Dominican Republic, Latin America

Best route for a Road Trip through the Dominican Republic

It’s been a while since I posted a new blog, which could be considered strange if you follow me on Instagram and have seen the trips I have been on in the meantime. But, in between doing a road trip through the Dominican Republic and starting a new job, I didn’t find much time to write blogs about these trips. Let’s fast forward to today, a perfect Sunday to finally write up the route I have travelled through the Dominican Republic!

If you know people that have been to the Dominican Republic (or DR), they will probably tell you about the luscious beaches and the amazing time they spent on a beach bed at a resort in Punta Cana. As you probably know by now, this is not really my ideal travel style. Therefore, when me and my partner in travel found cheap tickets to DR, we decided to see if we could travel around the island by local transport and stay in AirBnbs. Spoiler alert: this is not only possible, this is also a perfect way to explore the island and its many beautiful places.

Our route for our road trip through the Dominican Republic

1. Arrival in Dominican Republic: Punta Cana

From the Netherlands, there are many (relatively) cheap flights to Punta Cana when you look close enough. We paid €510 per person for a return flight in the last two weeks of August.

Upon arrival in the touristy Punta Cana, we immediately took the local bus, the guagua, to our first destination: Dominicus. This is a small village next to Los Melones (also a small village). 

2. First destination of our road trip through Dominican Republic: Dominicus

For the first three nights, we stayed in this beautiful AirBnB in Dominicus. This two-bedroom villa with a pool only shared with the neighbours, right in the heart of Dominicus, was the perfect place to unwind after two long flights to get to the Dominican Republic. 

Our almost private pool at our AirBnB in Dominicus

The south side of the Dominican Republic is the only part of the island with access to the Caribbean Sea. On the north side, you will encounter the Atlantic Ocean. The Caribbean Sea is known for its azure coloured waters, white sand beaches and endless coastlines. No wonder the beach here in Dominicus was the perfect first stop of our road trip around the island. 

When you are here, try to plan a day trip to Isla Catalina and Isla Saona. When we were here both trips were fully booked, but from what I heard they are worth visiting. 

Playa Dominicus

3. Santo Domingo

Next stop on this road trip around the Dominican Republic: the capital city Santo Domingo! Staying in this beautiful AirBnb called Colonial Beach House, in the middle of the colonial zone of Santo Domingo, we had the opportunity to visit the two main attractions in this city. The Zona Colonial, and “Los Tres Ojos” (“the three eyes”), an area close to the city centre with several sink holes containing beautiful blue water. We spent one night in Santo Domingo, which was enough to do both.

The rooftop jacuzzi had a view for days. I can definitely recommend staying at Colonial Beach House when you are doing a road trip through the Dominican Republic!

Just walking through the streets of the Colonial Zone is an experience in itself, but definitely head to the Catedral Primada de las Americas, the umbrella street, the Casa de Teatro (which not only has a beautiful outside stage, but also features an art exhibition), and the church Capilla de la Tercera Orden Dominica.

When in Santo Domingo, have something to eat or drink at the restaurant Buche Perico. The terrace in the back is located inside an enormous greenhouse including a small waterfall and luscious greenery covering the walls.

During your road trip through the Dominican Republic, definitely wander the streets of Santo Domingo
The streets of Santo Domingo. On the left you can see the start of umbrella street.
The art exhibition in Casa de Teatro
Also inside Casa de Teatro, you will find this luscious green outdoor stage
The church Capilla de la Tercera Orden Dominica

4. Road trip through Dominican Republic: Sosúa

After one night in Santo Domingo, we took the bus up north to Sosúa, where we stayed for two nights in the Caribbean Diamond Boutique Hotel. This beautiful hotel looked brand new and only opened up recently. We were however the only guests here at the time. This was fun when enjoying the pool, but a bit boring when having dinner here.

Caribbean Diamond Boutique Hotel offered the best room we have had during our road trip through the Dominican Republic
The gorgeous Caribbean Diamond Boutique Hotel

From Sosúa there are ample day trips around the north side of the island. You can visit the city of Puerto Plata, go surfing at Cabarete beach, visit Rio San Juan or Cabrera, go to National Park Isabel de Torres, or you do what we did, and you enjoy the quiet beach of Sosúa itself and do a day trip to the gorgeous sand island Cayo Arena.

