La Romana

Destination Location

La Romana
  • 18.43, -68.97:primary

Overview

Nestled between endless stretches of white beaches and fields of coffee, sugar cane and cocoa, La Romana is just waiting to make you smile. This sunny slice of paradise is on the southeast side of the Dominican Republic.

It is where the green landscape of the Parque Nacional del Este meets the shoreline, and where the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea mingle with the cool Atlantic Ocean. It's also a swimmer's paradise, with beaches covering almost every kilometre of the coastline. Just a few steps away in the sparkling emerald water, brightly coloured fish dart through the coral reefs.

Once a sleepy fishing village, several new upscale resorts have brought supermodels, celebrities and world leaders to the La Romana area to find the ultimate in rest and relaxation.

It might be tempting to spend all your time lounging in a beach chair while the gentle trade winds cool your skin. For active couples and families, there are historic sites and intriguing natural wonders to explore. Santo Domingo, a short drive away, is a treasure trove of historical architecture. You'll also want to explore the inland caves where jewel-like caverns are decorated with ancient symbols.

Music surrounds you everywhere in La Romana, home of the merengue. Feel free to jump in at the local colmadon (a mini grocery store) when it transforms into an impromptu bar at sunset or find your groove at the disco. Yes, disco is alive and well here, but it has a distinctly Latin beat.

World-class golf courses and spas, water sports of every description, horseback riding in the surf – it's all here. Like many visitors before you, the wonders of La Romana will have you wanting to come back again and again.

La Romana is a fantastic destination for:

  • beaches
  • culture and history
  • golf

Destination basics

The best time to visit the La Romana region is from December to April, during the dry season when the humidity is at its lowest.

Although the average temperature stays about the same all year at a pleasant 30 C during the day and around 20 C at night, the rain gradually increases from May to November. In October, you can expect some rain and thunderstorms for a couple of hours every afternoon, before the sunshine returns.

Sun protection is important here, since the sun’s ray are stronger than in Canada. Be sure to apply sunscreen before you head to the beach. A hat and sunglasses are must-have items, too.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for La Romana

How could the country that invented merengue be anything but friendly? You'll find the local people are easy-going and approachable. They'll do their best to help you with simple requests, even if you have to use hand gestures.

Spanish is spoken everywhere on the island. In smaller centres like La Romana, it might be a challenge to find someone outside the tourist industry that speaks anything else. You may want to pack along a dictionary or phrase book. In the tourist areas or at your resort, English and French work just fine.

More than 95 per cent of Dominicans are Roman Catholic who peacefully accept other religious practices. Even voodoo can be found here, kept alive by immigrants from Haiti.

La Romana has a population of about 200,000, and one out of every seven jobs is connected with tourism in some way. The entire population of the Dominican Republic is around 10 million, made up of 73 per cent mixed race, 16 per cent Caucasian and 11 per cent African – a cultural diversity which reflects the lively history of the island.

Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, the Taino natives governed the island. In the short span of 40 years, they were overtaken by the Spanish. In spite of this, words from their language have found their way into English that tell us volumes about their lives. Examples include barbacoa (barbecue), canoa (canoe), hamaca (hammock), maize (corn), maraca and tobacco.

In many small galleries around La Romana, and in the museums in Santo Domingo, you’ll find the Taino's distinctive triangular stone sculptures, as well as many examples of pottery and decorative arts. In 1516, the first sugar mill was built near present-day Santo Domingo, and the Tainos became labourers there. As their numbers declined, African slaves were imported to take their place.

The sugar industry gave the harbour at La Romana the importance that it still has today, although cruise ships now jostle for space at the harbours, along with the sugar exporters.

The official currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican Peso. Most hotels, restaurants and businesses accept major credit cards. If you would prefer to have cash on hand, both Canadian and U.S. money can be exchanged for the peso during your stay at both banks and exchange booths (called casas de cambio). Most hotels and resorts also offer currency exchange services.

If you need to withdraw funds, you'll find bank machines at many resorts and popular shopping areas. Please note that local ATMs only dispense funds in pesos and fees vary by machine.

To avoid carrying a large amount of cash, a mix of payment options is recommended.

La Romana has a thriving dining and bar scene, most of it in the Casa de Campo Marina and the Altos de Chavón. Seafood is of course a main draw, but a collection of diverse restaurants serving international cuisine has set up shop in tourist areas, especially near the marina’s yacht basin. There are casual and high-end options, the best serving Italian, Caribbean, and Mediterranean food. There’s nothing like dining outdoors in La Romana at night, when the town becomes festive and the breezes warm. Restaurants with the best local cuisine are near the port and center of town.

