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The Dominican Republic is one of the largest and most visited countries in the Caribbean. Whether for Punta Cana, its colonial past or for kitesurfing, you shouldn’t miss it! Read here all you need to know to visit the “DR.” Including itinerary suggestions, accommodation, attractions, public transportation, etc…
Forget Punta Cana!!
Okay, just kidding (kind of). Maybe you don’t need to forget about Punta Cana, especially if you’re looking for a bit of beach relaxation. But the Dominican Republic is much more than just Punta Cana….especially for those of you who like beaches and water sports!
With this itinerary that I’ll share below, you’ll get your fill of:
- Beaches that feel like you’re in paradise
- Hotels and luxury resorts (if that’s your style….if not, you can avoid them!)
- Water sports (it’s one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to kitesurf!)
- Colonial history (the capital, Santo Domingo, was the first city in all of the Americas!)
Table of Contents
- Fast facts about the Dominican Republic
- How to get to the Dominican Republic
- How long to stay in the Dominican Republic
- When to go to the Dominican Republic
- How to get around the Dominican Republic
- Where to stay in the Dominican Republic
- What to do in the Dominican Republic (our 4, 7 & 10-day itinerary)
- Where to go before or after the Dominican Republic
Fast facts about the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a country in the Caribbean. It takes up part of the second biggest island in the Caribbean, Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti.
Due to its size in comparison to the rest of the countries in the area, the Dominican Republic is much more than just beaches and palm trees. There’s also mountains, deserts, and lots of history!
Speaking of history, the Dominican Republic was “discovered”* by Christopher Columbus during his first trip to the “new world” and it became a base from which Columbus explored the rest of the continent. The Dominican Republic was also where the first European settlement was established, which then became the first city of the Americas (which is now the DR’s capital, Santo Domingo).
The currency they use is the Dominican Peso, and the official language is Spanish.
*I put this in quotes since there were obviously other people living on the land that is now the Dominican Republic before the arrival of the Europeans.
How to get to the Dominican Republic
There are direct flights to the Dominican Republic from many parts of the world. Including the United States, Mexico, Canada, Europe….and from several countries in South America.
The airports with the most international flights are in Punta Cana and the capital Santo Domingo.
For Brazilians (and other South Americans) specifically, Gol has direct flights between São Paulo and Punta Cana. Or with a stopover in Brazil from other cities in Brazil or around South America. In other words, having a long stopover in the Dominican Republic is a great option if you’re heading to the United States.
This is exactly how I got to the DR! I got my flight with Gol from São Paulo to Punta Cana for 20,000 miles, explored the Dominican Republic for a week, then bought a cheap flight from Punta Cana to the United States.
It was cheaper than flying directly from Brazil to the United States, and I even got to have a fantastic week in the Dominican Republic without having to pay extra to get to the island!
There’s also a ferry that connects the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The trip takes about 12 hours. See this website here for more info:
How long to stay in the Dominican Republic
Obviously, this’ll depend on how much time you have and on what you’re interested in. I’ve met people who just spent a long weekend (3 or 4 days) in Punta Cana and Bavaro to relax in the sun at a resort. Others stayed the same amount of time but took a day to explore Santa Domingo to absorb, beyond the sunshine, a bit of history.
Personally, I think about a week (7 days) in the Dominican Republic is a good amount of time. With that, you’ll be able to visit the Dominican Republic’s most-visited area (Punta Cana), the capital (Santo Domingo), and the most chill place in the country to practice water sports like kitesurfing and surfing (Cabarete).
If you have extra time, 10 days is enough to do the 7 day itinerary below plus add in something like Samaná Bay (which I’ll give more info about below).
When to go to the Dominican Republic
You can enjoy the Dominican Republic year round. But be careful with the period from June to October when its hurricane season (which sometimes hit the island very strongly!).
How to get around in the Dominican Republic
Traveling the Dominican Republic by plane
Using planes to get around the Dominican Republic isn’t very practical. Although there are some flights between the main cities, the Dominican Republic isn’t really that big. So, there aren’t many flights and they’re expensive.
Traveling the Dominican Republic by trains
There are no trains in the Dominican Republic….so you can forget about this option!
Traveling the Dominican Republic by rental car
Renting a car could be a good option to get around the Dominican Republic. As always, your own car gives you the freedom to explore places where public transportation doesn’t go and also gives you the flexibility to stay as long as you like. All the main international rental car companies operate in the Dominican Republic.
