Since Feb 2015
Lebawit Lily Girma is a freelance travel writer and photographer who splits her time between the US, Belize and the Caribbean. A serial expat, she has traveled the Caribbean for the past ten years. Lily's articles and photography, which focus on culture and adventure, have been published in New York Magazine, CNN Travel, The Travel Channel, American Way, BBC Travel, and others. She's the author of Moon Belize (Avalon Travel/Perseus Books) and is currently writing Moon Dominican Republic. You can follow Lily's Caribbean travels on social media @sunandstilettos or on her blog, Sunshine and Stilettos.
Nature & Wildlife Areas, Parks
Bodies of Water
Bodies of Water
Horseback Riding Tours
World famous Bavaro Beach — one of the most stunning in the Caribbean — is dotted with gigantic palm trees and as romantic a setting as you could imagine. Stroll on the beach, get a beachfront couples' massage, or dine by candlelight facing the sea. The beach is wide enough to feel uncrowded, even though it isn't vendor-free during the day, and ideal for long romantic, breezy walks.
Part of a protected national park, Parque Nacional del Este, the island of Saona lies off the southeastern coast of the Dominican Republic. Hop on a boat trip to the island — you'll cool off in a natural swimming pool on the way — where you can spend the whole day on white sand beaches, swimming in turquoise seas, or napping in hammocks.
Pack up your lunch and escape to the public, less crowded, and undeveloped Macao Beach, a local favorite. Relax on the beach, take a nap, or frolic in the Atlantic waves (with care). Plus, enjoy a typical Dominican lunch from one of the bars or fish shacks while you're there.
Put your sneakers on and get lost together in the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park, where you can hike the trails while taking in the beauty of this private 1,500-acre nature reserve. There are over ten freshwater lagoons — called 'eyes' by the Tainos because of their oval shape — and the reserve is home to birds, iguanas, and other Dominican flora and fauna. You can take a swim in the gorgeous jade waters and cool off mid-hiking if you choose.
Off the south coast of the Dominican Republic, Isla Catalina is part of the protected Parque Nacional del Este. Sign up for a day trip to the island and enjoy a day of sailing, snorkeling, and plenty of food and fun in the sun.
Flamingos, flowers, and lush gardens await at the Manati Park, a nice spot to get away from the hustle and bustle of the resorts in Punta Cana. Plus, if you'd like to, there's a dolphin and seal lion show to watch here.
Escape the beach and marvel at the Dominican Republic's interior at the Bavaro Lagoon Wildlife Refuge, located in Cabeza de Toro. You'll spot numerous species of birds, native plants and trees, as well as reptiles and freshwater fish. Canoe through mangroves and enjoy nature away from the crowds.
You can't miss a romantic dip in one of the Dominican Republic's most beautiful cenotes: Hoyo Azul. Close to Punta Cana's International Airport, grab a taxi and head to Scape Park. You'll hike a forest trail and reach a platform leading down to this natural wonder. Walk your way down to the cenote, or cliff-dive together (at your own risk of course!).
Try your couples' luck at the lively, modern Hard Rock Casino. Drinks are free while you gamble so you can throw back some mamajuana shots — the Dominican aphrodisiac —and enjoy some nightlife away from your resort.
Go horseback riding together on the beach. You'll head into the Dominican countryside to saddle up at a ranch, where you will also receive an introduction to horseback riding. Next, you'll head off on a course that will take you through forests, past a small stream — with breaks for some fresh coconut — and eventually end up on the beautiful, public Macao Beach. Take a break and cool off in the sea for a few minutes, before heading back to the ranch and your resort.