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The Cotunamabá Natural Park, located in the east of the Dominican Republic, hides a treasure of incalculable beauty. It is the marvellous Isla Saona, one of the largest islands in the country, attractive for its beaches of fine white sands, bathed by the bright blue of the Caribbean Sea, and with hundreds of palm trees along the coast. The fishing village of Bayahibe is the point of departure for the catamaran excursions organised to Isla Saona.
This island is a great example of the huge attraction of the Caribbean coast, with turquoise waters, white sands, and palm trees which sway in the gentle sea breeze. Here you will find kilometre long beaches which will allow you to take a refreshing swim, while there are also many caves such as the Cotubanamá cave, which show the presence of Taino culture on this island.
Another notable place on the island is its main town, Mano Juan, a picturesque fishing village with wooden houses painted in pastel colours, currently serving as a centre for handicrafts. Finally, we cannot forget that we are in one of the most beautiful protected spaces in the world and that it would be a shame to miss out on the opportunity to scuba dive in crystal clear waters and contemplate its coral seabeds.
Isla Catalina, also known by local indigenous people as Isla Ikiita. It is found in the Caribbean Sea, just a few kilometres south-east of the coast of the Dominican Republic and south of the province of La Romana, forming part of the National Park of the East.
Like Saona, Isla Catalina is an idyllic place. Many consider this island to have the most beautiful beaches in the world, unspoilt paradises of white sands and calm, crystal clear waters ideal for water activities.
If you love the underwater world, Isla Catalina is an ideal place for giving free rein to this passion. This beautiful island is found facing the coast of La Romana and as is to be expected, the prominent landscape is simply incredible. One of the most highly recommended activities is snorkelling to discover the creatures of the Caribbean sea beds up close; and for the more daring, scuba diving is also a favourite activity. Sponges, coral reefs and colourful fish are some of the species that live in these turquoise waters, and you can find them on interesting dives such as El Muro (one of the most impressive) and El Acuario, where some shipwrecks are decorated with beautiful corals – an unparalleled spectacle
The most notable feature of the Dominican Republic is of course its unique natural beauty. To contemplate it, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Los Haitises National Park, a protected area in the Bay of Samaná, at the north-east of this Caribbean country. It is a region of jungle and tropical forests by the coast, full of caves, mangroves and a multitude of species which make it a very attractive excursion. The park has a great variety of fauna and is the best national representation of all the protected natural areas in the Dominican Republic, due to the diversity of its atmospheres.
This is also the ideal place for learning about Taino culture, a pre-Columbian people who came from South America, through the pictographs that can be seen in many of the caverns created by water erosion. One of the most peculiar aspects of this park are the “magotes”, small hills that characterise this landscape, although it is also possible to enjoy the coast on unspoilt beaches that emerge next to the jungle.
Hoyo Azul Cenote
In the Dominican Republic and especially in the region of Punta Cana, there are hundreds of places worth visiting, making it hard to visit them all. Among all of these natural attractions, Hoyo Azul is notable, a cenote with crystal clear blue fresh water, formed at the bottom of a giant cliff that is half-hidden in the jungle. It is an incredible natural pool among primitive tropical forests, located at the far south of the Punta Cana coast in Cap Cana.
It is exciting to enter these caves of turquoise waters to take a refreshing swim; you will surely never have been swimming in such clear water in such an exotic place. To contemplate the day and the visit, another of the recommended activities is to take a zipline over the forests of Cap Cana, very near to Hoyo Azul and with the possibility of coordinating both excursions. This zipline is unique in the world, as is it is attached to a cliff with views of the Caribbean Sea. This experience is not suitable for anyone who has vertigo, as the course includes a 1500-metre-high section over the treetops; however, if you are looking for an adrenaline rush, this is your best option.
Without a doubt, one of the most notable products exported globally are cigars, and where better to purchase them than personally in a local factory? This is possible thanks to the Tobacco Museum, established in the city of Higüey, which allows the typical tobacco culture of the island to be better discovered.
This culture arrived with a Dutch immigrant named Klass Kelner, who arrived on the island in 1937. Since then, the production of cigars has been one of the most important industries of the Dominican Republic due to the great quality of the tobacco grown here.
Anyone who wishes to learn the curiosities of this product, how it is grown, collected and processed, will be able to discover it first hand at this free museum. The craftspeople will be there to show the secrets of production, leading it to be considered a living museum. To conclude the visit, the museum will invite visitors to try the cigars and sample a glass of the typical Mama Juana liqueur.
