Dominican Republic: North Coast Road Trip -Puerto Plata to Samana-

In the beginning of December 2015, I received a skype call from my cousin Zineb asking me what was my plan for New Years. I told her I was ready to start exploring central America and shared my travel plans with her. After some minutes of talking The Caribbeans came across in our discussion and we ended up choosing Dominican Republic for our New Year’s destination.

I have heard a lot about Dominican Republic. Yet it all seemed to link somehow to the famous seaside town of Punta Cana. I of course was very keen to see it and understand better where its fame came from. However, I did not want to limit my stay in DR to a boring Resort Vacation in Bavaro (Most famous Beach in Punta Cana). I was curious to discover more about this country, embrace the culture and be astonished by its stunning nature.

After long talks with our Dominican Hosts and hours of deep research we were finally able to establish a plan for a Road Trip along the North Coast of the Country. We decided to drive all the way from Puerto Plata down to Samana. Our desire for wild beaches, magical ocean scenery and stunning country side was surely satisfied during this 2 weeks Road Trip. Truth be told, driving from Puerto Plata to Samana was one of my best traveling experiences so far.

A lot of people tried to convince us not to take this road trip alone. Two foreign girls driving alone in Dominican Republic is not the safest thing to do everyone said. But they did not influence our decision. We took the exact same precautions we would take in our country. Driving at night was something we always avoided.  We knew that the roads were not always in a good shape and we did cross path with some crazy drivers along the way. But all of this only made our trip more fun and gave us more things to laugh about.


Road Trip Itinerary 

Most of people get to Dominican Republic by Flying to Punta Cana or Santo Domingo. For this Road Trip, your starting point does not really matter. At the end of the day you will end up doing a circle back to the city from where you started.


Our Road Trip started from Santo Domingo. We drove in the morning heading to Puerto Plata. We did not stop much on our way since my friends advised me not to.

Although, I would definitely recommend to stop for two things along your way from Santo Domingo to Puerto Plata.

  • Lunch Break at the famous “Tipico Banao “. It is 80Km away from Santo Domingo on your way to Puerto Plata. Order a Mangu (plantain based  dish) and enjoy a real taste of Dominicana.
  • Santiago de Los Cabreros . It is the second historical city of the country and el “Monumento” is definitely worth a quick stop.
Click here to see all the pins on the map (orange pins)


1.Puerto Plata

Puerto Plata is known as being the favorite city of Canadian Tourists in Dominican Republic. More than just white sand beaches heaven, it is full of wonders and beautiful National Parks. I still recall till this day The Damajaqua Natural Parc (also know as “Los 27 Charcos “) as being one of the highlights of my Dominican trip. It is a natural and impressive formation of 27 waterfalls. The hike is usually guided by a local and takes around 2 to 3 hours in total. It is somehow a high adrenaline attraction that I absolutely enjoyed. The guide would stop at some strategical points to make us slide or jump from cliffs and enjoy the beautiful nature around. I loved it!

Moreover, there are plenty of breath taking beaches to choose from. The most popular one among tourists in Puerto Plata is Long Beach. My favorite ones were Playa Grande (8km away from the city center ) and Playa Dorada.
If you like mountains, the hike to The mountain Isabel de Torres is worth it. You can take the “Teleferico” (funicular) from the “puerto plata pueblo” (the town of puerto plata) that will drop you right down the mountain.

Finally, the night life in the beach side of Puerto Plata is nice to experience. Dominicans love to gather with friends and family, put some music and dance all night. Go with the flow, learn some bachata moves and enjoy your time. You will simply have a blast.

Must see or do:

  • Los 27 Charcos, a must!!!!!
  • Isabel de Torres Mountain
  • Playa Grande
  • Playa Dorada
  • Fuerte San Felipe
Click here to see all the pins on the map (orange pins)

I would recommend to spend 3 days or more in Puerto Plata if you have enough time to do so. That way you get to know better the city and experience somehow the local way of life. If you don’t, one day is enough to enjoy Los 27 Charcos in the morning and take a quick stop at both of the beaches Playa Grande and Playa Dorada.

