Festivals in the Dominican Republic are a way of living. This country has a bewildering barrage of festivals, every day of the year, there seems to be some kind of celebration somewhere. The country has one of the most fascinating arrays of annual festivals in Latin America. Fiestas Patronales, as they’re known, range from culturally complex syncretisms of Catholic and African animist religious ceremonies to wild street parties and carnivals. We made a list with some festivals in the Dominican Republic you really can´t miss out on.
In the Dominican Republic, nearly three-quarters of the population are considered mulatto or mixed-race, festivals in the Dominican Republic, therefore, show the whole raft of cultural influences that make the country so unique. Several cities and towns in the country have their own festivals often preceded by a novena, a nine-day run-up of mini celebrations and processions before the big day.
As if these seemingly never-ending celebrations weren’t enough to keep you busy, there are a whole host of music festivals incorporating Jazz, Latin and Merengue; sports events and even a sandcastle building competition in Cabarete.
Our guide to the must-see festivals & events in the Dominican Republic.
1. Guloya festival
Where: San Pedro de Macorís
When: January 1st.
Why you’ll love it: San Pedro is known for its heavy Cuban influence. Fleeing their country’s War of Independence in the 19th century, the town was founded by Cuban immigrants who brought their extensive knowledge of sugarcane farming with them, eventually turning San Pedro into the most economically important port in the country.
Currently, the town no longer holds its former significance, but the Guyola festival stills draw massive crowds each January to watch the raucous drummer’s procession through the Miramar neighborhood and affords a glimpse of a colorful subculture you won’t be able to get elsewhere. Guloya festival is one of the best Festivals in the Dominican Republic.
Where: Santo Domingo, La Vega, and Bonao
Why you’ll love it: Santo Domingo is the place to be for the Dominican Republic’s biggest annual Carnaval celebrations. There is a street party every Sunday during the month of February, culminating in a massive all-day, all-night blowout along the seafront Malecón with floats, processions and plenty of partying. Carnaval is one of the biggest festivals in the Dominican Republic
3. Cabarete Sand Castle Festival
Why you’ll love it: Cabarete is transformed for 10 days every February into a giant sand sculpture park. The work is of truly astounding quality and you will wonder how these artists can bear to see their work destroyed after the festival ends.
4. Barceló Desalia Festival
Where: Punta Cana
Why you’ll love it: Every year Ron Barceló Desalia gathers more than 5,000 visitors in a majestic electronic dance music event with a musical line-up formed by the best of the international electronic music scene. Ron Barceló Desalia is every year organized on one of the most spectacular beaches within the Punta Cana Region.
5. Semana Santa
Why you’ll love it: Though the traditional Dominican Catholic Easter celebrations are worth seeing in their own right, it’s their fusion with Afro-Dominican Vodú celebrations (which coincide with Semana Santa) that make this a really interesting time of year to travel the country. In the town of Cabral, citizens dress as Devils and mock-punish passers-by with whips and insults. This festival has its roots firmly in African traditions and is a fascinating example of Dominican cultural fusion.
6. San Felipe
Where: Puerto Plata
When: May 3rd.
Why you’ll love it: A huge cultural celebration on Puerto Plata’s Malecón, with lots of live music, food and drinks.
7. San Juan Bautista Festival
Where: San Juan de la Maguana
Why you’ll love it: San Juan’s fiesta patronal not only honors Saint John the Baptist but also Changó, a god or spirit lifted directly from the West African Yoruba religion. The cult of Changó is one of the aspects of African religious practice to have survived the middle passage, and the deity is still venerated in Venezuela, Brazil, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. San Juan offers a perfect illustration of the religious syncretism that defines the Dominican people, along with all the requisite music and dance to keep you entertained all day and night.
9. Festival de Merengue
Where: Santo Domingo
When: July and August
Why you’ll love it: Merengue is deeply rooted in the Dominican Republic. The lively 2/4-beat music originated here on Hispaniola in the early 19th century reflecting Spanish, West African, and Creole influences. Merengue is to the Dominican Republic what jazz is to the USA, and this festival is one of the best ways to fully understand this national treasure. It takes place around the Malecón and the music keeps pumping all night. After you’ve exerted yourself to the point of collapse, you can visit one of the food tents for traditional Dominican fare and a few drinks. Santo Domingo is the most popular place for mayor Festivals in the Dominican Republic.
10. The Dominican Republic Fashion Week
Where: Santo Domingo
Why you’ll love it: Every year in October the Dominican Republic Fashion Week is being organized in Santo Domingo. Top designers and brands showcase their seasonal lines in continuous runway shows.