The Dominican Republic is certainly notable for its marvelous beaches, but on its interior, we also find other magnificent places to visit, as is the case with the Chavón River. This river begins inland, with its outlet in the Casa de Campo Marina, very near to the La Romana area. One of the places from which the best panoramic views of this river can be contemplated is from Altos de Chavón.
In the past, the Chavón River served as a hiding place for pirates and for transporting the valuable wood which was cut on the island’s interior. Currently, the river can be traveled to observe its flora and fauna. Many companies offer excursions on the river, these trips allowing a multitude of water birds to be discovered, among which the fishing Falcon is notable, along with freshwater turtles. The jungle is also a must-visit as it is a great example of the tropical vegetation of the interior of the Dominican Republic.
Finally, a curiosity is that this place was used as a shooting location for films such as Rambo 3 and Apocalypse Now.
Here one of the most impressive experiences that you can have on your holiday in the Dominican Republic is coming into direct contact with the local fauna. The fabulous Bávaro Manatí Park is a magical place where children and adults can enjoy a day of fun for all the family. This theme park is located in Bávaro, very near to Punta Cana and the airport. From any hotel establishment of the area it will be easy to access, as there is a free bus service available.
Once you arrive at the park, open each day, you will have an immense tropical garden to explore, where the orchid is the main feature. In different parts of this garden there are different attractions. Here you will be able to interact with many animals which would otherwise not be possible: parrots, crocodiles, monkeys, dolphins, sea lions – all form part of these facilities so that you can meet them up close. However, in addition to this, many of them also offer incredible shows thanks to the team of trainers that care for them. The star activity is swimming with dolphins, these fascinating sea creatures whose docility will allow you to swim a few lengths with them.
It is not only the Dominican flora and fauna that awaits you, as you will also be able to discover part of Dominican tradition with the Taino dance shows offered at the park. A total of 9 shows from different classes will liven up the trip so that the visitor can choose when to enjoy these demonstrations. A recreation of a Taino village can also be visited, and the handicrafts of this culture can be purchased at the park’s souvenir shops. Manatí Park is the best option for everyone travelling to Punta Cana with children, as there are few times in life that nature can be experienced so close.
Creole gastronomy is a combination and reflection of African, Taino and Spanish influences, which have substantially affected the development of Dominican society and culture. It is an experience for the senses and especially for the palate.
The culinary specialities of the Dominican Republic vary depending on the region. Inland, the main ingredients and products used to create Creole delicacies are rice, meat, beans, vegetables and condiments such as chicken stock, tomato paste and liquid seasoning. One of the most typical and traditional dishes is Sancocho, a Creole dish of meat, root vegetables and pulses. It is accompanied by rice, yucca and banana. It is possibly the most popular and representative food of Dominican cuisine. This delicious stew is prepared for special occasions. Additionally, desserts are always present. Confectionary is a great tradition in this Caribbean country, such as coconut candies and sweet potato bread, a delicious, very popular dessert, made from sweet potato, milk, coconut, eggs and butter.
Conversely, the cuisine prepared on the coast contains all the essence and flavour of the Caribbean Sea, as along the coast we find small fishing villages such as Bayahibe and Boca de Yuma. The most commonly served dish in the beach bars and restaurants is grilled fish and seafood, caught by fishermen from the area. Lambí, the queen conch, is an example of this seafood, and it is easy to see them in the waters surrounding the colourful houses of Bayahibe. Shellfish is also a delicacy, a tasty example being lobster with garlic sauce.
Have you heard of Chinola juice? This is the name by which passion fruit is known in the Dominican Republic and it is one of the best ways to refresh yourself in the tropical heat.
Fun on land and at sea
Punta Cana is a paradise for those who love the sea and adventure: secluded beaches, coral reefs, exotic coasts and flora and fauna to be admired. Therefore, all visitors should consider the possibility of discovering these wonders of nature up close, with activities that will greatly enrich the experience, and make the trip even more special.