If you feel courageous to drive one hour and half more on the west side of the country, I would definitely advice you to take a day trip to Monte Cristi. The nature scenery looks way different from all the rest of the country and it is really worth the drive. If you have time, and you like camping, this is by far one of the best spots in Dominican Republic to do so.


2. Sosua

Being perfectly located between Puerto Plata and Cabarete, Sosua is a very popular destination among German Tourists. It is located 8Km away from the Luperon International Airport which makes it very convenient to access for everyone.

Sosua is a very charming peaceful beach town. You can either spoil your self to luxury resorts and restaurants or discover the less known neighborhoods of the city. Stroll around, indulge your self to some tasty traditional food and meet locals. They are welcoming, nice and always wheeling to help.

Must see or do:

  • Playa Alicia
  • El Batey Neighborhood where all the touristy nightlife happens.
  • Los Charamicos, a more authentic neighborhood with narrow streets and simple houses.
Click here to see all the pins on the map (green pins)

A day or two in Sosua are enough. The city is small and very close to both Puerto Plata and Samana. I personnally decided to visit it but stayed over night in Cabarete.



I would live in Cabarete if I could. I fall in love with this city and its slow way of life. Everything is amazing about this chill but yet active beach town. It became famous among surfers and kite surfers a decade ago. Nowadays, it attracts a large population of young travelers seeking big waves and a healthy life style.

If you are a sport lover or you simply like outdoors activities, Cabarete is definitely a city where you should spend some time. Surfing, Kite Surfing, Wind Surfing, Standing Paddle and Scuba Diving are just some small exemples of all you can do to enjoy your time in Cabarete. And if you ever get tired of beach activities which I doubt, you can enjoy horse riding or golfing.

Finally the city is full of cute little cafés offering healthy food options and yoga studios that reflects the state of mind of people who visit this city. I certainly enjoyed fine foods and tasty dishes at the beach before burning all their calories dancing Salsa, Bachata and Merengue.

Must see or do: (see the pins on the map)

  • Cabarete Beach
  • Encuentro Beach
  • Take a Kite Surfing Class
  • Eat Plantains with Shrimp at Onno’s Beach Bar
  • Get a smoothie at “Fresh Fresh”
  • Horse ride
Click here to see all the pins on the map (yellow puns)

It of course depends on the time you have, but I would definitely recommend to stay at least 2 to 3 days in Cabarete. Stay even longer if you have time. You will not regret it, trust me!

horse-ride-cabarete Dominican Republic North Coast Road Trip


Ah Cabrera! What a marvelous Town. We did not stay over night but I did take several day trips from Cabarete. We also made some stops along our way up to Las Terrenas.
There are so many things to do in the surrounding. Nature is breathtaking. You can hike to the Monumento Natural El Saltadero or just have a chill day at the beautiful Playa Diamante. Cabrera is a little town that has a lot to offer and would satisfy all types of travelers.

Must See or Do:

  • Playa diamante
  • Laguna Dudu
  • Monumento Natural El Saltadero
Click here to see all the pins on the map (purple pins)

I would recommend to visit these 3 places along your way to last Terrenas. If you have more time, take it slow, and spend a night in Cabrera.


5.Las Terrenas

Our fifth destination for this road trip was Las Terrenas and I must admit, this part of the road trip was the most exciting one.
The costal Highway 5 linking Cabarete to Samana is impressive. We got to see one of the most stunning Landscapes in the Caribbeans. Driving throughs endless coconut and banana fields and going up in the mountains and fertile valleys with a breathtaking view over clear blue water was a marvelous experience. It will remain for ever in my memories.

Las Terrenas used to be a fishing village some decades ago, and still carry out until today a very special identity and charm. The city is full of expats from all around the globe, mostly German, French and Canadians. It allies perfectly unspoiled and wild beaches with shops, restaurant and all you will need in your daily life.  I liked this very cosmopolitan city.

Must See or Do:

  • Playa Coson
  • Playa Bonita
  • Kite Surfing
  • Buy fruits, Vanilla, Cocoa and Mama Juana on the way to Samana from local little stalls and farmer’s Markets.
Click here to see all the pins on the map (brown pins)

I spent one day and one night in Las Terrenas and it was fairly enough to see all I wanted to see.


