While the resort life definitely has its draws, the Dominican Republic offers so much more than just gorgeous golf courses and luxurious villas and hotels. For adventurous types who want to explore a different side of the island, there are plenty of places where you can get off the beaten path and immerse yourself in nature, culture and spectacular scenery.
Located just 10 miles from Casa de Campo, Bayahibe is a charming fishing village with a very laid-back vibe. Here colorful houses face the sparkling Caribbean Sea, boats bob in the bay, and beachfront restaurants serve up fresh seafood caught that day. You can spend your time here relaxing on one of the white sand beaches, scuba diving in the clear water around the coast, or setting off on a boat trip to nearby Saona Island. Be sure to stay long enough catch the sunset and have dinner next to the water, as the lights on the bay make for a very romantic scene.
Los Haitises National Park
If ecotourism peaks your interest, then Los Haitises National Park should be on the top of your list of places to visit in the DR. This protected area spans 826 square kilometres and it features conical karst formations, virgin forests, and the largest cave in the Caribbean. Take a guided tour to see untouched mangroves, Taino cave paintings, and fascinating wildlife like the Hispaniolan woodpecker, colourful crabs and dolphins. The park is about a three-hour drive from Punta Cana, which is a bit of a trek from the resorts in the southeast of the DR, but the journey is well worth it.
Pico Duarte is the highest mountain in the Caribbean with a peak of 3,098 metres or 10,164 feet, which makes it a popular spot with intrepid hikers. There are many trails that wind their way up the mountain and plenty of guides who can accompany you to the top along with donkeys to carry food, water and camping equipment. The total hike takes about two to four days, and your guide will set you up in an overnight hut on the mountain and prepare all your meals.
Being the capital city of the Dominican Republic, you would think that Santo Domingo would be a popular tourist hotspot, but actually many visitors skip the city altogether and head straight for the resorts and beaches on the northern and southeastern coasts. However, Santo Domingo offers plenty to see along its cobblestone streets including historic cathedrals, palaces and the oldest fortress in the Americas. You can also indulge in delicious gourmet fare at chic restaurants and cafes, and revel in the nightlife at trendy jazz clubs, discos and casinos.
Parque Nacional Del Este
Parque Nacional Del Este lies on the far southeastern tip of the Dominican Republic just a short drive from Casa de Campo, and it is a prime destination for nature lovers. This protected park is home to over 112 species of birds, a marine park with coral reefs, sea turtles and tropical fish, and lush forests with hidden caves, some of which have ancient pictographs. Saona Island is part of the park, and a great spot for those looking for some sun, sea and sand.