Adventure tourism has become one of the top trends for tourists around the world. Aimed at people who want a bit of physical challenge to go with their holiday fun, adventure tourism is suitable not just for the young (and young at heart) but also the whole family.
Blessed with year-round tropical weather and a variety of natural terrains including mountains, tropical jungles, rivers and miles of ocean shore, the Dominican Republic has emerged as one of the top adventure tourism hotspots in the region. Here are five of the most popular adventure tourism activities in the Dominican Republic.
- River Horseback Riding and Zipline Tour
Punta Cana is a resort town on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic with stunningly beautiful mountains, rivers and tropical rainforests. A horseback riding and zipline tour lets you enjoy these natural splendors from very different perspectives. Typically, a full day tour lasting 6 to 8 hours, participants get to ride along the Anamya River and through scenic mountain trails on horseback before soaring above treetops on ziplines.
To satisfy your inner cowboy/girl, some tour companies offer the option of a cattle drive (for an additional fee, of course. Other extras include tours of cigar factories (with free tasting), local villages and cocoa plantations.
- Off-Road Tour on a 4×4
4×4 is also known as All Terrain Vehicles (ATV), and, as its name suggests, can be ridden on a wide variety of off-road terrains. A number of tour companies in the Dominican Republic offer 4×4 adventures through lush jungles, rugged mountains, ravines and beaches. In addition to the fun and thrill of driving these vehicles, such tours give participants the opportunity to get off the beaten track and experience the Dominican Republic’s scenery in their natural state.
You do not need to have a driver’s license to operate a 4×4, but you do have to be 16 years of age or above. Participants will receive safety briefing and instructions on how to handle the vehicles before being allowed behind the wheel. Some tour companies offer rides on dune buggies instead of 4×4, which typically seats two people side-by-side.
- White Water Rafting
If riding a rubber boat through fast moving waters is your idea of fun, the Dominican Republic has that to offer in plenty. White-water rafting aficionados claim that nothing beats the adrenaline rush of battling the sheer force of nature with paddles and muscle power alone.
Fortunately, most tour companies have experienced instructors on hand to give training on paddling technique and safety rules. There are river courses with various levels of difficulty to choose from, so that everyone from beginners to expert rafters can enjoy such excursions. In addition to the river rapids, such tours also include calmer stretches to give participants the chance to take in the spectacular scenery along the river canyons.
- Deep Sea Fishing
On the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, the seabed slopes off precipitously to a depth of more than a thousand feet, eventually reaching the deepest point of the Atlantic Ocean, the Puerto Rico Trench. This is good news for fishing enthusiasts, because it means they only have to travel a short distance to catch deep sea fish such as barracuda, bonito, dorado, king mackerel, swordfish, tuna and yellow tail snapper. Many tour companies along the northern and eastern coast of the country offer deep sea fishing cruise packages that include the use of the boat, all fishing equipment as well as experienced guides to help you with the catch, while more experienced anglers can simply charter a boat and fish to their hearts’ content.
Fish population migrate throughout the year, so certain species are more plentiful at different times of the year. For example, the peak fishing season for yellow fin tuna is from March to June, blue marlin is more abundant during the summer, and winter is the best time to catch mahi-mahi. Some cruise companies can cook up your catches on the boat, but it is just as easy to bring them ashore and be prepared at a pier-side restaurant.
People who are concerned about the environmental impact of fishing may opt to angle specifically for lionfish instead. This invasive species is not native to the Caribbean but had either escaped from an aquarium or introduced by careless humans in the 1990s. Since then, lionfish has proliferated throughout the eastern United States and the Caribbean, decimating native fish populations and negatively affecting bio-diversity in the region’s waters. Catching lionfish is not just good for the environment but good for our stomachs as they are also quite delicious!
Kitesurfing combines the joys of windsurfing with the excitement of wakeboarding by harnessing the power of the wind. Using a board similar to a surf board that is attached to a wind-catching kite, kitesurfing allows players to glide across the waves and lift themselves up into the air. Kitesurfng has been steadily gaining popularity for years, but received an extra boost in recent months after ex-president Obama was photographed enjoying the sport on Richard Branson’s private island in the Caribbean.
Endowed with wide expansive coastlines and steady winds, the Dominican Republic is an ideal place for neophyte and expert kitesurfers alike. The towns of Cabarete and Sosúa on the northern shore of the country are kitesurfing meccas with dozens of kitesurfing schools and shops vying for trade, so the prices are very reasonable. Those new to the sport should know that it takes two or three days to learn to balance oneself on the board and get a grasp of the basic moves.
Compared to, say, lying on a beach hammock and reading a book, adventure tourism does carry an extra element of risk. Yet the amount of fun to be had and the satisfaction gained from overcoming a physical challenge or mastering a skill is also proportionally higher.
Those intending to take part in any of the above activities should always go with experienced and reputable operators, and observe all safety precautions. Also, check with your insurance agents to ensure that the activity is covered by your travel insurance policy should accidents happen.
Written by Simon Chung
Simon Chung is a digital nomad based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He specializes in research and writing for companies, organizations and academic institutions. He can be contacted here.