Caribbean and South America,  Cruises

Dominican Republic Cruise Ports – How to Plan Shore Excursions

Are you planning a pampering Caribbean cruise stopping in one of the Dominican Republic cruise ports? Then you are not alone!

With its stunning beaches, rich cultural heritage, and great cuisine, this country offers an experience like no other. To make the most of your time from the Dominican Republic Cruise Ports, you must carefully plan your limited time for shore excursions.

I traveled around the Dominican Republic for over a month in 2023. It is a truly amazing island. In this article, you will find a helpful guide to the most popular destinations from the five major Dominican Republic cruise ports. I’ll tell you about the best things to do, see, and eat in each one of them!

From exploring the historic Santo Domingo to relaxing on the pristine beaches of Bayahibe or Punta Cana, or scuba diving and whale watching in the north, you will find something amazing to do.

Let’s get started on making your Dominican Republic cruise stop a memorable one!

Cruise ship docked in the Caribbean in the Dominican Republic Cruise Port

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The Four Major Dominican Republic Cruise Ports

In this article, you will discover all the amazing adventures you can embark on from the major cruise ports in the Dominican Republic. There are about four bigger Dominican Republic Cruise Ports, so it can be a bit confusing to plan your activities.

Technically, the article really covers five different ports. In northern Puerto Plata, there are two different ports. But they are so close together that you will have access to the same tours and adventures from either one.
As the Dominican Republic is not a very big island, distances are nothing to worry too much about. Sadly, you will still not have the time to see everything in one day.

It is important to know which port you are docking on, before planning your shore excursions.

To make the planning a bit easier for you, I have created a neat overview of the Dominican Republic Cruise Ports – and a guide on how to plan the shore excursions!

Check out my Dominican Republic Cruise Port Map for a great overview below!

Here are the major cruise ports in the Dominican Republic:

  1. Cruise Port Santo Domingo
  2. Amber Cove Cruise Port and Taino Bay Port in Puerto Plata
  3. Port Of Samana Peninsula
  4. La Romana Cruise Terminal on the southeast coast

Dominican Republic Cruise Ports Map

Overview Dominican Republic Cruise Ports
Overview Dominican Republic Cruise Ports Map

Before going deeper into the shore excursions for each port separately, I wanted to give you a quick overview of the most important touristic areas on the island.

Among the most popular destinations for travelers visiting the Dominican Republic is the capital Santo
It is at the top of the list for city lovers for sure.

The most prominent feature of Santo Domingo is its old Zona Colonial city. There you find remnants of the Spanish colonial rule everywhere!

As it is both the country’s capital and largest city, Santo Domingo offers a perfect blend of rich colonial history, vibrant culture, and modern buildings.

Secondly, La Romana Town Cruise Terminal is situated along the south-eastern shores of the DR. It is close to famous resort towns Punta Cana and Cap Cana. Stunning destinations like Bayahibe and the tropical island Isla Saona are also close by.

Thirdly, you have the Port of Samana. It is on the peninsula right north of Santo Domingo. This spot is famous for whale watching and seeing some natural wonders.

And lastly, the northwestern shores of the Dominican Republic have unique sights to offer, whether you arrive at either of the cruise terminals around Puerto Plata town. The Puerto Plata area has many activities, tours, and adventures to offer, and we will look into the most popular ones.

In the next section, we’ll start by guiding you through the best excursions things to do from each one of the Dominican Republic cruise ports.

beautiful beach in the dominican republic with white sand and blue ocean

Santo Domingo Cruise Port(s)

Santo Domingo Cruise Port is located in the capital city of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo. Cruise ships either dock at the Sans Souci Zone or at the Don Diego Quay.

Don Diego Quay is close to the city center, you can simply walk there. If your ship docks at Sans Souci, you have to take a taxi or other transportation to the city. Most ships dock at Sans Souci.

Both of the Santo Domingo Cruise Ports offer modern facilities. They can accommodate cruise ships of different sizes. They have docking facilities, terminals, and amenities to handle the arrival and departure of cruise passengers efficiently.

Best Shore Excursions From Santo Domingo Cruise Port

There’s no shortage of things to do at the Santo Domingo Cruise Port.

There are plenty of excursions to choose from in Santo Domingo as well if you want a done-for-you tour that gets you the city’s highlights in a short amount of time.

Here are some of my favorite pre-planned shore excursions from the Santo Domingo Cruise Port:

beautiful cafe located right on the caribbean sea overlooking the ocean

Things to Do Near Santo Domingo Cruise Port

Obviously, you can also explore the city by yourself. Here are some of the highlights you should not miss in Santo Domingo:

Make sure you visit the impressive Basilica Cathedral of Santa Maria La Menor in the Zona Colonial. It is also called Catedral Primada, as it was the first cathedral built in the New World.

