After some busy weeks with the dogs, Philou and I decided to go on a last-minute trip, just the two of us. We wanted to go someplace nice and warm, where we could relax by the beach. So we went to the Dominican Republic! 🇩🇴
We stayed in Punta Cana, a popular town in the easternmost region of the Dominican Republic. This region is mainly known for its pearly white beaches, palm trees and resorts. We’re not typically the kind of people to do an all-in holiday, but once in a while, it’s nice to treat yourself to a bit of luxury. 😜
We’ve compiled a list of the top 8 things you should do when visiting the Dominican Republic. 🌴
1. Montaña Redonda
Also known as ‘the instagrammable mountain’, Montaña Redonda offers a range of panoramic views and lovely spots to take pictures. At the top of the mountain, you’ll find swings, hammocks and even flying brooms.
There are many organised tours to Montaña Redonda, but I recommend you rent a car for the day and go there yourself. There’s a parking lot where you can leave your car for $3. From there, a local driver will take you up in his 4×4. You can also drive up yourself, but even though our rental was a big Dodge, I’m happy we didn’t. It’s a very bumpy ride (made me giggle a lot 😆), and it’s only $3. So in total, a visit costs you $6.
2. Rent a car
This brings me to my next point: rent a car. The Dominican Republic is a beautiful country with lots of greenery. It’s worth it to do a little roadtrip and enjoy the scenery. They have a very laidback way of driving, and there don’t seem to be too many rules. 😜
3. Parque Nacional Del Este
We wanted to visit one of the island’s national parks. The one closest to Punta Cana is the Parque Del Este. Although the park itself is not that special in my opinion, it was nice to take a walk under the trees on a hot day. There are some prehistoric caves in the park with lots of bats; those were cool! 🦇 Take a flashlight with you; your phone will do.
The most amazing discovery we made here, was this gorgeous abandoned beach. It was as if we had found our own piece of paradise! 🏝
You can park for free in the street in front of the park. It’s a dead end. There’s a small fee to enter the park, around $4.
4. Bavaro Beach
The Dominican Republic is known for its beautiful beaches. Bavaro Beach is the most popular one, and for a good reason. With its pearly white sand and crystal clear turquoise water, it looks as if it’s straight from a postcard. 😍 You can walk for hours along the coastline, under the palm trees. 🏝 Punta Cana is the place to be when it comes to beaches. I’ve linked our hotel below.
I highly recommend you get up early so you can enjoy the sunrise by the beach. 🌅
We got up at 5 AM, multiple days in a row. These gorgeous colours were totally worth it! 🤩
The changing gradients of the sky make for some nice pictures. 📸
The sunsets are just as beautiful, by the way! 😁
❤️ Romantic tip: spend your evening by the beach with a nice glass of bubbles. 🥂 Nothing like the sound of the waves and the starry night sky! ✨
5. Try the local cuisine
The local cuisine exists mainly of seafood, coconut and fruit. 🦐🥥🍍 I’ve never seen such a variety of fruit. It’s all so big, fresh, and juicy! They make a lot of rice with coconut, seafood and pineapple. And if you love a fresh ceviche, you’re in for a treat! 😋
6. Drink from a coconut 🥥
Some locals take the coconuts out of the palm trees so they wouldn’t fall on your head. They then sell them with a little straw. I could drink this every day. 🤤 So refreshing! 💦 Coconut vendors walk around the beach all day; it only costs $2. Please give them a tip for their hard work; they deserve and appreciate it! ❤️
7. Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic. It’s the oldest European city in America. You’ll find a beautiful mix of colonial history, colourful houses and influences from Europe and Africa. It’s a 2,5h drive from Punta Cana, so too far for a day trip. We decided not to visit since our time was short, but I recommend splitting up your trip. Stay some days in Punta Cana, then in Santo Domingo. That’s what we would do differently next time.
8. Los Haitises National Park
Los Haitises is the biggest park in the Dominican Republic. There is a wide variety of bird colonies, mangroves, beautiful beaches, and so much more. You can stay overnight in ecolodges. We didn’t get to visit the park this time, since it’s also far from Punta Cana. Next time!
A little heads-up
When you rent a car, there probably won’t be a GPS. Luckily, there are only two main roads from Punta Cana, so you can’t really get lost! We reached the various destinations quite easily without GPS, to our surprise. 🤣
Beware of scammers. At the airport, they tried to make us pay $50 for every extra kg of luggage – while according to the airline, it’s $50 in total. We got angry, argued, and ended up paying $100. They only accept cash (of course). We saw plenty of people throw their stuff away or pay ridiculous amounts of money. At customs, they would ask random people to pay $100; they wouldn’t let them through otherwise. Sadly, there is not much you can do about it since everyone does it. But if you show you’re not to be messed with, they’ll back off more quickly and let you get away with a smaller bribe.
The guy in our hotel told us they had a rental car service, so we paid him and got a car. By the end of the day, we went to return the keys to the front desk. The person working at that moment, told us the hotel does not have a rental car service. His colleague had hooked us up with one of his friends – it was a whole ordeal. 😆
We stayed at Hotel Riu. They have different hotels next to one another, suited for different budgets. The gorgeous beach is the same for all of them. They do free airport pick-ups. The open-air airport looks impressive, by the way!
Have you been to the Dominican Republic? Share your experience with us in the comments!