There are two kinds of people in this world: those who take the plane or a train from point A to point B, without worrying much about the road there – and those who embrace roadtripping and driving on their own until they reach their destination.
If you’ve ever seen Eurotrip or Road Trip, you probably realized for yourself how fun that can be.
A lot of adventure, a lot of things to see – and the best part about everything is that you can stop wherever you want, whenever you want.
And when you are driving in the Dominican Republic, there are a lot of things that are worth stopping for.
By reading this article, you’ll find out what to expect and what you should do in order to enjoy a road trip.
The Roads of the Dominican Republic
Driving in the Dominican Republic may be rather chaotic, so to speak. Traffic jams are usually a common occurrence in the main cities.
Still, when it comes to the roads from in-between the cities, you can expect them to be rather relaxing and surprisingly reliable.
How’s that, you may ask? Well, for one, there aren’t really any potholes. Second, the roads are wide enough, so you may easily pass over a car that seems to be going too slow.
Moreover, even if you get pulled over by an officer of the law, there is nothing that 20 bucks cannot get you out of.
Because of the quality of the roads, one of the biggest tips that travelers can give you is that you get your hands on your own set of wheels.
Going for 4×4 vehicles is very convenient in this regard because they are easy to drive and turn – and you will not have to worry about the roads damaging your car.
Likely the only thing that you have to worry about is to always have a full tank, since gas stations may be rather scarce as you are traveling off the main roads.
Also, make sure that you plan your accommodations ahead so that you can take some rest after a long drive.
Road Safety and Concerns
When reading about the Dominican Republic, there are likely a few concerns that you may come across: the roads are dangerous, you’ll be robbed or carjacked, and it’s unsafe to stay out of your resort.
However, the truth is very far from that. While there is crime in the major cities, there is barely any once you hit the roads and step into the countryside.
The roads can indeed be dangerous – but that is only because Dominicans can be reckless drivers.
As long as you avoid any altercations and drive carefully, there should not be any problems.
When you are starting to talk yourself out of the road trip, just think of all the beautiful places that you may be able to explore – some of which can’t be accessed with tourist buses.
Panoramic Routes to Take on the Road Trip
It might be tempting to just hop into your car and drive off into the sunset – but if the only things you see on the road are empty hills and boring planes, you will probably wish that you planned things ahead.
According to other road trippers, here are some routes that you might want to take.
Santiago to Puerto Plata
The north mountain range is a hidden gem when it comes to the Dominican Republic. Plus, in regards to eco-tourism, there are a variety of interesting things that you can see.
You have coffee and cacao farms, eco-lodges, even waterfalls that haven’t been discovered by anyone – or if they did, they haven’t really been affected by human touch.
There is an eco-lounge as you descend into Puerto Plata that provides a marvelous view of the ocean and also gives the opportunity of overnight stays.
In the middle of this route, there is something that is called the “Ruta Panoramica,” which goes some 30 km through a couple of small villages.
These places are packed with fruit stands, food markets, and also impressive sceneries of mountains.
These sceneries will lead you all the way up to 800m, where the mountain will give you an even more magnificent view – no matter if you are traveling with a rented car or with a guided trip.
Rio San Juan to Nagua (Through Cabrera)
The north Dominican Republic coast is still generally unaffected by international tourism – the exceptions being Puerto Plata and Cabarete.
This is why there is no proper motorway between Santo Domingo and Samana or Punta Cana. This is actually a good thing if you are looking for the road trip experience.
If you leave Rio San Juan and start heading east, you might want to roll your windows down, put on some nice music, and enjoy the scenery.
You have everything there from palm trees to dramatic coastlines and natural beaches – all of which are practically devoid of tourist clumps.
Along this route, there are a lot of places where you might want to stop during your road trip.
You can make a stop at the Playa Grande – a beautiful mile-long beach, or you can turn off your engine and enjoy the Laguna Dudu – a crystal clear lagoon.
If you are really adventurous, you may also go to the more remote sides of the coast until you reach the Arroyo Salado beach, the Cabo Frances Viejo national park, or the El Saltadero national park.
To get the best experience, you might want to visit some of the more secluded locations, as the tour guides will certainly not take you there.
Barahona to Pedernales
One more route that you will certainly love is going south-west, from Barahona to the Pedernales.
This area is barely known – and most of the time, completely ignored by tourists.
However, this route provides some really incredible sites such as Lago Enriquillo, a saltwater lake where you may come across iguanas and crocodiles (make sure not to start swimming there, all things considered).
You may also stumble across the Laguna Oviedo, a beautiful lagoon that is home to countless wild birds and flamingos.
You can also see the Bahia de las Aguilas, a beach that is considered the most beautiful in the Dominican Republic.
With its colorful villages, beautiful coastline, and welcoming local bars, even the roads that are taking you to these places are completely worth seeing.
Within the 50 km that this road has to offer, you have all kinds of lands from jungle atmospheres and waterfalls to barren steppe areas.
Plus, there are many points on this route where you can simply stop your car and enjoy the view.
Maybe even take that stunning picture for your social media account that you’ve been dying to post for a while.
San Jose de Ocoa to Constanza
This is the highest road of the Caribbean, as well as a challenging one when it comes to roadtripping through the Dominican Republic.
At the same time, it is a very rewarding road. At this point, you might want to leave your 4×4 at home and rent an SUV for off-roads instead – mainly because you will have to go over a 100 km strip of dirt road.
Depending on your driving experience and the weather conditions, this can prove to be a very exhausting trip – but you’ll be thankful that you took it once you reach all the way up into the central mountain range.
You’ll be in awe once you see the untouched and frequently changing vegetation.
One tip for this trip would be to stop at the “pyramids” of the Valle Nuevo and take a walk on one of the small paths that have been recently marked in the national park.
The roads are quiet, and you can certainly enjoy the view.
If you are looking for lodging, around 3/4 of the road, you should be able to find a nice bungalow hotel that offers a great panoramic view of the mountain.
You should remember to take warm clothes with you, because the temperatures may drop to one-digit numbers during the night.
Do not rely only on the warmth of the accommodation, because many bungalows do not even provide heating during the night.
In some instances, guided trips can be very convenient, as they will take you exactly to your destination without any further concerns.
You have a program set by the guide and you are bound to respect it religiously.
However, the beauty of road trips in the Dominican Republic is that you can stop wherever you like and do whatever you like.
So, if you see a nice farm or a beautiful lake where you want to have a picnic, there won’t be any guides telling you that you can’t do it.