The lure of the Dominican Republic and its promise of sun-drenched days spent sipping tropical concoctions at the swim-up bar of an all-inclusive resort consistently attract visitors. And to be fair, the resorts cater to every traveler’s needs — so there’s really no need to leave a property with a seemingly endless stream of food, drink and activities at your fingertips.
But those who opt to venture outside the all-inclusive bubble and hit the open road are rewarded with a diverse island panorama that can look anything like a string of sandy shorelines dotted with palms, to mountainous views enveloped by lush vegetation.
Here are some of the best road trips to help you make the most of your visit to the Dominican Republic.
What driving in the Dominican Republic is like?
The Dominican Republic boasts a fairly reliable highway system that keeps its commuter-centric population moving. A robust network of roads connect 871 miles of coastline, linking towns and cities.
Take advantage and set off on an adventure in a rental car. You’ll need a valid driver’s license from your home country or an international driver’s permit.
When navigating through the Dominican Republic, drive on the right-side of the road and stick to traveling during the daytime as some streets outside the main towns tend to be poorly lit. Go slow and keep a look out for potholes, pedestrians and animals, all of which make appearances on the roads.
Take the high road on Route 41
Best road trip for mountainous climes and exhilarating turns
Jarabacoa de Ocoa-Constanza; 31 miles (50 km)
The path from Jarabacoa to Constanza isn’t for the faint of heart — but thrill-seekers will delight in its winding roads. You’ll reach an altitude of about 2,500m (it’s the highest road on the island) as you take in breathtaking views of the Dominican Republic’s central mountain range and acres of unspoiled vegetation and land.
On the way, swing by the “Colossal Pyramid” in the Valle Nuevo reserve and stretch your legs on one of the park’s short hikes.
You’ll also want to take your time on the road — for safety, yes — but to make stops along the way for fresh coconuts and coffee at roadside stands. Near Constanza, strawberry fields abound; it’s a great opportunity to pick up a few boxes for snacking. Or grab a “batido” (milkshake) for a sweet road trip treat.
Take in the tropical scenery on Boulevard del Atlantico
Best road trip for families
Las Terrenas-Santo Domingo; 77 miles (124 km)
Connecting the cosmopolitan beachside town of Las Terrenas with the bustling Santo Domingo is the Boulevard del Atlantico, a private highway that takes you from one coast of the island to the other.
Because it’s a private roadway, prepare to pay several tolls along the route (approximately $20USD in total; one of the highest rates in the country) — but the price is well worth the ensuing view.
Expect a sharp juxtaposition between rocky landscapes and the rollicking turquoise waves of the Atlantic along your route.
And because the road was built fairly recently, you can rely on a fairly smooth ride to your destination with very few potholes and bumps, making it an ideal drive for families with children in tow.
Breathe in the ocean air on the Barahona Enriquillo Coastal Highway
Best road trip for rustic beach views
Barahona-Pedernales; 77 miles (124 km)
One of the least developed regions of the Dominican Republic, the southwest area of the island offers ample opportunity to explore the enchanting leafy bluffs and sweeping cliffs that cascade into the cerulean Caribbean Sea.
The Barahona Enriquillo Coastal Highway will take you through a series of compelling natural attractions that most tourists don’t frequent, including Lago Enriquillo, a sizeable saltwater lake with over 200 crocodiles and several varieties of iguanas, and Laguna Oviedo, the largest lagoon in the Dominican Republic with a hypersaline lake and prime birdwatching territory.
Along the way to Pedernales, you’ll pass remote fishing villages and “balnearios” (seaside/river towns) — like San Rafael and Los Patos — that make for great spots to refuel with a plate of fresh fish and a cold beer.
Shop and eat along La Ruta Panoramica
Great road trip for exploring rural Dominican life
Puerto Plata-Santiago; 18 miles (30 km)
Winding through the coffee and cacao farms, waterfalls, and mountain gorges of the Dominican Republic’s northern mountain range (Cordillera Septentrional), La Ruta Panoramica takes you 800m above sea level.
Take it slow — the roads can be bumpy and hilly. But you also don’t want to miss the scenes that’ll unfold before you: bucolic farmlands on rolling hills, small villages and verdant mountainscapes.
Along the way, stop at one of the many fruit stands for a quick bite and then pop into a few roadside shops for locally-made souvenirs. Or, take a detour to Yasica for some ziplining; La Cumbre to explore amber mines, or the Camu River in Montellano for off-roading and horseback riding.
Explore lagoons and waterfalls from Las Terrenas to Rio San Juan
Best road trip for aquatic adventures
Las Terrenas-Rio San Juan; 65 miles (104 km)
Heading from Las Terrenas to Rio San Juan feels like you’ve taken the unbeaten path when compared to Boulevard del Atlantico — don’t expect a well-developed highway system to get your from one point to the next.
Nonetheless, the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic channels a real road trip vibe: the kind that invites you to roll down the windows, crank up the music, and let the breezy palms and salty beach air mellow your mood.
Along the way, you can pull over into the mile-long beach at Playa Grande or dip into the crystal clear waters at Laguna Dudu, where you can zipline 30ft in the air before dropping into the lagoon below.
You can also make a pit stop at El Saltadero waterfall near Cabrera for swimming and exploring the cave-like grottos. Local children can often be found scaling El Saltadero’s rock walls and jumping into the water below with acrobatic precision for tips from visiting tourists.