The Dominican Republic is famous for being a sun-drenched beach destination – but there’s so much more going on than that alone. Its mountain ranges and national parks make it ideal for adventure, while cities like Santo Domingo are vibrant, cosmopolitan places to soak up some local culture. If you’re thinking of heading here on your next holiday, read my guide for a few ideas on what to see and do.

white sand beach in Dominican Republic

A quick glance at the coast

Considering the Dominican Republic has around 250 miles of stunning coastline, it’ll come as no surprise to hear that its beaches are its main attractions. But, since laying on the sand is the most obvious thing to do here, I’m not going to dwell on this aspect too much.

I will say, though, that there are some great beaches around the capital Santo Domingo, which makes a quick stint in the sun easy to achieve if you’re having a cultural break. Boca Chica is usually considered to be the city’s main stretch of sand, while Caribe Beach is a little further away and great for surfing – though it’s best to come in the afternoon to catch decent waves. As a final tip, you can find a good selection of beachside hotels through companies like Sovereign Luxury Holidays.

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo is an amazing city, and one that is often very deservedly described as among the most – if not the most – vibrant in the Caribbean. What I most love about Santo Domingo is its mix of past and present; it’s the oldest city in the New World and is still home to the wonderfully preserved Colonial City, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The charm of the place, I think, lies in the fact that all this wonderful heritage – including traditional 15th-century houses and horse-drawn carts – sits side by side with modern buildings and luxury cars.

If you do come here, I recommend taking the Chu Chu Colonial Train tour, which will introduce you to around 500 years of the city’s history in just 45 minutes. These leave every hour between 09:00 and 17:00 local time.

Humpback whale watching

Arrive in the Dominican Republic between mid-January and mid-March and you’ll be in with a great chance of seeing some majestic humpback whales, which come here at this time of year to give birth. Samana is one of the most popular places to go on this kind of excursion; in fact, around 50,000 people each year flock here to see the whales.

It’s by no means the only place you can spot them though. Excursions also leave from Santo Domingo, Punta Cana and Boca Chica, to name just a few of the departure points.

Hiking and adventure

The Dominican Republic is also a pretty unbeatable destination if you enjoy a spot of adventure. Surfing, paddle boarding snorkelling, white water rafting, hiking across majestic mountain ranges – the possibilities are virtually endless.

If you fancy having a variety of things to do at your fingertips, head to Constanza or Jarabacoa. These places offer things like mountain climbing, horse riding and rafting.

Alternatively, if you fancy hiking, you can always tackle the towering Duarte Peak, which at 3,187 m high is the tallest mountain in the entire Caribbean. That said, I realise not everyone is up for so serious a challenge, in which case I suggest hiking the Tetero Valley instead.

This is still a decent workout, with the valley being considered the gem of the Central Mountain Chain, and gives you the chance to walk through a tropical paradise.

This was a guest post from Michael Scott Parken