Check out the storytelling Museo de la Resistencia, followed by a lunch at one of the restaurants along the charming boardwalk called Malecon. You will have some stunning sea views.

While in the heart of the historic district, stroll down Calle de Las Damas. It is the oldest street in the Americas.

Also make sure to visit the Alcazar de Colon, a palace built by no other than Christopher Columbus’s son.

Around the Parque Colon, you find lots of little cafes and bars and you can stroll along the charming main street in Zona Colonial, El Conde.

Alternatively, you can head over to Los Tres Ojos (The Three Eyes). It is an ancient underground cave system with three freshwater ponds with the most transparent water you have ever seen. These partly open cave conglomerates with intricate stairwells to the bottom are simply stunning!

Where to Eat in Santo Domingo

Of course, no visit to Santo Domingo is complete without indulging in its culinary scene.

For authentic Dominican cuisine, head to El Conuco or Adrian Tropical, both of which offer a variety of traditional dishes. Try some sancocho (meat stew), mofongo (mashed plantain), and tostones (fried plantain).

If you want something more upscale, try the seafood at Pez Dorado (golden fish) or the lamb at Pat’e Palo.

And for a sweet treat, stop by Helados Bon. It is a local ice cream shop with ravishing flavors like guanabana and passion fruit.

cute cafe entrance with tables in Santo Domingo

Amber Cove And Taino Bay

Both of these cruise ports are situated on the northern coastline of the Dominican Republic. Amber Cove Cruise Port and the brand-new Taino Bay Cruise Port are popular destinations for many cruise lines.

The original port for cruise liners in Puerto Plata was Amber Cove. It was located just outside the city. The port got its name from the northern coastline, called the Amber Coast. It is called that due to its rich deposits of golden-yellow amber.

The Taino Bay Cruise Port opened in 2021 in the heart of Puerto Plata. It is a super modern port within walking distance of several sights in the Puerto Plata Old City.

Taino is the name for the indigenous people of the Dominican Republic. As the locals here are serious about taking care of their legacy, you can explore the remnants of Taino culture in several places.

If you don’t feel like exploring too much on this stop, I still have some great options for you. You are in for a treat if your cruiser docks at Taino Bay. This modern port has many amenities staged right outside your ship. They have a large leisure area with a pool, swim-up bar, loungers, restaurants, and shopping opportunities!

beautiful fortress with canons overlooking caribbean cruise port in the dominican republic with a big cruise ship in port

Best Shore Excursions from Amber Cove/Taino Bay Cruise Ports

If you are looking for some pre-organized shore excursions, look no further.

Here are my top picks for shore excursions for these two Dominican Republic Cruise Ports:

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Things to Do Near Amber Cove/Taino Bay Cruise Ports

If you are planning on venturing out by yourself, here are some great ideas of things to do in Puerto Plata.

Two of the top excursions from Puerto Plata city are visiting the Fortaleza San Felipa Fortress and the cable car ride up Mount Isabel de Torres.

Take in the stunning views of the whole city and coastline between waves of clouds from the tip of the mountain. You can even admire the massive statue of Christ. There is also a beautiful natural park up there, where you can walk around the paths and admire the incredible greenery.

One unique excursion from Puerto Plata is a visit to the stunning Damajagua Waterfalls. This natural wonder features a series of 27 waterfalls you can hike and swim through. And you can conveniently book a pick-up directly from the cruise port. You’ll get to explore various pools of crystal-clear water and even slide down natural water slides.

If you’re a fan of adventure, consider embarking on a zipline tour through the lush jungle canopy of the north. Experience the thrill of flying through the air as you take in stunning views of the
surrounding mountains.

Book a beach day at Ocean World Adventure Park for a more relaxing outing. This unique park features a private beach and opportunities to swim with dolphins, sea lions, and even sharks!

Where to Eat Near Amber Cove/Taino Bay Cruise Ports

And when you get hungry, Taino Bay has plenty of options to satisfy any palate. Try the fresh seafood at Blackbeard’s Cove or indulge in some Dominican-style barbecue at La Ranita. Or make your way to the Puerto Plata city center for some delicious authentic Dominican cuisine.

One of the standout restaurants is El Manguito, known for its authentic dishes and welcoming atmosphere. And if you already are craving a taste of home, head to The Ponderosa Steakhouse for juicy burgers and sizzling steaks!

