Tropical Passover in the Dominican Republic

Dig deeper to discover one of the jewels of the Caribbean with a kosher stay this Passover


Infinity beachside pool (Photo: Thiago da Cunha/Eden Roc Cap Cana)

It’s easy to think of the Caribbean islands as all the same — silvery-white sandy beaches, waving palm trees and crystal- clear turquoise water. And while that’s (broadly) correct, dig just a little deeper and you’ll quickly discover each island has its own distinct personality.

The Dominican Republic is no exception. Famous for its all-inclusive resorts, it’s well worth venturing outside the gates — here’s why.

Discover the history

Christopher Columbus’s first landing point in the New World in 1492, the Dominican Republic is the site of the oldest colonial settlement in the Americas, including the region’s first university, first hospital and first Catholic cathedral.

Originally called Hispaniola, the country finally gained its independence in 1844

Head to the capital city Santo Domingo to explore the walled neighbourhood known as the Colonial Zone.

This Unesco World Heritage Site has a string of landmarks, but it’s just as tempting to wander around the historic streets lined with galleries, cafés and restaurants.

Leave plenty of time

Thinking you’ll have a day out driving around the island? The Dominican Republic is a lot bigger than you might imagine — almost 250 miles from east to west, and around 165 miles from north to south, so you need to allow five to six hours to drive from Punta Cana and Cap Cana in the south east to Puerto Plata on the north coast.

Santo Domingo is around two and a half hours from the tourist resorts in the south east.

Highs and lows

The island also has the highest peak in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte, at 3,098m.

The challenging hike to reach it is only for the adventurous (and experienced) though, as it takes at least two days to complete.

By contrast, the Dominican Republic also features the lowest point in the Caribbean at Lake Enriquillo. The hyper-saline lake, also the Caribbean’s largest, sits at 46m below sea level.

Bring your dancing shoes

Merengue originated in the Dominican Republic and wherever you go, you can expect to hear the music and see people dancing to the fast-paced rhythm.

Some say the word merengue comes from “meringue”, because the sound made by the percussion instrument accompanying the dancers is like that of an egg whisk.

Find amber

The island is known for two semi-precious stones, the pale blue larimar — often used in jewellery, its export is now more restricted — and amber.

Nearly always transparent, unlike Baltic amber, this fossilised tree resin is more likely to have insects trapped inside.

Remember the scene from Jurassic Park with the stone containing a prehistoric mosquito? That particular piece of amber is on display at the Amber Museum in Puerto Plata.

It’s a natural paradise

One quarter of the Dominican Republic’s land and shoreline is set aside for national parks, reserves and sanctuaries, including Jaragua National Park. This Unesco Biosphere Reserve includes beaches, lagoons, dry forests and cays.

You can also discover Sierra de Bahoruco, the only cloud forest in the Caribbean, the dramatic rock towers rising out of the water at Los Haitises National Park, and the pine forests of Valle Nuevo National Park.

Bird lovers can spot more than 300 species, including migratory species and the palmchat, the country’s national bird, while Lake Enriquillo is home to over the largest population of American crocodiles in the wild, numbering in the hundreds.

From January to March, the humpback whale sanctuary in Samaná Bay welcomes as many as 5,000 of the creatures, returning here from the North Atlantic to give birth to their calves — some of the whales stay as late as mid-April before heading north on their migration route again.

Enjoy some watersports

On the north coast of the island, Cabarete is the kiteboarding capital of the world. You’ll find plenty of places offering kiteboarding lessons if you’re inspired to try, or there’s windsurfing too.

For surfing, nearby Encuentro Beach is one of the best places on the island to bring your board, plus there’s paddleboarding all around the coast as well as on the island’s rivers.

Five unmissable things to do in the Dominican Republic

  • Take the cable car (the only one in the Caribbean) in Puerto Plata. The ten-minute journey takes you 2,625ft to the top of Ysabel de Torres mountain, to enjoy the views and its botanical gardens.

  • Have a sip of Mama Juana (after Pesach) – this drink, made from rum, red wine, honey, tree bark and herbs, is considered an aphrodisiac and you’ll often get a small glass after meals. It’s best enjoyed on the island as there are some restrictions on taking the dry ingredients home, or stick to coffee, also grown in the Dominican Republic.

  • Watch a baseball game. The country’s national sport, games are played all over the island, with the Dominican Republic producing the highest number of baseball players outside the US.

  • Visit the waterfalls. The 27 waterfalls of Damajagua are one of the island’s most memorable spots — you climb up the hillside before coming down through caves (once pirate hideouts) and natural waterslides. Or see picturesque Salto Alto, with a lagoon beneath its triple falls, all surrounded by rainforest.

  • Dive into Hoyo Azul. The vivid blue waters of this lagoon sit at the base of a 75m cliff, in Cap Cana just outside Punta Cana. And after a hike through the forest to reach it, you can swim in the lagoon to cool off.

Passover in the Dominican Republic

Enjoy matzah in the tropical sunshine this year, with a Passover package at Eden Roc Cap Cana. The ten-day package runs from 22 April until 1 May, with the option to arrive on 21 April, and includes all food and non-alcoholic drinks.

As well as traditional Shabbat, Yom Tov and Seder dinners, the fully supervised food, by We Do Kosher, includes Italian and Mediterranean dishes, a beachside BBQ and sushi.

Morning services, group study sessions and workshops on the first two days are followed by chol hamoed guided tours of local cultural and historic sites, with a focus on the island’s Jewish heritage, plus a spiritual group excursion and a spa day inspired by Jewish wellness practices.

Guests can also take part in morning Torah readings and discussions on the weekly Torah portion, plus an eco-adventure tour on the final days, focusing on nature’s role in Passover, along with a group matzah baking activity and traditional lunch.

Priced from around £11,775 for ten nights, based on two guests sharing a luxury pool junior suite. Excludes flights. Larger suites are also available.

​See for more information and to book

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