The find the best deal, I recommend you check out our article with the 5 best websites to compare car rental companies around the world. They’ll make your life much easier when its time to look for rental cars.
NOTE ABOUT DRIVING IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Beyond the chaotic traffic (which might not be anything new, depending on where you’re from) and some of the narrow roads are a bit dangerous, it’s not uncommon to be stopped by police trying to get bribes from foreign tourists.
I didn’t encounter this in the Dominican Republic myself since I didn’t rent a car there. But I did rent a scooter in Cozumel, Mexico and ran into the classic scam “you can pay your fine now, or you’ll have to go to the police station to deal with it”….even though I did nothing wrong. So, just be careful! It’s not guaranteed to happen to you, but it’s also not uncommon.
Traveling the Dominican Republic by organized tour
Obviously, there’s also the option to get around through a private van (like an organized excursion/tour) where the tour company organizes everything for you. If visiting the Dominican Republic with a group tour is your style, take a look at our article with the 5 best small group tour companies for international travel around the world.
Traveling the Dominican Republic by public transportation
Your last option is to use public transportation to get around the Dominican Republic. This was my choice during my trip since I was alone and it made the most sense in my case.
There are two options for public transportation in the Dominican Republic: Guaguas or intercity buses. More below….
How to use public transportation to travel around the Dominican Republic
As mentioned above, your options are Guaguas and intercity buses.
These are small buses and vans that run throughout the whole country stopping in various destinations. This is the most popular and cheapest form of transportation in the Dominican Republic.
The downside to them is that there aren’t set schedules, and the trips can be fairly uncomfortable since the Guaguas are always full. But if your aim is to save money and have a local experience, this is your best bet.
There are also tons of buses running between the main cities in the Dominican Republic. What’s nice about the buses is that they are comfortable (but bring a sweater since the air con is super strong) and have a fixed schedule, reasonable prices, and (sometimes) can be reserved online.
The downside is that most of the time you’ll have to pass through Santo Domingo to get from one point to another on the island. In other words, they don’t connect the small cities directly like the Guaguas do.
These are the two biggest intercity bus companies in the Dominican Republic that you can buy the tickets online from:
There are also other bus companies that you can buy tickets from at the bus station.bus station
Where to stay in the Dominican Republic
There’s a huge variety of accommodation options in the Dominican Republic. From 5 star resorts to much cheaper hostels. There are also more “chill” resorts like what I stayed in Cabarete. I’ll talk more about accommodation in each destination when we move to the itinerary below.
What to do in the Dominican Republic (4, 7 and 10 day Dominican Republic itinerary)
Alright, let’s dive into our itinerary and activities. I’ll begin with a shorter itinerary of 4 days, then move on to 7 days and finally 10.
If you already have an itinerary planned and are looking for activities & attractions in the Dominican Republic, search on “GetYourGuide” They have a list of 220+ things you can do around the country, and you can reserve directly on the website.
4-Day Dominican Republic Itinerary (for those who want to relax on the beach & get a little bit of culture)
Day 1: Punta Cana and Bavaro
I’d recommend arriving in the Dominican Republic through the Punta Cana airport since you’ll probably visit Punta Cana anyway, and flights are often cheapest.
Tip! Since this is an airport that basically only serves resort-goers, it’s not easy to get public transportation from the airport to your accommodation. This is because, normally, the resorts and hotels offer pickups for their guests.
I had to walk out of the airport along the road for about 10 minutes (and there was no sidewalk) until I found a bus stop to take a bus to my hostel in Bavaro.
And just so you know – Punta Cana and Bavaro are almost the same things. It’s a single beach extended between two.
The main activities here are relaxing at your hotel/on the beach, chilling out, and trying out some of the available water sports.
Where to stay in Punta Cana and Bavaro
I’ll give two accommodation options here. A luxury resort that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and the hostel I stayed at for those who want to backpack in Punta Cana (which isn’t very common, to be honest).
Reasonably-priced resort in Punta Cana
The AlSol Tiara Cap Cana – All Inclusive – Boutique Resort is an excellent option for an “all inclusive” resort. It usually comes out to less than $200 a night (which is pretty good for a resort at this level in Punta Cana).
Click below to check out the photos!
Hostel in Punta Cana for backpackers
If you want to save money during your in Punta Cana/Bavaro, Hostal Playa Bibijagua A & L is a good option, and they’ll even pick you up from the airport!
