10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Jetting Off to the Dominican Republic

by Mmeri

Hola amigos! If you’re dreaming of sipping coconut water on pristine beaches and dancing to the rhythm of merengue under the Caribbean sun, the Dominican Republic is your tropical haven. My recent escapade to Cap Cana at the Eden Roc Resort was nothing short of enchanting. However, hindsight is 20/20, and here are the 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Jetting Off to the Dominican Republic.

1. Currency Conundrum:

While the official currency is the Dominican Peso (DOP), you’ll find that US dollars are widely accepted, especially in tourist-heavy areas. So, what’s the conundrum, you ask? Well, it’s all about balance. While you can get by using dollars, having a stash of Pesos can come in handy for those off-the-beaten-path experiences and local markets.

Picture this: you stroll through a vibrant market, eyes locked on the colorful array of handmade crafts, and suddenly, the vendor gives you a price in Pesos that leaves you mentally converting like a mathematician on caffeine. Having some local currency in your wallet not only simplifies transactions but also adds a touch of authenticity to your purchases.

Pro tip: Exchange a small amount of dollars for Pesos at a local bank for a better rate. It’s like having a backstage pass to the financial fiesta.

So, before you embark on your Dominican adventure, make friends with both the Peso and the dollar. Your wallet will thank you, and you’ll be salsa-dancing through the markets with economic elegance. ¡Vamonos!


2. ¡Hola, Español!

While many Dominicans working in the tourist industry speak English, the ability to converse in Spanish opens up a whole new world of connection. It’s like having a backstage pass to the cultural concert of the Dominican Republic. Locals appreciate the effort, and even if your Spanish is limited to “Hola” and “Gracias,” the enthusiasm to communicate is what matters. You might discover hidden gems, get personalized recommendations, and even make a few friends along the way. Learning a few basic phrases can go a long way, transforming your trip from a spectator sport to an immersive experience.

So, before you jet off to the Dominican Republic, consider brushing up on your Spanish. Duolingo, anyone? You’ll find that a little effort in language learning can lead to big smiles, genuine connections, and a richer travel experience. Here is a recommended app that could assist you in learning a few phrases before your trip: Duolingo ¡Buena suerte!

3. Bargaining Basics:

The art of bargaining is a cultural dance that adds a dash of excitement to your shopping experience in the Dominican Republic. Unlike in some Western cultures where price tags are gospel, here, negotiating is not just welcomed; it’s expected. Whether you find yourself in a bustling market or a quaint souvenir shop, don’t shy away from the bargaining banter.

When you spot that perfect handmade trinket or a vibrant piece of local art, take a moment to appreciate it, but don’t rush into a purchase. The initial price quoted by the vendor is often just the starting point for a friendly negotiation. Before you dive in, it’s essential to maintain a respectful and good-humored demeanor. Bargaining is a two-way street, and the key is to find a fair price that satisfies both you and the vendor.


Start by expressing interest without fully committing. Ask about the item, inquire about its craftsmanship, and maybe throw in a compliment or two. Once the groundwork is laid, you can start the dance of numbers. Offer a price that is lower than the quoted one, but not so low that it’s disrespectful. This signals to the vendor that you’re keen on a deal but still willing to meet halfway.

The vendor might counter with a slightly higher price, and this back-and-forth continues until an agreement is reached. Remember, it’s not just about the transaction; it’s about the interaction. Enjoy the process, engage in friendly banter, and you might find that the bargaining experience becomes a highlight of your shopping escapades.

In the end, whether you walk away with a handful of souvenirs or just the memory of a spirited negotiation, embracing the bargaining culture adds a layer of authenticity to your Dominican Republic experience. So, channel your inner negotiator, flash a friendly smile, and let the dance of bargaining unfold!

4. Island Time: Embrace the Rhythm of Relaxation

One of the first things you’ll notice upon stepping foot in the Dominican Republic is that time seems to have a different cadence. The phrase “island time” isn’t just a catchy expression; it’s a way of life. Locals move at a more leisurely pace, and schedules are more like gentle suggestions than strict itineraries.

