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Travel Like a Local in the Dominican Republic

02/05/2015 05:22 pm ET | Updated Apr 07, 2015

Anyone who has traveled to the Dominican Republic will tell you that the country not only has amazing beaches, some of the friendliest people, but also a great collection of resorts to choose from.

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Photo courtesy of Girl Gone Travel

Dominicans pride themselves in offering excellent customer service to travelers and the resorts often compete by offering an array of amenities to the millions of visitors to this popular Caribbean destination.

And though there is a lot to enjoy about a resort stay, you will find that many of the reasons to fall in love with the island are off-resort. Here are some fun reasons to leave your hotel and explore all this wonderful island has to offer.

For the beach lover

Mostly every resort you will stay in will have a pristine beach, exclusive to hotel guests. But, they aren't always the most beautiful beaches on the island. These can be found in areas such as Las Terrenas, a small town located a short drive from the island's capital of Santo Domingo. Not only is the beach in the area gorgeous, it is also surrounded by great eateries and shops, and has a relaxed vibe enjoyed by visitors and locals a like.

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Photo courtesy of Girl Gone Travel

For the foodie

While many resorts rave about world class chefs and celebrated in-house restaurants, what you will almost never find is the traditional Dominican breakfast of mangú. Mangú is to Dominican what mashed potatoes are to most of the world. It consists of mashed green plantains. It's not pretty, but man, is it good (thus the name, man good - mangú) and when paired with eggs, sliced sausage, and fried cheese, you are pretty much guaranteed to be satisfied for a good portion of the day. Order it off-resort at a local eatery in the early morning and don't forget the café con leche.

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Image courtesy of Girl Gone Travel

Eat fruit like a local by taking a drive to one of the many roadside fruit stands found along the highways. There's nothing fancy about them, most are little shacks filled with seasonal fruits and vegetables that sell for only a few pesos. This is where you will find the sweetest pineapple slices, the juiciest mangoes, limoncillos, and even coconuts. Local tip: the best way to drink coconut water is from the coconut itself. Never, ever drink it over ice.

For the adventurer

In Samaná, located in the Northeastern part of the country, locals prefer to jump off the Salto de Limón, a 170-foot waterfall. Most visitors opt to ride a horse to the falls, but more avid hikers will take on the steep 4-mile hike to the falls, the reward for which are the views and the cool waters at the end.

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Girl Gone Travel chooses the horse over the hike!

Don't leave the area without swimming in the caves of the National Park of Los Haitises. This national park is accessible only by boat, or by helicopter for those with a bigger budget.

Cayo Levantado (Raised Key), near the Bay of Samaná is a bit more touristy, but also a great beach to visit, accessible only by boat. Another must in the area is El Rincón beach. Playa Cofresi, in Puerto Plata, is celebrated for its beautiful coral reef and great diving scene.

Hikers will love Mount Isabel de Torres, which at its peak is about 2,656 feet high. Most visitors take the cable car to the top, but there are also some steep hiking trails that lead to the summit, which has some of the most spectacular views of the city.

The Cascades of Damajagua are 27 pools and waterfalls that require the assistance of guides to help lift you up onto the next landing. The further in the cave you go the bluer the waters and though the climb itself calls for tremendous agility and strength, the real rush is in the jump and slides back to the bottom.

Many resorts are beginning to understand the traveler's desire to get past the walls of their luxury stay and be among the people, so it's becoming easier to coordinate tours and excursions through your hotel, even before your arrival.

Take advantage of all there is to do off-resort as much as you can, but also, there's no shame in sitting back on a lounge chair by the beach and having the bar staff bring you Piña Coladas. It wouldn't be paradise otherwise.

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