From charming colonial-era streets in the capital city of Santo Domingo to the white-sand beaches along Punta Cana’s shoreline, tourism in the Dominican Republic is a big business. Golf courses, spas, and ecological parks all welcome visitors and do a good job of educating about the island’s culture — both present and past. The Dominican Republic is the second largest and most diverse Caribbean nation. The country also shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti (located on the western side).
Catedral Primada de America
This Gothic-style cathedral in Santo Domingo dates back to 1541, when it was completed. Christopher Columbus’ remains were discovered at this church back in the 19th century. The interior (which continues to host religious celebrations), features colonial-era paintings, sacred rooms, and an ornate ceiling. The cathedral also serves as the final resting place for some archbishops.
Five Dominican Republic parks offer caving: Los Tres Ojos National Park (anchored by a limestone cave), Cueva de Las Maravillas (view Taino petroglyphs), El Pomier (a series of 55 caves), Las Caritas de los Indios (its caves are filled with indigenous art), and Los Haitises National Park (rock formations soar above the water, reachable by boat; Jurassic Park was also filmed here). Skill levels vary, so do your research before heading out.
This charming little seaside town is about 40 minutes away from Santo Domingo. Come hungry: the fish shacks here serve are worth the trip alone. Boca Chica is also known for its pristine beaches, so be sure to bring a swimsuit.
Alcázar de Colón
This 1512 Gothic-style palace in Santo Domingo was once the home of Diego Columbus (son of Christopher Columbus) and his wife, María de Toledo (King Ferdinand of Spain’s niece). Today, it's a museum that's comprised of musical instruments, art, furniture, and weaponry.
Drive Barahona Enriquillo Coastal Highway
If you want to see mountains and the Caribbean Sea in one drive, take a ride down this coastal highway. You’ve got the sparkling sea on one side and, on the other, there are picturesque mountains. Just don’t gawk too long: large animals (including cows) tend to cross often or, worse, plunk down in the middle of the highway.
Things to Do in Punta Cana
Most of the Dominican Republic’s resorts are in Punta Cana. If you are looking for an all-inclusive experience, and want to be less than 15 minutes from an international airport (Punta Cana International Airport), this is the best place to book your stay. Nearby sites and activities include a beautiful cathedral in Higuey, snorkeling off the coast, or mingling with artists at Altos de Chavón.