The Dominican Republic has everything you’d hope to find on a Caribbean island, such as swaying palm trees, velvety beaches and jewel-toned water. While its dreamy image seems like other Caribbean destinations, if you look beyond the beach, you’ll discover so much more. From colonial history to contagious rhythms, there’s something to stir your soul in the Dominican Republic – no matter what kind of traveler you are.
- About the Dominican Republic
- Why Cruise the Dominican Republic?
- Things to Do in the Dominican Republic
- Examples of Windstar’s Excursions
- Travel Tips for the Dominican Republic
- Cruise the Dominican Republic With Windstar
About the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is next to Haiti on the island of Hispaniola – the second-largest island of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. In 1492, Christopher Columbus visited the island, which was then the domain of the Taíno people, and named it Hispaniola, or “Little Spain.” In 1496, Spanish settlers established Santo Domingo, which is the Dominican Republic’s capital city.
Today, the country is home to over 10 million residents of mostly European, African and native Taíno descent. You’ll find its long history and rich culture reflected in its centuries-old colonial architecture, toe-tapping music and large, lively festivals.
Fresh and Local
Much of the food you can sample in the Dominican Republic comes from the island’s rich bounty. Agriculture is a major component of the economy in the Dominican Republic, and the country produces and exports sugar, coffee, cocoa, bananas, tropical fruits, rice and various other products. Dominican farmers have also increased production of meats, dairy and eggs to meet the demand of travelers to the country. You might visit a cocoa plantation to sample fresh chocolate or stop at a farm to bite into a sweet, juicy starfruit grown on the land you’re standing on.
The Land of Firsts
If you love to delve into history as you travel, you must visit the Dominican Republic at least once. In the Dominican Republic, you’ll find the oldest city in the Western Hemisphere, Santo Domingo, which holds numerous historic sites and “firsts,” such as the first hospital, university and cathedral of the New World. Santo Domingo is so historically significant that it’s a World Heritage Site. If you want to explore the oldest architecture of the Americas and see the New World through the eyes of 15th-century conquerors, it’s time to book your journey to the Dominion Republic.
If you enjoy wandering off the beaten path and venturing into the heart of new terrain, consider the Dominican Republic a geographic treasure chest. You’ll find mountain ranges, including Pico Duarte – the highest mountain peak in the Caribbean – verdant valleys, desert, low coastal plains and limestone terraces. You’ll also discover Lago Enriquillo in the southwest portion of the country, a refuge for flamingoes, iguanas and crocodiles. There are also hundreds of miles of palm-lined shores and uninhabited islands blanketed with tropical rainforest. For travelers who crave adventure or stunning scenery, the Dominican Republic awaits you.
Why Cruise the Dominican Republic?
Why pack your sunscreen and best dancing shoes for a Dominican Republic cruise? Here are our favorite reasons to choose the land of merengue for your next voyage.
- Immaculate beaches: Many travelers flock to the Dominican Republic for its idyllic, powdery white beaches and world-class resorts. With some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, the Dominican Republic is for you if you love to relax on the beach or have fun with water sports. If you’d rather avoid resorts or bustling beaches, you’ll have your pick of secluded shoreline to call your own.
- Flavorful cuisine: The food in the Dominican Republic is hearty, flavorful and influenced by African, Spanish and Taíno cultures. Ingredients like rice, beans, meat, seafood and fresh vegetables fill up plates across the country and provide nourishment for hours of outdoor adventure, city exploration or dancing.
- Vibrant historic city: Santo Domingo will satisfy any history buff, but it has plenty of modern culture, shopping and dining to go around, too. Visit museums, cafes, boutiques and parks, or find a bench and gawk at the amazing architecture surrounding you.
- Irresistible music: The Dominican Republic is a land of rhythm, passion and soul, and is home to music styles such as merengue, bachata and salsa. You’ll be sure to move your feet and join locals dancing to a live band.
