A sugary-white sand coastline, sparkling bays and a lush, mountainous interior create a magical backdrop for a Dominican Republic vacation. Find "endless summer" weather and Merengue tunes wherever you land on this tropical island paradise.
From Punta Cana and La Romana to the pristine Samana and the capital of Santo Domingo, you can have your pick of world-class resorts and affordable hotels. The beaches are a favorite, but secluded prairies, rivers and high-mountain cliffs also make for remarkable stays. Go all-inclusive for family fun, choose something romantic and luxurious, or aim for adventure among nine ecological zones.
Our Orbitz travel guide will highlight the best time to go, top 10 highlights and hidden gems from Dominican Republic insiders.
With warm, tropical temperatures typical of a Caribbean island, the Dominican Republic weather has been dubbed "endless summer" because of the typically sunny and warm conditions. Some months are warm and sticky (August) while others promise rain and the threat of hurricanes (June through November).
Winter through Spring (December to April) is the most popular time to visit, as travelers flock here for winter and spring break. But if you're looking for the best deals, wait for September, October and May.
When visiting the Dominican Republic, be sure to at least try a local dish once, like a breakfast of Mangu (smashed plantains) with friend cheese and eggs.
Price bargaining is a must when shopping from local merchants. Most items are overpriced at the start to allow for some marginal negotiation.
Still somewhat untouched, Samana is recognized as one of the best bays in the world. The crystal clear beach at the islet of Cayo Levantado is a must see.
When choosing a hotel, don't be too focused on the distance or travel from the airport since many fantastic hotels (and deals) are a bit farther away.
For a variety of great restaurants serving everything from French to Mediterranean, head to the center of Colonial City in Santo Domingo.
Ready for some adventure? Head to the Northern Corridor mountain range beyond the sugar cane, where a spell-binding natural treasure awaits: 27 crystal pools, waterfalls and slides created by the Damajagua River. Anyone can play here, but a tour company can help guide you up the mountain through falls and channels. The real fun begins as you jump, swim and slide your way back down.
Don't let your eyes deceive you – this medieval village replica was only built yesterday, from 1976 to 1980, to be exact. That's when former Paramount studios set designer Roberto Copa and business mogul Charles Bludhorn had the idea to use remnant stones from a nearby bridge blast. A beautiful rendition complete with a church and sparkling fountain, Altos de Chavon is also home to art galleries, a design school, an archeological museum, restaurants and shops, and a Roman-style amphitheater.
Find the bluest-of-blue waters in Jaragua National Park, southwest of Pedernales. Deemed the most majestic beach by many Dominicans, it takes some work to get there. The secluded bay is only reachable by boat or via 4x4 down a steep incline. But the payoff is big with stunning waters, soft white sands, seashells and great snorkeling. Stop at the restaurant by the park entrance for a reasonable lunch.
Located in the Colonial City, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Menor is considered the first cathedral of the New World. Built after the arrival of Christopher Columbus, the cathedral pays tribute with a giant statue just outside the front entrance. With fine stained glass, a facade made of coral rock, and late Gothic and Romanesque characteristics, this important monument is a must-see.
Founded in 1498 and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Colonial Zone (also dubbed "Colonial City") is both the oldest city in the New World and the most happening in modern-day Santo Domingo. Walk 11 historic blocks within this walled city and spy America's first cathedral, monastery, universities and hospitals -- all built on the original grid system. Unique restaurants, hotels, clubs and nightlife keep the area bumping.
In honor of the country's national gem, this museum also showcases an impressive collection of amber from around the world. Learn the makeup and origins of the amber found in the Dominican Republic, which ranges from 25-40 million years old. The collection includes fine jewelry plus the necessary critters and bugs. If not for the amber, come for the epic story of Villa Bentz, the historic structure that house the museum.
Trek about two hours from Samana through a tropical rainforest that opens up to a glorious sight: a 55-foot waterfall crashing down a greenish wall into a cool, natural pool. Swim in the blue waters or head to the top of the falls for a daring leap back down. The hike is mucho strenuous, so sign up for a horseback ride or tour-supported adventure.
Catch a tour from the dock at Altos de Chavon, Punta Cana, to Catalina Island for an unforgettable dive. Part of a national park and considered one of the Caribbean's best dive sites, Isla Catalina also offers great snorkeling right in from the white-sand beach. Explore the spectacular Wall (dropping over 330 feet), the Aquarium for a vibrant display of fish and a recently discovered sunken 17th-century ship.
Big is the word at Lago Enriquillo, the largest lake in the Caribbean and one of few lakes in the world inhabited by crocodiles. The behemoth measures a dramatic 102 square miles and is located in a rift valley formed by a 79-mile fault. Three islands span the lake, but the largest Isla Cabritos is the highlight. Splurge on a boat tour for a closer look at the park's crocodiles, flamingos and exotic birds.
Take a step closer to nature in all its wild glory: Here you can feed exotic birds, meet tigers, snorkel in a tropical reef aquarium, and see shark and sea lion shows. But the real draw is the chance to swim and interact with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, all while learning about these playful ocean creatures.