Known for its pristine white beaches, crystal clear Caribbean waters, and a resort-scene unmatched by any other country, the Dominican Republic is synonymous with most people’s idea of paradise.
We stayed here for a few months to check out all it had to offer and found that the country is much more than first meets the eye. We explored the rainforest, the mountains, the jungle, and of course, the beaches.
Here’s everything we wish we knew before going! So strap in and brace yourselves for our best money saving tips of the Dominican Republic (Just don’t forget to applaud your pilot as your plane lands!)
Currency: 50 Pesos = 1USD
Capital: Santo Domingo
Our Top 5 Must-Do's
TAKE A BOAT TO PARADISE ISLAND
Thinking about staying near Puerto Plata? Just west of this tourist destination exists a small island called Cayo Arena, or Paradise Island (we know it doesn’t translate! But those are the names!) Most easily accesible from Playa Ensenada in Punta Rucia, a day trip to this beautiful sand bay is a must! Check out our highlight video here!
STAY IN A TREEHOUSE
Dominican Treehouse Village has taken the internet by storm in the past few years, and there’s no doubt why! Some might call this an instagrammers dream, while others love that you can get away from the all-inclusive hotel vibe and actually get to see the beautiful and diverse landscapes the country has to offer.
SCUBA DIVE IN ISLA SAONA
An Island well-known for it’s beautiful white sand and blue waters, most people take a day trip here. We, however, decided to explore it a little further by doing a scuba diving day trip with GoDive Bayahibe. You get two dives, a beautiful boat ride and a few hours at the island, and a stop at the natural pools on the way back (bluest waters I’ve ever seen! Visibility diving was amazing!) Check out the video here!
STARGAZE IN VALLE NUEVO, CONSTANZA
Who knew there were mountains in the Dominican Republic? About an hour from the town of Santiago, you’ll find the mountainous region of Constanza. Keep driving up a bit and you’ll reach Valle Nuevo and numerous campgrounds in the area. It’s a great place to experience nature and the light pollution is very low here, which makes it perfect for star-gazing (but come prepared as it does get very COLD!)
TRY KITESURFING IN CABARETE
If you ask anyone from the island, they will tell you that the most beautiful beach (but hard to get to) is Bahia de las Aguilas. Located in the southwestern coast of the country and only accessible by boat or 4WD, you can experience some of the bluest waters without the crowds the exist in the rest of the country.
Did you know Dominican Republic was the first place Christopher Colombus landed when he discovered America? It has the first cities, and a stroll in the Colonial Zone is as historic as it gets.
Between the months of January and March you can see the biggest collection of Humpback Whales in the Atlantic. Best seen from the bay in Samana, you’re in for a show as you’re almost guaranteed to see multiple Humpback Whales accompanied by their newly born calves.
What initially started the tourism boom, Punta Cana is lined with all-inclusive resorts. And when we say all-inclusive, we really mean that! Food, drinks (hellooo unlimited wine), activities, and anything else you can think of! If you’re looking for a cheaper option, there are a few in Puerto Plata that offer all of the same things on the other side of the country.
One of the pride and joys of the country happens to be their beer: Presidente. Also available in other countries (although they claim it’s not as good), you can’t go more than 2 blocks without seeing a big green sign for one. We admit, they are pretty damn good.
Did you know the DR has its own version of Rio’s famous Christ Statue? To get there, you take a 5 minute teleferico (or cable car) ride to the top in the coastal town of Puerto Plata.
Watch a few videos on Bachata and Merengue (and perhaps some Salsa too) because Dominicans love to DANCE! Without a doubt wherever you go in the evening will be accompanied by music, alcohol, and dancing!
Known for its diverse scenery, Samana offers amazing beaches, amazing waterfalls, and amazing adventures. Some of these include ATV beach tours, Coffee Tours, Salto el Limon (impressive waterall, along with a few others), Whale Watching, and the Caribbean’s largest Zip-Line.
Budget & Costs
There are two main (and very opposite) options here. The most well-known being the all-inclusive options. These can range from $50-$200+ per person per night. Typically groups of 4 tend to be cheapest. However, if you want to see more of the country and landscape, you can stay at a guest house or hostel for as little as 10$ a night (and usually with breakfast included!)
Dominican Food is all about three things: Rice, Beans, and Plantains. Every meal you have will have at least one of the three (or maybe all!)
Food is very cheap if you buy from the supermarket, or from street vendors/budget restaurants. If you eat out, however, expect to pay around 10-15$USD per meal.
You can save a lot of money in Dominican Republic by using Uber. Use this link for $15 off your first ride. It’s only available in the major cities, however.
For cross-country transportation, taking the bus is your best bet! (Stick to Caribe.) Most hotels include airport pickup for anywhere near 200-300$! That same ride taking the bus plus the taxi at the end will cost around 20$
Money Saving Tips
1. Stick to the Presidente
You’ll see the signs everywhere you go. Big, green, and ice cold. Dominicans are very proud of their beer, and it’s also the cheapest option for drinks.
2. Use the Bus System
The most expensive thing about Dominican Republic is by far the cost of private transportation. You can find routes online by doing a quick google search, and 9/10 times there is a TripAdvisor forum about the topic with a thorough answer. Make sure you get there early though, the times are almost never right.
3. Save Money on Water.
As is the case with a lot of developing countries, tap water in 99% of the country isn’t safe to drink. If you aren’t travelling with a water bottle with an in-built filter or a steri-pen, then you will end up buying A LOT of water! We found the best option was to buy 1.5L Water bottles from the local corner stores. Try to avoid buying water bottles from restaurants because you will easily pay 2 to 3 times as much. However, most restaurants won’t care if you carry your own.
4. Go during Low-Season
Especially for those wanting to go to all-inclusive resorts, you can usually find deals of up to 50% off during the low season. (High Season is December-January and June-August). Flight prices can also drop dramatically during these off-periods.
5. Learn the Language!
We are huge advocates of trying to learn at least a little bit of a language when you visit a country, and Dominican Republic is a very popular choice amongst travelers for picking up some Spanish. A little bit goes a long way when communicating with the locals, and more often than not just making the effort is enough to buy you some brownie points.
6. Don’t Exchange Money at the Airport
If exchanging money, try to bring US Dollars with you, and exchange it at a bank. The exchange tellers at the airport will give you an awful rate, and if you do find yourself running out of Dominican Pesos mostly everyone will accept American Dollars (not at the best rate, but definitely a better rate than the airport).