Santo Domingo and the south of the Dominican Republic in 7 days

From the beaches of Bayahibe to the end-of-the-world village of Pedernales, on the Haitian border, via the capital Santo Domingo and its UNESCO-listed colonial zone, this one-week tour will show you a fine range of the Dominican Republic's riches. On the programme: eco-lodges in the heart of nature, trekking in the sierra, lagoons and salt lakes inhabited by crocodiles, iguanas and pink flamingos, visits to historic monuments, not forgetting well-deserved swims on the dream beaches of the islands of Saona and Catalina, as well as Bahia de las Aguilas, in the unspoilt region of Barahona. All to the sound of merengue and bachata, in the typical towns and villages of La Romana, San Pedro de Macorís, Juan Dolio and Boca Chica!

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Santo Domingo

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DAY 1: Bayahibe and Saona

Saona

There's not a minute to lose: head for the small fishing port, where a small motorboat will take you in ten minutes to a large catamaran off the beach. The crossing takes 1h30 to reach this island paradise, the largest in the country, lined with wide, unspoilt beaches of white sand dotted with palm trees.

© tb-photography / Shutterstock

You can visit the only small village with colourful houses: Mano Juan, and have a picnic on the beach. The return trip by speed boat is quicker, just 1 hour, and includes a stop at a natural swimming pool for a swim in the company of giant starfish!

© MarcinK3333 / Shutterstock

⭐ Dreams Dominicus La Romana Resort & Spa

With the turquoise-blue Caribbean Sea on one side and the lush tropical vegetation of the Dominican Republic on the other, Dreams Dominicus La Romana Resort & Spa amazes travellers with its enchanting natural setting. It is the ideal base for visiting the island of Saona.

As well as offering modern rooms with all the necessary comforts (king-size bed, terrace, television and private bathroom), this establishment will appeal to sports enthusiasts, with its water sports facilities, including diving.

Dreams Dominicus La Romana Resort & Spa Dominican Republic
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Dreams Dominicus La Romana Resort & Spa

Located in Bayahibe, Dreams Dominicus La Romana offers a year-round outdoor swimming pool, barbecue, children's playground, private beach, water sports facilities and a swimming pool.
8.4 Very good
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£210 / night
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DAY 2: Isla Catalina and Altos de Chavon in La Romana

Half an hour's drive and we're at Casa de Campo, where we're staying for the second night. This luxury resort is a destination in itself: marina, ranch, golf course, spa... Head for the beach, from where the boats leave for Isla Catalina in 45 minutes.

Isla Catalina

Less touristy than its larger and unmissable neighbour Saona, Isla Catalina, just 2.4 km from the coast, offers visitors an incredible palette of colours. Dream beaches, crystal-clear waters, walks along the paths, lazing around, water sports - there's plenty to keep you busy in this corner of paradise! After a picnic, it's time to head back to Casa de Campo to discover Altos de Chavon, an amazing reconstructed Italian Renaissance village.

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Altos de Chavon

The Altos de Chavon site, located within the Casa de Campo hotel complex, rises 90 metres above the River Chavon. A spectacular setting where scenes from cult films such as Apocalypse Now and Rambo were filmed. This cultural and artistic centre is a replica of an Italian medieval village.

⭐ Casa de Campo Resort & Villas

Inaugurated in 1974, Casa de Campo Resort & Villas is a gigantic complex with a very American spirit. The country's leading resort is home to four golf courses, the famous Altos de Chavon, a replica of an Italian medieval village, thousands of hectares, a 90,000 m² marina, a cinema, a ranch, a spa, seven restaurants, a polo field... What interests us most here is its beach, ideally located just opposite the sumptuous Catalina Island. It's from here that you take the boat to get there - it couldn't be more convenient!

DAY 3: Cigar factory, Cave of Wonders and Boca Chica

Tabacalera de García

A 15-minute drive west brings us to the Mathilde cigar factory, or Tabacalera de García. This is the largest handmade cigar factory in the world, with 5,000 employees. This visit is an opportunity to learn all about cigars, an integral part of the culture of the Dominican Republic, the other cigar country! It's not just Cuba...

