- See the highlights of Santo Domingo on a bicycle tour
- Explore the rainforests, lakes, and mountains of Barahona
- Discover Jaragua National Park and its white-sand beaches
- Ride buggies and visit wildlife parks in Bayahibe
- Go snorkeling at Catalina Island and swim in cenotes
|Day 1||Arrive in Santo Domingo, Guided Bike Tour||Santo Domingo|
|Day 2||Day Trip to Los Tres Ojos National Park||Santo Domingo|
|Day 3||Transfer to Barahona, Optional Activities||Barahona|
|Day 4||Hike La Sierra de Bahoruco National Park||Barahona|
|Day 5||Day Trip to Lake Enriquillo||Barahona|
|Day 6||Day Trip to Jaragua National Park & Eagles Bay||Barahona|
|Day 7||Hike to Cueva de la Virgen, Optional Activities||Barahona|
|Day 8||Day Trip to Cachote, Visit a Mountain Community||Barahona|
|Day 9||Transfer to Bayahibe, Optional Activities||Bayahibe|
|Day 10||Day Trip to Saona Island||Bayahibe|
|Day 11||Day Trip to Hoyo Azul||Bayahibe|
|Day 12||Buggy Ride & Monkeyland Experience||Bayahibe|
|Day 13||Snorkeling & Scuba Diving at Catalina Island||Bayahibe|
|Day 14||Transfer to Santo Domingo, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Santo Domingo, Guided Bike Tour
Welcome to the Dominican Republic! Few countries in the world (let alone the Caribbean) can boast the combination of historical landmarks and natural beauty that the DR claims. Located on the island of Hispaniola, the city of Santo Domingo was the site of the first European outpost in the Americas in 1496. Besides the colonial history, DR is filled with white-sand beaches, unspoiled national parks, postcard islands, lush rainforests, and other highlights—many of which you'll discover over the next two weeks.
It begins with your arrival at the airport, where a driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel in Santo Domingo. After checking in, you'll head right back out on a 1.5-hour bicycle tour of the oldest city in the Caribbean. Your destination is the Ciudad Colonial neighborhood, packed with historic landmarks like the Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor. Dating to 1504, this is the oldest church in the Americas.
Other highlights you'll see include the Alcázar de Colón (the first Spanish palace in the Americas), Fortaleza Ozama (the oldest military fort in the Americas), Parque Colón (the central plaza), and the remains of the Northern Walls, the defensive structures that once protected the city from attacks on both land and sea. You'll also stop at the 16th-century Monastery of San Francisco and the ruins of Hospital San Nicolás de Bari, among other places of interest.
Day 2: Day Trip to Los Tres Ojos National Park
This morning, a driver will pick you up for the 10-minute ride from Santo Domingo's city center to Los Tres Ojos National Park. Within this nature reserve and network of limestone caves are three crystalline lagoons known as las tres ojos ("the three eyes"). You'll get to explore these caves and lagoons on a 1.5-hour tour.
Afterward, you can spend the rest of the day however you like. Perhaps take a self-guided walk around Santo Domingo's barrios (neighborhoods), as it's the best way to experience the local culture. In these enclaves, the sounds of authentic Dominican life—dominos slapped on tables, the din of traffic horns, merengue blasting from corner stores, etc.—are ever-present. You could also return to the Ciudad Colonial and admire anything you might not have seen on yesterday's bicycle tour.
Day 3: Transfer to Barahona, Optional Activities
After breakfast, you'll hop back in the car for the 1.5-hour drive west to the city of Barahona. This coastal region is one of the real gems of the southwestern Dominican Republic. After checking in to your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day to head out and explore.
Nicknamed "the Caribbean's Bride," Barahona is known for its stunning coast. Here, forested mountains run up to white-sand beaches where water the color of a clear blue sky laps at the shore. Overlooking these stretches of sand are dramatic sea cliffs with sweeping views out to the horizon. There's a solid argument to be made that the beaches in Barahona are among the best in the country.
If you're a sun-seeker, hit the beach and spend the day relaxing on the sand. Nature lovers can head inland to the virgin rainforests teeming with biological diversity. You can find different ecosystems in this region that range from humid tropical forests to interior dry forests. Avid birders will love the exotic species that call this region home, including the Hispaniolan emerald, broad-billed toady, and endangered bay-breasted cuckoo.
