If you are in the area or want to stop over for a bite, do call in. You won't regret it.
The floating restaurant (above) is the hotel/resort restaurant so it's the Hemingway Resort Restaurant. It's not really floating, just a gangplank out to sea with the restaurant built on stilts with a man made reef built to stop the waves coming in.
There are two top resorts on Juan Dolio Beach, but i don't know the name of the other one;—they are new and the wealthy people in Santo Domingo come here on weekends to get out of the city.
The road between Santo Domingo and Punta Cana is very bad and therefore people visiting the resorts out there fly directly in to the international airport there. A lesser known beach but still as spectacular is Paraiso Beach (south western tip of DR).
Other Great Beaches
Cabarete – for windsurfing and kite-surfing, which is on the northern strip of DR just east of Puerto Plata.
Great for whale watching during the months of January and February; on the peninsular (north east part of DR).
This is for calm waters as it is a naturally protected bay. It's just east of Santo Domingo and is very popular but a noisy beach with continuous nightlife. If you love night life this is the place for you.
DR top sites
Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the Caribbean, 3087m /10 128ft, which takes 2 to 4 days to scale if you are fit. The mountain is in a national park, which requires a permit if you want to enter, so you have to plan in advance and obtain a guide and permit. There are no facilities on the mountain and you have to take all your own stuff. Best months between November and March when it's dry.
Salto de Jimenoa – a 20m / 65ft waterfall which you can stand under but the access is via flimsy suspension bridges. Feeling adventurous?
Museo Del Hombre Dominicano
A history of the island's first inhabitants before Columbus in Santo Domingo.
Catedral Basilica Menor de Santa Maria
This is in the Zona Colonial, the oldest part of Santo Domingo. a cathedral built in 1540, possible tomb of Christopher Columbus, tomb of Simon Bolivar. The entire Zona Colonial is a wonderful place to visit.
A beach paradise on the Samana Peninsular; a hilly landscape and luxurious vegetation, it climbs to 450m / 1 476ft before descending to sea level again. The beach resorts offer every water sport activity possible, plus exotic foods such as fish baked in coconut milk. A must if you like baked fish!
Caves of La Caritas
The native indian (Taino) leader used these as a hiding place when the Spaniards landed. A 50m / 164ft ascent to caves with scratch marks resembling faces. From here you can see the entire island of DR.
A salt lake surrounded by the Sierra de Neiba and Sierra de Baoruco mountains lies at the bottom of a natural basin about 40m / 130ft below sea level. The region is hot and dry but fertile. Many rare butterfly species can be found here. The lake is 42km / 26 miles long and 12km / 7 miles wide. The lake bed is covered with a thick layer of ancient shells and fossilized coral. There are many interesting villages around the lake. (I have to check it out, but i have heard rumors that there are glass bottomed boat trips on the lake.)
Remains of the first Spanish settlement of the new world named in honor of the queen during Columbus' reign. Some of the remains of Columbus' house can be seen; also a graveyard with excavated tombs of the remains of some of the victims of the Conquista’s.
Fortress of San Felipe
Built in the 16th century to protect the north from pirates.
Tobacco Museum and Factory – learn about history and production in the city of Santiago. There are of course many other places to see, there is an entire compact guide book about all the sites to visit.
Best times to visit
All year! Temps fluctuate between 27C / 80F and 32C / 90F all year round. Dry season is December to March, wet season May to August. Showers are, however, very short, and the sun always returns the same day. Hurricane period is July to Nov, but they are rare, although the island is sometimes affected by tail ends of them with high winds at these times. Peak season price wise is November until April when the rest of the northern hemisphere is cold. Low season is the rest of the year.
Only hepatitis A and B needs to be up to date (recommendation only). No yellow fever, no malaria but dengue fever (mosquito borne) has been reported near the Haiti border.
Most people have false impressions of the crime level in DR. it is, in fact, lower than most European countries, and outside the tourist centers it's very safe. Obvious precautions must be taken when walking around with cameras, passports, cash etc in the cities.
The locals do not like tourists walking around in bathing suits and flip flops outside the beach areas. They are a proud people who spend a lot of time and money on their appearance.
Souvenirs not to be missed – amber and cigars (the entire northern part of the island is famous for its amber)
Water from the taps should be avoided. Drink bottled wherever possible—this also goes for ice—avoid ice cubes in your drinks.
Visas and entering DR
You do not need a visa, but you will have to buy a tourist card upon entering the customs area of the airport. It costs USD $10 per person and lasts 90 days.
Should it expire during your visit it's not a sweat, you simply pay a USD fine (amounts vary according to the customs official handling your case) when you leave—this is just a money thing for the locals.
You need a valid passport (valid for at least another 6 months).
You fill in a customs declaration form on the plane (one per family) and a blue sheet with all your details on like passport number, where you are coming from, reason for visit, address where you will be staying etc – one per person. Then as you come into customs, you buy a tourist card then stand in the customs line. You hand the card back just as you reach the end of the customs queue before you reach the counter and keep your customs declaration form on you and proceed to the baggage collection.
After picking up your stuff you need to have your luggage tags ready (one tag on your luggage and the other tag that the check in counter gave you when you departed). You proceed through to the “declare line” and you will be stopped anyway, and your tags will be checked and you hand in your customs declaration form—then you should be free to go and enjoy the sunshine!
This weekend was truly wonderful watching whales in the lovely waters of Bahia de Samana. This must be the best place in the world to watch these fabulous mammals who come as far away as Greenland. We'll post pictures here of these whales practicing their mating rituals.
Cheap Family Beach Vacations
In the Dominican Republic, there are hundreds of places I've discovered right on the beach! The lapping of the waves at night will put you to sleep. Oftentimes these beach places are a lot cheaper than the all inclusive deals.
Best to decide where you'd like to go in DR, what beach would fit your needs? A quiet beach, a sophisticated beach with all the amenities or a beach where there is plenty of action going on? If you are a sun-worshiper then go to Bavaro or the warm waters of Cayo Levantado...one of the MOST pristine beaches would be Bahia de Las Aguilas which nestles in the southwest corner and away from all the buzz!
Take a trip to Enriquillo which is the biggest lake in the Dominican Republic. This lake is in the southwest region and one of the poorest in DR. The soil surrounding the Lake is not particularly fertile and so vast areas need to be developed.
A visit to the Lake is worth it for the magnificent mountain views. This Lake, by the way, is about 37 meters below sea level and one of the only salt water where crocs have made their habitat.