Dominican Republic road trip
A Dominican Republic road trip is the best way to get off the beaten path (Photo Credit)
By Christian Jannasch – Punta Cana Travel Blog

Outdoor Family Adventures Via A Dominican Republic Road Trip

If you are an active and adventurous family, then this Dominican Republic road trip for outdoor family adventures is just for you. It includes some of the best off the beaten path outdoor family adventures the country has to offer. And of course, it’ll give you the thrilling experience of driving in the Dominican Republic.

You’ll need to rent a car (and a sturdy model) to enjoy this itinerary. However, doing so will give you and your family complete freedom to explore some of the most remote and beautiful parts of this island nation. Don’t forget to download some of the best travel apps too before hitting the road. So, have a read through this guide. Then, leave us any of your comments/questions below, and then…get ready for a Dominican Republic family road trip of a lifetime!

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A Map Is Worth A Thousand Words

When you and your family visit Dominican Republic, use this map to navigate. On it, you’ll find all the adventures described below. Make sure to click the menu button hike Lamma Island and either Yung Shue Ha or Sham Wan to see all the map labels, etc.

Dominican Republic Road Trip Stop #1: The Entire Southwest

visit the southwest on your Dominican Republic road trip
Panoramic viewpoint along the road from Barahona to Pedernales

The Perfect Road Trip Destination

If you are renting a car and want to sample rural and authentic Caribbean life, where hardly any tourists stray, your Dominican Republic road trip must include the southwest region. This area is a bit like the wild west of the country. Most everything here is a bit rough around the edges. However, the abundant natural beauty of this region makes up for it completely.

Spend At Least A Few Days

You will need a few days of your Dominican Republic road trip to explore all the gems this region has to offer. Some of the highlights include:

A Far Flung Adventure

If you are looking for a really off the beaten path adventure, check out Playa Trudillé. It is one of the most remote beaches in the country. You can only reach it by either completing a 7-mile (one-way) hike or taking a 2-hour boat trip. If you do hike to Playa Trudillé, bring your camping gear, and plan to camp on the beach for at least one night.

How To Get There: The southwest region begins in Barahona, which is a 4-hour drive from Santo Domingo.

Where To Stay: There are several accommodations throughout the region. Good spots to base yourself are Paraíso, El Quemaíto (right here on Google Maps) and Cabo Rojo.

Duration of visit: Spend four to five nights in the area, or more if you’re planning on experiencing all the adventures above.

Dominican Republic Road Trip Stop #2: Cayo Arena

cayo arena is beautiful for snorkeling
The picturesque sandbar of Cayo Arena

The Best Snorkeling In The Dominican Republic

Another region not to miss on your Dominican Republic road trip is the Northwest. While this area offers various points of interest, the most spectacular one can be found close to the little village of Punta Rucia.

A Magical Island

Approximately 6 miles off the coast there is the tiny little sandbar of Cayo Arena. It’s surrounded by a reef offering the best snorkeling conditions in the Dominican Republic. Thanks to the calm and clear waters as well as the rich biodiversity in this area, this will be an outdoor family adventure you’ll not soon forget.

In addition, Cayo Arena features countless Instagram worthy photo opportunities, as this small island seemingly miraculously rises out of the middle of the crystal clear turquoise waters in this tropical corner of the north Atlantic.

Spend The Night Nearby

While Cayo Arena can be quite busy in the day time, if you spend the night in Punta Rucia, you’ll likely be the first one in the morning out to this spectacular sandbar. No matter when you go, it’ll prove to be a magical experience for the whole family.

How To Get There: Punta Rucia is approximately 1.5-2 hours away from Santiago and Puerto Plata. Ask your accommodation to arrange a boat for you and your family to Cayo Arena.

Where To Stay: Punta Rucia Lodge is the most comfortable accommodation in the tiny fishing village of Punta Rucia.

Duration Of Visit: Usually, you will spend about two hours at Cayo Arena. The boat trip takes about 15-20 minutes each way.

Dominican Republic Road Trip Stop #3: Laguna Dudú

visit Laguna Dudu on your Dominican Republic road trip
Jumping from the zipline at Laguna Dudu

Ziplining With No Return

This adventure is not for the faint of heart. However, if you and your family are keen for a true thrill, you’ll definitely want to add Laguna Dudú to your Dominican Republic road trip itinerary. For the incredibly low entrance fee of US$3 (at the time of writing), you’ll get to experience this zip line with no return. This is not a figure of speech however. The only way to get off the zip line is by plunging ~25 feet into the refreshing water below.

While you’re at Laguna Dudú, you can also visit their impressive cave. And, if you’re really not keen to free fall from the zip line, you can simply swim in the lagoon. Laguna Dudú is a fantastic and family friendly outdoor adventure no matter how you choose to enjoy it.

How To Get There: Laguna Dudú is located along the north coast main road between Cabrera and Nagua. When you are driving in the Dominican Republic, watch the signs when you are heading this way.

Where To Stay: Cabrera has a few decent options for both guesthouses and small hotels.

