Things to Do in La Romana
Saona Island (Isla Saona) is the Dominican Republic's largest coastal island, clocking in at 15 miles (25 kilometers) long and three miles (5 kilometers) wide, with a population of little more than 300. Part of the National Park of the East, the island features plenty of photo-worthy white sands, swaying palm trees, and turquoise waters.
Tiny Catalina Island (Isla Catalina), just 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) off the Dominican Republic’s mainland, is an idyllic sandy speck in the turquoise Caribbean waters. Known for its well-populated coral reefs, Catalina is a peaceful respite for those looking to escape bustling Punta Cana and La Romana.
If you’re wondering what it was like several centuries ago on the island of the Dominican Republic, then you should head to Altos de Chavón, a recreated 16th-century village built in La Romana near the Chavón River. Sculpted in stone, the site is an impressive example of what a Mediterranean-inspired village would have looked like on the island long ago.
Construction began in 1976 with the goal of having Altos de Chavón serve as a center for Dominican Republic culture. The site was created using the local handiwork of the people of the island; much of the stonework and metal carvings seen here were handcrafted by local artisans, which continues to draw attention to the craftwork that was once so prominent in island life. Much of Altos de Chavón is made of stone, and its coastal location provides a dramatic and inspiring backdrop. Visitors to Altos de Chavón will find restaurants, shops and even a 5,000-seat amphitheater where concerts and other performances are held.
Altos de Chavón still focuses on the cultural and artistic elements of the island, making it a great spot for visitors to explore.
Just 10 miles to the east of La Romana lies the relaxing beach town of Bayahibe. Originally a sleepy fishing village, Bayahibe has retained its laidback atmosphere and has a small, easily walkable downtown area. Visitors to the town will enjoy the colorful buildings, the excellent seafood and the shops sellings artisan crafts.
While the town of Bayahibe is fun to explore and walk around, the real draw is its gorgeous coastline. The beach has soft, nearly white sand that borders clear turquoise water. The clarity of the water makes this an excellent spot for snorkeling and diving, and there is a conveniently located local dive shop where you can rent equipment. Others may choose just to relax on the sand underneath the many palm trees growing around the beach.
Bayahibe is also a gateway to the nearby island of Saona, located 45 minutes away.
In the Dominican Republic's eastern-most province of La Altagracia Province lies the city of Higuey. A busy, bustling area that has been rapidly growing over the past decade, Higuey is also home to some must-see historical and religious sites.
The Basilica of Altagracia, a Roman Catholic cathedral that was built in 1972, serves as the city's biggest attraction. Despite its fairly recent development, the church holds a strong religious presence and is the place of pilgrimages each year. It is well-known due to its location, where a sighting of the Virgin Mary is said to have occurred. This elevated the church to high esteem, and Pope John Paul II visited the site in 1992.
The Church of San Dionisio is also a site to see, though this one holds significance due to its history. The small church dates back to 1572, making it one of the oldest churches in the Americas, and features Spanish colonialism architecture and a stately bell tower.
Higuey is also home to charming streets, restaurants and markets, all ready to be explored. Though the city may be lacking in some grandeur and sophistication, visitors can experience the city side of the Dominican Republic.
Follow the same winding waterway as popular films like Jurassic Park, Rambo and Apocalypse Now along the Chavón River (Río Chavón), arguably the most picturesque river in the country. The best way to see the river is aboard one of the river cruises that pass through steeps gorges, up to 250 feet tall in places, and offer glimpses of the unique wildlife that lives along the riverbank, including freshwater turtles and hawks. The Chavón River also passes by the interesting and beautiful Altos de Chavón, an artist’s colony perched high on a hill above the river that was designed to look like an ancient Mediterranean village, complete with cobblestone streets and an Greek-style amphitheater.
A small, rocky beach frequented by locals, Caleta Beach (Playa Caleta) gives visitors a more cultural taste of beach life in the Dominican Republic than other beaches in La Romana. You'll enjoy stunning scenery and local cuisine while at Caleta Beach (Playa Caleta).
