5 Must-See Events in the Dominican Republic
Is there any better way to travel than to attend a country’s special events?
We think not.
Every spot has its own unique festivals, celebrations, and natural wonders, and partaking in them can be one of the most enjoyable parts of traveling.
And luckily, the Dominican Republic has no dearth of celebrations and festivals. What’s more, even the most historically inclined festivals are open to travelers and tourists, and they provide an unparalleled chance to explore the culture and history of the country.
Below you’ll see some festivals, celebrations, and other time-sensitive events spread throughout the Dominican Republic. If you’re lucky enough to have your visit line up with these celebrations, make sure to attend!
Carnaval, in Santo Domingo
When: All Through February, but especially February 27th
Carnaval is part of the celebration of Dominican Independence Day, and is one of the most popular festivals on the island. It’s one of the biggest celebrations in the country and while it technically lasts through all of February, it’s especially active on Sundays. Likewise, while it’s celebrated throughout the country, the event is huge in Santo Domingo
The festivities take the form of all-day parties, in which you’ll find many people traveling in costumes representing specific groups relevant to the festival, ranging from “La Ciguapa” (a Dominican monster) to Los Indios (representing the Taino Native Americans). For the most part, the parties are held on the main streets of the city, where people will gather to watch parades. Those in disguise will playfully (and lightly) whack people with whips, and traditional bachata and meringue music is omnipresent. Finally, you’ll see people wearing colorful masks to represent religious figures.
Festival de Merengue, in Santo Domingo
When: Throughout July and August
You’ve no doubt seen pictures and videos of jazz fans and musicians during New Orleans’ most active months.
Well, the Festival de Merengue would make them blush. According to some, Merengue, a music form that is constantly evolving while never losing its soul, is more beloved than jazz in the United States, and Festival de Merengue is a celebration dedicated solely to it. Top bands gather in the city, and there are games, arts, and handicrafts. The festivities are located around the Malecon district of Santo Domingo, and it runs all night. Dancing is strongly encouraged, if not required.
And for foodies, the festival is dotted with food tents full of traditional Dominican foods and simple drinks.
Whale Watching, in Samana Bay
When: From late December to late March
It’s almost impossible to convey how impressive humpback whales really are. Words can’t do their size, majesty, and beauty justice, and it’s impossible to see them without sympathizing with efforts at conservation.
So, why don’t you take some time to do just that?
The Dominican Republic is one of the best places to see the humpback whales during their migrations, and the country has heavily invested in ways for people to travel out and see these whales without bothering them. Samana Bay is one of the best spots for this, and the whales are around from late December to late March… though they show up en mass around mid-January.
San Juan Bautista, in San Juan de la Maguana
When: June 17th-24th
This is a primarily religious festival held in honor of John the Baptist, as well as Chango, a spirit lifted from the West African Yoruba religion. But, just because it’s a religious festival doesn’t mean it’s not a riot.
You see, Chango and the traditions surrounding him made it to the Dominican Republic essentially undiluted, and he gets as much respect in the country as John the Baptist, himself; which is saying a lot. Like many Dominican festivals, this one includes a ton of music and food, and the heaviest days can last all night.
But, it’s also an example of what makes Dominican culture unique: the melding of indigenous, Spanish, and African cultural qualities.
When: Check the Dates
We know that this is a strange one, but it’s worth remembering. Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz, Jose Bautista… some of the United States’ best baseball players hail from the Dominican Republic. So, if you’re a baseball fan, it’s worth your time to go see a game, and watch these players before the MLB pulls them on-board.
From baseball to whale watching to music festivals, the Dominican Republic has no dearth of once-in-a-lifetime events to see. So, when you start planning your trip, make sure to pay attention to these dates!
Written by Connor Johnson
Connor Johnson is a flexible content and copy writer located in the Boston area. He supplements his writing with in-depth research and general marketing skills. He can be contacted here.