The Dominican Republic in a Conch Shell

Written by  Lura R Seavey

CARIB Dominican
Increasing numbers of clients are looking for a unique travel experience instead of the predictable beach vacation in-a-box. The Dominican Republic is a great place for fledgling explorers to start, thanks to its affordability, enthusiastic tourism industry, and diverse landscape. For those who may want to just dip their toes in to venturing beyond the resort walls, there are plenty of places that can be visited via day trip from the popular beach towns.

Resort Life
The island’s biggest resort town is Punta Cana, located on the eastern tip of the island. Here you will find the popular Bávaro beach, numerous hotel and all-inclusive options, and recreational activities like zipline tours and watersports activities. Playa Dorada, on the northern coast, is the country’s original resort destination and is a popular port town for cruise ships. La Romana in the southeast is home to one of the most exclusive resorts, Casa de Campo, which was decorated by Oscar de la Renta and offers over-the-top amenities like a riding school and polo. If your clients are looking for a more private alternative, the island beaches of Cayo Levantado are the ultimate spot, home to the all-inclusive Luxury Bahia Principe.

Secluded Beaches
While the island’s best-known beaches are packed with tourists, there are still spots that are picture-perfect island paradises. Playa Rincón is an idyllic beach with shady palm trees, calm waters, and a stunning backdrop of the mountains. This beach can only be reached by boat from the town of Las Galeras, where tourists can safely employ one of the waiting water taxis on the waterfront; area hotels along the Sámana Peninsula will have excursions available. Beaches like Bahía de las Águilas are an even rarer find, tucked away in the remote Jaragua National Park in the southwestern corner of the country; tourists can get there by boat from the town of La Cuerva.

Ocean Life
Those hoping to enjoy the island’s marine wildlife will want to visit Eastern National Park, home to bottlenose dolphins, manatee, and sea turtles, as well as plenty of land-dwelling wildlife like the rhinoceros iguana. The park’s expansive coral reef is one of the world’s top snorkeling and SCUBA diving destinations and a few hours south of Punta Cana. Samaná Bay, which lies a few hours northwest of Punta Cana, is popular with whale watchers who come each January and February to witness newborn baby whales. The area, which is home to Los Haitises National Park, is full of natural wonders and activities from birding to horseback riding.

Active Excursions
For those looking for something more exciting, there are more active alternatives both on water and inland. The town of Cabarete has become the go-to destination for kiteboarding, and there are numerous places in this trendy town that offer lessons. One of the best places for surfing and other watersports is Punta Cana thanks to its position at the junction of the Caribbean and Atlantic. Jarabacoa, located in the mountains of the Cordillera Central, is quickly becoming a favorite for hikers and climbers, as well as a starting point for whitewater rafting trips on the Yaque Del Norte.

Natural Wonders
Although a saltwater lake is not the first thing most Caribbean tourists think of, Lake Enriquillo is an impressive and fascinating wildlife area that is gaining a reputation for its eco-tourism. The lake, which includes a national park, is home to crocodiles, birds, and diverse plant life. It is also becoming a scientific curiosity as it has been growing in size with no apparent cause, slowly swallowing surrounding roads and town while the rest of the world’s lakes shrink.

Rich in History
Anyone interested in the history of early colonialism will want to spend at least a day in Santo Domingo, the first city built in Columbus’s “new world.” The Zona Colonial, a UNESCO site, is home to many of the city’s most significant sites including the Alcázar de Colón and the Plaza de España. Evidence of pre-Columbian cultures can be found in the caves of Eastern National Park and Los Haitises National Park where the ancient pictographs still decorate cave walls.

Travel Tips for the Dominican Republic
When (not) to go: Although hurricane season is no secret, super-low rates can be tempting for travelers on a budget. If your clients insist on traveling during this unpredictable time of year, encourage them to stay close to Santo Domingo where the infrastructure is strongest and the embassy is nearby.

Getting Around
Especially true for those who are new to exploring foreign countries on their own, travelers should seriously consider hiring a professional driver, using a well-established taxi service, or booking excursions via a tour service recommended by the hotel. (If your clients think you are trying to upsell them, refer them to the U.S. State Department website.)

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