With so much to see and explore in Puerto Plata, your biggest problem here is going to be prioritizing, so good luck!

carnival in a town in dominican republic

Port of Samana

The Port of Samana is also located along the northern shores. However, it is a little further to the east. Samana is a peninsula overlooking Samana Bay, a vast cove shielded from the strongest winds from the Atlantic Ocean.

The port is located near the biggest city on the peninsula, Santa Bárbara de Samana. Keep in mind that some cruise lines refer to the stop as Cayo Levantado Port, named after the small island in Samana Bay.

Ship tenders have to shuttle passengers back and forth to the tender pier. Keep this in mind when you easily get seasick. It is a trip of about 10 minutes. Restroom facilities are available at the tender pier, but other than that the pier is not very developed.

Samana Bay is one of the most special Dominican Republic cruise ports for one reason: it is the only place where you can spot humpback whales.

Best Shore Excursion Near Samana Cruise Port

Whale Watching in Samana

Best Things to Do Near Samana Cruise Port

Samana Bay is world famous for being home to humpback whales between December and March every year. Thousands of humpbacks come here to mate or give birth. You can experience them on a whale-watching tour in Samana if your trip is during this period!

From Santa Barbara de Samana town on the bay’s edge, you can travel up to the northern part of the peninsula to El Limon. El Limon is lined with secluded pristine beaches.

Las Terrenas is infamous for its above-average nightlife. If you have an overnight stay, make sure to check it out.

Santa Barbara de Samana is the starting point for most whale-watching tours, as well as trips to Cayo Levantado. Cayo Leventado, or Bacardi Island, has amazing paradisaical beaches.

For something more relaxed, venture out to to the more remote and tranquil Playa Rincon. It is rated as one of the best beaches in the whole country.

A short drive from Santa Barbara de Samana is also the Cueva de Agua, one of the most famous Taino Archeological sites. Anyone with a heart for history has to check this out!

On this peninsula, you also find the Cordillera Samana. Cordillera Semana is an impressive lush green mountain range with over 60 types of palm trees and several waterfalls and natural wonders.

La Romana Cruise Terminal

La Romana is a lesser-known gem of the Dominican Republic cruise terminals. It lies south of Punta Cana. This little town is home to the Casa de Campo resort, famous for its golf courses, beaches, and upscale amenities.

If you’re arriving in La Romana on a cruise, a terminal building with a modern vibe welcomes you, with various shops, restaurants, and tour operators ready to take you on shore adventures. The terminal is also called Sugar Breeze Terminal.

Many cruises to La Romana usually come from Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao or other Caribbean gems. La Romana is also a famous starting point for Caribbean cruises because it is close to major airports.

Especially Carnival Cruise Line makes use of that opportunity.

beautiful caribbean beach

Best Shore Excursions from La Romana Cruise Port

Best Things to Do Near La Romana Cruise Port

One of the most popular shore excursions from La Romana is a trip to Bayahibe. It is just 25 minutes from the port. Bayahibe is a charming fishing village on the edge of the Parque Nacional del Este.

From there, you can board a catamaran or speedboat to Isla Saona for the day, a picturesque island with white sand beaches, turquoise water, and swaying palm trees!

Isla Saona is a natural paradise with plenty of pristine coral reefs, mangrove forests, diverse wildlife, and pristine beaches. You can sunbathe, swim, go snorkeling, or explore the island’s hidden coves and lagoons while you are there.

You can also visit the famous resort and beach havens Punta Cana and Cap Cana from La Romana.

They are less than an hour’s drive away. In Punta Cana, you find a variety of beach bars, cafes, and even upscale restaurants.
If you’re looking for something more adventurous to do, you can book a zipline tour or a horseback ride through the Dominican countryside here as well.

The Zip Line Adventure Park in La Romana offers a thrilling ride over the lush tropical forest and stunning views of the Chavon River and the Caribbean Sea!

What to Eat in La Romana

La Romana town is known for its delicious seafood, particularly the freshly caught red snapper and grilled shrimp. If you are tired of cruise line menus, this is a great option.

Many restaurants offer a prix-fixe menu that includes your choice of appetizers, entrees, desserts, drinks, and coffee. Savor the flavors of the Dominican Republic while enjoying the warm hospitality of local hosts!

caribbean beach cafe

How to Get Around From Dominican Republic Cruise Ports

In the Dominican Republic, there are several transportation options available for getting around from the cruise ports. If you want to explore the country without a guided tour, find some options here.

