A whopping 4.6 million tourists flock to the Dominican Republic every year, making it the most-visited destination in the Caribbean. With hundreds of resorts, lush natural beauty and a thriving outdoor and eco-tourism industry, it is muy obvioso why the DR is so popular. From kiteboarding in Cabarete to rappelling into caves decorated by natural limestone crystals, this tropical utopia is full of opportunities for epic experiences. Here are our top 10 outdoor adventures for your next trip to the Dominican Republic.
1. Monkey Jungle and Zip Line Adventures
Who can resist a beautiful jungle with zip lines, friendly monkeys that wittily invade your selfies, and tour guides with monikers such as Jay Z, Usher and Will Smith? That’s just a glimpse of what makes Monkey Jungle and Zip Line Adventures awesome. No need to worry about reservations and technical stuff. Just whisk into the thrill of zip-lining above the jungle canopies on a 7-station course and free fall 60 feet down into an ancient cave. Wanna wind down and smell the roses? Take a walking tour through the old grotto-enclosed botanical garden. Already enamored with the charm of the squirrel monkeys posing for pictures on your shoulder, you’d be doubly pleased to know that the money you paid for this experience goes to charity. Free medical and dental care is donated to disadvantaged residents of the Sosua-Cabarete community. Monkey Jungle and Zip Line Adventures is open 365 days a year.
Imagine swimming in the Atlantic Ocean and watching magnificent humpback whales that are 40-50 feet long and weigh in at 35-40 tons. One of the few places in the world where you can have this experience is at the Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic. From January to the end of March, thousands of Atlantic humpback whales migrate to the Silver Bank, located between the DR and Turks and Caicos, where you can observe them mating, breaching and rearing their calves. This weeklong whale encounter offered by Row Adventures is for true wildlife enthusiasts and those passionate about whales. Because of strict biodiversity guidelines, there can be only about 60 visitors per week during the season, which makes for an intimate, non-touristy experience. Book at least 3-4 months out. For half- or full-day whale-watching excursions, book with animal advocate and conservationist Kim Beddall of Whale Samana.
Idyllic natural beauty and perfect wind conditions make the northern town of Cabarete the kiteboarding mecca of the Dominican Republic. This extreme sport is a fusion of wakeboarding, windsurfing, snowboarding, skateboarding and kite flying. By maneuvering the kite and catching big gusts of wind, kiteboarders can jump 20 to 40 feet high while doing aerials as they glide back down. It is a marvel to watch. Tourists and locals journey to Cabarete year-round for the adrenaline rush that this popular sport provides. Kitexcite, which opened in 1999 and bills itself as the first kiteboarding school in Cabarete, offers both group and private lessons for kids and adults. Other schools and companies that provide lessons and rentals include Destination Kiteboarding, Cabarete Kiteboarding and Laurel Eastman Kiteboarding School.
You might think a place with the name Fun Fun Cave is exclusively for children, but it is actually a historical, ecological and cultural experience for people ages 11 and up. The thrill starts on horseback, followed by a mystical hike through the rain forest in Los Haitises National Park, before you rappel into a cave ornate with enchanting stalactites and stalagmites. This is only the beginning of the fun. After walking and swimming in a river that leads to a tunnel, the Fun Fun Cave appears. Prepare to be awestruck by engravings and rock paintings left by the pre-Columbian societies and the Taino natives of the Dominican Republic.
Three companions who were passionate about surfing, teaching and empowering youth realized their dream and formed the Macao Surf Camp on Macao Beach in Punta Cana. Their 30-plus years of surfing expertise, combined with their spiritual philosophy on giving thanks to God for the ocean, have made Macao Surf Camp highly regarded among tourists and locals. According to UNESCO, Macao Beach is one of the best beaches in the Caribbean because of its fine, golden sand and beautiful palm trees. The natural beauty found here only enhances an experience at this exceptional surf camp.
6. Permaculture Farm Tour and River Float
If aquaponics and organic farming interest you and the idea of tubing down a river gets you excited, then the Taino Farm’s Permaculture Farm Tour and River Float might be your perfect agri-adventure. During this half-day tour, you will see the cutting-edge techniques used by the farmers who are regarded as pioneers in the organic food movement in Cabarete. After spending a few hours on the farm, you switch gears, strip down, and grab your tube to float along the “rapids” in the Yasica River. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, expect a beachside lunch with organic fare straight from Taino Farm. You can book directly with the farm or use Iguana Mama Eco-Tours.
7. Ciguapa Falls Waterfall Tour
If you thrive on off-the-beaten-path excursions and are willing to hike deep into the Septentrional Mountain Range, the Ciguapa Falls Cascading tour should be on your DR bucket list. This is for intrepid adventure junkies who get a kick out of being in the wilderness and jumping into rivers. With Iguana Mama Eco-Tours, your guide will help you gear up in a wetsuit, harness, helmet and life preserver in preparation for your 12 waterfall jumps. If you do not want to hike the 45-minute uphill path, you can hire a donkey, accompanied by its owner, to take you for $10. This excursion departs from Cabarete on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Mountain biking in the Dominican Republic can be a fun, family-friendly adventure or a long and intense off-road ride on rugged terrain. Whatever is most suitable for you, prepare for an unforgettable experience. Whether you encounter friendly Dominicans saying “Hola” as you ride by or witness exotic birds fishing in the river next to you, look out for those naturally beautiful moments that are unique in this tropical land. Iguana Mama, the largest adventure-tour company in the DR, has 7 bike excursions. For an easy downhill trail that ends with a swim in the Jamao River, book the Downhill Cruise. For an extreme uphill, downhill and off-road trail, book the 37-mile Max Endurance outing.
Why walk when you can rev a dune buggy across tropical terrain? If you are lucky, a prior rain shower created puddles for you to splash in along your journey, giving you the muddy markings necessary to earn your dune buggy street cred. Book an excursion with Xtreme Buggy or Viator, which will allow you to discover the Dominican countryside, banana plantations, a limestone mine and idyllic Macao Beach. Make sure you wear clothes that can get muddy and bring your GoPro or waterproof camera. This is a perfect way to have some adventure when you want a change of scenery from your all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana.
Perfect for children and dolphin-loving adults, Dolphin Island Park is a floating platform created in the middle of the ocean for people to experience the gentle and intuitive nature of these creatures in their natural habitat. After a quick sail from Punta Cana, the trainers guide your experience in the water as you engage with the dolphins. Depending on your excursion package, you may also snorkel among the nurse sharks, manta rays and sea lions. Rest assured that all activities here comply with the interaction guidelines recommended by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.