TripAdvisor's 10 most incredible places in the Dominican Republic

Maureen O'Hare, CNNUpdated 27th October 2015
(CNN) — Travel trends come and go but sitting on white sandy beaches, staring at sparkling turquoise seas and drinking rum cocktails in the shade of a coconut tree just doesn't get old.
And it's something the Dominican Republic excels at.
Don't take our word for it.
There are nearly 600,000 reviews on TripAdvisor of Dominican Republic attractions, restaurants and other sites.
Here are 10 of the best places their users think you should check out -- with tips on what to do when you get there.

27 Charcos de Damajagua

Puerto Plata, Puerto Plata
There's not just one, but 27 spectacular waterfalls to enjoy at Damajagua, around 30 minutes' drive from Puerto Plata.
"You have to hike up one side of the mountain so you can jump into the waterfalls on the other side," explains Steffanie R from Dallas.
Leaping off a cliff outside your comfort zone?
The "friendly and helpful" guides offer "options for everyone."
"Make sure you have a waterproof camera" and are "ready to hike," says Carl J.

Bavaro Beach

Punta Cana, La Altagracia
Traveler floyd1976 from New Jersey thinks Punta Cana's Bavaro is "by far the most beautiful beach in the Dominican Republic," with "pure white sand" and "crystal blue water as warm as a bath."
Other travelers love the "huge palm trees."
W333Jul from Scotland says it's "a great resort for a winter break" thanks to "plenty of sun" and "loads of watersports."
TripAdvisor's top ten things to do in the Dominican Republic
Bavaro is a "Gorgeous beach! So relaxing and beautiful water," says Sue B from Florida.
TripAdvisor traveler photo

Macao Beach

Punta Cana, La Altagracia
Punta Cana's Macao Beach is a locals' favorite with a "laid back ambiance" and "great waves," according to Mexican reviewer Flower XV.
Rory m was "blown away" by Macao Beach's "crystal-clear sea and golden sands."
Hart789 from Georgetown agrees, but warns: "Be careful of the high tide and extremely strong rip current!"
Vwats4231 notes there are a lot of beach vendors "offering island delicacies, interesting animal pictures, beverages and sunglasses" although many users, like Bob K from Canada, find them "a little relentless."

Isla Saona

Punta Cana, La Altagracia
Saona ticks all the paradise island boxes: white sandy beaches and teal-blue sea; palm trees, coconuts and starfish.
This government-protected nature reserve sees hundreds of visitors arriving each day and for many TripAdvisor users, the "music, dancing and rum" of the Catamaran trip is half the fun.
Kaki from Canada warns other tourists not to remove starfish from the sea for photo opportunities.
Starfish can "survive only 10 seconds out of the water" and, with the sea being so clear, "we don't need to remove them at all."

Playa Bonita

Las Terrenas, Samana
Samana province is celebrated for its green fertile mountains and pristine white sands.
Playa Bonita, near las Terrenas, has "beautiful virgin beaches with magnificent views!! Could walk and walk and not see anyone!" says DVTLO from NYC.
There's "plenty of space to relax under the palm trees" says Joan L from Maryland, while R L from North Carolina enjoyed the "small little huts along the beach to purchase fresh cocktails."
Aside from paddle boarding and kayaking, you can go horseback riding along the beach ($20 an hour, says Fernando R) and, with a grassy strip running right alongside the sand, you can even sunbathe on the green and avoid the hassle of shaking off sand.
TripAdvisor's top ten things to do in the Dominican Republic
Playa Bonita is an "amazing place for relaxation" says MR F from Puerto Rico.
TripAdvisor traveler photo

Hoyo Azul

Punta Cana, La Altagracia
The startling blue waters of Hoyo Azul lagoon -- otherwise known as "the Blue Hole" -- took many TripAdvisor users' breath away.
Brian S has "never seen water so pretty."
Matthew C from West Virginia tells you to expect it be "cold, but exhilarating!"
"Our skin was totally soft after, with the calcium carbonate salts," declares Canada's luv2cruise535.
The lagoon is reached by a hike through Scape Park.
"The tour guide was very helpful and pointed out all different kinds of plants and wildlife," says Cameron 88 from California.
Other activities on offer include horseback riding and zip-lining.

Catedral Primada de America

Santo Domingo
The first stone in this cathedral -- the oldest still in use in the Americas -- was set in 1514 by Christopher Columbus's son Diego.
"It is amazing what the Spaniards accomplished in the 1500s," says Rick S.
"An absolutely beautiful building. The skilled masons and craftsmen did an amazing job."
"This church combines elements of both Gothic and Baroque," says Maria B.
"There is also an excellent art collection containing retablos, paintings, old woodwork, furniture, sculptures and tombstone."
Rlynnprince from Arizona reminds fellow visitors to dress respectfully: "We were asked to wear a pashmina around our waists in order to have our legs covered."

Paradise Island and the Mangroves

Punta Rucia, Puerto Plata
When you hop on a day excursion to Paradise Island, says Adi2011 from England, the party begins "the moment you set foot on the boat."
Snorkeling is the main attraction here.
"The display of marine life below the surface is mindblowing," says Adi2011.
Suzanne K from Arizona was wowed by the "beautiful, colorful fish that eat right out of your hands."
England's BedfordshireJon took it easy, resting on floats in the Caribbean Sea and "enjoying a drink from the floating bar."
The trip back often involves a speedboat trip around the mangroves.
"Recommended 100%!" says Sharon S.
TripAdvisor's top ten things to do in the Dominican Republic
554dianel from Canada sums up Paradise Island as "corals, colorful fish, white sand."
TripAdvisor traveler photo

Cayo Levantado

Cayo Levantado, Samana
Nicknamed Bacardi Island because the famous rum brand once filmed an advertisement here, this tiny island has both a public beach (the "facilities are a bit tatty, but worth a visit" says ErkanandStevie from England) and a private beach.
New York's Jojo H was "blown away by the turquoise water and palm trees," dannyDenny52 loves the "beautiful sand like talcum powder" and KirklandPete from Canada agrees it's a "great place to recharge your batteries."

La Aurora Cigar Factory

Santiago de los Caballeros, Santiago
Cigar aficionados -- or those just interested in this key part of the Dominican economy and culture -- will find plenty to enjoy at the La Aurora Cigar Factory.
"This is a very comprehensive tour that will take you through the premium cigar production process from start to finish," says BuddyDogJackson.
TripAdvisor travelers have a lot of love for the "knowledgeable, passionate and entertaining" guide Eugene, who's been leading this (free) tour for 20 years.
Nikola M says he'll show you round the factory "like you are his best friend forever."