The 12 Best Cities To Visit In The Dominican Republic

There are no shortages of beautiful destinations within the Dominican Republic. This article will share the best place to stay in this Caribbean paradise. Over four million people chose the Dominican Republic for vacation last year. It is no secret that there are plenty of tropical places to stay on this lively island. However, if it’s your first visit, you will want the scoop on which location is the best option. 

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What are the best places in the Dominican Republic to visit?

The best place to stay in the Dominican Republic depends on whether you’re looking for beaches, shopping, resorts, culture, history, or watersports. Some of the best are Santo Domingo, Punta Cana, and Santiago de Los Caballeros.

Because we all travel with different styles, we have broken down this list into what will suit your travel type best. Are you a history buff when you travel? Are you looking for the best location to surf every day? Do you have young kids? We’ll list our recommendations for each below. We will also suggest the best eats and where to stay at each top spot in the Dominican Republic.

We have consulted with travel agencies to determine visitor trends and looked at fellow traveler accounts to give you the best that the Dominican Republic offers. 

The Best Place To Stay in the Dominican Republic

We will list below our favorite places to stay in the second-largest nation in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic is home to over 800 miles of coastline, and 25% of its land and shoreline are designated national parks, sanctuaries, and reserves.

1. Santo Domingo (Best Cultural Getaway)

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Santo Domingo is the first capital in both the North and South Americas and was founded as a city by Bartholomew Columbus, brother to Christopher, in 1496. This capital city is truly where history began in the new world.

It is also home to the New World’s oldest paved street laid in 1502.

Santo Domingo has a vast array of restored colonial buildings, museums, and historical plazas, making it a UNESCO heritage site since 1990. A great way to get around and save your feet is to check the Chu Chu Colonial Sightseeing Train, which will take you through Zona Colonial. 

The 45-minute trip will take you down the ancient cobblestone streets past some of Santo Domingos’ most famous sights. Among the most notable stops around the city are:

Where To Eat: Santo Domingo is full of fusion dining that sees a combination of Caribbean, African, and Spanish inspirations. Adrian Tropical serves up authentic Dominican favorites like Mofongo without breaking the bank. They have several locations around the island, with each featuring rotating live music.

Where to Stay: The Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel & Casino is a colossal oceanfront property set amongst lush green gardens. The rooms are spacious, modern, and earthy. The pool is outfitted with cocoon pods to lounge in with the nearby coffee shop on the property churning out noteworthy empanadas. 

2. Punta Cana (Best Resort Stay)

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Punta Cana is home to an impressive 30 miles of beachfront and several world-class designer golf courses. While the bright white beaches are a compelling reason to stay put in your resort, there are also many options for outdoors exploring here. 

Whether you have kids or are an energetic adult yourself, you’ll enjoy the ATV rides to water caves, ziplining, and even a visit to the coral nursery for a snorkel. 

Punta Cana is a vast area with some of the resorts in more secluded areas and others more accessible to local amenities like shopping areas and restaurants. 

The best neighborhoods to book your resort stay in are the Los Corales, El Cortecito, and Bavaro, which are conveniently located close to the town plazas if you don’t wish to stay inside the resort for your entire stay in Punta Cana.

Where To Eat: The Jellyfish has been serving ocean-to-table dishes since 2008 and is proclaimed a favorite dining spot across all traveler’s reports. It doesn’t hurt that it is located on the powdery white beaches of Punta Cana amongst beautiful bamboo architecture inspired by its name and infinite views of the Caribbean. 

Where to Stay: The Tortuga Bay Hotel is the owner of three critics’ awards (including ​​Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Awards 2021), and for a good reason. Designed by Oscar de la Renta, the rooms are opulently appointed with airy, bright yellow rooms, sunken jacuzzis, and brown wicker canopy beds. 

There are golf carts appointed to your room to take you around the sprawling property, which boasts signature restaurants, including La Yola which is housed on a luxurious fishing boat. 

3. Bayahibe (Best Adventure Stay) 

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Bayahibe is a scenic fishing town with diamond white shorelines. Also located here is Dominicus  Beach, which is Blue Flag Certified. This means it has undergone stringent examination of sustainable boating practices. 

Bayahibe has a distinctive Dominican vibe which can be felt in all the local street art stalls, waterfront life, and native Taino remnants that can be found within the natural surroundings. The latter can be found at Cotubanamá National Park, which is riddled with caves to be explored, freshwater springs, and many trails to be explored. 

There is plenty of artisan shopping that can be done here within the quaint streets lined with pastel wooden houses and charming churches. 

Also easily accessible from this destination are Catalina and Soana Islands, which are great for day trips. Soana Island also hosts one of the Dominican Republic’s most important sea turtle nesting sites, with the Soana Island Turtle Sanctuary tasked with preserving this critically endangered species. 

