You can have a great getaway in the Dominican Republic in as short as a long weekend if you stick to either Santo Domingo or Punta Cana. However, it’s recommended to spend at least a week to discover a more meaningful section of this Caribbean nation. Lucky travelers who have 10 to 14 days can comfortably explore most of the DR’s diverse regions, experiencing the best colonial cities, Taíno archeological sites, and even the mist-shrouded Cordillera Central.

Planning Your Trip to the Dominican Republic

The best way to experience the DR is if you have a clear idea of whether you want a beach-focused vacation, a more well-rounded experience, or to prioritize a specific region or aspect of the island, such as active adventures or history and culture. Once you identify what you want out of your experience, you will be better able to maximize your time and balance these different interests.

If history and culture are important, it pays to begin your trip in Santo Domingo. Many visitors combine time here with some days along the coast—most importantly around Punta Cana, Samaná, and Puerto Plata (and neighboring off-beat beach resorts such as Cabarete). Travelers seeking active adventures are particularly drawn to the Cordillera Central, with its river rafting and mountain hiking. The country’s two major airports are in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana, making these cities good start- and end-points. Punta Cana, with its dozens of all-inclusive resorts, gets the vast majority of visitors, but we recommend you consider a more off-beat region, such as Samaná, which boasts an equal amount of great things to see and do. 

Whether you are planning a quick weekend getaway or a long, relaxing vacation, our local experts can help you craft the perfect trip with their local expertise. 

The Dominican Republic in 3 Days

Los Tres Ojos lagoons, in Santo Doming's Parque Mirador del Este

If you have only 3 days, it’s best to stay focused on a single destination. The Dominican Republic is a large nation and you’ll eat up too much time getting between places to make it worthwhile exploring several destinations in such a short time. Instead, focus on Santo Domingo, Punta Cana, or perhaps even Puerto Plata.

In three days, travelers can experience Santo Domingo in-depth and take home an appreciation for the stunning architecture and rich cultural heritage of this ancient city, plus a day (or even two) of beach time at La Romana or Bayahibe. Serious beach-lovers can focus all their time on Bayahibe, Samaná, Puerto Plata, or Punta Cana, including water activities, adventure activities, and exploring their hinterlands. If you want beach time after exploring Santo Domingo, you can head to nearby La Romana or Bayahibe. And after you tire of the sand and sea in Samaná, Punta Cana or Puerto Plata, there are plenty of active adventures to partake of, from ATV and horseback rides to golf, scuba diving, and even ziplines.

In Puerto Plata, day one is for relaxing on white beaches, such as Playa Dorado. On day two, spend the morning exploring the colonial-era town, including Puerto Plata's Amber Museum; then take the cable car up Pico Isabel de Torres in the afternoon for fabulous views and hiking. The next day is for activities such as golf, scuba diving, or an excursion into the Cordillera Septentrional for ziplining, or canyoneering at 27 Charcos de Demagua Natural Monument; or to the Santuario de Mamiferos Marinos for whale watching.

The Dominican Republic in 7 Days

Cayo Levantado, Samaná

With only one week, it’s best to focus on no more than two regions, such as combining Santo Domingo and Samaná or Puerto Plata, while more adventure-minded travelers might focus on less-visited and off-beat Barahona and the southwest. 

One week is a common length of time for visitors coming to the Dominican Republic. This allows you to explore two or even three different regions for a better understanding of the country. Here are several itinerary options:

Combine the two 3-day Santo Domingo and Punta Cana itineraries, adding a day in-between to include a visit to the fascinating hilltop ‘Tuscan village’ at Altos de Chavón; a round of golf on the world-renowned Teeth of the Dog golf course; and/or time to explore the incredible underground caverns of Cueva de las Maravillas. Alternately, scuba divers might dedicate the day to exploring the shipwrecks at Parque Nacional Submarino La Caleta.

