dominican republic offers many different car rental companies. You’ll need a sense of adventure if heading to the south-west. A 4WD with GPS is best if exploring (road signs are infrequent). There extensive bus networks that make travelling easy.
No-frills buses travel set urban routes (known as guaguas; no more than RD$25) as do similar concho cars. There are also motoconchos (motorbike taxi; no more than RD$100 for a longer trip).
The DR is inexpensive away from the resorts. A mid-range hotel costs around US$25-35 a day. Expect to pay around RD$100 for a sandwich and around RD$300 for fresh fish and tostones on the coast.
In Santo Domingo, Hotel Doña Elvira is a prettily restored colonial building in the historic centre with an internal courtyard (doubles from US$79).
In Pedernales, Doña Chava is a rustic-style family-run hotel that does a great breakfast. Jarabacoa’s Rancho Baiguate is an all-inclusive ranch catering to the booming adventure market (doubles from US$47 pp; including meals).
Comida criolla (traditional Dominican food) is delicious. On the coast you’ll have a choice of fish – grilled, steamed or deep-fried; rice, avocado and plantain are standard sides. Try mangú (mashed plantain with onions and salami) for breakfast – an energy boost for a day of outdoor activities.
There are no special requirements for the Dominican Republic; no vaccine certificates are needed. Malaria is present but not a high risk (apart from along the border with Haiti).
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