Where To Eat: Tracadero Bayahibe is a swoon-worthy destination tucked away in the Dominicus Marina Resort. The food is full of fusion Caribbean fusion dishes, and the surroundings compete for attention. The views are astonishingly beautiful, looking over the twinkling blue Caribbean. We recommend coming before sunset to drink in the vista and the happy hour cocktails. 

Where to Stay: The Hilton La Romana All Inclusive Adults Only Resort opened recently in 2018 to host all those adults who need a break from the grind. This resort offers 5-star accommodations with matching dining options. It also boasts a world-class full-service spa, four pools, and an indoor theater. Travelers call this spot one of the coolest and most elegant resorts in Bayahibe. 

4. La Romana (Best Shopping Stay) 

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La Romana is as sweet as the sugar cane fields that surround it. As a matter of fact, it was once home to the largest sugar mill in the Americas. 

Located on the Southeast coast of the Dominican Republic. It is also home to vast swaths of white sand beaches, close in proximity to cave-riddled Cotubanama National Forest, and a replica Grecian Amphitheater that holds world-class concerts each year. 

Beyond its natural wonders, La Romana is one of the best shopping destinations in the Dominican Republic.

It is most famously home to Alto do Chavon, a quaint replica of a 16th-century artisan village that is a fantastic place to lose track of time strolling through the cobblestone streets, which are open to the public on the property of Casa de Campo Resort and Villas. It has a charming medieval feel with plenty of fine dining and shopping options. 

Also in La Romana is  El Artistico’s workshop. He is one of the Dominican Republic’s more famous artists, famed for his metal structures in the Dominican and beyond. Visitors are welcomed into his workshop for tours to experience his art up close and purchase authentic Dominican artwork. 

Other shopping niches that can be found around La Romana include local ceramic art, hand-painted kitchen goods, gem stores, and designer apparel. 

Where To Eat: La Romana is famously one of the biggest meat suppliers in the region; therefore, to eat authentically in La Romana makes for a protein-heavy plate. The most classic dish here is a meat soup called “asopao” that is prepared with seasonal vegetables. You can find the best representation of the local meats at Minitas Beach Club and Restaurant, which serves up surf and turf with seaside views amongst a tropical beachfront landscape. 

Where to Stay: Casa de Campo Resort and Villas is delightfully elegant without being pretentious. It covers a massive 7000 acres of Dominican seaside and encloses an entire 16th-century replica of a Mediterranean Village and Grecian Amphitheater called Alto do Chavon. 

Casa de Campo is also home to a designer golf course, which promises “the round of a lifetime” on its Dominican shores.  It’s safe to say you won’t need to leave the resort as this property provides relaxation, shopping, and entertainment. 

5. Juan Dolio ( Best Peaceful Getaway)

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Juan Dolio is the best place in the Dominican Republic for those looking for a calm leisurely getaway. This village is located between Santo Domingo and La Romana. It is a fantastic place to recharge on this peaceful stretch of sandy white beaches.

Called the “Caribbean Riviera” by locals, its tranquil coastline is perfect for those looking to relax, go on a romantic getaway, or have families. There is one main street where the accommodations are concentrated that has beach access throughout, making it easy to do without transportation. 

Where Juan Dolio lacks in attractions (although many can be found in neighboring Santo Domingo), it makes up for outdoor recreation. It is packed with opportunities for scuba diving, surfing, and eco treks. 

Where To Eat: Bella Venezia maintains a perfect five-star rating on Tripadvisor, and for a good reason- it is an ideal combination of location, ambiance, and fine dining that represents the best of Juan Dolio’s fusion culinary scene with the Caribbean, Italian and Mediterranean influences on its menu.  

Where to Stay: Hotel Casa Hemingway is a boutique hotel within steps of the Dominican exquisite beaches. They offer one and two-bedroom suites inspired by the colonial West Indies of late. 

6. Samana (Best For EcoTourism) 

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Samana is located on a breathtakingly dramatic peninsula that juts out of the Northeastern shore of the Dominican Republic. It is a coveted lush jungle-like green space that was once a 16th-century pirate hideout. It is a paradisiacal escape replete with wild coconut plantations, isolated beaches, and hidden caves. 

Samanas rolling mountains, rainforests, and rivers make for a once-in-a-lifetime ecotourism-oriented trip. 

There is no shortage of ways to get lost in its lush beauty. Approximately 2500 humpback whales come by the protected deep waters of Samana Bay, making for easy whale watching. 

You can also sign up for a number of eco treks that include canyoning, horseback riding, and repelling. The El Limon Waterfall is worth a stop at. Boathopping is also widely available to gain access to the many satellite beaches that line Samana’s shoreline. 