Altos de Chavón

While you’re walking around Altos de Chavon, take time to sample some of La Romana’s best restaurants. Café Marietta serves very good Italian food and has some of the best outdoor seating you’ll find in the area. After dinner, head to Onno’s Bar, located just north of the amphitheater. Onno’s is one of La Romana’s best watering holes, serving a mish-mash of international cocktails along with Caribbean classics. It’s also a great place to revel in late-night dance parties. 

Casa de Campo Marina

The Marina has a crescent-shaped plaza with a half-dozen or so outdoor restaurants all within walking distance from each other. There’s not much for local cuisine at the marina, but there are some gems situated on the pier. La Casita serves scrumptious Dominican fare at reasonable prices, while SB, often considered one the best restaurants in the city, serves Caribbean and Mediterranean seafood. Catching sunset views from the end of the pier with a great meal is a real treat.

Central La Romana

South central La Romana is packed with restaurants, from home-spun eateries to street-side cafes and international dining spots. Tourists longing for something out of the ordinary can head to Shish Kebab, one of the most popular restaurants in La Romana serving Mediterranean and Lebanese fare. La Casita, instead, serves Spanish and seafood dishes in a classic setting. For dessert, head to one of La Romana’s most popular cafes, Crema. The pasteleria serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but is best known for its exquisite collection of cakes and pastries.

In 1897, La Romana was founded as an oil town. It has since rapidly evolved, with a lot of private investment, from a regional oil and plantation outpost into one of the Dominican Republic’s top tourist destinations.

Altos de Chavón 

The Altos de Chavón is a recreation of a 16th-century Italian village perched above the west side of the Chavón River. A beautiful neighborhood and an artists’ colony and cultural center, it’s by far La Romana’s most popular attraction. The area, with cobblestone streets and limestone alleyways, is known for its artisan shops, art galleries, and cultural attractions. Visit the Altos de Chavón and shop for artisan wares, stop for lunch at Café Marietta, and, if you’re lucky, catch a concert at the Grecian-style Chavón Amphitheater.

Casa de Campo Marina

The elegant Casa de Campo Marina is located on the south-eastern end of the Casa de Campo resort at the mouth of Chavón river. Walk along the crescent-shaped waterfront with its outdoor restaurants, bars, and exclusive shopping zones. The marina is also a nice starting point to visit some of Casa de Campos’ best attractions. Nearby, you can take a tour of the Dominican countryside on horseback, ride a boat to Minitas Beach, and play a round of golf at the Teeth of the Dog Golf Course. The Marina also hosts international boat shows nearly every month.

Central La Romana

Central La Romana is a world apart from the exclusive resorts and boutique shopping areas of the Casa de Campos and Altos de Chavón. Largely a residential area, it nevertheless appeals to travelers looking for the less-beaten path. Numerous street cafes and homespun restaurants along via Duarte and nearby are more often mom-and-pop operated, and cater less to the international jet-setter. The Parque Central Duarte is home to a few statues of baseball players, and is surrounded by local shops.

La Romana has the entertainment options and outdoor activities of a thriving Caribbean tourist destination. There are many cultural attractions, especially those related to the cultural center and art galleries of Altos de Chavón.

Museums and Galleries

By far most museum and galleries in La Romana are in the Altos de Chavón, which, in addition to being a top cultural attraction, is also a working artists’ colony. See the works of local artisans in galleries and shops, and learn about the history of the region’s pre-European societies in the Regional Museum of Archeology. The impressive, 5000-seat open-air amphitheater is a beautiful venue for concerts. The Altós de Chavón Art Gallery has a nice mix of local artisan wares with designer pieces created by students at the Altos de Chavón School of Design.

Outdoors

No matter the time of year, La Romana is a great place to explore the great outdoors. Tourists traveling between Santo Domingo and resorts along the east coast often plan a pit-stop in La Romana, but stay longer to enjoy the beautiful beaches and natural beauty. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular year-round, and many companies take tourists on boating excursions to idyllic island beaches. Isla Catalina and Isla Saona are top destinations, as is the magnificent Parque Nacional del Este, a beautiful nature reserve.

Nightlife

Much of the best nightlife in La Romana takes place in hotels, which often keep their own clubs and bars for their guests to enjoy. There are, however, several great places to spend the night dancing. Merengue and salsa play well into the night at El Pirata, one of La Romana’s oldest clubs. The club has an on-site casino, and offers all-inclusive passes that come with dinner and drinks along with admission. Genesis is a legendary late-night dance club in the Altos de Chavón.