Punta Cana offers varied activities, ensuring fun both on land and at seas, such as scuba diving and snorkelling on Isla Catalina. Dive into the turquoise waters of the Caribbean to discover the curious fauna that lives there. It is a unique enclave thanks to the picturesque reefs that emerge around its coast. Go kayaking on the Chavón River, which flows out on the outskirts of La Romana, after starting in the country’s interior, passing between mangroves and leafy vegetation. Its calm waters and wide flow make it a unique adventure for discovering the wonders that the Dominican jungle protects. Additionally, you can board a catamaran and accompany us on an excursion to discover a treasure of unimaginable beauty. This is the Isla Saona, whose appeal lies in its beaches of fine white sand, bathed by the bright blue of the Caribbean Sea, and its hundreds of palm trees along the coast.
If you prefer an exciting experience with your feet on the ground, it is the ideal time to join the excursions taken in buggies between the dunes of Punta Cana and to travel along its coast, or the enjoy the excitement of entering the tropical forest and finding a cenote with turquoise waters to take a refreshing swim. If you are seeking adrenaline, there is nothing like flying over the treetops on a 1500 metre high zipline.
Humpback whale watching
The Bay of Samaná, located in the north-east of the country, is one of the most spectacular landscapes in the whole Dominican Republic, especially in the coastal region of the Haitises National Park, a must-visit for nature lovers. This is where one of the most spectacular activities offered on the island can be carried out: humpback whale watching in their natural habitat, an unforgettable memory for any visitor.
Each year, from December to April, over 3000 humpback whales (mostly from the North Atlantic population) approach this natural sanctuary to give birth to their young and find partners to reproduce with. The warm Dominican waters are the perfect place for these creatures, and due to this, their presence in the Bay of Samaná will be visible thanks to the incredible jumps of the males, weighing over 40 tonnes, to court the females, and the unmistakeable whale song that will resonate throughout Samaná. It is a natural spectacle in which you can participate in the front row thanks to this bay being protected as a sanctuary for these creatures since 1986.
The excursions available for whale watching guarantee that you will see whales and take charge of transporting clients, as well as food and an excursion in the area to discover the charms of the landscape of this part of the country. A biologist will of course accompany the excursion to answer any questions about these incredible animals.
Punta Cana Carnival
The carnival is a magical festival, wherever in the world it is celebrated, as everyone dresses in multicolored costumes and fantasy and music dominate the streets, filling them with happiness. This is also the case of Punta Cana, and that is why celebrating it is a great event, as the warmth of the people, the rhythm of the music and its unique landscape make the festival much more impressive.
The Punta Cana Carnival is held on the main avenue of Punta Cana Village, in front of the international airport on the second Saturday in March. It is a very special occasion for visitors and workers in this area as the streets become a true party. The main attraction will be the procession of floats that will pass through the streets, all showing off colorful costumes and the music of the Caribbean so that the rhythm does not stop for a moment. Many will be in costumes with huge decorated heads which simulate demons, known as telephones, very typical of the Dominican Republic, while other costumes will consist of silk fabrics covered with shiny mirrors. For those don’t want to miss out on a single detail, a ticket can be purchased allowing access to the stands, thereby allowing better visibility.
If you want to have a good time to the rhythm of bachata and merengue, enjoying the festive character of the Dominicans, the Punta Cana Carnival is, without doubt, the perfect event to discover the most festive side of the Dominican Republic.
What would a holiday in Punta Cana be without a trip to the capital? Santo Domingo is the largest city on this island, with over two million inhabitants, and is around 200 kilometers from Punta Cana. Its size, of course, makes it a cosmopolitan city with the purest Caribbean style, with the special charm of the cities that have a colonial old town, specifically the oldest in the New World, which in this case has been considered a World Heritage site by UNESCO since 1990.
It is therefore highly recommended to take a trip to the city to enjoy its beautiful architecture, take a walk through its streets and go shopping. Notable among its places of interest are the Baluarte del Conde, a historic complex made up of the Independencia Park, the Puerta de la Misericordia gate, and the Fuerte de la Concepción fortress; the Cathedral of Santo Domingo (the first in the New World) consecrated in 1504 and where the remains of Christopher Columbus are said to be kept; the Alcázar de Colón palace, with a Mudejar style which currently contains a museum; the Parque Colón park which was the former main square of the Spanish colony; and the Ozama Fortress, the oldest in America, which guarded the outlet of the river from potential attacks by pirates or other colonists.
As can be seen, Santo Domingo is a key piece in the colonial past of America and is also a great place to immerse oneself in this chapter of history and learn more about Dominican culture in all its splendor while spending time among its people and having fun in the lively atmosphere felt in its streets.
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