6.Samana Peninsula

Samana is what I call Dominican Republic Diamond. It simply has it all! From waterfalls, to unspoiled beaches, to mountains, and stunning Islands, there is so much to explore in this Peninsula.

It is the prettiest part of the country in my personal opinion. The drive through Las Galleras was a life time experience. Even though the road is a little scary we really enjoyed the drive through. We spent some days in Samana and had the time of our lives. We visited outstanding beaches and landscapes and enjoyed dancing with locals in the streets at night.

Must See and Do:

  • Las Galeras
  • Salto Del Limon
  • Playa Rincon ( one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen so far)
  • Whale watching when in season ( February). Boat trips are available to buy from Samana.
  • Callo Levantado (Stunning Island! You can purchase a day tour from Samana. Make sure to negotiate well the prices )
  • Playa Fronton
  • Playa El Valle
  • National Parc Los Haitises
Click here to see all the pins on the map (grey pins)

We spent 4 full days and 3 nights in Samana and it was enough to see all we wanted to see.


After Samana, we headed to Punta Cana, and from Punta Cana we closed the circle back to Santo Domingo. Consequently, as I said in the beginning of this article, your starting point will not really matter since the Itinerary is a circle.

Our Road Trip experience in Dominican Republic was nothing but amazing. We loved every single part of it and I hope that one day you guys get the chance to visit this little paradise.

Things You Should Know About Dominican Republic

  • Roads are not always in a good shape but it is still confortable to drive around
  • For safety reason and because the roads are not always well maintained better drive during the day
  • Cows and chickens can join sometimes the party in the road
  • People are very nice, so feel confortable to ask for your way if you feel lost
  •  Mama Juana is sold everywhere and is mostly consumed by tourists


  • Dominican Spanish is Slightly different than regular Spanish
  • Loco(crazy) is a friendly word used by Dominicans to talk to their friends
  • You should stock on cocoa and bring it back home with you

Dominican Republic North Coast Road Trip cocoa

  • Dominican Pineapples are the best pineapples in the world (besides for the Hawaiian ones )
  • Cinnamon sticks are big, really BIG!
  • Heavy does not mean heavy. In DR, heavy means “amazing”

Dominican Republic North Coast Road Trip cinnamon

  • You will eat plantains in every Dominican Dish
  • The Dominican way of driving is a little messier than the driving in the Western World
  • The local beer Presidente is literarily part of the Dominican Culture
  • Temperatures are warm and pretty stable year round
  • Dominicans are very good dancers

Now that you know a little more about Dominican Republic, I will let you enjoy some pictures of my last trip there. Enjoy your time in DR and do not forget to dance some Merengue! Saludos!

Leave me a comment telling me all about your impression of DR, your own experience in the country of Bachata or which part of the country you desire to visit.

Dominican Republic North Coast Road Trip onno-planrain
Dominican Republic North Coast Road Trip water fall





Dominican-Republic-North-Coast-Road-Trip-Food.jpg SD

Click on one of the pictures to zoom and access to the gallery

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  • Hi Aïda,

    This is a very helpful article, very well written and spot on with what I was looking for! Thank you!

    Me and my girlfriend will be going to Dominican Republic in December and I was worried about renting a car and driving around as I heard the driving there was crazy. But then I thought… I’m Italian, from the south exactly… could they really be crazier than southern Italians on the road?

    We’ve been to India last year but we decided not to drive there. I did think that they are nuts on wheels. Have you been to India? Are people from Dominican Republic as crazy as Indians?

    From your story it sounds like you do need to use precautions (definitely a little more than anywhere else) but it should be fine.

    Other than that I was willing to do the exact same itinerary you did and after reading your article I’m even more excited now!

    We have 10 days in total, landing in Punta Cana because of cheap flights but we also want to avoid all inclusive boring resorts.

    Thank you again for sharing your story!