La Romana

Province: La Romana

Country: Dominican Republic

La Romana by the Numbers

Population: 130,426
Elevation: 10 meters / 30 feet
Average Annual Precipitation: 87.4 centimeters / 34.4 inches
Average January Temperature: 27 °C / 80 °F
Average July Temperature: 30 °C / 86 °F

Quick Facts 

Electricity: 120 volts, 60 Hz, standard two and three pin prongs.

Time Zone: UTC + 4; Standard Time Caribbean

Country Dialing Code: +1

Area Code: 809

Did You Know? 

The name ‘La Romana’ derives from an ancient Roman scale used for weighing goods transported through the city’s port in the 19th century.

Stone blasted from nearby mountains for the construction of a bridge and roads was used for building the Altos de Chavón.

Orientation 

La Romana is third-largest city in the Dominican Republic and is located on the mouth of the Dulce River on the country’s southern coast, about 122 kilometers (76 miles) east of Santo Domingo.

The Dominican Republic makes up the eastern two thirds of the sunny island of Hispaniola, which is the 22nd largest island on earth. It's the largest island in the Caribbean after Cuba, which lies to the northwest. The western third of Hispaniola belongs to Haiti.

The inland terrain around La Romana in the southeast is very similar to the Canadian prairies. The pancake-flat fields stretching to the horizon tell you that you are on the Caribbean Coastal Plain (Llano Costero del Caribe). This area supports crops of all kinds, in addition to plentiful fields of sugar cane. Flowering trees and shrubs sprout up everywhere there's space to grow.

The land underfoot is coral limestone, called "dog tooth" for its rough texture. It's covered with a thin layer of fertile soil. Coffee, tobacco, cocoa, avocados and even rice are grown here. On the way to Santo Domingo, the flat fields give way to gently rolling hills, dotted with grazing cattle.

In the past, the numerous natural harbours made this area a haven for marine vessels. More than 700 sunken ships have been found in the turquoise waters off the coast, and the search for pirate treasure still goes on today.

The dark tangles of lush mangroves you see along the shore are protected areas. They shelter more than 100 bird species, including huge frigate birds that build nests on the strong branches.

You can stroll for miles here along soft, white-sand beaches. All beaches are open to the public, with access points between hotels.

La Romana is the youngest city in the Dominican Republic, and has the distinction of being a ‘company town' founded and managed by private companies. The city and its history is dominated by the sugar and tourism industries.

The region around La Romana was predominantly inhabited by the Tainós people when Spanish Conquistadors, led by Juan Ponce de León, arrived in the 15th century. Visitors can learn about the Tainós and the area's pre-agricultural people by visiting the Altos de Chavón Regional Museum of Archeology. Also, local caves open to the public are decorated with Tainós petroglyphs.

Founded in 1897 as an oil town, La Romana grew quickly after the establishment of coffee plantations, cigar-making operations, and a sugar mill that would become the largest in the world. The opening of the mill coincided with a global rise in sugar prices, and the success attracted people from neighboring countries to the area looking for work. This quickly created a distinct, multi-cultural population - La Romana art, music, and food is all influenced by this confluence of ethnicities and cultures.

In 1960, the American company Gulf and Western Industries bought La Romana's sugar mill. While investing in livestock and cement-making, the company modernized many parts of the city and built schools and housing for its workers. In the following decades, the company began to reimagine La Romana as a tourist destination, with a focus on the development of Casa de Campo, which is now one of the most luxurious resorts in the Caribbean. The company also built a new port, golf courses, and the Altos de Chavón, a recreation of an Italian village complete with a Grecian-style amphitheater, cobblestone streets, a cultural center, and an international design school. Frank Sinatra performed at the Altos de Chavón amphitheater inaugural concert in 1982.

Today, La Romana is a magnet for international tourists attracted by its beaches and coral reefs, turquoise waters, and offshore islands. The city also serves as a gateway for travelers driving between Santo Domingo and the exclusive resorts along the eastern coast. Other points of interest include the National Park del Este, situated just south of La Romana and the mouth of the Chavón river, granted the National Park status in 1975. The resort area of Bayahibe, founded as a fishing village in 1874, has grown into an eco-tourist destination while maintaining authentic fishing village vibes.

