Dominican Republic Roadtrip and Hiking Itinerary: Finding An Explorer’s Paradise

Most of the time, when I see travel discussions about the Dominican Republic, I see references to Punta Cana, and all-inclusive resorts. However, there is SO much more to this country, and I wanted to put together an Dominican Republic roadtrip that highlights all of my favorite things in the Dominican Republic, which I discovered during my two months living there. This includes a summit attempt on Pico Duarte (the tallest mountain in the Caribbean), many of the varied ecosystems of the Dominican side of Hispanola, and you will not miss the beautiful beaches that the Caribbean is known for. This is a high energy trip, and one which will give you a whirlwind tour of many of the amazing natural and historic gems of the Dominican Republic. However, I have to start with a serious disclaimer.

**IMPORTANT: Driving in the Dominican Republic can be very dangerous. If you take this roadtrip, drive with the UTMOST caution; have ALL insurance for your rental car. DO NOT DRIVE DRUNK. Avoid driving at night. Drive defensively and expect anything. You are responsible for your own safety. Also, be aware of crime in any area that you are in, and try to avoid being out on your own at night.


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La Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo (c) ABR 2016

Try to land during the day. Bring DR pesos.

Fly into Santo Domingo; you will need to bring $10 USD cash with you in order to buy your 30-day tourist card.

Pick up your rental car to start your Dominican Republic roadtrip.

Note that there will be tolls on the roads.

Stay in Santo Domingo.


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Tres Ojos in Santo Domingo (c) ABR 2016

Spend some time resting in Santo Domingo. La Zona Colonial or Tres Ojos are are some options of things to explore if you have the energy. See our short guide to Santo Domingo for more ideas.

Stay in Santo Domingo.


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The stream at the base of Pico Duarte (c) ABR 2016

There are two ways to attempt the summit of the Caribbean’s tallest mountain, arguably some of the best Dominican Republic hiking. Both methods require a guide. You may join an organized tour, or you can drive to the village at the base of the mountain and speak to a ranger about hiring a guide (best to do this if you are with at least one other person and one of you speak relatively good Spanish).

In order to organize your own trip, drive towards the town Jarabacoa. When you get there, pick up some groceries for your trip, and get directions to the ranger station at the bottom of the mountain (this is not on Google).

You will need to take mountain roads to get there, so only do this drive if you are experienced on mountain roads. Due to the driving styles on the Dominican Republic, I suggest honking your horn briefly when you near corners. Drive slowly and cautiously- never in the middle of the road. Also note that dirt roads are on this route.

Arrange your guide, and spend that night at the mountain’s base at the ranger’s station. Enjoy a picnic by the stream.

For the story of my attempt on the summit, as well as some pictures that should illustrate why this is worth doing if you are a hiker- look through my summit attempt story.

Camp at the base of Pico Duarte.


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Up and up and up the trail of Pico Duarte (c) ABR 2016

This is the big hike of this Dominican Republic itinerary (about 18 kilometers, all up hill). You should only attempt this hike if you are a competent hiker and have a guide.

Stay the night at Comparticion Camp; be sure that you work with your guide to insure that you have all the food and gear that you need. Wear good shoes.

Camp at la Comparticion.


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Near the summit of Pico Duarte (c) ABR 2016

Hike to the summit of Pico Duarte and enjoy a quiet day at camp in celebration of your accomplishment in Dominican Republic hiking.

Camp at la Comparticion.


Hike down from Comparticion, and resume your Dominican Republic roadtrip by driving up to the city of Santiago de Los Caballeros. This is about a 1.5 hour drive without traffic.

Spend a restful day in the city. If you need something to do, consider checking out the historic downtown area. There are a few historic sites here, but mostly some local shopping and places to eat.

Stay in Santiago.

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Santiago de los Caballeros (c) ABR 2016


If you aren’t afraid of heights, and are a good swimming, today is the day to enjoy some of the coolest waterfalls in the Dominican Republic at 27 Charcos. I cover this experience in a bit more detail in my list of the best natural spots in the DR.

Have a restful morning and then do the 50 min drive up to 27 Charcos. You will buy tickets at the entrance and be partnered up with a guide who will keep you safe. Bring or rent a waterproof camera! Wear some junky tennis shoes and hike up to the top of the falls.

Then you will get to jump down waterfalls and swim/wade back to the base. This is absolutely one of the most beautiful things I did in the Dominican Republic.

Dry off and take the 45 min drive to Puerto Plata where you will spend the night.

Stay in Puerto Plata.


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Puerto Plata (c) Pixabay

Spend a restful day on the coast in Puerto Plata.

If you want to get back out into nature, consider checking out Parque Nacional Isabel de Torres. Otherwise, enjoy this tourism hotspot, and a restful day on the beach.

Stay in Puerto Plata.