This remote beach area comes equipped with stunning scenery, local cuisine and a small bay ideal for swimming. Snorkel equipment may come in handy here, as there are fish and sometimes other sea creatures to see off its shores. There are also many vendors at Playa Caleta who serve fresh fish and other local delicacies like yaniqueques. Bring pesos or be prepared to bargain, as vendors don't always have change for American dollars. Finish off your meal with a refreshingly cold Presidente beer, a favorite brew in the Dominican Republic.
Located in the stunning replica 16th-century Mediterranean village of Altos de Chavón, the Regional Museum of Archaeology fits right in – though its findings inside go back much further in time than the 16th century.
The museum focuses on artifacts and artwork from the days when the Dominican Republic and Haiti were known as Hispaniola and houses thousands of pieces from this pre-Colombian era, many of which were excavated from the nearbyregion that borders the Chavón River.
Many of the artifacts were left behind by the Tainos, an indigenous group that lived on the island and was drastically affected by the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the late 1400s, which led to devastation for the population. The museum allows visitors to better understand the culture and history of this once powerful group. Another Tainos exhibit at the museum includes drawings of daily Tainos life, created by Boris de la Santos, a Santo Domingo-born artist.
Cueva de las Maravillas is a La Romana natural attraction that takes visitors underground into a deep cavern. This cave is estimated to be over 100,000 years old, but it wasn't discovered until 1926. Inside its walls you'll find interesting rock formations and elongated stalactites and stalagmites that resemble icicles. These were formed due to mineral buildup caused by the cave's constant moisture. You'll also see pictures on the cave walls left by the native Tainos, an indigenous group that once had a strong presence in the Dominican Republic.
The half-mile-long Cueva de las Maravillas is an easy cavern to explore, as it has a concrete walking path and is well lit.
Boca de Yuma is a small fishing village located on the northeastern tip of Parque Nacional del Este. The village is a bit off the beaten track for tourists, meaning you’ll find a peaceful place to hang among the locals. The harbor provides an easy stroll, with many small restaurants that serve fresh seafood.
Though there is a small stretch of sand, Boca de Yuma is mainly about experiencing the local way of life, rather hitting the beach.
More Things to Do in La Romana
La Flor Dominicana produces some of the Dominican Republic’s most well-known cigars at their factory in La Romana. Visitors get a behind-the-scenes look at how tobacco plants are transformed into cigars, from leaf sorting and stripping to hand-rolling, aging, fermenting, and packing.
When Fidel Castro marched into Havana and seized the Cuban government, he took the island’s tobacco industry and hand-rolled cigars along with it. Knowing their age of prosperity was over, Cuban cigar makers fled the country in search of factories elsewhere. One of those places was La Romana in the neighboring Dominican Republic, and what began in 1971 as a grassroots escape from Cuba, has grown today into the largest hand-rolled cigar factory in the world. Here on the palm-lined Caribbean coast outside of Casa de Campo, visitors can view the impeccable care that goes into making a cigar. The majority of tobacco is sourced right here from local Dominican plantations, and then hand bunched and individually inspected for quality, craftsmanship, and care. Many of the cigar world’s biggest names—from Montecristo and H. Upmann to Romeo and Julieta—are processed, rolled, and packaged here on the island’s southeastern coast. Even travelers who don’t smoke cigars can appreciate the meticulous attention to detail that goes into crafting what some might argue are the world’s best premium cigars.
Minitas Beach(Playa Minitas) is the perfect island paradise and an ideal destination for travelers who want to relax among the ocean views, white sands and towering palm trees of Dominican Republic. Visitors will find turquoise blue waters filled with colorful, tropical fish, quiet stretches of beach lined with comfortable chairs for unwinding and impeccable views that are easy to get lost in.
And while Minitas Beach(Playa Minitas) offers up endless options for tired travelers who want to really relax and let go, it’s also the perfect spot for slightly more adventurous souls, thanks to kayaking, snorkeling, swimming and paddle boat options that offer up-close encounters with nature. This private, unspoiled destination is one of Dominican Republic’s finest.
Travelers can explore Minitas Beach(Playa Minitas) as part of a Catalina Island and Chavon River cruise with snorkeling from the resorts of Punta Cana.
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