A Caribbean and Latin-fused favourite, it’s easy to see why Columbus labelled the Dominican Republic as ‘the fairest land under heaven’. It’s got all the tropical ingredients you could wish for. And this southeast corner is no exception. Shop for jewellery made of locally mined amber. Feast on the Spanish, African and Taino cuisine. Or explore the Chavron River, which landed a starring role in the film ‘Apocalypse Now’.
• Join in the creative buzz at Altos de Chavon, just north of La Romana. This unique artists’ village is a replica of a 17th-century Mediterranean village and gazes down over the gorge of the Chavron River. You’ll find artists’ studios, craft shops and restaurants here.
• It’s well worth the journey up to the bewitching Semana Peninsula. As well as having rainforests in every shade of green and angel-white sands, it’s the humpback whales that are the big draw here. They visit the area for some major speed-dating sessions during the mating season so you’ve got a good chance of glimpsing these creatures in their natural habitat.
• Set sail for Saona Island, just off the mainland. First discovered by Columbus back in 1494, it’s a top spot for swimming and snorkelling. Make sure you keep an eye out for starfish – they’re a regular feature here.
SHORE EXCURSIONS► View all EXCURSIONS
Altos De Chavon & Boat Ride►
Altos Chavon is a modern replica of a 16th-century Mediterranean village. Built in honey-hued stone, it’s a cultural showpiece packed with galleries and restaurants. And the likes of Sting and Santana have played concerts in the Roman-style theatre here. On this trip, you’ll get a guided tour through its cobbled streets and plazas, followed by some free time to explore the handicraft workshops, galleries and craft shops under your own steam. Once you’ve marvelled at the views over the Chavon River, you’ll head off on a boat ride along these famous waterways. Take a good look around as you drift along – scenes from blockbuster movies Apocalypse Now and Jurassic Park were filmed here, so it’s fair to say it’s got film-star good looks. Get ready for soaring cliff faces and a tangle of rainforest that stretches as far as the eye can see. To wrap things up, you’ll sit down for a drink, with some local Dominican tunes providing the backing track.
Bayahibe Beach Break►
The quaint fishing village of Bayahibe is the destination for this half-day trip, where a four-star resort and private beach await you. And this isn’t just any private beach. Awarded Blue Flag status, it’s postcard-perfect. Think turquoise waters and soft white sands fringed with palm trees. So whether you fancy a leisurely swim, a walk along the shoreline, a game of volleyball, or just a few tropical cocktails sipped at your sunlounger, it’s all here. However you choose to enjoy this one, you’ll have over three hours to play with before we make our way back to the port. What’s more, lunch at the hotel is included, whether in the buffet restaurant or at the snack bar. Soft drinks and local alcoholic drinks are part of the deal, too.
On this trip, you’ll go off the beaten track to see the Dominican Republic at its wildest and best. Your destination is the hills, your vehicle a massive 8x8 monster truck and your guide is well-versed in the facts and figures of the region. You’ll trundle past a variety of landscapes, including sugar cane fields, farms and teeny colourful villages, and stop off to mingle with some of the locals along the way. To top it off, you’ll be able to dig in to the open bar’s free-flowing drinks, before heading back to the port.