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The bridges out to sea near Samana (c) ABR 2016

Take the coastal road from Puerto Plata to Samana and enjoy the beach and resting your legs a bit more. It is about a 4 hour drive, one of the longest in this Dominican Republic itinerary.

If you get into town with some more daylight hours, consider walking around the Malecon and the bridges that go out to the small, bay islands. There are MANY scooters/motos in this area, so be extra careful while driving and walking.

Stay in Samana.


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One of the oldest churches in the region (c) ABR 2016

This is the day to take an organized tour to Los Haitises National Park, El Salto de Limon, and/or for whale watching. You may want to take an extra a day here to make sure you have time for it all.

Stay in Samana.


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The view from a Bayahibe restaurant (c) ABR 2016

Make your way from Samana down to Bayahibe/Dominicus. It will be about 4 hours (the final day of long driving in my Dominican Republic itinerary! Phew!).

Bayahibe is an absolutely beautiful village, so I would highly suggest planning to get in early enough to wander around before it gets dark. There is also so many good places to eat here, so have a nice dinner by the ocean.

Stay in Bayahibe.


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The cave in Nuestro Padre (c) ABR 2016

Take a nice slow day and to visit the caves near Bayahibe and do some lowkey Dominican Republic hiking. Cueva de Chico is one that you can swim in in Padre Nuestro (individual ticket is needed to enter this park). There is a short hike that you can take near the cave as well, but bring some sturdy shoes because the rocks are volcanic and very sharp.

You can also drive down to Parque Nacional de Este, where it is about 100 DR pesos to visit the beach, and do some hiking. If you do plan on hiking, be sure to get directions from the ranger on where to go as the trails lack signs. There is a small cave in the area that is fun to explore as well. Be sure to bring water on this hike, as this is a relatively dry area (I would suggest bringing water and food on any hike, just for safety).

Stay in Bayahibe.


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Near Soana Island (c) ABR 2016

Take an organized day trip out to Isla Soana, where you will get to see some beautiful starfish, beaches, and possibly baby turtles (depending on the season).

Stay in Bayahibe.


Take the 1.5 hour drive to Punta Cana. While you could treat yourself and stay at a resort for a couple nights, I would suggest that you don’t. It is a really eye opening experience to see Punta Cana from outside of the all-inclusives. It isn’t the most beautiful thing, but it is something you should be aware of as a traveler.

There are plenty of things to see and do in Punta Cana even if you aren’t at a resort, so feel free to explore, rest, or spend another day on the beach. For some more ideas, check out Culture Trip’s list.

Stay in Punta Cana.


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The exit of Cueva Fun Fun (c) ABR 2016

If you aren’t scared of heights or horses, take the epic day trip out to Cueva Fun Fun where you will ride horses, hike, rappel, and swim to and through a beautiful cave. This is also covered in more detail in my favorite natural places in the DR.

Stay in Punta Cana.


It is about a 2.5 hour drive from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo. Stop at the historic Cueva de Maravillas on the way into the capital and take a tour. Not only is this cave beautiful, but it is home to some ancient Taino cave paintings. Spend the afternoon and late evening in La Zona Colonial enjoying the historic buildings and delicious food.

Stay in Santo Domingo.


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A beautiful restaurant in Santo Domingo (c) ABR 2016

Head home after a successful completion of this Dominican Republic roadtrip!


Dos and Don’ts for the Dominican Republic

Nightborn Travel’s Guide to the Dominican Republic




dominican republic itinerary, dominican republic roadtrip, dominican republic hiking

dominican republic itinerary, dominican republic roadtrip, dominican republic hiking


Dos and Don’ts for la Republica Dominicana


The Un-Planner’s Guide To Montreal


  1. LOL okay, when I came across this line: “Due to the driving styles on the Dominican Republic, I suggest honking your horn briefly when you near corners,” I legitimately thought this was a fun touch of humor. Until I kept reading, and I realized you were serious!! That’s so crazy! I have never honked my car horn in my life, so perhaps I should not drive in the Dominican Republic lol.

    • waitingforrain28

      It definitely takes a certain kind of driver to navigate safely on those roads. Hahaha. Caution goes a long way.

  2. Wow, Santo Domigo, Isla Soana and the caves look so beautiful! And I love that you have to honk when near corners, that is so charming. I’n used to that honking culture from my trips to Pakistan (where I never drive). That disclaimer scared me a little however – I think I’ll have to bring a friend who’s also a great driver do do this road trip if it is ever to happen 😂

    • waitingforrain28

      I hate to be scary, but yeah, it’s just the reality of the situation and I want everyone to stay safe. Finding a friend who could do it safely would be perfect!

  3. Michelle

    You are so right. So often, we get caught up in our all-inclusive experience and forget to get out and enjoy the true heartbeat of the area we are visiting. This looks like a great trip!

