Family Vacations to Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic
THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Soft sands and clear waters along with an array of activities for the family (Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism)

Miles of sugar-soft beaches and clear turquoise waters have lured traditional sun and sand seekers to the Dominican Republic, which occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola—Haiti has the rest. The Dominican Republic, one of the Caribbean's largest nations in land mass, also supports one of the highest counts of hotel rooms. Many of these are all-inclusive mega resorts, particularly prevalent in the Punta Cana, Bávaro Beach, and Playa Dorado areas. With elaborate pools, multiple restaurants, children's programs, and typically no charge for kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, and other activities, most visitors never leave their resort complex except to play golf. The Dominican Republic challenges duffers with top courses designed by experts such as Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Pete Dye, and Tom Fazio.

However, if you can get your teens away from the fairways and your kids to leave their newfound friends at the children's camp, the island offers interesting attractions. From Bayahibe take a catamaran to the offshore Isla Saona, part of a national park. Outfitters generally provide picnic lunches plus time for swimming and strolling, and a stop on the way back to splash in the calm waters off a natural sandbar.

Manati Park, Punta Cana, offers swimming with dolphins and animal shows, best for young children. Horses prance, parrots push toy trucks, and sea lions perform antics. Along with dolphin swims and a snorkeling reef at Ocean World, Puerto Plata, a large marine park, you'll meet sea lions, touch stingrays, float with nurse sharks, and, in a twist on the animal encounter theme, hand-feed a tiger.

To view animals in the wild, go whale watching off the Dominican Republic's northeast coast. From mid-January to mid-March, humpbacks mate in Samaná Bay. Through underwater microphones you may be able to hear the humpback's courting song.

In Cabarete, watch windsurfers and kiteboarders fly and twirl, buoyed by the steady winds. Walk the café-lined beach (surf is often rough) with the trendy, strut-your-stuff activities, and you can see why Cabarete attracts a twenty-something crowd.

Stroll the cobblestone streets of Santo Domingo's 12-block Zona Colonial, a World Heritage site with historic buildings, cafes, and boutiques. Highlights include the Alcázar de Colon, a palace built by Columbus's son Diego from 1510 to 1514 and the Catedral de Santa María la Menor, the oldest cathedral in the Americas.

Tip: For take-home items consider jewelry made of amber (the Dominican variety is considered some of the best) and larimar.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 8 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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