Here are some common methods of transportation available at Dominican Republic Cruise Ports:

  • Taxis: Taxis are a convenient and widely available way of transportation in the DomRep. At the cruise ports, you can find official taxi stands where licensed taxis operate. Agree on the fare beforehand and make sure the meter is on, otherwise, they might try to scam you!
  • Private Transfers: This is a great way to get around the island. Make sure to pre-book a Private Transfer before your cruise to have an enjoyable day without worries.
  • Public Buses: Public buses, known as “guaguas” or “carros públicos,” are a cheap way to get around the Dominican Republic. While they are a budget-friendly option, they can be crowded and the schedules might be a bit off.
  • Car Rentals: Renting a car gives you the freedom to explore the Dominican Republic at your own pace. I can advise you to book your rental car in advance with DiscoverCars. Then you can pick it up at the cruise port and get driving right away.
  • Walking: If you’re interested in exploring a little bit around the cruise port or nearby attractions, walking is a good option. Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial, for example, is a pedestrian-friendly area with narrow streets and historic sites within walking distance from the port.

When using any form of transportation in the entire Caribbean, consider safety and reliability. Stick to reputable taxi companies, only use licensed transportation services and always be alert for scams!

More 1 Day Cruise Itineraries

🚢 1 Day in Malta – From Valletta Cruise Port

🚢 1 Day in Gibraltar – From Malaga Cruise Port

🚢 1 Day in London – From Southampton Cruise Port

🚢 1 Day in Aruba from Cruise Port

🚢 1 Day in Curacao from Cruise Port

🚢 1 Day in Bonaire from Cruise Port

🚢 1 Day in Santorini from Cruise Port

🚢 1 Day in Mykonos from Cruise Port

🚢 1 Day in the Dominican Republic on the Cruise Ports

🚢 1 Day Blue Mountains Itinerary – From Sydney Cruise Port

Wrap-Up: Dominican Republic Cruise Ports

In conclusion, from these four (five) central Dominican Republic cruise ports, you have an infinite number of adventures ready at your fingertips.

Your challenge is to choose between these spectacular shore excursions – depending on your preferences and your time available.

From ancient history to breathtaking natural beauty, the country’s most popular destinations have something for every type of traveler, whether seeking adventure, relaxation, or culinary delights.

So, don’t miss the opportunity to make unforgettable memories on your cruise stop in the
Dominican Republic. As you plan your itinerary, keep these insider tips and tricks in mind and maximize your time at each port so you can go with the flow and enjoy when you get there!

And while you are at it in your planning, as you will be on a ship most of the time don’t forget to research the hurricane season in the Caribbean when you decide when to go! One of the best times to visit the Caribbean is December.

As they say in the Dominican Republic, ¡Hasta la vista! Not done yet with cruising? Read about the Valletta Cruise Port.

FAQ: Dominican Republic Cruise Ports

What Cruise Ports are in the Dominican Republic?

The Dominican Republic has several cruise ports, including Santo Domingo, Amber Cove in Puerto Plata, La Romana, and Samana. These ports offer diverse experiences, from exploring the historical charm of Santo Domingo to enjoying the beautiful beaches of Puerto Plata and the vibrant culture of La Romana. Each port provides a gateway to discover the country’s rich heritage, natural wonders, and warm hospitality.

Where do Cruise Ships Dock in the Dominican Republic?

Cruise ships in the Dominican Republic dock at various ports across the country. Some prominent cruise ports include Santo Domingo, located on the southern coast, Amber Cove in Puerto Plata on the north coast, La Romana on the southeast coast, and Samana on the northeast coast. These ports offer convenient access to popular tourist destinations and provide a range of amenities and services for cruise passengers.

What Port Does Royal Caribbean Use in the Dominican Republic?

Royal Caribbean utilizes two main ports in the Dominican Republic. The first is Amber Cove, located near Puerto Plata on the north coast. This modern facility offers a variety of amenities, including shops, restaurants, and adventure activities. The second is La Romana, situated on the southeast coast. From here, passengers can explore nearby attractions such as Saona Island and the historic Altos de Chavón village.

Do Cruise Ships Go to Punta Cana?

Cruise ships do not typically dock directly in Punta Cana. Punta Cana is primarily known for its resorts and beautiful beaches rather than being a cruise port. However, some cruise lines may offer excursions or day trips from nearby cruise ports, such as La Romana, to Punta Cana, allowing passengers to explore the area’s stunning coastline and enjoy its popular tourist attractions.

blonde girl pink dress in front of blue door santorini

About the Author

Sabrina is a passionate travel blogger and content creator, based in the Netherlands. She spends most parts of the year abroad at various destinations with her husband.

She provides slow-paced itineraries that focus on quality over quantity. Sabrina wants to help her readers to get more out of their travel experiences – while doing less. Read more.