- Endless adventure: TheDominican Republic isn’t only for beach lovers — it’s also an outdoor adventurer’s dream. Here, you can climb mountains, hike to waterfalls or take in ocean views by horseback.
- Friendly locals: Dominicans are warm, welcoming and happy to share their culture with you. A cruise to the Dominican Republic can be a great opportunity to refresh your Spanish skills, take a dance class or share the joy of traditional food with others.
- Bayside wine: You might think of rum or fruity cocktails when you imagine Caribbean drinks, but the Dominican Republic offers more. Wine lovers will be pleased to discover a gorgeous vineyard and winery at Ocoa Bay, located about two hours west of Santo Domingo.
- Baseball: If you love catching a ball game, you’ll enjoy a cruise to the Dominican Republic. Baseball is the most popular sport in the country, and it’s a vital part of Dominican culture. Voyage there during baseball season, which runs from October through January, to cheer for your favorite team next to excited locals.
Things to Do in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is an ideal destination for travelers with various interests and tastes. In a single day, you can follow the footsteps of Spanish explorers in Santo Domingo, or grab a cup of connoisseur-approved coffee before strolling alongside underground lagoons. If you wish to spend the day listening to the gentle rhythm of crystalline waves, you’ll find paradise in the Dominican Republic. Keep in mind there’s so much more to explore beyond the beaches. Here are a few other ways to enjoy this historical and entrancing destination.
- Explore the New World: History buffs will likely want to spend an entire day in Santo Domingo. Head to Zona Colonial — the city’s historic heart — to walk the first paved street of the New World and explore 15th-century colonial palaces, forts and churches. After learning tales of piracy, slavery and Spanish domination, you can reflect upon the city’s rich past while savoring lunch in an open-air courtyard.
- Connect with nature: Nature lovers will be delighted to find tranquility in the Dominican Republic’s rainforests and gardens. Tour lush national parks, stroll through the tropical flora of a botanical garden, or sign up for a rainforest, waterfall or private boat tour. If you journey there in the winter, watch whales congregate in the warm waters of Semana Bay.
- Try iconic drinks and dishes: Though you can find a variety of ethnic cuisine in the Dominican Republic, you won’t want to miss its traditional food. To get an authentic taste of Dominican culture, consider dishes like la bandera Dominicana, which includes a colorful mix of rice, beans, meat and vegetables representing the national flag, or sancocho – a hearty vegetable and meat stew. Wash your meal down with freshly squeezed tropical fruit juice and save room to satisfy your sweet tooth with a dessert such as arroz con leche.
- Shop for one-of-a-kind treasures: The Dominican Republic is a premier destination to shop for unique, handmade souvenirs. You’ll find colorful folk paintings, terracotta pottery and figurines, plus various other handicrafts for sale. If you’re looking for rare gemstone jewelry, you’ll enjoy browsing blue amber and larimar pieces at the shops throughout Santo Domingo.
- Take a rum tour: One way to experience the culture and history of the Dominican Republic is by tasting its rum. The country has a long history in rum production and has a reputation for producing high-quality brands such as Brugal, Barceló and Bermúdez. Consider touring a distillery to watch the rum-making process firsthand and sample the spirit on the rocks, like a local, or mamajuana, a homemade concoction consisting of rum, red wine, honey, cinnamon and whatever other ingredients the mixologist tosses in.
Examples of Windstar’s Excursions
Although you can easily spend the day exploring Dominican Republic cruise ports such as Santa Domingo or Samana, you can also book an excursion, which often includes transportation and a tour guide’s insights. To show you what to expect if you cruise with Windstar, here are a few examples of our Dominican Republic excursions.
- Caves and Mangroves Exploration From Samana: From the pier in Samana, you’ll board a speedboat for a journey into Los Haitises National Park — a protected park containing mangrove forests, caverns and limestone plateaus. During this exclusive tour, you’ll discover native cave paintings and sculptures, watch for birds inhabiting “Bird Island” and take in the lush scenery of this unique national park.
