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