This post was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on December 21, 2015
We all long for an occasional taste of the tropical island life, especially during cold winter months. The Dominican Republic is the quintessential Caribbean experience wrapped up in a tourist-friendly package, palm trees and all. You’ve almost certainly seen some of its gorgeous white-sand beaches adorning calendars, and you may have heard excited, inspired tales about snorkeling in the calm cerulean waters lapping at its shores. But nature isn’t all you can experience here; cities are dotted with picturesque colonial buildings, and the friendly Dominicans love their lively fiestas.
If you’re thinking about heading to this Caribbean paradise, here are some places you can’t miss:
1. Punta Cana
You’ve likely heard the name Punta Cana before because it’s the most talked-about city in the country. Punta Cana boasts the island’s most luxurious resorts, which line its most prized beaches. Here, you can live a leisurely life of extravagance in one of the most pristine landscapes in the Dominican Republic. In fact, why not go all out? Book a stay at the Barcelo Punta Cana for an all-inclusive adventure. Whether you’re solo, with a partner or you have the whole family in tow, this resort has plenty to do and even features six international restaurants in its bounds
2. Santo Domingo
If you’re looking to throw a Dominican city into the mix, this should be at the top of your list. Though Santo Domingo is the country’s capital, many tourists fly in and out without spending any real time there While there’s nothing wrong with that, Santo Domingo does have a lot to offer if you dedicate some time to it. Stay at the Sheraton Santo Domingo to combine the best of coast and city. You’ll also be conveniently close to the UNESCO World Heritage Site called the Colonial Zone. And no matter where you choose to stay, you’ll never be far from the salsa and meringue clubs that give this city its signature flair.
Searching for a more down-to-earth town with a prominent ecological vibe? Bayahibe is just the place. Known for its nature and wildlife, Bayahibe also features the brilliant beaches that are a signature of this island country. You could call Bayahibe the flower child of the Dominican, but that doesn’t mean you have to forgo luxury to enjoy all it has to offer. Search for Hipmunk deals at the Dreams La Romana Bayahibe, an all-inclusive beachfront resort near three of the country’s finest ecological treasures — Parque Nacional del Este, Saona Island and Catalinita Island.
4. Puerto Plata
One of the best places to snorkel, this can be considered one of the Dominican Republic’s adventure capitals. From horse riding on the beach to ziplining in nearby jungles, this port city offers much more than meets the eye. To escape the bustle of downtown, stay at the Lifestyle Tropical Beach Resort and Spa, located right on Cofresi Beach. Puerto Plata is also one of the finest jump-off points for whale-watching excursions, so don’t miss the chance to marvel at the incredible humpbacks as they make their way through the warm waters off the Dominican coast.
While these four destinations are some of the Dominican Republic’s finest, they’re far from all that this small Caribbean nation has to offer. If you’re into water sports, visit Cabarete for the region’s best windsurfing and kitesurfing. The island has some surprisingly profound mountains — the highest in the Caribbean — and there are plenty of trails and waterfalls within them waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re keen on watching baseball, partying in accord with the carnival spirit or simply relaxing among jungle-lined beaches, the Dominican Republic is an excellent place to add to your bucket list.