The most authentic & Instagram-mable spots of the Dominican Republic
Updated: May 25
Even though the Corona virus is still restricting us to our homes the coming time, we can all use some positivity, a change of topic and something inspiring, to focus on for the future right? And what is nicer than to dream away, travel with our eyes and experience paradise, even if it's just for a few minutes?!
If your answer is YES, then this is the perfect blog for you, covering the most authentic, photogenic and some highly Instagrammable spots of the Dominican Republic, with of course many, many pics, as always!
3 weeks ago I came back, just in time, from a 9 day trip to the Dominican Republic with @GoDomRepBenelux, 2 fellow content creators @Larissa Bruin, @Iris Sophia and our talented photographer @FotograafJoyce, who took most of the pics in this blog.
I’m very grateful that we were still able to do this with the tourism board before all the Corona craziness and my home quarantine started, and am happy that I still have so many beautiful pictures, to reminisce and look back on this unique trip in which we experienced so much beauty!
This was my 3rd visit to the Dominican Republic, last year was my second, but this trip was again totally different! It showed me so many new and inspiring places all around the island, from south, to west, north, to the north east and back!
Although everybody is stuck at home now, luckily we can still travel with our eyes and dream, to get inspired and travel again later! Therefore I’m happy to share all my favourite spots of this tropical and diverse island with you through many of our own pics!
We flew in with Air Europa and arrived in the evening in Santo Domingo, where we stayed overnight at the prestigious El Embajador Hotel before our first transfer to the west. Because I already saw 4 locations and much of Dominican Republic last year, it was a challenge to create a totally different itinerary, but the tourism board succeeded very well.
During this 9 day trip we visited 5 locations all around the island, and started in the south west. This region of the Dominican Republic is still very pure and authentic, but takes some effort to get to, as our first location was a 5 hour drive away:
Cabo Rojo / Pedernales
Cabo Rojo is a pristine beach area located at the northern tip of the Jaragua National Park in the province of Pedernales. Situated in the south west of the island near the border of Haiti, as remote as it gets in the Dominican Republic. Even though it was a long drive, the stunning desert-like landscapes with bright blue coastal views and white beaches have a very special appeal and exude tranquility.
Lonely houses by the beach, authentic villages, rocky roads lined with cacti, huge cliffs with caves and mysterious landscapes where iguanas and other animals roam freely is what you will find here. We stayed at one of the coolest accommodations there, called Eco Del Mar, located in the National Park, a Unesco Biosphere Reserve of 500 m2, home to 400 flora species and 130 different birds, including flamingo’s, and some of the best sunsets of the island. This glamping and its surroundings are unique in the Dominican Republic, about which you can read more in my next blog.
Bahia de las Aguilas
One of the highlights was this turquoise bay with deserted white beaches which we had almost all to ourselves. Righteously called the crown jewel of Dominican beaches, surrounded by untouched karst cliffs which make an impressive sight already on the boat ride there, and form the perfect photo setting!
Bahia de las Aguilas is easy to reach by boat in 20 minutes from the Eco Del Mar glamping, but can also be visited on a day trip by helicopter from Santo Domingo.
We stayed overnight in this province on our way back to Santo Domingo from Pedernales, as it’s exactly half way, 2,5 hours driving from both.
Also called the deep southwest of the Dominican Republic, with quaint fruit stalls by the road, nice surfing beaches, stunning mountain ranges, lush nature, waterfalls and some of the finest coffee plantations.
Even though it’s less developed, very pure and unfortunately also quite poor, Barahona is consequently also less touristic. Nevertheless it offers some very beautiful boutique hotels and many hidden gems, where you can truly experience the original and authentic vibe of the Dominican Republic!
Los Patos river
One of these hidden gems is the bright green river that flows into the sea at the beach of Los Patos. A beautiful place to stop for drinks or lunch at the local restaurant, and take a refreshing dip in these natural pools, which are quite popular with the locals as well.
Santo Domingo Zona Colonial
After a few days we drove back to the capital, the most modern metropolis in the Caribbean, with a Unesco listed, centuries old city center as well, called the Zona Colonial. We stayed right in the heart of this historic neighborhood surrounded by stunning 16th to early 20th century architecture and flowers all around.