Should you choose to rent a car, Avis has a local office in La Romana and offers 24-hour roadside assistance. You can rent a small compact car for just over US$30 per day. For a larger vehicle or SUV, you will typically spend in the range of US$130 per day. For your convenience, local car rental agencies will deliver the car directly to your hotel.

Be aware that while traffic laws in La Romana are similar to those in Canada, the laws are not as well-enforced. Also, due to the lack of roadside lighting, avoid driving after the sun goes down.

You can always catch a taxi from your hotel. Ask your hotel concierge to refer a reputable company.

Public transit is also readily available. Buses are known locally as "gua-guas"and although they are not known for their beauty or speed (and tend to be crowded), they are certainly an economical option. You will need to pay extra for luggage, but with an average taxi fare coming in at around US$50 per hour, the gua-guas are a budget-friendly way to go.

If you're looking to travel a significant distance, catch an Express Bus from Camino Avenue. These run hourly from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. and stop in fewer locations (ask your hotel concierge for details).

If you feel daring, catch a "motoconcho" or motorcycle taxi which stop at most of the gua-gua stops. But buyer beware – you'll be riding at your own risk.

Arrival

While onboard your flight to La Romana International Airport, you will be given a Dominican Tourist Card and a blue customs declaration form. Once you arrive, head to the immigration desks and present your completed tourist card and passport.

After passing through immigration, you’ll pick up your luggage and head through customs. The customs official will take your blue Customs declaration form and you'll exit the airport.

If you've booked a tour or transfer with WestJet Vacations, look for a WestJet Vacations/Hola Tours representative. From there, you'll be directed you to a shuttle that will take you to your hotel or resort.

From the airport, it's approximately a 30-minute drive to the hotels in Bayahibe, 45 minutes to Gran Bahia Principe La Romana and approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to Juan Dolio and Boca Chica, respectively.

Departure

If you've opted for airport transfers to be included in your WestJet Vacations package, a Hola Tours representative will confirm your pick-up time, which can also be found in the Westjet Vacations/Hola Tours info books at the Tour Desk of your hotel.

The same blue customs form you completed during the plane ride in has to be filled out on your departure. This will be handed to you during check-in at the airport.

Electricity in the Dominican Republic is 110 volts, and can fit most (two-pronged) North American plugs. However, some hotels may operate using Swiss outlets, which are round pins instead of flat pins. If you are bringing an electrical appliance, it is recommended that you verify prior to departure if a converter and/or adaptor is required.

Although the town of La Romana has only just begun to update its amenities for visitors, the surrounding area offers a wealth of activities for nature lovers, sports fans, lovers of Latin beats, history buffs and shoppers.

La Romana's neighbouring Parque Nacional del Este (National Park of the East) contains an island, a mangrove swamp and a number of caves within its sprawling 418 sq. km. Kids and adults will be amazed by the wealth of seabirds overhead and the variety of fish down below. Don't miss the reefs at Saona Island (Isla Saona) and Catalina Island (Isla Catalina), the site of Captain Kidd's famous shipwreck of 1699, the Quedagh Merchant.

Dominicans love sports of all kinds, especially baseball. An hour's drive takes you to the famous baseball stadium at San Pedro de Macoris, former home of baseball all-stars Pedro Martinez and George Bell. Catch a game here, along with hundreds of shouting and cheering fans.

Golfers could spend a week on a different course every day and still not play them all. The famous Pete Dye-designed Teeth of the Dog and Dye Fore courses at Casa de Campo boast spectacular views of the ocean and the Chavon River Valley.

Music is everywhere in La Romana, from the beaches to the bus stops. Feel like dancing? The majority of the population is Roman Catholic and the biggest parties of the year coincide with religious festivals. Everyone has a chance to show off their best dance moves, from toddlers to grandmothers.

There's also a wide range of shopping available, from necklaces made from local "black pearl" seeds to high-end designer goods at the shops at Casa de Campo. Thankfully, on the beach or at the marina, there aren't any high-pressure sales pitches. Just remember to bargain, in a friendly way, even in the stores. Discounts of around 20 per cent are the norm, with even more as a reward for attempting some Spanish.

Vaccinations

Be sure your routine vaccinations are up to date. Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, typhoid and tetanus are commonly recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Check with your local health care provider for additional information.

While onboard your flight to La Romana International Airport, you will be given a Dominican Tourist Card and a blue customs declaration form.

The official currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican Peso.

Should you choose to rent a car, Avis has a local office in La Romana and offers 24-hour roadside assistance.

Departing from:

^Total price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions.

*Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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