This laid-back approach to time might initially catch you off guard, especially if you come from a fast-paced environment. But rather than resisting it, embrace the rhythm of relaxation. It’s a cultural nuance that permeates every aspect of Dominican life, from the way people greet each other to the unhurried enjoyment of a cup of coffee.

You’ll find that meals are meant to be savored, not rushed. Service in restaurants may take a bit longer than you’re accustomed to, but that’s because every dish is prepared with care and attention. Instead of fretting over the ticking clock, take this opportunity to unwind, engage in conversation, and truly savor the flavors of Dominican cuisine.

photo by Mmeritravels

When exploring the local markets or engaging in activities, be prepared for a more flexible sense of time. Tours might start a little later than planned, and transportation might not adhere strictly to the schedule. Rather than letting this stress you out, use it as an opportunity to appreciate the unhurried beauty of your surroundings.

So, leave your watch in your suitcase, put your phone on silent, and allow yourself to be carried away by the unhurried charm of the Dominican Republic. You’ll soon find that embracing island time is not just a necessity; it’s a key to unlocking the true essence of this Caribbean paradise.

5. Piña Colada Perils:

Ah, the tantalizing allure of the Piña Colada, a quintessential tropical concoction. While it’s the epitome of vacation vibes, there’s a caveat worth noting. These deliciously deceptive drinks can sneak up on you faster than you can say “salud.”

Indulging in one too many Piña Coladas may transform your leisurely afternoon into an unintentional siesta by the pool. Pace yourself, my friend, and alternate with water to keep the Caribbean spirits from taking you on an unexpected journey.

It’s paradise in a cup. However, beneath the sweet facade lies a potent of coconut cream, and pineapple juice. Sipping it is like savoring a tropical symphony, but be forewarned – if yours includes alcohol, it’s easy to underestimate the alcohol content buried in the sweetened cup of loveliness.


Consider this a friendly PSA: enjoy the Piña Coladas responsibly, and they’ll be your tropical sidekick throughout your Dominican adventure. Just be sure not to let the enchanting sweetness lull you into a beachfront daydream, leaving you with more sun-soaked tales than you bargained for. Cheers to paradise sips, but sip wisely!


6. Restaurant Reservations:

Dining at the Eden Roc Resort’s exquisite restaurants is a culinary experience in itself, but the demand can be high. To ensure you don’t miss out on gastronomic delights, it’s advisable to make dinner reservations in advance.

Cap Cana, especially in peak seasons, witnesses an influx of visitors eager to indulge in the diverse and delectable offerings at the resort’s restaurants. Popular establishments like Mediterraneo and La Palapa by Eden Roc, with their panoramic views and sumptuous menus, are hotspots for guests. However, without a reservation, you might find yourself facing long wait times or, in unfortunate cases, being turned away.

By planning ahead and securing your spot, you not only guarantee a seat at the table but also have the flexibility to choose your preferred dining time. This foresight allows you to tailor your evening to suit your schedule, whether you want to catch a breathtaking sunset before your meal or opt for a more leisurely dinner under the stars.

photo by Mmeritravels

Keep in mind that the resort’s concierge or reservation desk is there to assist you. A quick call or visit to the concierge desk upon arrival can make the difference between a seamless dining experience and potential disappointment. They can guide you through the available dining options, help you select the perfect spot for your culinary preferences, and secure your reservation.

While spontaneity adds charm to any vacation, a bit of pre-planning when it comes to dining can elevate your overall experience at the Eden Roc Resort. So, before you pack your evening attire and anticipation for a delightful meal, take a moment to reserve your spot at the gastronomic gems that await you in Cap Cana. Your taste buds will thank you!


7. Pesky Prices:

While the allure of dining in the resort’s high-end restaurants can be tempting, the price tags may induce a bit of sticker shock. Before you embark on a culinary journey within the resort, consider exploring local eateries outside its confines. The Dominican Republic is a treasure trove of hidden gastronomic gems, offering authentic flavors without the upscale resort price tag.