Day 2: Punta Cana and Bavaro
Same as the day before. Finally, you’re on holidays 🙂
Day 3: Santo Domingo
If you came to the Dominican Republic to just to relax, maybe after two days you’d like to see a bit more of the country. If so, then spending a day in Santo Domingo is perfect. To get there, you have 3 options:
- organize transport/a tour with your hotel/resort
- rent a car as mentioned above
- take public transportation (but if you only have a day, this might not be a good option)
Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic and the oldest European city in the Americas. Which means there’s lots of culture and historical attractions to see in the city.
The main area for visitors in Santo Domingo is the Zona Colonial where most of the buildings are from the 15thand 16thcenturies.
In Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial, don’t miss:
- Forte Ozama (Fort Ozama)
- Alcazar de Colon (Columbus Palace)
- The cathedral
- Iglesia Regina Angelorum (Regina Angelorum Church)
- Convento de los Dominicos (Convent of the Dominicans)
- Panteon Nacional
- Calle Las Damas (“Las Damas” Street – the first European street in the “new world!”)
- Calle del Conde (“Conde” Street)
- Puerta de la Independencia (Independence Gate)
- Parque de la Independencia (Independence Park)
- Ruinas de San Francisco (Ruins of San Francisco)
- Calle La Atarazana (“La Atarazana” Street)
The seaside area of the city (called “Malecon”) is also nice to visit and is full of hotels, casinos, palm tree-lined walkways, and monuments.
And if you have time, don’t forget about Plaza de la Cultura, the national aquarium, the caverns in Parque Nacional Los Tres Ojos (The Three Eyes National Park), and the Colombo Lighthouse where the remains of Italian/Spanish explorer are buried.
It’ll be a pretty full-on and long day, but it is possible to take a day trip to Santo Domingo and still head back to Punta Cana/Bavaro for the night. Although, things might be easier if you get your flight home out of Santo Domingo so you can just spend the night in Santo Domingo instead.
Day 4: Punta Cana and Bavaro
Same as the first two days! Unfortunately, your holidays are ending now so all that’s left is to relax and then take your flight home more bronzed than you were before.
7 Day Dominican Republic Itinerary (for those who want a bit more adventure)
Day 1: Punta Cana and Bavaro
Even if you plan to explore other parts of the Dominican Republic, you’ll probably want to arrive through the Punta Cana airport anyway since there are so many flights (which often makes them cheaper than flying into Santo Domingo).
But if you’re coming to the DR to see more of the country beyond the beach, a day or 2 in Punta Cana is plenty before moving on.
(See the 4-day itinerary above for details about where to stay in Punta Cana and Bavaro)
Day 2: Punta Cana and Bavaro
Like I said, just one more day in Punta Cana enjoying the beach.
Day 3: Cabarete
My plan in visiting the Dominican Republic was to only spend 2 days in Punta Cana (since baking on the beach isn’t really my thing) and then head to Cabarete.
I chose Cabarete because I wanted to surf and also learn how to kitesurf. And after much research, I discovered that Cabarete was one of the cheapest places in the world to take kitesurfing lessons.
If you’re also a more active traveler and Punta Cana isn’t your style, you’ll fit in great in Cabarete. Not only do they have surfing and kitesurfing, but also windsurfing, diving, stand up paddleboard (SUP), and yoga.
How to get from Punta Cana to Cabarete
Since I was using public transportation, my route was a little crazy and there wasn’t a direct way to get there. This is what it looked like:
- Take a bus from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo
- Take a bus from Santo Domingo to Sosua
- Take a Guagua (like a shared taxi van) from Sosua to Cabarete
This whole trip took me a good part of a day….but it was a good adventure and I made some nice friends along the way!
If you rented a car, the trip from Punta Cana to Cabarete should take about 6 hours.
Where to stay and take kitesurfing lessons in Cabarete
There are a lot of places to stay and kitesurfing schools in Cabarete, but I spent a Christmas in one of them, and I couldn’t recommend it more.
The school was called Cabarete Surf Camp, and it was super relaxed with individual, couple, and family cabins. Besides accommodation, Cabarete Surf Camp is also a kitesurf and surf school where you can schedule lessons, courses, and trips around the region.
When I was there, I did a surf trip with a group one day to a nearby beach, and on the others days, I did a kitesurfing course. It was a pretty good deal!
Plus, the guests usually eat and then head to the beach bars together, which is a great way to meet people.
