It’s no wonder why the Dominican Republic is the most visited country in the Caribbean: a thousand miles of coastline with more beach activities than you can shake a snorkel at (lazing in the year-round sun included). Inland, explore rainforests, waterfalls and mountains - all set to the infectious merengue beat. Speak to one of our holiday experts to start planning your Dominican Republic holiday.
Nestled between Puerto Rico to the east and Cuba to the west, the Dominican Republic makes up the larger part of the island of Hispolanta, which it shares with Haiti. It occupies about two-thirds of the island, making it the second-largest nation in the Caribbean after Cuba. Well known for its diversity, the island comprises beaches, highlands, grasslands, and rain forest. The Dominican Republic also boasts the largest mountain in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte.
Punta Cana (PUJ) & Puerto Plata (POP)
A typical flight time from London to the Dominican Republic is 9 hours. We have holidays with direct flights from London, Birmingham and Manchester. You can also fly indirectly from Edinburgh. Call us for other flying options.
Most of the country has a year-round tropical climate, with hardly any seasonal variation of temperatures, which hover around 25-35°C. The hottest time of year is between June-September, with August usually seeing the highest temperatures.
It tends to be less humid between November and April (known as the ‘cool season’), with milder evening temperatures (and by ‘cool’, we’re talking a blissfully balmy 25-30°C). Temperatures vary more dramatically at different altitudes. The mountains are markedly colder than the coasts, very occasionally seeing frost at the highest points.
The rainy season runs from October to April (on the north coast, where you’ll find Puerto Plata), and May to November (south coast – home to La Romana and Santo Domingo). It doesn’t tend to rain for whole days on end, instead, you tend to get torrential but short-lived downfall, soon followed by sunshine. More than 80% of the year is dry, with an average of 7-8 hours of sunshine each day. Our best time to visit guide can help you decide when to visit the Dominican Republic.
The tradition of Carnival harks back to the sixteenth century here, when local would dress up to celebrate religious festivals. This was practically stamped out during Haiti Occupation (1822-44) but was revived when the DR got its independence. Gradually, celebrations became less associated with religion and more like full blown carnivals. February’s officially carnival month, and every Sunday of the month sees different cities host carnivals filled floats, costumes, masks, dancing and music. There are some smashing parades in Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, La Romana and Samana – with the most popular in La Vega.
Music is a massive part of Dominican life. You’ll struggle to find a native who can’t dance and sing Merengue – the national dance par excellence which pulses from corner stores, beachside bars, car radios, you name it. Traditionally, songs talk about daily life and instruments include the four stringed guitar ‘cuatro’, percussion provided by ‘guiro’ and tambourine, saxophone, trumpet and bass. The Son music style was introduced by Cubans in Montecristi and Puerto Plata, mixing Spanish and African call and response style. Guitar centred Bachata music and dance stems from Santo Domingo, taking influence from Meringue and the Cuban Bolero, with bluesy lyrics.
Locals will tell you their food is ‘Comida Criolla’ – home-grown local cuisine influenced by the Spanish settlers of bygone eras. Many call the Dominican Republic the ‘Caribbean’s breadbasket’, because nearly everything you’ll find in restaurants, shops, hotels and households has been grown, farmed and caught in the country. Main exports include sugar, cocoa and coffee.
The key ingredients found in most meals are rice, beans, plantain, fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and seafood. The traditional dish La Bandera – The Flag – incorporates most of these, with white rice, beans and meat stew. Sancocho stew is another favourite, and many dishes incorporate eggs or fried salami. Plantains are very popular - lookout also for tostones (fried plantain) and Mangú (boiled and mashed plantains). With sugar being such a huge export, there are some fabulously sweet desserts like the creamy, coconutty dulce de coco. Locally grown guavas, bananas, pineapples, coconuts, passion fruits and mangos are among the freshest, juiciest fruits you’ll ever taste.
Resorts tend to incorporate local dishes into their menus, often hosting a Dominican night. For a real taste of the DR delicacies, head out into the nearest village or town and find one of the Cafeterias or Comedores.
Making excellent use of the exotic island produce, Batidas are fruit smoothies with ice and sugar, and you’ll also find frothy badita con leche (with added milk). Fruit juices are popular and for good reason - often squeezed there and then, they’re worlds away from supermarket cartons we drink at home (try passionfruit ‘Jugo De Chinola’ and pineapple ‘Jugo di Pina’). Coconut water and milk is pretty much on tap – sold straight out of the coconut by cocotero’s on street sides and beach fronts.
Produced in the mountains, coffee is a massive export that’s been grown here since the 18th century and is often the drink of choice with all meals. Locals usually drink coffee ‘solo’ with lashings of sugar, while café con leche incorporates steamed milk.
The Dominicans distil some of the best rums in the Caribbean (a little less sweet than your usual, with a deliciously smooth feel). Brugal, Bermudez and Barcelo are the most popular brands, but you’ll also find some cracking local varieties… Often it’s incorporated into a Cuba Libre (rum and coke) or mixed into cocktails with generous dashings of Dominican sugar.
When it comes to beers, you can sit, share and sip away at a Presidente Grandes for the ultimate DR experience. But for a real taste of the Dominican Republic, try the native drink, Mamajuana – a potent mix of rum, red wine, honey, herbs and tree bark, it’s rumoured to cure illnesses and act as an aphrodisiac…
Besides being the national sport, Baseball is an integral part of Dominican life – locals joke that ‘ball’ is the Dominican Republic’s religion, over Catholicism. The game was introduced by Cubans in the 19th century and the country has a palpable passion for it, having produced over 500 Major Leaguers - more than anywhere else outside of the US. Big name players include Manny Ramírez, Pedro Martínez, Juan Marichal, Vladimir Guerrero, David Ortiz and Sammy Sosa.
If you want to catch a game while on holiday, the Baseball League season runs from mid-October to late January (the winning team goes on to play in the Caribbean series). Round trip tours are often put on by tour companies: Estadio Francisco Micheli is within half an hour’s drive of most La Romana hotels and can be reached from Punta Cana in around an hour – it’s the home stadium of the Toros del Este (“Bulls of the East”). An hour and a half from Samana, Estadio Julián Javie is where the Gigantes del Cibao play.
There are usually excursions in the form of Santo Domingo day trips to see the historic sites, shops and attractions. And for big brands and stores, the capital is hard to beat. Santo Domingo has three main malls, Sambil, Agora and Blue, each with a collection of international shops and restaurants. Sambil’s also home to an aquarium and cinema, and Agora has a smaller cinema and the ScreamLand amusement park.
Supermarkets can be found in the main town and cities, while further out you’ll find little Colmado shacks selling all the essentials to locals.
On top of the usual souvenirs, the region is known the world over for the amber which is mined in the mountains. Amber from the DR is fabulously transparent, often including fossils of insects and leaves. The blue amber from the Santiago area is incredibly rare, appearing like normal amber until it turns blue in sunlight. Something else to look out for is larimar – a semi-precious stone unique to the Dominican Republic that comes in all shades of blue. You’ll find beautiful amber and larimar jewellery in shops (like Harrison’s) throughout the Dom Rep (though do watch out for street vendors selling fakes).
Some of the world’s best cigars are created here, including long established brands like La Aurora, Arturo Fuente and Romeo y Julieta. The bigger resorts have their own cigar shops or can arrange transport to local stores. Make sure to avoid the counterfeits sold by some vendors on the beaches (sometimes what they give you to sample isn’t what you’ll end up paying for).