Where To Eat: Fodor’s has named La Mata Rosada one of the best eats in all of Samana. This landmark establishment has been serving locals and visiting foodies alike since the 1990s. Enjoy all the plethora of pescatarian options this abode provides while the Samana Bay breeze wafts through the open-air terrace. 

Where to Stay: While Samana has no shortage of luxury accommodations available, if you are looking for a trip that really gets you into the local vibe, you’ll stay at Unique Exotic Hotel

This absolute gem of a stay encourages its visitors to travel as mindfully as they have curated their property. The gorgeous tropical bungalows are nestled into the jungle, offering you an authentic Samana experience. 

The hotel is proudly self-sustaining and feeds its guests from a “kitchen lab” using produce from their local farm. This stay is the height of eco-chic.

7. Las Terrenas (Best Surftown Vibe) 

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It was only a few decades ago when Las Terrenas did not even have electricity. Its lack of access to basic infrastructure back then has preserved the surrounding virgin lands, making it an enchanting place to stay in modern times. It is just stepping away from creamy white beaches and crystalline waters. 

It is close to the Samana Peninsula on the Northeastern side of the Dominican Republic. 

Las Terrenas is now a thriving beach town with a vibrant dining scene with an international community. The fusion feel of this fishing village is in part due to the colonization of the Italians and French, who brought with them not only electricity in the 1970s but also their culinary habits and architecture. 

It is now proudly a “no shirts, no shoes, no problem” type of town where it is not uncommon to see ATVs on grocery runs or locals playing dominos while drinking a cold Cuba Libre cocktail at the beachfront park. 

The cascading mountains behind and the palm-lined bay in front offer a kind of laid-back vibe only Las Terrenas can supply.

Where To Eat: La Terrase was named “Top Choice” by Lonely Planet in dining choices in Las Terrenas. It is the embodiment of everything you would expect from beachside dining, with a lively mood to accompany a French-inspired menu. La Terrasse is the perfect spot for a wine and dine with view experience.

Where to Stay: There are no big hotels or resorts in Las Terrenas town. Hotel Residence Marilar is located just minutes up the coast from the main town. It is set on the gorgeous Las Ballenas beach. Marilar offers apartment-style accommodations, each with a terrace and sea view. It is just a few minutes walk on the beach to Las Terrenas, and they also offer full excursion services. 

8. Cabarete (Best Watersports Stay)

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Cabarete is the aquatic sporting capital of the Dominican Republic. It is located on the North coast between Puerto Plata and Las Terrenas and shares some of the same lush tropical features of both.

Everyone relaxes a little differently! Cabarete is the place to go if you are looking for an active adrenaline-filled getaway. 

This unique village is in the middle of Cabarete Bay and is famous for its huge waves and mighty winds, both of which make for sporty surfing and kiteboarding conditions as a matter of fact Cabarete’s namesake Kite Beach is famous for hosting these activities. If neither of those is your thing, you can opt for bodyboarding, windsurfing, or paddleboarding. 

Beyond the aquatic thrill that the beaches here offer, Cabarete is close to one of the most distinguished natural areas of the Northern Coast.  

El Choco National Park is great for mountain biking, cave exploring, and freshwater lagoon swimming. Nearby Caves of Cabarete can also be explored solo or with a guided tour. 

Where To Eat: If your ideal way of winding down after a long day of pounding the surf is seafood linguine, Restaurant Bliss is the place for you. This location is not seaside, but you’ve likely spent all day on the beach at this point anyway, but rather set poolside and famous for its top-shelf wine selection. 

Where to Stay: If you are seeking all the aquatic adventures Cabarete has to offer, you’ll want to put your suitcase down at Kite Beach Inn. It has a perfect seaside location steps from Kite Beach itself that caters specifically to kite surfers and boarders and is prepared to give you a great night’s rest in any of its 25 beachy rooms. 

9. Puerto Plata (Best Historical Stop) 

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Puerto Plata is where the birthplace of tourism in the Dominican Republic began. Its spectacular vistas boast mountains, lush valleys, rivers, and a plethora of beach escapes.

It is also famously the place that Christopher Columbus spotted from his ship in 1492, eventually finding gold deposits and cementing its history of colonization. 

Puerto Plata has an astonishing 100 kilometers of beach coastline and also the largest collections of 19th-century Victorian buildings in the Caribbean. Puerto Plata’s deep heritage and historical relevance leave a lot to discover on your trip. 

To truly get a taste of Puerto Plata, make a stop at the Brugal Rum Distillery, which aptly calls itself the “House of Rum Mastery”. They’ve earned this title, distilling the traditional Dominican rum since 1888. Don’t take their word for it, though, visit them on one of their tours with one of their Master Blenders. 