Spending Christmas here was awesome!
If you’d like another cheap alternative, then I’d recommend looking into Hotel Castillo.
Day 4: Cabarete
Ideally, I’d spend at least 3 days or so in Cabarete to really enjoy the surfing or kitesurfing.
Day 5: Cabarete
Still in Cabarete. Since this is your third day, you should be kitesurfing or surfing pretty well by now….nice!!
Here are some of my lessons pics….
Day 6: Santo Domingo
On the 6thday, I’d head to Santo Domingo and explore the capital like I mentioned in the 4 day itinerary above. Or maybe you’ve already headed to Santo Domingo the night before. Whatever you prefer.
How to get from Cabarete to Santo Domingo
This part is pretty straightforward. Take a Guagua (shared taxi van) from Cabarete to Sosua, then take a bus from Sosua to Santo Domingo.
Where to stay in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
As always, I’ll give one cheap option and another more comfortable yet reasonably priced option.
For cheap hostels in Santo Domingo, Hostal Tierra Plana is a great option. It’s located in the Zona Colonial, so it’s perfect if you’d like to explore that part of the city for less than $20 per night.
If you’re looking for more comfort, you could stay at the Dominican Fiesta Hotel & Casino. With luxury rooms for $130/night, it’s a good option in seafront area of “El Malecon,” (although it’s not so close to the Zona Colonial).
Day 7: Santo Domingo and the Punta Cana Airport
Your final day will depend or where you are flying from to return home. If you’re flying from the Santo Domingo airport, then just stay where you are.
But if you’re flying from Punta Canta out of the same airport you arrived in, you’ll have to get from Santo Domingo to Punta Cana. So, it’s up to you to organize your transportation and make sure you have plenty of time to arrive. If you rented a car, it’ll be much easier to get between the two cities than by bus.
10 Day Dominican Republic Itinerary
To start, follow the first 7 days of the itinerary above, but include a stop between Cabarete and Santo Domingo: Samaná Bay and Los Haitises National Park (which are right next to each other).
Not only is Samaná Bay paradise-like region full of beautiful beaches, but you can also dive or do a boat tour to see the whales the area is famous for. And in the national park next door, you can explore the jungle-filled mountains, mangroves, and ancient caves.
To get there, you can again go by rental car or take the buses mentioned above.
Samaná on its own deserves 2 days, so perhaps 2 days in Samaná and 1 in the park. Otherwise, you can use your final day to extend one of the other stops. Then you’re not running around too much on your trip.
Where to go before or after the Dominican Republic
As I mentioned above, I was going from Brazil to the United States and a 1-week stopover in the Dominican Republic on the way was awesome!
But the Dominican Republic is worth it as a trip in itself. In other words, whether you are in Brazil, the United States, or even Europe, it’s worth doing a 1-week trip in the Dominican Republic just to visit, and then afterward return home.
Obviously, you can easily visit Haiti, the small neighboring country that’s located on the same island as the Dominican Republic. But that info deserves its own article….
Useful tips for visiting the Dominican Republic
Beyond what I’ve said above, for finding cheap flights to the Dominican Republic, check out our article with 16 tips to save on flights.
Also, if you’re doing water sports (kitesurfing, surfing, diving, etc…) in the Dominican Republic, don’t forget your travel insurance! It’s pretty easy to hurt yourself while kitesurfing or even while adventuring in the Guaguas. So, make sure your travel insurance doesn’t just cover normal accidents, but also water sports.
Our article with the 3 best and cheapest travel insurances on the market will help you choose a travel insurance that covers what you need.
And that’s it. A loooong article, but I think it covered all you need to know to travel to the Dominican Republic.
If you have any questions or comments, just let us know in the area below….and I’ll respond as soon as I can.
Planning your next trip?
Then don’t forget travel insurance! You don’t want to get stuck paying a ton of money and ruining your trip if you get sick or have an accident without travel insurance. WorldNomads is ideal for adventurous travelers, backpackers, or anyone looking to be protected during their trip. They cover almost every single activity you can image!
Already reserved your hotel or hostel? If not, we recommend Booking.com. They have a huge selection of hotels and hostels all over the world. Plus, in most cases, you can cancel your reservation without any costs up to a few days before the check-in date!
And finally, will you need to rent a car during your trip? Then check out Rentalcar.com to search and compare car rental companies from all over the world on a single website. Then, you can find the cheapest price for the best car!
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