1. Outback Safari
Take in the views as you tour the Dominican countryside in an open safari truck – and to add to the fun, there’s an open bar with a happy hour! With entertaining guides to show you around, you’ll meet the locals and find out about their way of life. Watch local produce being made – from hand-rolled cherry cigars to rum, coconut oil and chocolate. Not only that, but you can also buy whatever takes your fancy. Then it’s on to a ranch for lunch on typical Dominican fare. Spend the afternoon on Macao Beach in Bavaro where you can hit the waves and try your hand at boogie boarding.
2. Drop off the radar at Isla Saona
The Dominican Republic’s ‘cayos’ – or islands – live up to their Robinson Crusoe reputation, and Saona is no exception. Marooned off the coast of Bayahibe, this palm-fringed isle was once the backdrop for a Bounty ad. With white sands, coral gardens and giant red starfish, it’s certainly a taste of paradise. It’s got national park credentials, too. Behind the beach are palm-filled gardens with tropical birds – and butterflies that are almost as big.
3. Snap humpback whales in the wild
From mid-January to the end of March, around 10,000 humpback whales travel to the Samana Peninsula from as far away as Norway. Huge colonies come here to breed, using the bath-warm waters as a giant nursery. Jump on a whale-watching boat and you can see them at play – some get so close you can almost touch them.
4. Stroke Flipper at Dolphin Explorer
Just a 45-minute hop from Punta Cana, this family favourite is a mini-zoo and marine park rolled into one. Kick things off with a dolphin ‘meet and greet’ and you’ll be able to pet these inquisitive mammals, watch their tricks and learn everything there is to know about them. The acrobatic sea lion show gets another big thumbs-up, and the touch pool – filled with starfish, sea urchins and the like – is a must, too.
5. Catalina Island
Catalina Island or Isla Catalina is a tropical island located 1.5 miles from the mainland on the south-east corner of the Dominican Republic, near La Altagracia and La Romana. It is an occasional destination for cruise ships on Caribbean routes.
6. Altos de Chavón
Altos de Chavón is a place like no other—a replica 16th century Mediterranean village in the heart of the Dominican countryside. Meticulously designed by Dominican architect, Jose Antonio Caro, and Italian master designer and cinematographer, Roberto Coppa, every detail of Altos de Chavón was handcrafted by local artisans.
The village is a cultural center for residents, tourists, and working artists from all over the world. Active studios for artists of every medium from pottery to weaving, silk screening, and everything in between line the cobblestone streets alongside shops and boutiques showcasing their unique creations. The Art Gallery features works from noted Dominican artists, as well as artists from around the world which helps to foster a dialogue of creativity and cultural exchange. Altos de Chavón is also home to the renowned Altos de Chavón School of Design, which is affiliated with the Parsons School of Design in New York.
Other sites include an archaeological museum, offering a glimpse into the fascinating history of the area, the St. Stanislaus Church, 5,000-seat amphitheater, and sweeping views of the Chavón River and the Caribbean Sea.
7. El Salto del Limon Waterfall (Samana Province, Dominican Republic)
Tucked away in surprisingly rough landscape, surrounded by peaks covered in lush greenery, is the 52m-high El Limón waterfall. A beautiful swimming hole at the bottom can be a perfect spot to wash off the sweat and mud from the trip here, though it’s often too deep and cold for a dip. The departure point is the small town of El Limón, only a half-hour from Las Terrenas.
Just about everyone who visits does so on horseback, and almost a dozen paradas (horseback-riding operations) in town and on the highway toward Samaná offer tours (though it is not recommended to hire someone off the street, as there’s little saving and the service is consistently substandard). All outfits offer essentially the same thing: a 30- to 60-minute ride up the hill to the waterfalls, 30 to 60 minutes to take a dip and enjoy the scene, and a 30- to 60-minute return trip, with lunch at the end. Your guide – who you should tip – will be walking, not riding, which can feel a little weird but is the custom. Walking or on horseback, you will get wet as there are several river crossings along the way – rubber sandals are a good idea.
8. ST. GEORGE WRECK Diving
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