The Dominican Republic is truly paradise. If you’ve caught all the photos over on Instagram, then I’m sure you don’t need any convincing. I’ve known the DR for one thing, Punta Cana. Not because I’ve ever been there, but because I know it as one of the most popular spots to visit for its beaches, all-inclusives, romantic getaways, and spring break. But this isn’t at all what this trip was about. This trip, no, this trip was about so much more than that. It was about the culture, people, food and eco-experiences of the Southwest coast. Here are 5 things you can’t miss when visiting this area of the Dominican Republic.
San Rafael Lookout
Chances are, you’ll think you’re looking at a screen saver when your eyes meet this lookout point known as San Rafael. You’ll find this spot high on the cliffs overlooking Playa San Rafael, known locally as a surf spot. It’s located between Casa Bonita and Los Patos. There are a few signs so it’s kind of hard to miss!
Located in Barahona*
Los Patos Beach
Depending on which way you’re driving (towards or away from San Rafael) be sure to stop at Los Patos Beach. The pebble beach is beautiful. You’ll see locals spear fishing right offshore. Also a known lunch spot! Fresh fish anyone?
Bahia de las Aguilas
One of the most picture perfect beaches I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Here, you are in the elements: heat, humidity, and direct sunlight. There is very little vegetation on this beach which means little to no relief from the elements. I arrived, by boat, at about 4pm and stayed until sundown. This was the perfect amount of time because the sun wasn’t as harsh as it would have been mid-day and you can swim for a few hours and enjoy one of the best sunsets of your life. Guaranteed.
Located in Jaragua National Park accessible by boat or 4X4 (my vote is to go by boat because you’ll get breathtaking views of limestone cliffs and endless ocean).
What’s not to love about this area? The two top things you can do in Azua are visiting Ocoa Bay and chartering a boat to Playa Blanca.
First things first, Ocoa Bay. While in the Southwest Coast, you can’t miss the Dominicans very first, and ONLY, vineyard. Sweeping views of the ocean, mountains and vines. I’ve never seen anything quite like this. In addition to the wine, they’re expanding to create an eco-luxury hotel. Which, mark my words, I will be visiting.
You can already tell this isn’t your average vineyard. Adding to its uniqueness, in the 16th century, the first vineyard in the Americas was planted in this same region by Spanish explorers. Records say, Hernán Cortés founded the city of Azua, where he harvested grapes for six years. The current owners have what is said to be the very first vines ever planted in the Americas. So. Much. History.
Once you’ve wined and dined, I recommend organizing a charter to Playa Blanca. You can drive and you’ll find it after a beach called Monterio- you’ll have to walk about 10 minutes this way. So just go with the charter. You’ll anchor right offshore and most likely have the entire beach to yourself. Pack some cervezas, a beach towel and sunscreen- that’s all you’ll really need here.
Hiking in Barahona
The hike to La Plaza started when we parked the 4X4 about a half hour away from Casa Bonita. I have to admit, this was a tough hike! Over the river and through the woods comes to mind. Literally. Depending on the group size, the hike to the waterfalls can take anywhere from 1-2 hours, but don’t let that discourage you from doing it. The crystal clear waters of the Bahoruco River, the fresh fruits picked from the trees along the way, rural villages and fresh air all make it worth it. Oh, and obviously the waterfalls at the end! You can book this experience through Casa Bonita. Having a guide is recommended as the trail is not clearly marked and you don’t want to be lost on the jungle trails of the Dominican Republic!
Oviedo ́s Lagoon
Truly a hidden gem in the Dominican Republic. The saltwater lagoon is made up of 20 small islands, each unique in its own right in terms of vegetation and species. There are a number of migratory bird species here, making it the premiere bird watching destination in the Caribbean. In addition to birds you’ll find iguanas which you can feed, flocks of flamingos, and a number of fish species. PS you can feed the iguanas! Make sure you pack plenty of water, sneakers and bug spray for this activity as the terrain varies on each individual island.
*Also located in Jaragua National Park
If this hasn’t convinced you that there is so much more to this beautiful country than Punta Cana, then I’m not sure anything will. The beauty is spread across this entire nation and I’ve only just begun exploring! The Southwest Coast is full of different landscapes and experiences just waiting to be had. Get to booking!
This post is written in partnership with Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, however, as always, my opinions are my own.