The usual image travellers have of Dominican Republic is lounging out in all-inclusive resorts by the beach in a city they never have to explore. It’s a vacation for the weather rather than the culture. But, if you’re planning to leave the bubble of the resort and want to explore what this beautiful country has to offer, there are more than a few things you can do that are unexpected and memorable. From horse-riding through rivers, hanging out with Haitian refugees in a Dominican village or going to a surprisingly unheard-of town, there’s a lot to do in this Caribbean paradise.
1. Munoz is Puerto Plata's hidden secret
The tiny town of Munoz on the outskirts of Puerto Plata might just be your new favourite destination in Dominican Republic. Though most visitors to this city end up staying at any of the fancy, all-inclusive resorts that litter the beach-side, Munoz is about fifteen minutes away, and houses one of the best accommodations you’ll come across with some of the friendliest neighbours. Haitian refugees have found a temporary home in the adjacent village alongside Dominicans who are happy to call them brothers. There’s nothing to do here except relax, get interested in the culture and understand the plight of others in the world. If you do want to get out of the city, there are several day treks and hikes one can do that are further outside of Puerto Plata.
2. Enjoy a scenic drive from one small town to the other
Las Terrenas is a town on the northeastern coast of Dominican Republic and might be one of those havens that most travellers haven’t discovered yet. All-inclusive resorts are rare to come by here with most travellers staying in hostels or homestays. The drive from Munoz to Las Terrenas is a sight to behold as the road winds itself past some of the clearest waters you’ll see; alongside miles of sandy, soft beach that isn’t populated with humans; the road winds high through the hills alongside the coast offering you a view that’s hard to surpass in this beautiful country. The drive itself is a few hours long and even if you don’t head to Las Terrenas, it’s one of the more beautiful things you can do in the Caribbean.
3. Party on the streets in Las Terrenas
Las Terrenas itself is one of the least-expected things to see in Dominican Republic. A sleepy, seaside town that seems to be dead during the day comes alive when the sun sets. Speakers start blasting music from the convenience stores as they sell drinks to the crowds partying on the streets alongside the cars that blare their horns and join in the party rather than trying to get across. It’s a rare sight to come across. During the day, you can keep yourself occupied with a day-long trek that takes you to a magical waterfall. It goes through rivers, forests and stairs leading you to these gorgeous falls that you definitely want to swim in after the arduous trek. One can also rent horses for this trek, but be sure to negotiate as they might hike the prices up to ridiculous amounts unless you’re careful. The price shouldn’t be more than 10 USD per horse.
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4. Stroll through the main streets of Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is usually missed by most tourists as they fly in and out of the capital city of Dominican Republic, but don’t stop to look around for a little while. Once you make your way out of the airport and into the city-centre, don’t be surprised if you fall in love with this beautiful cultural capital of the Caribbean. The streets are filled with artists, painters, musicians and locals, all trying to sell their craft and get by; though, at first they may look like street-peddlers, start talking to them. You’ll soon find that most of these painters or musicians are full-time professionals or former professionals who are trying to earn extra income at the moment. Food vendors litter the streets alongside Michael Jackson impressionists; young couples courting one another frequently walk by hand-in-hand; old ladies sit around and gossip as the sun comes down and the streetlights turn on. This is easily one of the most magical places in the Dominican Republic, and it’s not on the beach.
5. Altos de Chavon will take your breath away
This is one of those villages that you’ll be talking about for a long time. A completely fabricated village in the middle of nowhere, Altos de Chavon was built out of the remains of a demolition site in the city of La Romana. It was created to celebrate the artisans of the Dominican Republic. Taking six years to complete, it was worth the wait as the village was handcrafted using wood-working techniques and stone-cutting to make it look as authentic as possible. There’s a historic scenic church, an amphitheatre with space for 5000 visitors, and best of all, there’s an art school at the top of the hill so that the artisans of Dominican Republic aren’t a dying breed. Once you enter the village, you would feel as if you have been transported back to medieval times, like a history lesson in the making.
This piece of Caribbean paradise is full of surprises
Dominican Republic is full of surprises if you take the time to understand and bond with the culture. The people are warm and friendly, inviting you into their homes for meals. In all of the Caribbean, the landscape of Dominican Republic might be one of the best. With its crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches and perfect weather, there’s no excuse to not visit Dominican Republic. But, get yourself a mode of transport and take the surprisingly smooth highway between the cities to acquaint yourself with the unexpected in this Caribbean paradise.
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