The Dominican Republic is one of the most visited islands in the Caribbean, this can scare some people off, since they might think it’s over populated with tourist but I wouldn’t agree with that. It is the second largest island in the Caribbean, it has the largest mountain range and way more beaches than hotels so there is lots of things to explore for backpackers and other types of explorers as well.
The Dominican may get a lot of tourists each year, but it’s for a good reason!
The Dominican have friendly people, great food, great prices, near perfect weather and activities to explore all year around.
This might surprise you but we are not the typical all-inclusive people ;). I wouldn’t say we are backpackers anymore either, we just like to explore things in our own way and I’m not sure what category that would fit in right now. Jake still considers himself a backpacker though, he’s perfectly happy with a tent and a beach for weeks.
SO, what we did was to try out one all-inclusive hotel, which wasn’t our thing, so we rented a car and explored the island by listening to what a few local’s suggested and stayed at Airbnb rentals along the way. And Guess What? We had so much fun – You can read about our entire road trip here – but what this post is going to be about is a list of our TOP 5 things we think you should do when traveling through The Dominican Republic.
1. Diving in Bayahibe
Bayahibe is a small fish town, located about 10 miles east of La Romana. Along the water you will find several all-inclusive hotels as well as some Airbnb rentals/hostels.
Almost all the hotels will offer you scuba diving or snorkeling packages per day but I would suggest going into town and paying for one of the local dive shops to take you out. They are a lot more affordable and you won’t be stuck diving with 20+ fellow divers. They will all take you to the same dive spots anyway.
If you choose to go diving in Bayahibe, be prepared for a lot of different options; with 20+ dive site you really have a lot to choose from. We chose the wreck of St George and two nearby reef dives but there’s also some cave dives and a dive where they guarantee you’ll see sharks.
Bayahibe is well known for its diving but to be honest it’s not one of the best dives stops we have been to. But given the price we thought it was well worth it. Just don’t go expecting The Solomon Island 😉
Prices (Scuba Fun):
Single – 1 tank dive US$ 50.00
Single – ½ day/2 tank dive US$ 80.00
3 pack – ½ day/2 tank dives US$ 225.00
5 pack – ½ day/2 tank dives US$ 350.00
2. Surfing in Cabarete
Cabarete is the ultimate surf town that offers kite-surfing and well as regular surfing, you will also find a wide selection of bars, restaurants and clubs along the beach where people hang out 24/7. I would say it’s very similar to to Koh Tao in Thailand with all the restaurants putting out cushions and beach chairs along the water in the afternoon for people to hang out, listen to music and have some drinks and food right by or even in the water.
The two main beaches in Cabarete are amazing for kite and wind surfers, but you will also find a super nice beach a couple of minutes away called Playa Encuentro. This beach has a few local surf rentals and great surfing. It’s not so crowded so you might find a few local huts that sells food/drink but don’t count on it. These people are super friendly though and they will tell you all about the time Kelly Slater surfed this beach.
Anyway, if you can tell that the winds won’t be good enough for some kit or wind surfing in Cabarete, I highly recommend hoping on a 2 dollar taxi scooter and heading to this beach; at least just to relax away from the wind and feel like your all alone in paradise. Read more about Cabarete here.
Private lesson/SURF COURSE
1 day – $45 pp
3 days – $125 pp
Surf board rental
1 day – $20 pp
3 days – $ 45 pp
3. Visit the 27 waterfalls
This is definitely something you can’t miss while you are in the northern part of The Dominican Republic. It’s an affordable, fun and beautiful tour that takes about 1-2 hours. Don’t expect 27 BIG (Iguaçu falls style) waterfalls though, they are all fairly small but beautiful with the mountains and rain forest all around them.
Our first tip would be to go there alone and not with a hotel or Tour Company since it’s more expensive and you have to walk around with 10-20 other people. Similar to our diving advice in Bayahibe.
We took our own car but you can also take a taxi, showed up and had a personal guide for 5-7 US dollar – depending on how many waterfalls you want to see. The guide was awesome, he told us it was no problem bringing a camera, even though they say you can’t and ours wasn’t waterproof. He went and found a plastic bag to keep the camera in during the entire tour and instead of jumping feet first, he would sacrificed himself by doing belly flops off cliffs with our camera held safely out of the water. Great guy!
You start by hiking up to the top of the park through some beautiful forest. Then you will slowly make your way down the 27 different falls. You will pass some small and big waterfalls that are all very pretty but what you are there for is the cascades that you can slide down on your butt and the few water fall cliffs that you can jump off of. Going down one of the slides i seriously thought I would hit my head on this large overhanging rock but just before you hit it, the bottom gives out and you fall 10 feet into a pool. To be honest I have never seen such big natural slides before – it was so much fun!
Entrance fee 27 Charcos
Waterfall 1-7 $230 dp
Waterfall 1-12 $260 dp
Waterfall 1-27 $350 dp
4. Snorkeling in Las Terrenas
If you visit The Dominican Republic you can’t miss out on Las Terrenas and Playa Bonita. It’s truly a paradise with amazing water and beaches. Las Terrenas is located northeast, on the Samaná peninsula. It is known for its scenic landscapes coupled with white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. Going from Cabarete out on the province you will drive through some incredible mountains, which makes the long drive really worth it.
Jake thought he wouldn’t find anything that compared to Caberete but Las Terrenas has so much to offer that it was his and my new favorite place in The Dominican. It has everything from surfing, paddle boarding, kite-surfing, diving, fishing, etc but the one thing we think you should definitely try that’s cheap and worth the money is snorkeling.
You will find several people offering snorkeling along the beaches for only 10$ DP and they will tell you all about what fish you can find, corals and where to go to see the wreck. Unfortunately we only had a couple of days in this town so we didn’t get to see it all but we said it was just a great excuse to come back one day. It is our favorite after all! Read more about Las Terranes here.
5. Enjoy the Seafood
Dominican has some incredible seafood, if you come here please don’t miss out on this! Wherever you go along the coast, make sure to find the local spots where they serve freshly caught fish and you won’t be sorry.
Have you been to Dominican Republic?
Please tell us all about it, what was your experience? What did you like and not, maybe you don’t agree with our post? We would be happy to know all about it and get back one day 🙂