Practical information

📍 Location: Zona Franca 2, La Romana 22000, Republic

👛 Price: between $5 and $30 depending on the offer chosen. It is also possible to book several combined excursions, based around cigar culture, for around €100.

Opening times: open Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm.

👉 Find out more

The Cave of Wonders

After sampling a Dominican cigar for smokers and buying a box of cigars as a souvenir, we hit the road again for just 30 minutes. There's a change of atmosphere, as we leave the paradisiacal beaches behind and head deep into the bowels of the Earth to visit the Grotte des Merveilles, more than 25 metres below the surface. It is renowned for its rock art, with over 500 Taino pictograms. All this amid stalactites, stalagmites and other columns, not forgetting an underground lake.

Practical information

📍 Location: Carretera La Romana - San Pedro de Macoris - KM 16, Autovía del Este, Dominican Republic

👛 Price: Entrance to the caves costs $10 for adults and $5 for under-12s.

Opening times: open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm. Closed on Mondays.

👉 Website

Boca Chica

Another good half-hour's drive and you'll be treated to a well-deserved lunch in Boca Chica. On the way, as you pass through the town of San Pedro de Macoris, you cross the superb Mauricio Báez cable-stayed bridge.

Around thirty kilometres east of Santo Domingo, the small seaside resort of Boca Chica borders a splendid paradise lagoon protected by a coral reef. For lunch, head to Be Live Hamaca's Pélicano Beach, an excellent seafood restaurant built on stilts beside the beach!

🍴 Pélicano Beach by Be Live Hamaca

An excellent fish and seafood restaurant built on stilts by the beach! The dishes are fresh,hearty and well presented.

Address: Calle Caracol, 1, Boca Chica 15700, Dominican Republic

After a quick swim, we dry off quickly and set off again in the direction of the capital, Santo Domingo, a 30-minute drive away. We pass the Columbus Lighthouse, an imposing cruciform concrete building 310 metres long, which is said to house the body of the famous discoverer of America. Then it's on to the Malecon, the wide maritime avenue that is home to the city's main business hotels, where you can enjoy a well-deserved rest at the Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel and Casino.

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Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua

On the Malecon of the capital Santo Domingo, facing the sea therefore, the Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua is one of the largest hotels in the city, it almost feels like a Punta Cana resort with its huge lagoon pool in the middle of a vast tropical garden, its spa, gym and four tennis courts, and even a casino! The icing on the cake is the excellent food! A real favourite.

Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel & Casino - Santo Domingo St-Domingue
Booking.com

Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel & Casino - Santo Domingo

Overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the Renaissance is one of the largest and most beautiful resorts in Santo Domingo.
From
£203
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DAY 4: The colonial zone of Santo Domingo

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the colonial zone can be visited on foot. You'll discover the cradle of the New World, home to some of the oldest and most remarkable buildings in the Dominican Republic, some of them five hundred years old and the first in America!

© saaton / Shutterstock

Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua

We spend a second night again at theRenaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua, one of the best hotels in town, so we might as well make the most of it!

Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel & Casino - Santo Domingo St-Domingue
Booking.com

Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel & Casino - Santo Domingo

Overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the Renaissance is one of the largest and most beautiful resorts in Santo Domingo.
From
£203
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DAY 5: En route to Barahona

We're heading west, but it's a long way to go, so we might as well add a few nice stops along the way!

The old Boca de Nigua sugar factory

First stop after 30 minutes: the ruins of the old Boca de Nigua sugar refinery. Built in the 16th century, this historic site witnessed the first slave revolt in 1796 and was visited in 1801 by Toussaint Louverture, the hero of the liberation of Haitian slaves.

