There’s a lot to explore on the Dominican Republic, one of the largest and most geographically diverse of the Caribbean islands. Pristine white-sand bays stretch along the coastline, interspersed with mangrove swamps and windswept dunes. Upmarket resorts sit alongside sleepy fishing villages. You can relax on the beach or take to the water to try snorkelling, scuba diving or a whale-watching trip.
Inland you’ll discover soaring peaks, gushing waterfalls, luxuriant rainforests and atmospheric deserts. Adventure tourism has taken off in a big way here – parasailing, hiking and dune-buggy rides are some popular activities. Meanwhile, history buffs will love exploring the island’s evocative colonial cities, learning how conquistadores such as Christopher Columbus shaped and scarred its shores.
Popular Ports in Dominican Republic
The capital of the Dominican Republic is a fantastic city to explore. The UNESCO-designated Colonial Zone is the oldest European settlement in the New World; a stunning district of wide, marbled plazas, flower-filled alleyways and colourful buildings. It boasts fantastic architecture, including the Convento los Domingos, made of pink-tinted coral stone.
You can learn about the history of the city in The Colonial Gate 4D cinema, where historic movies are a multi-sensory experience, featuring smells, motion seats, wind, fog and heat. But despite its rich history, Santo Domingo is a hip, modern city – you’ll discover trendy outdoor bars, hip new boutiques, and an increasingly cosmopolitan dining scene.
Santo Domingo’s newest cruise port is located on Dominican Republic’s stunning Amber Coast, and it’s geared up for cruise passengers. It’s easy to book zip-lining, helicopter or ATV tours, as well as water sports like kayaking or paddleboarding. If you feel like relaxing, there’s an Aqua Zone (complimentary for cruise passengers), with a beach, waterslides, swim-up bar and a lazy river.
Amber Cove is just a short distance from Puerto Plata, an elegant town of pastel-coloured wooden houses and palm-tree lined boulevards. There’s plenty to do here, from visiting a local rum distillery to strolling along the Malecon, a three-mile-long seafront promenade.
This bustling port town is a great place to try Dominican cuisine, with local street-food markets and restaurants serving fresh seafood, meat stews and tostones (fried plantains). The city’s most popular attraction is Altos de Chavón, a recreation of a 16th-century European village, complete with artists’ workshops, an amphitheatre and museum.
La Romana is also the gateway to some of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Take a boat trip to Catalina Island, located just over a mile offshore. You’ll spend the day relaxing in paradise; lounging on the white-sand beaches, snorkelling in the clear waters or sipping on a cocktail from the bar.
What are the best cruise ships for a Dominican Republic cruise?
Ensure you have the holiday of a lifetime on your Dominican Republic cruise, by choosing a luxurious liner. Here are two top-rated recommendations.
The Marella Celebration offers a luxurious cruising experience that’s easy on the pocket. Pamper yourself in the two-storey Oceans Beauty Salon and Spa, or sip on a rum cocktail as you lounge on a chic day bed at the Sun Lounge. There’s an action-packed programme of activities, from children’s football tournaments to lively evening entertainment shows. There are five restaurants on board – Kora La serves exotic Asian dishes, while Mistral’s Restaurant has a European fine-dining menu.
Carnival Conquest is a ship that offers fun for the whole family. On the top deck you’ll find a pool with a waterslide, and there’s also a DJ-led dance club, a video arcade and a mini-golf club. Children will love the age-appropriate activities at the kids’ club, and teenagers will go mad for Circle ‘C’, a teens’ hangout space offering outdoor movies and dance parties. There’s a great onboard dining scene, with a classic burger joint, a Mexican cantina and The Taste Bar, which offers up a new delicacy each day.
Shore Excursion Ideas
There’s no shortage of things to do in Dominican Republic. Whether you want to lounge on the beach, explore the natural scenery or learn more about the island’s history, there’s a shore excursion for you.
Half beach day to Boca Chica
Travel 25 minutes from Santo Domingo to the island’s most popular beach, Boca Chica. Sunbathe on this enchanting stretch of soft white sand, or swim in the calm cobalt sea. The beach is surrounded by a coral reef, so there’s plenty to see under the water. There are plenty of beach bars and cafés where you can grab a snack and a drink. The hours will drift by as you relax in paradise.
Kahkow Chocolate Lab
Chocoholics of all ages will love this unique experience at Kahkow, a chocolate laboratory in the heart of Santo Domingo. The day begins with an audio guided tour in a holographic theatre, where you can have an immersive experience of the process of harvesting cacao and making chocolate.
Next up is the sensory lab, where you’ll sample ingredients such as cacao liqueur, and have a go at making chocolate from a secret recipe. After that you’ll visit the soap lab, and make a soap to take home with you.
Dolphin swim at Ocean World
If swimming with dolphins is at the top of your bucket list, then take this shore excursion at Amber Cove. You’ll visit the marine park, Ocean World, where you’ll spend 30 minutes swimming with two playful dolphins. Feed, play and interact with these friendly mammals. After the swim you’ll be able to enjoy the facilities at Ocean World, including a large aviary, a snorkel lagoon, and dolphin, shark and sea lion shows.
Top ports of call in this destination
- Santo Domingo
- Amber Cove
- La Romana