Family Vacations to the Dominican Republic

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Dominican Republic – Family Vacation Guide

The Dominican Republic is the most popular vacation country in the entire Caribbean. From the diverse provinces and magnificent landscapes to ancient cities and endless beaches, it’s easy to see why.

Why Go

  • Tropical Climate

    The Dominican Republic sits between the Atlantic and the Caribbean. The climate’s tropical and temperatures range from 66˚F in December to 95˚F in August.

  • Second Largest Caribbean Country

    It’s the second largest Caribbean country after Cuba and one of only two on a divided island. The Dominican Republic’s neighbor to the north is Haiti. Spanish is the official language, but English is widely spoken.

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site

    Santo Domingo is the oldest city in the New World and home to 3 million people. The historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

  • Stunning National Parks

    The Dominican Republic has 14 national parks, including the Cave of Miracles and La Caleta Underwater Park.

Where to Go

Santo Domingo

The Domincan Republic’s beach resorts are fabulous for family holidays. But tear yourself away from the water sports, glittering sea and gorgeous sands to spend at least one day in mesmerising Santo Domingo. The entire colonial heart of this graceful capital is a World Heritage site and dates back to the 16th century. Often compared to Havana, Santo Domingo is older than the Cuban legend and much better cared for, less hectic, far easier to explore and just as captivating. Walk around the historic quarter’s neat, symmetrical streets and pretty cobbled alleys and you’re surrounded by marvellous little museums, delightful shops, restaurants and architectural intrigue. Or, if kids are still young enough not to cringe at tourist trains, catch the Chu-Chu Colonial for a 45-minute snapshot tour before delving into the city by yourself.

  • Malećon is Santo Domingo’s seafront and strolling some of the 14km boulevard is a city must-do – wonderful sunsets.
  • Don’t miss: Museo Bellapart, Parque Colón, Museo de Arte Moderno, Alcázar de Colón and Plaza España.
  • Santo Domingo is the heartland of shopping and stores stay open until at least 9 pm all week long.
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Punta Cana

On the far south tip of the country, Punta Cana is one of the main reasons for the Dominican Republic’s popularity. A paradise resort, washed by the Caribbean and the Atlantic, where the country keeps all its best hotels wrapped around flawless beaches on the sunniest coast. Punta Cana even has its own airport and no fewer than 11 golf courses.

  • All-inclusive family hotels with everything from huge water parks and extraordinary kids’ clubs to spas and water sports on peaceful, private beaches.
  • Punta Cana balances eco with adventure and has as many heritage experiences and nature reserves as it does zip lines and buggy tours.
  • Don’t miss: Pirate Cruises, Manati Park, Jeep Safaris, snorkelling and diving, horse riding and Marinarium.
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On the green and cosseted east coast, Samaná is the province for national parks, with a laid-back beachy atmosphere, calm seas, whale watching and wonderful walking trails. It’s more independent and less touristy than Punta Cana and the landscape is, arguably, the country’s most breathtaking.

  • Eco-resorts, beautifully designed tropical villages and charming villas.
  • Don’t miss: Humpback Whales, Los Haitises National Park, Museo Taino, Playa las Terrenas, Caya Leventado, La Churcha and Museo de las Ballenas.
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Puerto Plata

Santo Domingo’s northern sister is another colonial beauty dating back to the late 16th century. Sheltered by the soaring drama of enormous Mount Isabel de Torres and gazing out over the Atlantic, Puerto Plata is famous for stately Victorian villas, ancient fortresses and tropical gardens.

  • Puerto Plata Province has over 60 miles of coast scattered with pretty seaside towns, excellent family hotels and all-inclusive beach resorts.
  • Don’t miss: Ocean World Adventure Park, Damajagua Falls, the cable car ride up Mount Isabel de Torres and kiteboarding at Sosua or Cabarete.
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La Romana

On the sheltered west coast, just over an hour’s drive from Punta Cana, La Romana is the area where vast sugar cane fields fight for attention with long, sparkling beaches and pretty islands. The family resorts here are some of the best in the country and the province is also home to Del Este National Park.

  • Romano resorts like Viva Wyndham are exceptionally child-friendly, with a wide range of events and activities, theme parks and age-specific kids’ clubs.
  • Casa de Campo has its own horse ranch, a range of kids’ sports programs and a baseball pitch.
  • Don’t miss: Sendero Padre Nuestro Island, Altos de Chavón, Isla Saona, Cueva Fun Fun and La Romana city.
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What to Do

  • Dolphin Island, Punta Cana
    Kids can choose to swim with dolphins, frolic with sea lions or any number of other fun experiences at this famous Punta Cana park.
  • Monkey Jungle, Puerto Plata
    A jungle filled with capuchin and squirrel monkeys where kids can soar around the treetops on over seven long zip lines.
  • Humpback Whale Watching, Samaná
    From January to March every year the protected coastline off Samaná becomes one of the best spots in the Caribbean to see breaching humpback whales.
  • Ocean World Adventure Park, Puerto Plata
    Thrilling water park, aquarium, dolphinarium and much more on the spectacular Puerto Plata coast.
  • Bavaro Adventure Park, Punta Cana
    One of the country’s biggest and most exciting parks with its own animatronic dinosaur world, zorbing, bungee trampolines, skydiving, sky-walking and pirate ship cruising.
  • Marinarium, Punta Cana
    Sea cruises for safe swimming with sharks and stingrays, snorkelling and coral reef diving off the coast of Punta Cana.
  • Museo Bellapart, Santo Domingo
    The world’s finest collection of 19th- and 20th-century Dominican art and sculpture.
  • Manati Park, Punta Cana
    Heritage park with an adventurous side where kids can explore an authentic Taino Village and swim with dolphins.
  • Sirenis Aquagames, Punta Cana
    A massive waterpark with tube towers, rafting, tobogganing, four land-speed slides and an enormous pool.
  • Rancho Baiguate, Jarabacoa
    Award-winning mountain ranch and camp with everything from white water rafting on the country’s longest river to the Jarabacoa Butterfly House. Families can stay or visit for the day.

Educational Value for Kids

  • Visit at least one of the Dominican Republic’s 14 national parks; they’re well-managed and big on education.
  • Eco-tourism is important here and kids can get involved in all sorts of projects.
  • It’s the land of natural marvels so try to take in a few, start with the Cave of Miracles for the rock art.
  • There are museums in every city and most towns.
  • Surf schools all along the coast have morning classes designed for younger kids and beginners.
  • Heritage parks are fascinating places to see artists and artisans at work in their studios.
  • Take a guided tour of one or more of the great colonial cities; they’re as entertaining as they are interesting.

Getting Around

Family resorts have good private transport to major sites and cities. But this is a big Caribbean country and if you want to explore on your own time, go beyond the beaches, tour national parks and visit several provinces, rent a car. Most historic centers are compact enough to walk around and taxis are an inexpensive alternative for longer distances.

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