The streets are very pedestrian friendly, however I recommend exploring the city by bike, making it even more fun!
You can easily rent a super Instagrammable cycle at Zona Bici, like we did, to soar past all the stunning colonial buildings, parks, cute restaurants, café’s, and buzzing squares in just a few hours, get an impression through this gallery:
Don’t forget to stop by Desirée Cepeda’s shop to get the best souvenirs, some unique artworks and taste their delicious home-made Mamajuana, the traditional herbal ‘’babymaker’’ drink of the Dominican Republic!
Next was a 3,5 hour drive to the north where we visited the island's birthplace of tourism that has stunning beaches, rivers, mountains, and green valleys as well.
With its international airport and extensive beach-side resort Playa Dorada, housing a big diversity of all-inclusive hotels and apartments, Puerto Plata is one of the most popular tourist areas of the Dominican Republic, besides Punta Cana.
But the city center itself also has an impressive historical zone with colonial facades, stylish city squares, quaint shops, the largest collection of preserved 19th century Victorian-style houses in the Caribbean, the impressive Fortaleza San Felipe, dating back to 1577, and many colorful Instagrammable spots, as you can see in this gallery:
Cayo Arena / Paradise Island
Less than a 2 hour drive from Puerto Plata to the west we visited a photogenic island, especially seen from above, as it’s actually just a small sandbank, perfect for snorkeling.
From the beach restaurant at Punta Rucia a speedboat will bring you there in 20 minutes, after which you arrive on a small island with some wooden shacks and a beach bar. They provide you with tropical drinks and snorkeling gear, actually all that you need, as the water is super clear, dotted with coral and plenty of tropical fish.
Make sure to arrive before 10 am, when the tourist boats start coming in and this small island gets crowded fast. Also recommended to tour the nearby mangroves on your way back!
Playa La Ensanada
On the drive back to Puerto Plata from Punta Rucia, we stopped by the neighboring beach, which was much more quiet, with a great local vibe! The simple but buzzing beach restaurant serves great pina colada’s and we met one of the most fun coconut sellers there! Perfect to enjoy that real Dominican atmosphere.
Last year I also visited this peninsula in the north east and it never disappoints! Even though we did have quite some rain during our last 2 days there, we still found many fun things to do and enjoyed the sights.
This region of the island is lush, filled with coconut plantations, abundant palm trees, rainforest, waterfalls and secluded wild beaches. During the first months 2,500 humpback whales visit Samaná Bay every year to mate and give birth, which can be witnessed on a boat excursion, if weather permits.
We tried twice but unfortunately due to the bad weather our boats could not sail out. However our walk over the impressive bridge, our visit to the colorful marine town of Santa Bárbara de Samaná, and quad drive along the beach and through Las Terrenas were a lot of fun too!
Ecotourism activities are possible in the Samaná region as well, such as trekking, birding, and caving in Los Haitises National Park, exploring waterfalls and so much more.
A buzzing seaside town, and must visit when in the Samaná province. This bay is perfect for body-boarding and kitesurfing, and it's the place to be for vibrant nightlife, with its extensive restaurant and bar strip, café’s and boutiques adjacent to the beach.
A visit to the fishing area Las Galeras is recommended for fresh seafood and to witness authentic daily Dominican life. And some of the many beautiful beaches to visit here are Playa Rincón, Bonita and Cosón!
However Isla Saona, Montana Redonda, Scape Park, Macao Surf Camp, and the El Limon waterfalls, which we visited last year in Samaná, are highly Instagrammable as well, about which you can read more here: 7 days in paradise.
I hope I was able to show you even more of the beauty and some of the most Instagrammable spots of the Dominican Republic to inspire you to explore more of the island as well. It’s quite safe to drive around here and easy to experience all that the island has to offer yourself by car!
For more tips and inspiration make sure to check the website of the Dominican Republic tourism board for all details. Watch out for my next blog in which I will happily show you 4 of my favourite authentic, but chic hotels we stayed at. And for more daily pics and video's of this trip follow me and my travel partners on Instagram, YouTube or Facebook.
Did you know that the Dominican Republic was this diverse and beautiful? Let me know what you think of this paradise in the comments below, or find me on social media via the buttons at the bottom of this page.