Also of note is one of the best snorkeling spots in all of the Dominican Republic and possibly the Caribbean, Silver Banks. This remote bank offers fantastic opportunities to snorkel with humpbacks and appreciate the natural underwater wonders on the Dominican coast. 

Where to Eat: El Pilon is the place to go for an authentic Dominican food experience on the grounds of Cofresi Palm Beach and Resort.  The traditional sancocho (traditional Spanish broth made with local meat cuts) is legendary here. 

Where to Stay: Emotions by Hodelpa Playa Dorada is a perfect spot to roll directly from bed to pool as it includes swim-out rooms in its roster of accommodations. The rooms are bright and airy, and most have seaside views. If you are a golfer, Emotions is also exceptionally close to the Playa Dorada Golf Course. The resort also has great amenities for families, with a kid-friendly pool set up, climbing wall, and even mini-golf. 

10. Las Galeras (Best Beach Hopping Experience) 

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Las Galeras is located on the Northern portion of the island, just Northeast of nearby Samana. The road through this small fishing community quite literally ends at the beach, Playa Las Galeras to exact. 

Las Galeras is the perfect jump-off spot if you want to experience a variety of beaches. It has close proximity to three award-winning pristine beaches: Playa Rincon, Playa Colorada, and Playa Madama

All three hold many accolades but no actual accommodations beachside, which makes nearby Las Galeras a beautiful and convenient place to stay. 

Playa Rincon, in particular, was voted one of Conde Nast’s most beautiful beaches in the world due in large part to its raw tropical setting and ideal year-round sunbathing and snorkeling conditions. 

Las Galerias is a perfect way to tour these beaches by day, either by guided hike or by boat, and have the amenities of the fishing village for dining and entertainment at night.  

Where To Eat: El Pescador is a local favorite. The Chef hails from Spanish Basque country and serves up the best paella in the area. Finish with ice cream in a coconut for a real taste of Las Galeras. 

Where to Stay: Casa El Paraiso is a one-of-a-kind experience with bungalows that feel like they are floating on clouds amongst the cliffs overlooking the ocean. The property was constructed from local materials and has an organic feel with luxurious amenities like an infinity pool and a celebrated chef that cooks intimate meals for visiting guests. 

11. Saona Island (Beaches)

Located in the country’s southeastern side, Saona Island is one of the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic. 

It’s renowned for its stunning white sandy beaches, beautiful views across the sea and a wide range of flora and fauna. 

Approximately 2,000 people visit this island daily, which should tell you how popular it is with both locals and foreigners.

Besides sunbathing on its sandy beaches, you can also do birdwatching on this island. Some of the birds that you are likely to see include wild pigeons, partridges, crows, parrots, gulls and numerous other tropical bird species. 

Saona Island is also home to various species of lobsters. Other animals on this island include turtles, manatees, dolphins and whales.

It’s worth mentioning that building on the island is prohibited. Therefore, you shouldn’t expect to find any luxurious eateries here. 

But, there’s a beach café on the island, which serves some of the freshest seafood and a wide range of local dishes. Also, there are a couple of picnic tables and washrooms.

12. Bahía de Las Águilas (Best for Seclusion)

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Bahia de Las Aguilas is a protected area as part of Jaragua National Park that is located close to the Hattian Border. This coveted five-mile stretch of diamond white beach is surrounded by karst-like rock formations making for dramatic views and a secluded feeling beach. 

This area is for those looking for a secluded, peaceful relaxation filled type of vacation with most accommodations found in the Cabo Rojo area. 

What It’s Known For

  • Ecotourism 
  • Trekking
  • Glamping

What To Do

Jaragua National Park, of which Bahia de Las Aguilas sits, has extraordinary diversity in that it encompasses terrestrial, marine, and wetland ecosystems all in one area. It is one of the Dominican Republic’s most treasured natural reserves and became the first  UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2018. It is home to numerous waterfalls, short and long hikes, and opportunities to observe the pink flamingos in the Oviedo Lagoon. 

Scuba Diving in nearby Cabo Rojo is some of the territory’s best. The sea bottom in this area is renowned for having some of the best-preserved reef systems to explore underwater in all of the Caribbean. The sea life here includes sea turtles and even West Indian Manatees. 

Where To Stay

Eco Del Mar Natural Lodge is the perfect spot to feel one with the environment while not sacrificing all the amenities. Self-described as a “natural sanctuary,” its accommodations are a combination of wooden lux cabins, dome suites, and more earthy glamping tents. This accommodation also hosts many aquatic sports such as snorkeling, paddle boarding, and sport fishing.