Higüey, the capital of the most eastern Dominican Republic province of Altagracia, thanks its name to the native Tainos and translates into the words sun, light and day. Due to its eastern location, the true meaning of Higüey is widely considered be “land where the sun is born”. Higüey probably existed as a Taino settlement long before the arrival of the Spaniards.
Higüey is a great town to visit on your way to or while staying in one of the excellent Dominican beach destinations like Punta Cana, which is located less than 60 kilometers (38 miles) away. Exploring the surroundings of the city with its many charming homes, small farms, schools and little shops feels like being on an exciting and original Dominican Republic excursion. more...
During a three-week journey along the south, east and north coast of the Dominican Republic I pass by Higüey, best described as a buzzing big town with small town facilities and the hometown of the large majority of east-coast hotel staff. Though short on typical tourist attractions, I manage to have a great time.
My first stop is La Basilica de La Altagracia, a somewhat bizarre concrete structure, designed by the French architects Pierre Dupré and Dunover de Segonazc. La Basilica houses the most important religious icon of the Dominican Republic: the painting of “Our Lady of Altagracia”.
Thousands of people visit La Basilica de La Altagracia on January 21st to pay respect to their patron saint. A guide told me that this religious and architectural monument would be world famous if it had been built anywhere else. Food for thought for sure! The elaborate interior, which includes a wonderful altar adorned with gold and precious stones as well as the intimate light that is pouring down on me from the stained glass windows, are at odds with the strong lines of the cathedrals outer concrete shell and the oversized parking lot.
Upon leaving the cathedral I come up with the great idea to ask a smart looking mulato with a huge smile and a motor scooter to be my driver for a the rest of the afternoon. “Con el aire, por favor.” I shout in his ear. My motococho hero, who knows how to overtake other vehicles at supersonic-speeds, leans a bit forward allowing the air to blow through my hair.
We cross the town centre various times from different directions. I enjoy the variety of fun shops, sit down for a drink at one of little bars of the Mercado Municipal and visit la Iglesia San Donisio, Higüey’s original church which was built in 1572 and remains the town’s no.2 attraction.
Though I must say this adventurous motococho experience is not recommended for the faint-hearted, it sure serves up a fantastic adrenalin rush and an unforgettable slice of Dominicana.
How to get there
Punta Cana International Airport is the nearest airport to Higüey (aprox. 60 km). As an alternative you can fly into La Romana Airport or Santo Domingo’s Las Americas International Airport.
There are taxi and bus services from Punta Cana International Airport, Santo Domingo and La Romana to Higüey. When visiting Higüey for just a day or two I prefer to rent a car, which gives me the maximum amount of freedom.
For bus information, please see: Caribe Tours
Tours and excursions
Like I mentioned before, the most popular attractions in Higüey are La Basilica de La Altagracia and La Iglesia San Dionisio. The nearest beaches are those of Punta Cana and Bavaro, which offer an enormous variety of tours, excursions and attraction parks like the Marinarium, Dolphin Island and Manati Park Bavaro.