The Dominican Republic loves to celebrate, whether it’s a religious event or one revolving around food and music. With its wide range of modern cities, countryside towns, and beach villages, there are events to suit all tastes and ages. Carnival in February is the most colorful time of the year, with colorful parades that bring out families and Dominicans from all walks of life.
Other events rival its popularity closely, including the annual baseball tournament, when the country’s passion for “pelota” is on full display, the outdoor Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, and the kitesurfing competitions drawing international and local stars to the north coast’s breezy Atlantic shores.
Here are 10 events to include in your trip for a unique experience in the DR.
Carnival parades take place in the country’s major provinces every Sunday afternoon in February, from 5 p.m. till nightfall, until the first Sunday in March. Each area has its own traditional carnival personalities and costumes based on folkloric traditions going back centuries. The most popular carnival destinations include La Vega, Santiago, Puerto Plata, and Santo Domingo. Still, there are many more unique celebrations in small towns such as Cotui, San Pedro de Macoris, and Monte Cristi. The national closing parade features the best carnival groups from the country’s 31 provinces and takes place on Santo Domingo’s Malecon the first Sunday in March.
Dominican Baseball Tournament (October)
The Dominican Baseball League hosts a national tournament from mid-October through January. Games are hosted around the country’s multiple professional baseball stadiums. Going to a game of pelota or “play” is part of the culture here, and locals are as loyal to their teams—there are six in the country, representing different regions—as Americans are to theirs in the U.S. Tickets can be purchased on site. Expect plenty of music, fanfare, and fast foods on site. Going to a game in the DR is almost like going to a party.
The Dominican Jazz Festival takes place every year in November on the North Coast. Over four to five days, live jazz concerts are held in rotating locations, including Santiago, Sosua, Puerto Plata, and ending on Cabarete Beach. The line up showcases Dominican and international jazz artists from around the world. It’s a great way to explore the north hopping from one area to the next, beach hopping by day and relaxing to jazz under the stars at night.
Independence Day (February)
Wherever you’re visiting in the DR, independence parades take place countrywide on Feb. 27. The largest is held in Santo Domingo along its seafront Malecon, with an impressive two-hour afternoon military parade, complete with marching bands, including tanks rolling and helicopters flying over the Caribbean Sea. The day ends with fireworks at sundown, followed by outdoor concerts featuring merengue artists at Plaza Juan Baron.
Mango Festival (June)
There over 100 varieties of mango grown in the Dominican Republic—fittingly, a festival celebrates this favorite fruit every year. The annual Expo Mango is a three-day event that takes place in June in Bani, just under an hour southwest of Santo Domingo. The small town is known for its local mango, the banilejo, but many more varieties are on display as mango farmers and producers from around the region come to display their juicy fruit and to kick off the summer mango season. Expect mango eating contests, smoothie stands, and mango tastings, as well as live music and dance performances from the Ballet Folklorico.
Seafood Festival (June)
Though small, the annual seafood festival has remained a consistent event over the years. It takes place in June in the seafront village of Sanchez, near the town of Samana, traditionally a fisherman’s hub. The two-day event is very local and includes a seafood lunch, arts, and crafts vendors, and live cook-offs of lionfish and other types of seafood with prominent Dominican chefs. The late afternoon closes with music and concerts.
Annual Santo Domingo International Book Fair (March)
Every year in the Spring, Santo Domingo hosts a weeklong international book fair, featuring a select guest country from Latin America, and showcasing celebrated Dominican and international authors. Now set in the Colonial City, on Calle Las Damas, hosted in a series of its historic buildings, it’s a great time to shop for books from top libraries here. There are also free lectures and workshops from prominent authors and lifestyle experts, activities for kids, as well as free concerts and dance performances on Plaza Maria Toledo during the day and on Plaza Espana every afternoon to evening.
Held every summer, the weeklong Cabarete Kite Festival takes place in July. For seven days and culminating on the weekend, Dominican and internationally renowned kitesurfers compete and display their incredible skills on the wind-blessed Atlantic Ocean facing Cabarete. Kitesurfing fans from around the world fly in for this event, and it’s a fun time to be in Cabarete. There are numerous events during the week, including workshops and parties.
Santo Domingo Restaurant Week (October)
Experience Santo Domingo’s rising gastronomy scene during Restaurant Week, held in October. Over a week, you get to restaurant hop and sample affordable set menus at over 60 of the capital’s best restaurants. Prices range at about $20 per person for a set three-course lunch or dinner. There’s an option to purchase a booklet where you can collect a stamp for every restaurant visited.
Easter Week is one of the most popular times of the year for Dominicans, either for religious reasons or for the near-weeklong time off, during which you’ll find numerous parties, concerts, and crowds enjoying the great outdoors. In the Colonial City, there’s an Easter procession every evening through the streets, leading up to Good Friday when a mass is held at the Cathedral facing Parque Colon. On the weekend, families go on road trips and hit the open beaches (some are closed for safety) and dance the night away at concerts and bars.