In fact, Cayo Arena, also known as Paradise Island (even though ‘arena’ is Spanish for ‘sand’), is not really an island. This sandbank is located on top of a coral reef and the sand is produced by a certain type of fish that chews on the coral and spits out tiny pieces of coral that looks what we know as sand. It is only possible to get here with an organised tour. Therefore, we decided to book our trip in one of the tour agencies in Sosúa. Honestly, sometimes these tours can be a tourist trap, but we had a great time. Of course aside from the massive scar I got on my ass from being pushed against a piece of coral by the current. Luckily there was unlimited rum on the island, to forget my sorrow.

When doing a road trip through the Dominican Republic, don't skip Cayo Arena! This beautiful sand island is also known as Paradise Island. And that has a good reason.
Cayo Arena as seen from the boat upon arrival

5. Samaná

High on my bucket list was the beautiful peninsula towards the northeast. It is known for the beautiful Playa Frontón, Playa Rincón, the waterfall El Limón and the city of Samaná. Beforehand, we had read on the internet that staying in Samaná was boring. Instead, we should opt for Las Terrenas or Las Galeras. However, we only had three nights on the peninsula and the things we wanted to visit were easily reached from Samaná. Luckily for us, we found this amazing AirBnB with the best hosts that were extremely helpful.

From Samaná we did a day trip to Los Haitises National Park and Cayo Levantado, also known as Bacardi Island. We also visited a gorgeous beach on the north side of the peninsula called Playa El Valle. With only two small restaurants and a coast line stretching between two enormous mountains covered in palmtrees, we spent a fun afternoon on this quiet beach. On the way back, the motor driver (arranged by our AirBnB hosts) even stopped at the Lulu waterfall for us to take pictures.

An uninhabited island in Los Haitises National Park
An uninhabited island in Los Haitises National Park
Cayo Levantado is also known as Bacardi Island and a perfect stop on your Road trip through the Dominican Republic
Cayo Levantado is also known as Bacardi Island. This is because the famous Bacardi commercials from the ’90s were shot on this island
Playa El Valle at the north side of the peninsula is the perfect stop during your road trip through the Dominican Republic
The completely empty Playa El Valle

6. Sabana de la Mar

From Samaná we took the ferry to Sabana de la Mar. This village is just on the other side of the bay. Here we stayed at the hotel Altos de Caño Hondo, a beautiful resort in the middle of nowhere. Be careful when booking your accommodation here, because there are two resorts next to each other. The other one being Paraiso Caño Hondo. The nine natural pools are located at Paraiso, however we have been told the rooms are better at Altos. Whichever resort you are staying at, you can always use the pools and dine at both restaurants. Driving from the port of Sabana de la Mar to the hotel takes about 45 minutes, and potholes are all over the road. The quiet, romantic getaway is worth it though to end your road trip through the Dominican Republic.

The beautiful resort Altos de Cano Hondo is the perfect getaway to wind down and relax during your road trip through the Dominican Republic
The front of our hotel Altos de Cano Hondo
the natural pools of altos de cano condo
There are nine natural pools around Altos de Caño Hondo

7. Final destination of road trip through Dominican Republic: Punta Cana

Because our flight back home would leave from Punta Cana again, we spent our last night in this hotel in Bavaro. We enjoyed our large room, king-size bed and dinner in the overly touristy street the hotel is located on. In the morning, just before leaving for the airport, we did one last stroll on the crowded beach of Bavaro. While walking here we figured it had been a good idea to do a road trip through the Dominican Republic instead of staying in the Punta Cana area.

Final stop: Playa Bavaro
One last stroll on the beach in Bavaro before heading back home

Do you have a trip to the Dominican Republic planned already? Or are you inspired to go now? Let me know on my Instagram page @explorermelissa! If you want to check out other beautiful islands, check out how to get to Little Corn Island, Nicaragua here!

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Melissa is the founder of Hashtag Explorers. She is a Dutch, chocolate loving, book reading, enthusiastic, and open-minded world traveller. Melissa enjoys her time researching new travel destinations or learning new languages. Her strong desire to experience new cultures and meet new people has led to creating #Explorers. If you cannot find her in The Hague, where she is working as a Marketeer, she is probably exploring the rest of the world, where she is reliving memories from the times she lived in Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Singapore, and Malta.

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