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Top Destinations in the Dominican Republic
From the 150ft.-deep Lake Enriquillo, to the soaring 10,417ft. Pico Duarte, the Dominican Republic, is well-endowed with beautiful topography. It is one that supports spectacular inland tourism destinations. Along the coasts, rich marine ecosystems, powered by the waters of the Caribbean and the Atlantic, create a magical underwater scenery for snorkeling and SCUBA diving enthusiasts. Here are a few areas you can explore:
Cayo Arenas (Paradise Island)
To kick-off our list, head on over to the northern side of the Dominican Republic. A 20-minute boat ride off Punta Rucia will take you to a perky white-sand island with only a couple of open-air huts for day guests. Be greeted with crystal clear, blue-green waters where you can sun-bathe, play catch on the beach, make sandcastles, swim, snorkel, and even SCUBA dive!
If you drive from the capital city of Santo Domingo, the fastest route to Punta Rucia is through the Carr. Duarte Highway. It will take you almost four (4) hours to reach the area. For a quick reminder, don’t forget to bring your International Driver's Permit around the Dominican Republic region (no matter how far your destinations are from the city centers).
Damajaqua Cascades (The 27 Waterfalls)
Have you ever tried jumping off waterfalls and trekking canyon rivers? If you haven’t experienced this kind of exhilarating adventure, drive on over to the Damajaqua Cascades! You can choose to trek between 7-27 waterfalls, depending on your stamina. The activity is generally safe for everyone as you will be guided by an expert tour guide and will be given safety gear.
The activity is open from 8:00 am - 3:00 pm, but you’ll need to go there early in the morning as the canyoneering activity will take hours. Specifically, if you will be coming from the capital city of Santo Domingo, it will take you almost 3 hours to drive to the area.
Mount Isabel de Torres
Towering at 2,600 feet, Mount Isabel de Torres provides you with the most impressive views of the Atlantic Ocean. You can hike up to the peak or ride the Caribbean’s first and only cable car! The peak also features various recreational areas like caves and botanical gardens to make your trip more worth it.
The cable car is open every day from 8:30 am - 5:00 pm, and it would be best to go there when it’s not cloudy. You can find the cable car valley station at the Las Flores District.
Laguna El Dudu
This 65ft.-deep freshwater lagoon entertains visitors with a variety of water activities. Aside from swimming, you can kayak around the greenery, explore the nearby caves, jump from a 10-meter high diving board, or just relax under the calming sounds of nature.
The lagoon is located in the town of Cabrera. It will take you about 2 hours and 45 minutes to drive to the area from Santo Domingo via Carr. Juan Pablo II. You can also take Carr. Duarte road but it will take longer.
Playa El Valle
If beachside dining in a peaceful stretch of sand seems appealing to you, check out Playa El Valle. You can dip your toes on the oncoming tides, chill on a beach, and just listen to the crashing waves. Swimming is allowed in the area, but a little extra caution is necessary because of the riptides.
The Playa El Valle Beach is located on the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic. It will take you about 3 hours to drive to the beach from Santo Domingo via Autopista Nagua Samana.
This beautiful stretch of white beach has been hailed as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Calm swells envelop the shore, which makes the area perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Similar to Playa El Valle, you can indulge in the freshest seafood of the Caribbean.
Playa Rincon is situated on the tip of the Samana Peninsula. You'll have to drive for about 3 and a half hours to reach the place via Carr Juan Pablo II. On the brighter side, the road drive is an experience because of the marvelous views on both the southern coast and the Samana Peninsula’s inland hills.
Sanctuary of the Humpback Whales
Have you ever seen pods of the majestic humpback whales up close? They are just some of the most extraordinary animals in the world! Did you know that male humpback whales can repeatedly sing the same tune for hours, which can be heard up to 30km away? Talk about having singing lessons in the water!
Within tropical latitudes, whales are seen mostly between December and March. Local accounts in the Dominican Republic say that about 2,000 humpback whales make their way to these warm waters to reproduce.
Whales can be seen particularly around Samana, and your best chance would be to look for them on board a boat. There are multiple jump-off points around Samana. In case you're not familiar with the area, it would be best to contact a local tour operator in advance to guide you. It will take you about 3 hours to reach Samana from Santo Domingo on average, but this will still depend on the exact location of your jump-off point. Don’t forget to bring with you your International Driving Permit in the Dominican Republic when you drive to Samana.
Pirate Rum Factory and Taino Cave
What makes the Caribbean famous apart from its jaw-dropping beaches? Rum, of course! The Pirate Rum Factory serves authentic, handcrafted, Dominican-approved brews taken from recipes that have been around for over 300 years!
Nearby, you can also visit the infamous Taino Cave and learn about the country’s indigenous settlers long before Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas.
You can drive to The Pirate Rum Factory and Taino Cave via the Autopista del Este. This will take you about 2 and a half hours if you'll come from Santo Domingo.
Catedral Primada De America
Also known as the Nuestra Senora de la Encarnacion, this 16th century gothic-style church is a prominent stop for history and art enthusiasts. It said that the remains of Christopher Columbus were originally buried here, but a lot of scholars still contest it up to this day.
You can take pictures amidst this magnificent 1514 structure and look at the oil paintings inside, which have been around for centuries.