Head to nearby towns or villages to savor traditional Dominican cuisine at more affordable prices. Not only does this venture support local businesses, but it also provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in the genuine culinary landscape of the country. From roadside food stalls serving savory empanadas to family-run eateries dishing out mouthwatering mangu (mashed plantains) and mofongo, the local dining scene is rich with diverse and budget-friendly options.

photo by Mmeritravels

If you’re feeling adventurous, strike up a conversation with locals or fellow travelers for recommendations. They often know the best-kept secrets when it comes to delectable yet affordable dining experiences. This way, you not only satisfy your taste buds but also get a taste of the vibrant Dominican culture that extends beyond the resort’s carefully curated menus.

By exploring the local food scene, you’ll not only save a few pesos but also create lasting memories of authentic Dominican flavors that might just become the highlight of your culinary journey. So, don’t let the allure of the resort’s restaurants limit your epicurean adventure—venture out, savor the local delicacies, and let your taste buds dance to the rhythm of Dominican cuisine.


8. Sunscreen Saver:

The tropical embrace of the Dominican Republic comes with a sun that means business. When I say pack sunscreen, I mean pack it like it’s the key to the fountain of youth. The Caribbean sun is not here to play, and while getting a tan is on everyone’s vacation agenda, a sunburn is not the souvenir you want.

Invest in a sunscreen with a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor) and make it your constant companion. Slather it generously, and don’t forget those often neglected areas like the tops of your feet or the back of your neck—trust me; they can be sneaky sunburn culprits.

Now, I get it; we all want that sun-kissed glow, but scorched lobster red is not the aesthetic we’re aiming for. Apply sunscreen liberally, reapply frequently (especially after a dip in the ocean), and consider it your shield against the Dominican sun’s enthusiastic embrace. Trust me, I’m still recovering from my burnt skin. I ran out of sunscreen during my trip and these things are so expensive over there. I eventually bought one from the local store for $35.


If you’re like me and tend to forget things, set a sunscreen reminder on your phone. Your skin will thank you for this thoughtful gesture when you’re back home, reminiscing about the golden beaches without the uncomfortable souvenir of a blistering sunburn. So, lather up, and let the Caribbean sun be your friend, not your foe.

9. Island Exploration:

Cap Cana offers more than just its pristine beaches, and one mustn’t overlook the allure of the Saona Island excursion. Replacing the thrill of ziplining with the tranquility of turquoise waters, this day-long adventure is a must for those seeking a more laid-back yet equally captivating experience.

Saona Island Excursion Highlights:
photo by Mmeritravels

a. Catamaran Cruise: Embarking on the catamaran cruise to Saona Island is not just a means of transportation; it’s an integral part of the adventure itself. Picture yourself aboard a spacious catamaran, the Caribbean breeze tousling your hair as the vessel gracefully glides over the azure waters. The rhythmic rocking and gentle sway create an ambiance of tranquility, setting the perfect tone for the day’s escapade.

As the catamaran departs from the shores of Cap Cana, you’ll witness the coastline recede, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The open sea unfolds before you, a canvas of blues and greens, with the promise of Saona Island on the horizon. Seagulls may accompany the journey, their playful dives and calls adding to the symphony of the ocean.

b. Natural Pool Pit Stop: One of the highlights of the Saona Island excursion is the enchanting pit stop at the natural pool, a submerged sandbar that emerges in the middle of the sparkling Caribbean Sea. As your catamaran gracefully glides towards this aquatic oasis, the anticipation builds, and you can almost hear the gentle whispers of the sea calling you to its hidden gem.

As the catamaran comes to a rest, you’ll find yourself standing in the midst of the sea, surrounded by shallow, crystalline waters that seem to stretch endlessly in every direction. The sea here is so clear that you can see the ocean floor, adorned with scattered starfish, swaying seagrasses, and the occasional ripple of fish darting by.

photo by Mmeritravels

c. Virgin Beaches: For those seeking a touch of adventure, the clear waters beckon for snorkeling exploration. Saona Island boasts vibrant coral reefs and an abundance of marine life, offering a glimpse into the underwater wonders of the Caribbean. Don a mask and fins, and let the kaleidoscope of colors beneath the surface enchant you.