The Bani dunes

An hour and 20 minutes' drive from the ruins of Boca de Nigua, here is a little piece of Sahara that looks like the Dune du Pyla. Some of the dunes are 35 metres high. You can take a walk here and imagine yourself as a desert nomad. Beware of the sand, which can be very hot, so bring closed shoes. Don't forget a hat to protect you from the sun and a bottle of water to keep you hydrated.

© Santiago Tortajada / Shutterstock

It's a 2-hour drive to Santa Cruz de Barahona, the capital and gateway to the superb, unspoilt province of Barahona. Not much to do, but a welcome break for a bite to eat late in the day. Another 30 minutes and your reward for a long day on the road.

⭐Oasi Encantada - Beach Resort

This human-sized hotel offers quality services, accompanied by attentive and efficient staff. There is a restaurant, a beautiful swimming pool, as well as a very pleasant garden with trees and a terrace. It's a little haven of peace!

Dominican Republic

Oasi Encantada - Beach Resort - Dominican Republic

This seafront hotel offers excellent facilities in an enchanting setting.
From
£138
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DAY 6: Jaragua National Park

After a 1 hour 15 minute drive from the paradisiacal Casa Bonita, we arrive at the Oviedo lagoon, in the Jaragua national park, classified as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.

The Lagoon of Oviedo

The largest saltwater lagoon in the Dominican Republic is one of the most important ecological reserves in the entire Caribbean. Dotted with 24 islands, caves with Taínos (pre-Columbian inhabitants) engravings and surrounded by exotic beaches and mangroves, it is home to many endemic migratory birds, as well as iguanas, pink flamingos and sea turtles that come here to lay their eggs.

© Wanderlust Media / Shutterstock

The Bahia de las Aguilas

An hour and 15 minutes' drive from the Oviedo lagoon, you arrive at the most beautiful beach in the Dominican Republic, a paradise reminiscent of certain islands in Thailand, or Along Bay in Vietnam, which you can discover by boat. Then it's off for a swim in a dream setting of crystal-clear water, white sand, cliffs and rocky islets, all set against miles of unspoilt beach. Why not eat here?

🍴Rancho Tipico

Enjoy lunch by the water under a small straw hut, savouring typical dishes in the company of iguanas.

Address: Poblado de la Cueva de los Pescadores 84000, Dominican Republic

© Runeca / Shutterstock

Overnight camping, but be careful! Not just any campsite. We're talking about a luxury campsite. Located by the beach, just a few kilometres from the Bay of Eagles (10 minutes by car), the Eco Del Mar establishment in Perdenales offers a taste of adventure. So, are you ready to sleep in a tent?

Eco Del Mar Dominican Republic
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Eco Del Mar

Eco Del Mar de Pedernales offers accommodation, a gym, a garden, a terrace, a restaurant and a bar.
7.4 Fine
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£142 / night
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DAY 7: Lake Enriquillo

Lake Enriquillo is only 174 km further north, but if you go via Haiti! You'll have to retrace your steps, pass through Santa Cruz de Barahona and head north-west again, a journey of almost 4 hours... But it's worth it! This stretch of water, seven times saltier than the sea, is 45 metres below sea level! The lake is home to the world's largest reserve of American crocodiles (over 400) and even pink flamingos - in short, it's like being on safari in this magical place! The largest and deepest salt lake in the Caribbean, together with Isla Cabrito in the middle of the lake, forms a protected national park.

© Batechenkofff / Shutterstock

It's another 4h30 drive to Santo Domingo airport. The easiest way to do this is to stay at theHampton by Hilton Santo Domingo Airport for the last night, just 4 km from the runways! Get ready for an early departure the next morning: flight times are indicated on a board in the lobby, and the transfer takes just 10 minutes...

Hampton By Hilton Santo Domingo Airport St-Domingue
Booking.com

Hampton By Hilton Santo Domingo Airport

The main advantage of this establishment is its location. Las Americas airport, the nearest airport, is 1 km away.
8.4 Very good
From
£151 / night
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by Faustine PEREZ
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