Day 4: Hike La Sierra de Bahoruco National Park
In the morning, your guide will pick you up at the hotel for a day trip to Sierra de Bahoruco National Park. Located about an hour inland from Barahona, this 386-square-mile (1,000 sq km) protected area is highly biodiverse. You'll witness its unique landscapes on a day hike.
Look for exotic flora like orchids as you trek through the park's mountains and tropical/dry forests. There are also 32 endemic wildlife species here, such as iguanas and the rare Hispaniolan solenodon. Also, 49 bird species exist in the park, including finches, doves, kestrels, tanagers, owls, and more. At the end of the hike, you'll transfer back to Barahona.
Day 5: Day Trip to Lake Enriquillo
Wake up early and head back into the mountains and Lago Enriquillo. Located between the Bahoruco and Neyba ranges, this body of water is noteworthy for being the largest lake in the Caribbean at 135 square miles (350 sq km). Most interesting, however, is the exotic fauna. The ecosystem at Enriquillo is excellent for wildlife lovers, as it's home to iguanas, pink flamingoes, and the largest population of American crocodiles in the Caribbean.
You'll explore this wilderness on a half-day hike along the "cacao route," so named for the cacao trees in the area, the fruit of which produces delicious chocolate. You'll even sample fresh cacao fruit right off the trees during the hike. Also, the route will take you through a tropical forest surrounded by exotic fruits like mangoes, avocados, coconuts, and pineapples.
At the apex of this walk, about 984 feet (300 m) above sea level, the trail switches to a flat path and offers panoramic views over the lovely town of Paraíso to the stunning coast. After a short descent, you'll arrive at the farming town of Villa Nizao, whose residents cultivate coffee, cacao, oranges, and other citrus fruits. Enjoy lunch next to the gently rushing waters of the Río Nizaíto, followed by a refreshing dip in the river's freshwater pools. Finally, hike along the river valley until you arrive at Paraíso, where the river ends at a beautiful white-pebble beach.
Day 6: Day Trip to Jaragua National Park & Eagles Bay
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
After breakfast, you'll embark on a full-day tour of Jaragua National Park. This 500-square-mile (1,295 sq km) reserve is a dream for nature lovers. Located on the country's southern tip, it encompasses many ecosystems, including offshore islands, inland forests, lagoons, caverns, and an unspoiled virgin coastline. After all, this area is part of the first-ever UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Dominican Republic.
The wildlife here is just as diverse as the landscapes. Common marine animals include manatees and various species of sea turtles, which typically nest on Jaragua's beaches between May and August. Also, the wetlands in this reserve are home to over 130 species of birds and include herons, ospreys, and even American flamingoes.
Before reaching the park, you'll stop at the charming fishing village of Las Cuevas. This town is unique in that many of its residents have settled in the surrounding caves and still live there today. Next, take a boat into the park and Bahia de las Aguilas (Eagle's Bay), a paradise of white sands and crystalline waters. For lunch, enjoy a delicious Caribbean meal right on the beach. Afterward, return to your hotel.
Day 7: Hike to Cueva de la Virgen, Optional Activities
Get ready for a jungle adventure in the mountains. In the morning, you'll transfer from Barahona, a short drive down the coast, to the Casa Bonita tropical lodge at the base of the Bahoruco Mountains. Then grab a helmet, hop on a quad bike, and follow your guide into the hills. It's a 2.5-mile (4 km) ride up to the natural pool of Los Morones. Take a break for a refreshing swim, then continue another 1.8 miles (3 km) to the trailhead leading to the cave.
After a 30-minute hike, you'll arrive at Cueva de la Virgen (Virgin Cave) and its gorgeous lagoons and waterfalls. Go for a swim and take plenty of pictures—there aren't many places quite like this in the world. After some time at the cave, return to your hotel.
You'll have the remainder of the day free to enjoy optional activities, like visiting Laguna de Oviedo, one of the best sites in the country for spotting aquatic birds like flamingoes. Getting to the lagoon involves a hike through one of the best-preserved coastal forests in the Caribbean.