- Saona Island and Parque Nacional Del Este From Bayahibe: From the small coastal town of Bayahibe, you’ll hop on a catamaran or speedboat and dash toward the unspoiled and tropical Saona Island. On the way, you’ll stop at a natural swimming pool, and while on the island, enjoy lunch, an open bar and plenty of warm, white sand and sunshine.
- Chocolate and Clay Tour in Santo Domingo: This tour takes you to one of the largest and finest cocoa producers in the Caribbean. During your tour, you’ll watch the chocolate-making process, from roasting the cocoa beans to forming delicious treats for you to try. You’ll also watch artisans create clay artifacts inspired by their ancestors as you snack on traditional Dominican fare.
- Panoramic Santo Domingo With Botanical Gardens: Enjoy a peaceful visit to the National Botanical Garden to surround yourself with native and endemic plants, including orchids and palm trees. You’ll also receive a fascinating tour and a comprehensive excursion to the colonial zone of Santo Domingo, where you’ll have free time to shop and take in the historical scenery.
Travel Tips for the Dominican Republic
There is plenty to love about the Dominican Republic, from its lively culture to its dazzling beaches. But, like any destination in the world, it’s smart to prepare and learn a few travel tips before you start dancing merengue. Here are some ways to enhance your journey.
- Learn a little Dominican Spanish: Spanish is the official language in the Dominican Republic, and Dominicans have a few unique terms. Try to learn some key phrases before you take off on your cruise, so you can chat with locals, ask for guidance if needed and enjoy a more immersive experience.
- Use Dominican pesos: The currency in the Dominican Republic is the peso. You can use an ATM, preferably one located inside a bank or shopping center, to withdraw money in the local currency once you arrive if you’d like to have cash for tipping or picking up souvenirs. However, debit and credit cards are becoming more widely accepted, particularly in tourist areas. Avoid letting your credit card go out of sight as you pay for something, to protect yourself against identity theft.
- Use Uber: Ride-sharing services like Uber are a popular and affordable way to get around in cities like Santo Domingo. Make sure you have the Uber app downloaded on your phone before you depart, and buy a local data plan or bring a mobile hotspot device, so you’ll have service when Wi-Fi isn’t available.
- Set your watch to Dominican time: Dominicans usually are not in a hurry, so to fit in with the local culture and enjoy your experience as much as possible, expect delays, a slower pace and consider being flexible with your schedule. You might want to avoid overpacking your itinerary enjoy a more relaxed experience.
- Do not drink the water: You can’t drink the tap water in the Dominican Republic, but you should be able to buy bottled water at local stores.
- Pack a variety of clothing: You don’t need to fit your whole wardrobe in your suitcase, especially if you opt for laundry services on your cruise, but try to bring an assortment of clothing with you. Dominicans take fashion seriously, and dressing up is common, especially in the evening. If you plan to dine out at night, have a dressy outfit ready to wear. Don’t forget to pack other essentials like swimwear, casual but elegant clothing for strolling during the day and anything else you need to feel comfortable in the warm, Caribbean climate.
Cruise the Dominican Republic With Windstar
At first thought, the Dominican Republic might bring to mind images of any Caribbean island — white beaches, turquoise water and colorful cocktails. But if you love history, culture, hearty traditional food and gorgeous scenery, you might consider bumping this destination to the top of your bucket list.
The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean destination well worth visiting, and we are excited to take you there. At Windstar Cruises, we head to must-see spots around the world, including the lesser-known but breathtaking ports, glittering cities and the sleepy fishing villages in between. And when you’re not practicing your salsa moves or biting into a fresh-from-the-fryer empanada, you’ll be free to relax onboard as you await the next port. To learn more about our Dominican Republic cruises and getaways to other island gems in the Greater Antilles, contact one of our Vacation Planners or browse our Caribbean cruises today!