Duration Of Visit: You’ll probably find 1-2 hours is enough time to enjoy Laguna Dudú.

Dominican Republic Road Trip Stop #4: Magic Mushroom

magic mushroom waterfall and canyoneering
The beautiful waterfall of Magic Mushroom

An Adrenaline Rush In The Dominican Republic

If you and your family enjoyed splashing around at Laguna Dudú then you will not want to miss Magic Mushroom, one of the most exciting activities in the Dominican Republic. The waterfall here looks quite like a mushroom, hence the name. However, when people talk about “Magic Mushroom” they are usually referring to the canyoneering excursion to Magic Mushroom, as that’s the only way to reach this spectacular waterfall.

The tour consists of several jumps, rappels, natural swimming pools and beautiful cascades, so it’s only for kids who are 12+. But if you do indeed have an adventurous family, this is an experience you’ll definitely want to have on your Dominican Republic road trip.

How To Get There: Excursions (guide mandatory) usually start in Cabarete, a popular surfing town along the north coast of the Dominican Republic.

Where To Stay: Cabarete is the best place to stay, and there are tons of small and family-owned accommodations and apartments.

Duration Of Visit: Magic Mushroom is a full day canyoneering excursion.

Dominican Republic Road Trip Stop #5: Pico Duarte, Dominican Republic

summit of Pico Duarte
The summit of Pico Duarte is spectacular! (Photo Credit)

The Highest Mountain In The Caribbean

If you and your family love nature and mountains but don’t care to get as wet as the above options require, you’ll want to check out Pico Duarte on your Dominican Republic road trip. With an elevation of 3,098 meters (10,164 feet), it’s not only the highest mountain in the Dominican Republic, but in the entire Caribbean.

Considerations For Hiking Pico Duarte With A Family

To summit Pico Duarte, and to do so with a family, I recommend you plan on hiking the route over the course of three days. It’s possible in two days, but this faster pace could be too challenging for your kids, and also, why rush? While the views up the peak are not particularly spectacular, the unspoiled nature you’ll be immersed in is marvelous.

A guide is mandatory in order to hike Pico Duarte. To the best of your ability, avoid holiday weekends in the Dominican Republic to make sure you can enjoy this natural beauty (nearly) on your own. If you’d like a discount on your hiking guide, email us at, subject line “Pico Duarte” or simply click below and fill out the form.

How To Get There: Pico Duarte excursions usually start from Jarabacoa or Constanza in the central mountain area.

Where To Stay: Before departing on your trip, consider staying in Jarabacoa. During the trip, you will camp out in the tents and gear provided by your tour operator.

Duration Of The Visit: For families, three days and two nights.

Dominican Republic Road Trip Stop #6: The Chocolate Region

vist a cocoa farm on your Dominican Republic road trip
A chocolate bean at one of the several chocolate plantations in the Dominican Republic

Visit Chocolate Farms and Forests

After all the calories you’ll have burnt on your outdoor family adventures during your Dominican Republic road trip, you’ll have earned yourself a bit of chocolate. So, why not get some right from the source?

A visit to a cocoa farm is an off the beaten path adventure you and your kids will not want to miss. The central area of the Dominican Republic – a place where hardly any tourists venture – is where you’ll find an abundance of cocoa plantations. So, while you’re driving in the Dominican Republic, make sure at some point to stop here.

Take A Cocoa Plantation Tour

You can take a tour on any number of farms. If you do, you’ll learn a lot about everything from growing to harvesting to producing the finished and highly demanded product. Of course, you’ll get to suck on some of the sweet, raw, white and jelly-textured cocoa beans. The tours are very hands on, so they are great for kids. The two main farms you can visit in this area are El Sendero del Café in San Francisco de Macoris and “Chocolate Jungle” in Salcedo.

How To Get There: You can reach San Francisco de Macoris from all parts of the Dominican Republic. Just head to this region whenever it fits into your itinerary.

Where To Stay: Chocolate Jungle in Salcedo offers very simple accommodations. If you are looking for something more comfortable, you can check out the options in Jarabacoa, Santiago or Santo Domingo.

Duration Of Visit: Usually a tour through the farms and plantations takes about 2-3 hours.

Additional Family Adventures For Your Road Trip

Whether you prefer beaches, canyoneering, snorkeling, cocoa farms, sky high mountain tops or river hikes, there are plenty of options to choose from when you’re driving in the Dominican Republic on your road trip. If you’re keen to explore even further, consider checking out some of these outdoor family adventures near Punta Cana. If a short flight doesn’t bother you, there are lovely and hidden beaches in Tortola BVI. In any case, if you have any questions or comments, leave them below. And in the mean time, have a safe and memorable Dominican Republic road trip!

If you’d like to know more about Chris and his second home country, the Dominican Republic, check out his website Punta Cana Travel Blog. After traveling through many parts of the world, he settled there in 2015 – mostly in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana. Chris’ expertise is in the Dominican’s pristine beaches and secluded waterfalls. Chris also offers travel coaching and can set up a personalized itinerary for your vacation in the Dominican Republic.

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