If your base is Puerto Plata, follow the 3-day itinerary, perhaps adding one more day for beach time either around Puerto Plata or Cabarete, or perhaps with a boat excursion to Cayo Paraíso. Spend your last three days exploring the El Cibao region, including west to the old town of San Fernando de Monte Cristi and nearby Parque Nacional Monte Cristi; plus Santiago de los Caballeros, with its Centro Histórico that includes Museo Folkórico Don Tomás Morel, plus for high culture the Centro León, with its Museo de Arte, Sala de Antropología, and Fábrica de Cigarros La Aurora, where you can watch cigars being made.

The Dominican Republic in 10 Days

Parque Colón, Santo Domingo

Plan on spending around 10 days for a vacation in the Dominican Republic that covers multiple areas and highlights, for example by adding the Cordillera Central. 

Ten days lets you experience the week-long itinerary, plus it allows for combining the 3-day Santo Domingo itinerary with the 7-day Punta Cana and Samaná, providing a perfect loop of the east. Be sure to include a visit to Los Haitises National Park for caving and for birding by boat. In Samaná, you can enjoy heaps of adventure activities, from hiking to the waterfall at Salto de Limón to snorkeling at Ermitaño beach. Or combine the 7-day Puerto Plata itinerary with the 3-day Samaná-based itinerary. 

Alternately, you might want to extend your time with three days in the Cordillera Central, a temperate mountain zone that offers a splendid contrast to the coastal lowlands. The uplands are easily reached from either Puerto Plata or Santo Domingo, but you’ll surely need a 4WD rental vehicle for the rough roads that transcend the mountain chain via remote Constanza and Parque Nacional Villa Nuevo. Overnight in Jarabacoa—a good base to break for hiking to the Saltos de Jimenoa and Baiguate waterfalls, and for a day rafting the Río Yaque del Norte.

The Dominican Republic in 2 Weeks

Salto de Jimenoa waterfall

In two weeks, you can really gain a sense of the Dominican Republic’s diversity. After ticking off Santo Domingo and La Romana and/or Bayahibe, plus the coastal highlights of Punta Cana and Samaná, you can either extend your coastal drive to include the 3-day itinerary for north coast resorts of Puerto Plata and Cabarete, or head up into the Cordillera Central via Parque Nacional Villa Nuevo and Constanza. Overnight in Jarabacoa for a day spent hiking to the Saltos de Jimenoa and Baiguate waterfalls or rafting the Río Yaque del Norte, before descending to Santiago de los Caballeros and El Cibao. You can return to Santo Domingo from here, or extend your trip by heading north to Puerto Plata.

Alternately, instead of heading into the Cordillera Central, you could perhaps fly into Punta Cana, then head to Samaná and from there to Santo Domingo, then continue with a drive west along the south coast via the historic town of San Cristóbal and the Reserva Antropológica Cuevas del Pomier, renowned for its ancient Taino art. End your first day at Barahona, perhaps overnighting at the sublime Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge for three nights. The next day, check out the nearby Minas de Larimar before continuing to Parque Nacional Jaragua to spot flamingos and commune with iguanas; plus Cabo Rojo and remote Bahía de las Águilas. Birders and hikers should also give a day to the less-visited Parque Nacional Sierra de Bahoruco. On your last day, make a circuit of Parque Nacional Lago Enriquillo—a chance to spot crocodiles!—before returning to Santo Domingo.

Time-Saving Tips

Road travel in the Dominican Republic is relatively easy, as car rental companies have outlets in almost every town and city. It’s expensive, and traffic can be heavy in cities, while somewhat reckless Dominican driving habits call for utmost caution. Also, many roads are poorly maintained, and the many obstacles range from huge potholes to animals in the road on rural highways.

Three private bus companies—Caribe Tours, Expreso Bávaro, and Metro Tours—offer air-conditioned bus service between most cities and major tourist sites on a daily basis. Reservations are wise. Smaller, privately-owned and operated minivan buses called guaguas travel scheduled routes, typically from city to city. However, these should be avoided as their drivers are among the most reckless on the roads. The same should be said for motoconchos (motorbike taxis), popular with locals in cities nationwide. 

Flying between major tourist hubs is possible on Air Century. Be aware that baggage allowance is limited on domestic flights.