    • Hello Jeff,

      Thanks a lot for your comment and kind words.
      I am from Morocco, and us Mediterranean have the same temperament when it comes to driving. To be honest I found it easier to drive in Dominican Republic than in my own country. Drivers are not as crazy as the stereotypes would describe. But again it all depends on your perspective. They might drive a slightly bit messier than in some european countries.
      Don’t worry and drive around keeping in mind the standards of safety and you will be fine.
      I could not drive in India neither. This is for me yes, a crazy driving. And driving on the right in addition to the chaotic hectic streets, I passed my turn :d
      And no, nothing compares to India, Domininicans don’t even drive 5% as crazy as Indians.
      For safety precautions I would just say to use standard travel precautions and be discrete as in big cities (Santo Domingo, santiago and so on..) the risk of getting robbed is higher than in Italy I would assume.
      If you have any more questions, feel free to ask. And if you guys ever pass by Santo Domingo I will be glad to meet you or go for a cup of coffee, I live here now :d
      Enjoy your trip guys!

  • Hi Aida me and my husband we want to rent a car in Rep.Dominicana we was little bit worried first time but after I read your review I am better. .How is with car parking there??we can let the car where we want??exemple when we want to visit a beach.. we will stay on Puerto Plata but we want to visit Samana Peninsula and Punta Cana..thanks

    • Hello Julia,

      Sorry, I just saw your comment,
      Car parking is not an issue if you respect the signs that are clear.
      In very crowded places there are parkings you pay for.
      I would suggest to visit las Terrenas over Samana town. The beaches there are absolutely stunning.
      No worries with renting or parking cars. Just make sure not to leave personal belongings and things showing inside as a safety caution you would use pretty much everywhere!
      If you have any other question, I will be very glad to answer it!
      Safe travels!

  • Hello Aida,

    Thank you for this great post!…My girlfriend and I are driving from Punta Cana Airport to Las Terrenas (during the day) and everywhere I look, it says that the driving route we should take is to Santo Domingo and then up to Las Terrenas (which from looking at the map seems like a lot of wasted time). I noticed that you drove from Las Terrenas to Punta Cana using the same route that we want to take (except opposite direction). Can you tell me a little bit about what that drive was like and approximately how long it took.

    Thank you in advance:)

    • Hello Stephanie,

      Thank you so much for your comment.
      Unfortunately, there is no other way then to pass by the direction of Santo Domingo.
      Crossing the National Parc Los Haitises is not an option, there is no route there that you could take to get from Las Terrenas to Punta Cana.
      I took this trip again some days ago and it took us 4h30 and half (driving by night with two quick stops).
      I would recommend taking this trip with day light, it is a little tricky road but nothing dangerous or scary!
      If you have any other questions let me know I will pleased to answer them.
      When will you be in DR?

  • hey guys,

    thank you for this awesome travel blog.

    I’ve got some questions, maybe you can help me out.

    We are flying to Punta Cana from 17.03 to 29.03. We are planing to do your roadtrip, but I think we only take the route in the west at the coast, because there are the most beach places. Should we rent a car for the full time, or should we rent a car, give it back and stay some days at one place and take another rent? Can you recommend any rent a car company? Is a compact car enough? We planned to stay some days in puerto plata then drive back to samana and stay there some days and then maybe stay the last two days in bavaro close to the airport? What do you think of this? It’s the first time for us in punta cana without a all inclusive package.

    Maybe you can help us out!


    best wishes,

    • Hello Tim,

      Thank you for your comment.
      Regarding renting the car, I would suggest to rent from one company since some of them lower the price depending on the days you take and it is always cheaper to rent a car that you drive back to the same city from where you took it.
      In your case I don’t know if you fly from the same city where you arrive to DR. If so, I would just rent it from one place and give it back in the same city since it is always more expensive to give back a renting car in another city.
      Regarding the company, I don’t have any specific in mind, what I usually do is go for the international ones I know, compare their prices and take the most appealing one.
      I have done this road trip with a small compact car, and again with a 4*4. Of course the 4*4 was more confortable but there was absolutely nothing wrong with the compact. It was fine!
      I would recommend las Terrenas over Samana, I took this trip 4 time now and I definitely would choose to stay in Las Terrenas over Samana.
      Your plan sound good, Bavaro in march is usually not so crowded so you guys should be ok. Check your housing options in advance though, you never know.
      If you have more questions I will please to answer them.
      Enjoy your trip!

  • Thank your for this fast reply and for your help!!