As the day unfolds on these virgin beaches, whether you’re basking in the sun’s glow, exploring the coastline, or dipping into the refreshing waters, Saona Island’s untouched beauty becomes a cherished memory. It’s a testament to the Dominican Republic’s ability to not only captivate with its lively culture but also to soothe the soul with the unspoiled allure of nature’s wonders. In every grain of sand and every lap of the ocean waves, Saona Island whispers the promise of a serene escape, an invitation to lose yourself in the untouched splendor of this Caribbean oasis.



photo by Mmeritravels

The mangroves of Saona Island aren’t just a spectacle for the eyes; they are an integral part of the island’s ecological tapestry. They act as natural buffers, protecting the coastline from erosion and serving as nurseries for marine life. Your guide might share insights into the importance of mangrove conservation, shedding light on the efforts to preserve these vital ecosystems for future generations.


d. Mangrove Exploration: As you set foot on Saona Island, don’t miss the opportunity to delve into the enchanting world of mangroves that fringe its shores. Embarking on a guided mangrove exploration unveils a hidden realm teeming with biodiversity and natural wonders.

The mangroves of Saona Island are a testament to the delicate balance of coastal ecosystems. Under the cool canopy of overhanging branches, your guide will lead you through meandering waterways, where the labyrinth of mangrove roots provides a sanctuary for countless marine species. Listen to the soothing sounds of nature, interrupted only by the occasional splash of a fish or the melodious chirping of exotic birds perched high above.

So, step into the heart of the mangroves, embrace the serenity, and let the beauty of Saona Island’s hidden treasures captivate your senses. ¡Explora la maravilla de los manglares en Saona! (Explore the wonder of the mangroves in Saona!)

10. Ecotourism Etiquette:

Embarking on an ecotourism adventure in the Dominican Republic is a fantastic way to connect with the natural beauty of the island, but it comes with a responsibility to preserve and respect the delicate ecosystems. Here’s a deeper dive into ecotourism etiquette:

a. Stay on Designated Paths: When exploring nature reserves or parks like the famous Scape Park in Cap Cana, it’s crucial to stick to marked trails. Straying off the designated paths can disrupt local flora and fauna, leading to long-lasting ecological damage.

b. Minimize Your Impact: Leave no trace. Ensure you carry out all your trash and dispose of it properly. Be mindful of your surroundings and avoid disturbing the natural balance. The goal is to enjoy the beauty of the environment without leaving a negative impact.

photo by Mmeritravels

c. Follow Guides’ Instructions: If you’re partaking in guided ecotours, pay close attention to the instructions provided by your guides. They are knowledgeable about the local ecosystems and can guide you on how to interact responsibly with the environment.

d. Wildlife Watching: Resist the urge to approach or touch wildlife. Keep a respectful distance and use binoculars or cameras with zoom lenses for a closer look. Flash photography can be harmful, especially to nocturnal animals, so opt for natural lighting when capturing those memorable moments.

e. Support Sustainable Practices: Choose tour operators and accommodations that prioritize sustainable practices. From waste management to energy conservation, supporting businesses committed to environmental responsibility contributes to the long-term health of the destination.

f. Respect Cultural Sites: In addition to natural wonders, the Dominican Republic is rich in cultural heritage. When visiting archaeological or historical sites, follow guidelines to protect these treasures. Refrain from touching artifacts, and be aware of any specific rules regarding photography.

photo by Mmeritravels

g. Educate Yourself: Before embarking on an ecotourism adventure, take some time to learn about the local ecosystems, flora, and fauna. Understanding the significance of the natural environment enhances your appreciation and encourages a more mindful exploration.

h. Leave Flora and Fauna Undisturbed: Resist the temptation to pick plants or disturb animals. The ecosystem is a delicate balance, and even seemingly small actions can have far-reaching consequences. Take only pictures, leave only footprints.

By embracing ecotourism etiquette, you not only contribute to the preservation of the Dominican Republic’s natural wonders but also set an example for sustainable travel practices. It’s a win-win for both the traveler and the environment, ensuring that future generations can continue to marvel at the island’s unparalleled beauty.

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Come find out beautiful destination ideas with me as I take you through my travel journey all over the world.

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I fell in love with traveling when I was 5. I would watch the planes fly high above way out of my reach and I would say "Mama, look.. a plane!" and would run after it with my little friends pretending we knew where the plane was going. When I turned 8 I promised I would become a flight attendant someday and travel the world like I wanted.

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