The Dominican Republic is a legendary island famous for its white-sand beaches and gorgeous waters. The most popular destination is Punta Cana, a Cancun-esque world-famous beach town that attracts tourists from all over the globe. However, there is MUCH more to this island than most visitors venture to see. The prices are not cheap, but there are still ways to visit Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic on a budget with the information in this post.
Below you will find interesting information about the Dominican Republic. Its history, culture, food, music and dance as well as recommended attractions, places to stay, things to do and more. And the best part: The Dominican Republic on a budget!
One of the most fascinating things on this island is its rich history. The Dominican Republic was explored by Columbus on his first voyage in 1492. He named it La Española, and his son, Diego, was its first viceroy. The capital, Santo Domingo, founded in 1496, is the oldest European settlement in the Western Hemisphere.
The culture of the Dominican Republic has been influenced by the blend of the native Taino indigenous culture, the Spanish colonizers and the Africans that were brought initially as slaves. The food and music was influenced by each of these groups as well as a Middle Eastern traders.
Music and Dance
Traditionally Merengue was the Dominican Republics claim to fame in the music world with the fast-paced, rhythmic music and dance. Over the years Bachata with its roots in African rhythms, Cuban sounds and the sound of guitars has become one of the most popular genres of Latin music and dance the last few years.
Food and Drink
The Cuisine of the Dominican Republic shares the staples of Latin America and the Caribbean such as rice and beans (habichuelas), seafood, plantains and more. Mama Juana is an alcoholic drink unique to the Dominican Republic. It’s made from rum, red wine, honey, tree bark, and herbs. It’s also considered an aphrodisiac.
TIP: For a typical local breakfast try Mangú. It is made up of mashed boiled green plantains.
The dish is topped with sautéed red onions that have been cooked with vinegar and oil and some variations include fried Dominican-style salami, fried cheese, and fried eggs.
Best places to visit:
The best way to get the feel and pulse of a country is usually to experience its capital.
Santo Domingo isn´t your average capital! It was the first capital in the Americas and was home to a few firsts in the “New World.” It boasted the first cathedral, the first hospital, the first University among others.
While Punta Cana has it´s own international airport, Santo Domingo is the entry point for most visitors of the Dominican Republic and deserves at least a day-trip if not an a day or two to explore.
WHAT TO DO IN SANTO DOMINGO
The highlight of Santo Domingo is the Ciudad Colonial (Spanish for “Colonial City”) The area has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO It is also known as Zona Colonial (Colonial Zone) or more colloquially as “La Zona” (The Zone). A great way to explore the Zona Colonial is by bicycle with Zona Bici a local company that rents bicycles and organizes bicycle tours.
TIP: Try to go in the morning or afternoon to avoid midday when the sun is strongest and temperatures highest.
Punta Cana is a world famous beach town known for its white sand beaches and blue turquoise waters which face both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It is the second-most popular tourist destination in Latin America and home to a large amount of all inclusive resorts.
What to Do in Punta Cana
Besides soaking up the sun and relaxing on the beaches Punta is famous for its hotels, casinos and watersports, the most popular activities are half-day or full day excursions to nearby beaches or islands like Isla Saona.
The best activity to do in Punta Cana is to visit the nearby Saona Island. A national park where the conservation efforts have succeeded in protecting and keeping the the most beautiful and pristine beaches and waters pure.
Punta Cana Best Excursions offers full day tours by both catamaran and speed-boat that includes hotel pick up and drop-off, lunch, open bar and more for around $75 dollars. They also have a nice social project you should check out, to learn more about it Click Here.
Where to Stay in Punta Cana
There are hundreds of hotels in Punta Cana, but not many for budget minded travelers. Many of them are all-inclusive resorts that are amazing, but expensive. A nice and much more affordable option for accommodation in Punta Cana is The Green Coast Beach Hotel in the Cortecito neighborhood.
TIP: Although it is not advertised, it is possible to take public transportation from the Punta Cana airport to the tourist areas in Punta Cana and Bavaro. This is nice if you want to avoid the $25-30 dollar taxi ride (Uber doesn´t work in Punta Cana). You can take the Gua-Gua’s (local buses and mini buses from the “Garita” stand outside the airport terminals and for around $1-2 dollars with a connection/transfer at “Cruce de Verón” you can get to the hotel areas. Tell your bus driver where you are heading and they will help you.
For a much more authentic beach experience in the Dominican Republic, there is Cabarete.
It is on the Northern side of the island near the city of Puerto Plata and is famous for its watersports.
It has been the site of many watersport competitions and boasts great conditions for surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, standup paddleboarding, and wing foiling. Playa Encuentro is among the most popular surfing beaches in the Caribbean and has a great vibe.
What to Do in Cabarete
Enjoy the waves! If you already know how to or want to take lessons in surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, standup paddleboarding, and wing foiling, this is the perfect place. Wave Soul in Encuentro Beach have lessons, rent kiteboards and surfboards, yoga retreats and much more.
Where to stay in Cabarete
There are plenty of different accommodation options in Cabarete and nearby Sosua.
A wonderful option is Surfbreak Cabarete. They have beautiful bungalows and rooms with different swimming pools, social areas and a yoga studio and communal kitchen to keep some food and cook your own meals. They are a 7-minute walk from the beach and can organize watersport lessons, rentals and activities.
The Dominican Republic is a wonderful island with a lot to offer. A lot more than just Punta Cana. Warm weather, stunning white sand beaches, great watersports , whale-watching, diving, hiking and even world-famous golf courses. Make sure you venture out of the hotels and explore more of the island and interact with their wonderful friendly people.
While it can be an expensive island if you aren’t careful, with the tips and recommendations in this post you can visit the Dominican Republic on a budget and have an amazing visit doing so.
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Historic and Current information on the Domincan Republic:
Mangú, the traditional local dish:
Please Note: My stays with the mentioned hotels were sponsored, but this does not affect my recommendations.