Only a two-hour drive from Santo Domingo, Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic is an exceptional spot if you are looking for adventure, relaxation and some damn good dancing. Despite some recent negative press around the country, I found the chill beach town of Las Terrenas to be completely safe, fun and welcoming.
Las Terrenas is a place you can easily wander on the beach, find great restaurants and with several good grocery stores in town, settle in for a relaxing week or two. Read my top 5 things to do in Las Terrenas and start planning your own tropical getaway!
1) GO TO THE BEACH
This may seem obvious, but it’s really no joke. Las Terrenas is famous for hosting some of the most beautiful beaches in the world!
What pleasantly surprised me was that these miles of postcard-worthy beaches didn’t also come with crowds of tourists. There are numerous beaches around Las Terrenas, even within a 10-minute drive of downtown, like Playa Bonita and Playa Maron, which offer great swimming and relaxing. If you’re up for a bit of a longer drive, check out Playa Fronton and Playa Madame for sublime snorkeling and unbelievable photo opportunities.
BRING YOUR OWN SUPPLIES
However, many of these beaches are completely natural and not commercialized, so you need to come prepared with supplies to get you through a day in the water and sun-like, plenty of water, refreshments, sunscreen, cover-up, towels and water gear like snorkels or floaties. It gets hot, so make sure you stay hydrated, but for those looking for fun, you also need to bring your own alcohol as many do not have any restaurants or bars in walking distance.
BEACH DAY TRIPS
For those looking to go to some really gorgeous remote beaches, I recommend one of the day trip tours offered from Las Terrenas. There are several different companies that can pick you up from your hotel and escort you on a full day of beach hunting to many stunning locations via panga boats.
One popular day trip includes an authentic lobster roast on the beach! However, be warned that these tours are reliant on the weather, so book in advance but have flexibility in your schedule if you need to work around the weather.
Another fun way to spend a day on the water is booking a catamaran cruise, these all-inclusive sailing trips take you to some great snorkeling stops, and often include unlimited food and trips, and provides a great way to meet other travelers (but again, the sun is powerful, so do not forget your hat, sunscreen, and cover-up). I also recommend a spare outfit for the evening ride back.
2) EXPERIENCE THE JUNGLE
Once you’ve allowed a day or two of pure relaxation at the beach, you’re ready to take in some of the other gorgeous nature that this region offers. The Limon Waterfall hike provides a beautiful half-day adventure to experience some of the jungle and get a bit sweaty. The drive to Limon is about 25 minutes from Las Terrenas on a relatively non-crowded, windy road, providing great views of both the beach and jungle.
Be warned, the mosquitoes on this hike are notorious, so if you are sensitive, locals recommend wearing long sleeves and bringing extra spray. Depending on the time of year, you may have to cross some small streams and rivers, so quick-dry clothes are optimal, and ideally shoes that you can hike in, but can also get wet. Of course, plenty of snacks to enjoy at the base of the waterfall after you take a quick dip to cool off.
3) EAT LIKE THE LOCALS
In Limon, after your hike, you will be sweaty, sticky, hungry and desperate to get that insect repellant and sweat off of you. Luckily, there is a lovely natural pool in town that is a frequent rest stop of the locals. Completely free, I highly recommend making a stop here on your way home for a quick dip in the fresh, cool water – this will completely reinvigorate you!
Next to the pool is a small kitchen and dining area that serves the best chicken of your life, served with fresh slaw, perfect after a long hike. Some other popular Dominican cuisine you must try include; tostones (fried plantains), sancocho (meat stew), mangu (plantain mash), and of course any of the abundant fresh fish dishes offered at the local restaurants.
4) LEARN TO KITEBOARD
By now you have set-up your base tan, gone a few days without sitting in meetings or living chained to your calendar, you are ready to take the next step, kiteboarding. Kiteboarding is an action sport combining aspects of wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and sailing into one extreme sport. While this might at first seem too extreme or impossible to learn, this is the ultimate way to break away from your day-to-day mold and infuse yourself with a serious shot of adventure.
The Dominican Republic is considered to be one of the best places in the world for kiteboarding – with amazing water and consistent wind conditions, cheap lessons, not to mention patient and incredibly skilled instructors, you’ll be riding their waves in no time!. I highly recommend planning on a minimum of three lessons in order to really get a feel for the sport.
The first lesson, you will literally “go fly a kite”. 90% of kiteboarding comes from understanding and mastering your kite, so you will start on the beach with a small kite to practice the movements, eventually graduating to getting harnessed into your real kite and practicing your new skills in the water.
During your second lesson, you will learn the art of body dragging. For two hours you will learn how to control your kite and allow it to pull around in the water.
And finally, day three, you have graduated to the board! Those who have a handle on the fundamental skills, will be up and riding. Now, let me tell you, once you catch your first ride, wind in your hair, gliding across the ocean – you will feel 1000 miles away from the ordinary.
There is nothing more rewarding, or invigorating than grabbing a drink after spending the afternoon kiteboarding in the Dominican sun.
5) DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY
Last step – by now you are tanned, your sense of adventure is renewed and you can call yourself a kiteboarder, you are ready for the final step – to just dance. The Dominican Republic has a fantastic music scene, heavily influenced by West African, European and the native Taino – and they are world-famous for their merengue and bachata music.
This Carribean fusion makes for some great dancing and there are several bars in Las Terrenas that offer a fun, safe environment for you to dance the night away. I highly recommend visiting the popular El Mosquito Art Bar. This place has funky art on the walls, great food and evening dance lessons taught by the locals.
One thing to note – there are two El Mosquitos in Las Terrenas, the one on the beach has amazing views of the ocean and offers free paddleboards, but be warned, they do not serve food and close at 8:00 pm. So when instructing your motorcycle cab to take you to the El Mosquito, make sure you specify the Art Bar.
Once you are there, grab a passion fruit mojito (a local specialty) and dance the night away like no one is watching. Another great dance spot is the Namaste Bar and Restaurant right down the street from the El Mosquito Art Bar.
Congratulations! You have completed the top 5 things to do in Las Terrenas and are now ready to return to your homes renewed, relaxed and still swaying to the rhythm of the bachata music. Although chances are, you will not want to leave the inviting sun and adventure that Las Terrenas offers. But keep a bachata playlist at the ready and print photos of you kitesurfing to display to help keep the relaxation you found in from the Dominican Republic present in your everyday life.
We hope that this article has inspired you to visit Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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Our Top Places To Stay In Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic:
- Sublime Samana
- Xeliter Balcones del Atlantico
- Hotel Alisei
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You mentioned catamaran cruises? Do they depart from las Terrenas? Or somewhere else? I haven’t been able to find any information!
Isabel Amé says
Can you recommend a tour company that schedules catamaran sailing trips in Las Terrenas? I, like JESSICA SAYS, also can’t find any info.