Day 8: Day Trip to Cachote, Visit a Mountain Community
This morning you'll leave the hotel around 8 am for a five-hour day trip inland to the cloud forests of Sierra de Bahoruco National Park. Your destination is Cachote, a protected area in the forest home to a tiny, remote community. The mountain villagers live simply, 3,600 feet (1,097 m) above sea level.
You'll travel to the village in a 4WD vehicle as the paved road turns into an uphill route on rougher gravel paths at a certain point. Halfway through the drive, you'll stop at a rural family's home that grows coffee, cocoa, and bananas, among other things. On an informal farm tour, you'll learn about the cultivation of this fresh produce and, of course, enjoy some samples.
The route then continues to Cachote. As the altitude increases, the temperature lowers, and the topography becomes a misty cloud forest. Upon arrival, embark on a forest hike for 45 minutes to the community. Here, enjoy a picnic at the home of a local. If weather conditions are favorable, you'll return via another route that will take you across the crystal clear waters of the Río Nizaíto.
Day 9: Transfer to Bayahibe, Optional Activities
After breakfast, your driver will pick you up for the five-hour drive clear across the southern coast of the Dominican to Bayahibe. This resort town offers all the beauty of nearby Punta Cana without the mass crowds. Here, you'll enjoy some tranquility combined with cultural activities and adventures. Upon arrival, check into your hotel and have the rest of the day free.
Perhaps venture into nearby Parque Nacional del Este, a protected marine area with turquoise waters and white-sand beaches. Or stay in town and relax on palm-fringed Playa Bayahibe, the main beach. You could also tour the VegaFina Cigar Factory to learn the finer details of how one of the Dominican's most famous exports is made.
Day 10: Day Trip to Saona Island
You'll transfer to the marine in the morning and board a boat for the four-hour trip to Isla Saona, just off DR's southern coast. This island is famous for crystal-clear waters, beautiful white sand beaches, and offshore coral reefs, home to exotic marine life.
Upon arrival, enjoy a decadent lunch, relaxing beach time, and a swim in crystalline waters. Later, play beach volleyball or participate in a merengue dance class. Then you'll board a speedboat and explore the coast. You'll stop at a sandbar called the Natural Pool along the way. Here, you can swim far away from shore and wade waist-deep in turquoise waters. At the end of the tour, you'll return to Bayahibe.
Day 11: Day Trip to Hoyo Azul
After breakfast, your driver will pick you up for the one-hour drive to Hoyo Azul, a tempting swimming hole in a limestone cave. The drive will take you through inland rainforests to Scape Park, the eco-theme park where the lagoon is located. To reach this secluded oasis, you'll cross a suspension bridge and hike past exotic flora and fauna, including an orchid garden.
Once there, you can dive right into this turquoise pool for a refreshing swim in calm spring waters. Hoyo Azul is approximately 45 feet (14 m) deep and sits at the foot of a 246-foot (75 m) limestone cliff covered in vegetation. At the end of the visit, you'll return to Bayahibe.
Day 12: Buggy Ride & Monkeyland Experience
In the morning, you'll meet your guide and embark on an off-roading adventure as you drive your own 4WD buggy through the Dominican countryside. After the two-hour experience, stop by the Casa de Coco (Coconut House) to learn how coconut oil is produced. You can also sample organic products like Caribbean fruits, roasted coffee, and cocoa.
Finish the day with a stop at Monkeyland, a natural jungle habitat where you can interact in close proximity with the park's playful squirrel monkeys. It's a great outing for kids and adults alike, as these are some of the friendliest primates in the animal kingdom. Afterward, return to your hotel.
Day 13: Snorkeling & Scuba Diving at Catalina Island
After breakfast, you'll head to the marina and board a boat for a scenic five-hour trip off the coast to Isla Catalina. Once here, there will be free time to snorkel in one of the most beautiful marine ecosystems of the Dominican Republic. The beaches are breathtaking, and the marine life around the coral is abundant. You'll also enjoy a buffet lunch on the beach.
Should you choose, you can also discover one of the most colorful seabeds on a scuba trip around the island. It's the perfect activity for ocean lovers and anyone curious about marine nature. If you don't already have a PADI certification, the tour includes a monitor. At the end of the day, you'll return to the marina at Bayahibe.