    • waitingforrain28

      It happens way too often in the Caribbean, sadly. But the DR is too cool for all-inclusives only! XD

  4. Wow, you spent a nice amount of time in the Dominican Republic. I have been once even though I have family there (my mom is there at the moment). I think people do not realize how big the island is. I have friends who visit and are surprised by the driving distances. So, a decent amount of time if you want to see the island properly. Like you mentioned, drivers are aggressive there. Better to be careful if you are not used to this. Getting outside the most popular spots is a great idea!

    • waitingforrain28

      It’s great that you have family there! I hope you get to go see it for yourself soon!

  5. You are an absolute badass. I went to the Dominican Republic on a family trip – one of those terrible, all-inclusive deals, and it bored me to death. I prefer to actually do things when I travel. Still, I might be a little stressed about driving up those mountain dirt roads. I could definitely get behind the rest of this though. Great read.

    • waitingforrain28

      Thanks! Luckily most of the roads are easier to manage, although you have to be extra careful everywhere.

  6. I like to hike but this one seems to be longer than I usually do and I am not sure if I could take it. However, it sounds tempting.

    • waitingforrain28

      It you go alot and give yourself enough time, I bet you could do it! You just need a guide to keep you safe and a mule to carry your gear.

  7. As soon as I saw the title, I thought “yes! Something not about Punta Cana!” – glad to see you referenced the same thing. Half of my family is from the Dominican Republic, primarily from Santo Domingo so love seeing other parts of the country being acknowledged.

    • waitingforrain28

      I’m so glad that someone with more experience in the Dominican Republic thinks that this looks cool. That makes me so happy! Thank you!

  8. Beautiful photos! Love the mix involving hiking as well. And that water in the cave?! So clear! Looks beautiful with the ripples going through it. It’s amazing how clear water is in caves after the filtering.

    • waitingforrain28

      The Dominican Republic basically has it all for outdoor types like myself. And yes, the cave water was AMAZING! I loved it.

  9. So funny you have to honk near corners, reminds me of Pakistan-driving-style! Santa domingo look amazing, I’ll have to bring a friend who doesn’t get scared by your disclaimer 😂

    • waitingforrain28

      Sorry for the scary disclaimer, I just want people to be safe. I bet you can find someone though!

  10. This is awesome to see there is so much more to the Dominican Republic than just the beaches. You are right to encourage travelers to be very cautious. In your opinion, are the locals pretty friendly and can they help out if you are in a jam? Lots to see and discover. Great itinerary.

    • waitingforrain28

      I only had one bad experience with locals, and they were drunk domestic tourists. Otherwise, people were extremely kind. A friend of mine even got dropped off at the wrong house by a taxi when she arrived and this sweet lady helped her find her way to me. So amazingly nice of her. That being said, there are also bad people everywhere. Best to avoid bad areas, and be extremely careful at night.

  11. Nerissa

    I’ve been so focused on Europe lately that I haven’t even considered this part of the world. I know, shame on me. It sounds amazing! Especially the caves, I’d love to visit there. I’m adding it to my bucket list asap!

    • waitingforrain28

      The Caribbean is absolutely amazing. But oh so different than Europe. Hahaha.

  12. What a splendid adventure! The caves look amazing and the Dominican Republic has such gorgeous beaches. I feel South and Central America are still not as overrun by tourists as SE Asia and you can explore a lot in peace, away from the crowds.

    • waitingforrain28

      Definitely, especially because most people never leave their all-inclusives in the DR.

  13. MO

    An interesting post, as I have been advised NOT to get off the resorts in DR, as the environment is not safe for tourists. But good to know there are alternative options to all-inclusive packages! I can only play in the pool for so long 😉

  14. We have never had the opportunity to travel to that part of the world. Always nice to get off the beaten path and out of the resorts. You have found some beautiful places to visit and explore.

    • waitingforrain28

      Thanks! Hopefully, if you guys want to, you will have the opportunity to visit in the future.

  15. Elizabeth O

    A roadtrip in the Dominican Republic sounds like an excellent adventure. It seems like there is so much to explore and do. The caves sound amazing.

  16. Totally love how you have split each of the places to visit according to the days. Great tip for sharing about the tourist card and bringing $10 as well.

    • waitingforrain28

      I forgot the $10 the second time I came and had to get cash from an extremely kind woman I met on the plane! It was pretty stressful. XD I am still so thankful for that woman for helping me!

  17. Blair villanueva

    One of our consultants is going to Domican republic for a 6months project engagement, and I would like to share this to him. This could be his local guide.

    • waitingforrain28

      I hope it is helpful for him! I think he will really enjoy his time in the DR.

  18. Jan F

    Beautiful pics! I definitely love the hiking part. And that clear water!

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