    So we planned our trip now

    Arriving 16:30 Punta Cana
    17-18.03 Punta Cana/ maybe Bavaros
    18-19.03 Puerto Plata
    19-20.03 Sosua
    20-22.03 Cabarete
    22-28.03 Les Terrares/Samana
    28-29.03 Punta Cana
    Departure 17:50 Punta Cana

    What do you think about this route?

    Best wishes,


    • Hello Tim,
      No worries, anytime.
      Your plan sounds good. It is very well spread in time and its a great idea to spend most of your time in the north!
      I just want to let you know that Bavaro is Punta Cana, the tourist beach part of the city. Bavaro it is basicaly what the tourists/travlers call punta cana.
      If you stay 2 days in this region, check out Cap Cana its like a 20min drive from Bavaro and is in my opinion the most pretty beach in the Punta Cana region. It is Caribbean sea while Bavaro is atlantic ocean. So would be nice to check it out.
      Also, if you like surfing or beaches with waves, check out macao beach in Punta Cana, you will like it, its not touristy, very layback style and worth an afternoon.
      If you need more infos or have more questions let me know.
      Safe travels to you guys!

  • Thank you so much for your support!

    we changed the route a little bit up and booked all our air bnbs.
    1) 17.03 arrival 16:30 Punta Cana drive to boca chica
    2) 17.03-18.03 boca Chica sleeping – drive to puerto plata
    3) 18.03-20.03 Puerto Plata
    4) 20.03-22.03 Cabarete – Beach & acitvities
    5) 22.03-26.03 Las Terrenas
    6) 26-28.03 Samana
    6) 28.03-29.03 we are thinking about sleeping at la romana but the beaches you recommened are 1 hour away. What do you think where should we sleep the last night?
    7) 29.03 Punta Cana airport leaving at 17:50


  • I like your recap of the north coast, seems that you two have had a lot of fun. I had a privillege to work on Cayo Levantado, gorgeous place really.
    One day, If you come to boring Bavaro / Punta Cana, contact us, we might have free countryside tours for you two.

  • Hi Aida,

    Thank you so much for this itinerary and great information. My family and I will be spending a week in Las Terrenas and are so excited, particularly after reading your post!

    We are flying into Santiago de los Caballeros and initially our plan was to drive east inland as it appears to be the shortest distance. After reading your post I am thinking it may be worth driving North towards Puerto Plata and taking the coastal route. Even though it is longer, it sounds like it is quite beautiful? Would you recommend this option? And do you have any other tips as far as the best, safest route? The map indicates that I could head north on route 25 through Santiago and then towards Sosua/cabarete, but there is also route 21 which avoids going through the city and cuts down on time but you do not see those destinations and I am not sure if one route is better or safer than the other. Any help you can offer is greatly appreciated!

    Thank you!


    • Hello Shauna,

      Thanks a lot for your comment.
      I am so glad to hear that my article could be helpful to you and your family.
      I actually never drove from Santiago to Las terrenas so I can’t really be that much help regarding this. I could ask friends( who live here and do it for the best option and let you know).
      If you have time and if it fits into your budget, I would 100% recommend going to puerto plata and taking the coastal road! It is an absolutely stunning experience and there are so many things to see and do this region.
      If you need anymore advice, have more questions or need help with anything do not hesitate to write me again, I will be pleased to do my best to help!

  • Hi Aida!

    Great article. Super helpful as my wife and I are planning a DR trip for the end of the Month. We are starting in Punta Cana for a friend’s wedding (3 nights), then we are planning on renting a car and driving to Santo Domingo for 2 nights. From there we are trying to figure out 2 more nights before we meet some friends in Cabarete for the weekend before we leave. I’m thinking Samana is our best bet. We wanted to do the treehouse village but it’s just too expensive for us. What area in Samana do you think would give us our best chance of doing the most in 2 days?

  • Hi Aida!

    I am going to plan my trip similar to yours. We are coming to Santo Domingo in May 6th and stay for 10 days. I hope the weather will be good, we are low cost backpackers 😉
    I thaught to climb Pico Duarte, but I think, there will be no time. Is possible to go to 27 charcos without guide?
    Thanks for advice and for your awesome blog!

    • Hello Petr,

      Very sorry for the late reply.
      For the 27 Charcos I think it is mandatory to go with a guide and if I recall it is included in the ticket.

      Hope you have an awesome trip!

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