The cathedral is just located within the capital of Santo Domingo. You can drive to Calle Arzobispo Merino and find the church across the Cigar Shop Shopping Mall.
Dunas de Bani
Dunas de Bani is an arid area within the southern coast of the Dominican Republic. What makes it a unique travel destination is that it is the only dunes area in the entire country where visitors can do sand surfing!
There is no vegetation in the area that offers shade, so better pack in lots of water! The park is open from 8:00 am - 5:00 pm, Mondays to Fridays, and 8:00 am - 6:00 pm on weekends. If you still have time, you can also visit the nearby salt mines and learn how salt is farmeDunas de Bani is about an hour and a half drive from Santo Domingo via Carr. Sanches and Route 510.
Most Important Driving Rules
One of the first major laws that regulated traffic in the country was enacted in 1963. Fast forward to the present, and better road safety legislations continue to be developed as governed by the Mobility, Ground Transportation, Transit, and Road Safety Act of 2017. Below are some of the most important driving rules in the Dominican Republic
Always Have Your Driving Permit in the Dominican Republic
Chartering your vehicle will save you loads of money and time. Aside from that, the convenience you get from driving your car is worth more than the relatively cheap costs of local car rentals (well, even those high-end ones!).
But before you dive into choosing which car to rent, make sure that you have a valid driver’s license with you from your native country. It will help you get an International Driving Permit in the Dominican Republic that could also benefit you wherever you go in the world. You might be wondering how advantageous an International Driving Permit is; below is a brief run-through of some of the facts.
What Is the International Driving Permit in the Dominican Republic?
The International Driving Permit translates your native drivers’ license to 12 of the world’s most spoken languages, including Spanish! The 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic guides this country’s policies on the International Driver's Permit. Dominican Republic districts/provinces are all decreed to adopt the provisions, including the IDP’s confiscation whenever the driver commits anything against the traffic law.
When you apply for a tourist card and plan to rent a car or drive by yourself, you must have an International Driver's License. Dominican Republic embassy and authorized tourist card agencies only require your valid passport and payment. The further good news is, you can get an IDP that is valid for up to three (3) years! So wouldn’t have to apply for one every time you travel to the Dominican Republic, unlike a tourist card or visa.
How to Get an International Driving Permit in the Dominican Republic?
Securing an International Driver's License for the Dominican Republic zip code is relatively fast and easy. The International Driver's Association offers a friendly processing system wherein you can apply for an International Driver's License for the Dominican Republic through a website portal.
All you need to do is fill up the International Driver's Permit - Dominican Republic form with your personal information and specify your license/vehicle class. A vehicle class represents the type of vehicle you were trained and licensed to drive. This includes:
- Class A: motorcycle
- Class B: passenger car
- Class C: vehicle over 3,500kg
- Class D: vehicle over eight (8) seats
- Class E: vehicle B, C, and D with a vehicle other than a light trailer
This means that once you get your International Driver's License - the Dominican Republic, motorcycle renting in the Dominican Republic will only be allowed for those who are legally permitted to drive motorcycles. Likewise, you cannot drive a vehicle with more than eight (8) seats if your IDL does not say so.
Where to Get an International Driver's Permit - Dominican Republic form?
An IDP application form is available in all authorized issuing agencies. Official application forms are relatively short (and easy to fill-in) for the International Driver's Permit. Dominican Republic city offices, like those in Santo Domingo, welcome walk-in applicants who prefer to transact with a service representative face to face.
On the other hand, if you think you wouldn’t have the time to physically apply for an International Driver's Permit for the Dominican Republic, website application is also available 24/7. You can check out the International Driver's Association for an easy-to-follow online application process.
What Are the International Driver's License - Dominican Republic Requirements?
When getting an International Driver's License for the Dominican Republic, requirements are relatively simple. If you have reached 18 years old, you just need to submit a native driver’s license and a passport-sized photo. The payment can be made through credit card or Paypal.
Suppose you plan to ship to the Dominican Republic, certain and double-check your International Driver's License, the Dominican Republic contact number. This means that it would be better if you already have a functional local contact number before applying for an IDP if there are concerns, although you can also be contacted via email. Likewise, since you’ll need to specify where to ship your International Driver's Permit, the Dominican Republic address of your accommodation during the expected delivery date should be provided.
Drive Only When You’re 18 Years Old
The Dominican Republic is generally safe to drive in. Traffic fatalities since 2003 have exhibited a downward trend, which can probably be inferred from the improvement of road traffic infrastructure and the promotion of safe driving throughout the country.
It improved so much that you can already legally drive around if you are just 18 years old. This is also the minimum age to qualify for an International Driving Permit in the Dominican Republic. But then again, even if you’ve secured an International Driving Permit - the Dominican Republic, motorcycle renting or any car renting will not be allowed if you haven’t reached the age of 21.
Some countries, however, have a lower minimum driving age. If you come from a country that grants driving permits to 17-year-olds and below, you might need to rent a car with a driver as you wouldn’t be allowed to drive yourself.
To learn about visa requirements and local laws concerning the International Driver's Permit, the Dominican Republic embassy nearest can best assist you. For more tips and facts on the destinations, specific driving directions, and travel restrictions, check out the Driving Guide for the Dominican Republic.
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