No Caribbean nation boasts a more diverse landscape or a larger concentration of all-inclusive resorts than the Dominican Republic. Most hotels stand along the 20-mile golden stretch of sand between Bávaro and Punta Canta on the country’s east coast. All-inclusive packages that include accommodation, airfare, and transportation vastly outnumber traditional escorted tours, but there are plenty of options if you want to go at it on your own and not be confined to eating every meal at your hotel.

Most guided tours which aren’t part of a package are handled by eco-tour companies specializing in excursions across the deserts, mountains, rainforests, and mangrove swamps of the Dominican Republic. Scuba diving around Bayahibe’s shipwrecks, exploring Santo Domingo’s historic cobblestoned streets, and hiking or mountain biking up Mount Isabel de Torres are favorite things to do.

Scuba diving is undoubtedly the most popular attraction beneath the Dominican sea. Treasure Divers, based in Boca Chica’s Don Juan Beach Resort provides both snorkeling and scuba diving trips to the sunken Hickory shipwreck at La Caleta National Marine Park. The Neptuno Dive Center offers both courses and excursions to Juan Dolio’s 15 dive sites. Morning, afternoon, and night dives are included in several packages to give you access to the diversity of marine life around the clock.

Carib Wind Center, among the Caribbean’s most renowned wind surfing schools, is based in Cabarete, whose finest wind surfing can be found two and a half miles west at Playa Encuentro. If you’re interested in taking lessons, clients who reserve their places at least a week in advance can receive substantial discounts.

Cabarete also boasts some of the world’s most outstanding kite boarding conditions. The Kite Lounge and Kite Club Cabarete are just two of the places in the Dominican Republic where visitors can learn this thrilling sport from some of the world’s greatest instructors. Most lessons take place between late morning and early afternoon when the wind starts to pick up, so students can practice on the water once the gusts are at their strongest.

Samana has been the Dominican Republic’s unofficial whale watching capital since Christopher Columbus first caught glimpse of the gigantic humpbacks in 1493. Today, about 4,000 whales return to Samana’s warm waters each January. Victoria Marine, operated by a Canadian marine biologist, offers daily morning whale watching tours between January 15 and March 20.

The Dominican Republic’s most reputable horseback riding stable is the Gipsy Ranch, whose 20 horses can be taken out on one to four-hour rides. Advance reservations are strongly recommended, and tours start from a stone corral three miles from Cabarete and slightly over four miles from Sosua.

Cabarete-based Iguana Mama has offered the Dominican Republic’s greatest selection of mountain biking tours since 1993. These scenic tours range from leisurely guided Yasika River treks to more intense journeys across El Choco National Park. Guided mountain biking can take in Mount Isabel de Torres and thrilling cruises across the Septentrional Mountain Range, which run nearly 3,000 feet downhill.

Tours Trips Treks and Travel’s guided hiking tours across the El Choco and Los Haitises national parks are particularly popular. The Los Haitises National Park hike concludes with a relaxing boardwalk stroll around Santa Bárbara de Samaná.

Juan Dolio is one of the Dominican Republic’s prime golf destinations because of high-quality courses such as the nine-hole Guavaberry Golf Course and 18-hole Los Marlins Golf Course. The La Romana resort of Casa de Campo boasts seven-holes of oceanfront greens known as the Teeth of the Dog, designed after Scotland’s finest seaside holes.