The Dominican Republic has around 1,000 miles of gorgeous beaches lined with coconut palms. The sands vary with pearl-white beaches, to golden brown, to volcanic black. The Dominican Republic offers some of the cheapest and best-value beach holidays in the Caribbean. Most visitors stay in large all-inclusive hotels, where dozens line the magnificent beaches. The Dominican Republic takes up the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola, and is the most visited tourist destination in the Caribbean. You can happily spend your days on sandy beaches with crystal-clear waters, and fill your nights with merengue and dark rum. It is the most geographically diverse Caribbean island, with an alpine wilderness, tropical rain forests and mangrove swamps, cultivated savannas, vast deserts and and much more. The opportunities for ecotourism and adventure travel are readily available. In a single week you could scale a 150 m waterfall on a rope, mountain bike along remote dirt tracks, ride the best windsurfing waves in the hemisphere, trek to the top of a 3000 m mountain and head out in a fishing boat to marvel at the humpback whales crashing about in the bay of Samaná. Dominican Republic vacations can take you on a very diverse journey, a vacation made of memories. For more information on the Dominican Republic’s beautiful beaches, visit our Greater Antilles Travel page.
The Dominican Republic, the eastern part of the island of Hispaniola, has a tropical climate, hot all year round, with a dry season in winter, and a rainy season which goes from late April to October along the eastern and southern coasts, while the northern coast, exposed to the trade winds, is rainy throughout the year, although it experiences a decrease in rainfall from June to September. Because of the north-east trade winds, which blow from November to March, the north facing slopes are usually wetter than those exposed to the south.
Many people time their vacation to the Dominican Republic around the weather patterns. The most popular times to travel to the Dominican Republic are the late winter and early spring months of February, March, and April. At this time of year, the average temperature during the day ranges 82-86 °F. There is also less rainfall during these months. This seems to be about perfect for some people. However, if you are looking for higher temperatures, your best bet are the months of June and July and it rains less during these summer months than in the fall. December and January are pretty dry on average as well and the temperatures still quite warm if you are staying on the coast, as most tourists do. This is probably why an increasing number of people are visiting the Dominican Republic during their winter break and Christmas holidays.
Getting to the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is well connected to the outside world and you’ll find a ton of flight options from North America and Europe. The primary points of entry into the country by air are Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata and Punta Cana, with additional international airports at Santiago and Samaná.
When traveling to the Dominican Republic, it’s often cheaper to come via a charter flight. Most of these are because of the huge all-inclusive tourism industry built up along Dominican shores; package deals for airfare, hotel and food abound, with astounding rates available to those willing to shop around. A number of companies offer great package tours to Dominican resorts, usually for one or two weeks. Packages are generally only available to the more commercialized destinations, such as Puerto Plata, Sosúa and Cabarete in the north and Boca Chica, Juan Dolio and Punta Cana/Bávaro in the south. In the US, package tour operators usually operate out of a particular city and can’t book connecting flights from elsewhere.
Getting Around in the Dominican Republic
These are banged-up cars, minivans or small pickup trucks that pick up passengers along set routes, usually main boulevards. Públicos (also called conchos or carros) don’t have signs but the drivers hold their hands out the window to solicit potential fares. They are also identifiable by the crush of people inside them – up to seven in a midsize car! To flag one down simply hold out your hand – the fare is around RD$12. If there is no one else in the car, be sure to tell the driver you want servicio público(public service) to avoid paying private taxi rates.
Cheaper and easier to find than taxis, motoconchos (motorcycle taxis) are the best, and sometimes only, way to get around in many towns. An average ride should set you back no more than RD$30. That being said, you might have to negotiate to get a fair price and we’ve heard of travelers unknowingly dropped off far short of their intended location. Accidents resulting in injuries and even deaths are not uncommon; ask the driver to slow down (¡Más despacio por favor!) if you think he’s driving dangerously. Avoid two passengers on a bike since not only is the price the same as taking separate bikes but the extra weight makes scooters harder to control. For longer trips, or if you have any sort of bag or luggage, motoconchos are usually impractical and certainly less comfortable than alternatives. By law, drivers are required to wear helmets though it’s generally ignored, as are any tickets issued.
Large cities like Santo Domingo and Santiago have public bus systems that operate as they do in most places around the world. Many of the larger city buses are imported from Brazil, and are the kind which you board in the back and pay the person sitting beside the turnstile. Other city buses are more or less like guaguas, where you board quickly and pay the cobrador when he comes around. In general, you will probably take relatively few city buses, simply because públicos follow pretty much the same routes and pass more frequently.
Dominican taxis rarely cruise for passengers – instead they wait at designated sitios (stops), which are located at hotels, bus terminals, tourist areas and main public parks. You can also phone a taxi service (or ask your hotel receptionist to call for you). Taxis do not have meters – agree on a price beforehand.
The local drivers are crazy and that is with a capital C. They have no regard for the “rules of the road”. You will find them (especially the motorcycles) driving on either side of the road, wrong way on one way streets, no lights front or rear (more common) at night, drive with high beams on all the time at night. If you are in an accident it is YOUR fault not matter the circumstances. Make sure that if you do rent a car you get the full insurance package including “casa de conductore” . Here if you are in an accident you go to jail until they can figure it out. This make take a day or two and believe me you do not want to spend a minute or two in a Dominican jail. The casa de conductore means they put you in a hotel (usually in Santo Domingo or Santiago) till it is straightened out, and not a 3 or 4 star place. Your home insurance or Credit Card insurance is usually useless here, so do not rely on it.
Top Places to Visit
Punta Cana is the land of rest and relaxation. Where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean, large resorts offer all the comforts of modern living right on the beach. Punta Cana is a golfer’s destination, with 11 courses located all along the strip. Most of the resorts cater to families and have developed miniature entertainment parks for children. Families have it easy at the big all-inclusives with activities, meals and drinks included. Dream weddings are also held here, with the best photographic memories against a backdrop of silky-fine white sand and beaches with coconut palms. Everyone gets a vacation.
Santo Domingo is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. The beautiful setting along the Caribbean Sea and exceptional weather make the city and its nearby beaches a prime tourist destination. The Colonial Zone is the oldest European settlement in the New World. Another interesting attraction is the Santo Domingo Malecón, the promenade that runs along the Caribbean. This area features many hotels and restaurants, and is the setting for important events like Carnival. Santo Domingo offers a variety of restaurants that serve local and international cuisine. The city also has seemingly limitless options for nightlife, live music and events. A visit to Santo Domingo is a unique opportunity to see the oldest city in the New World while also experiencing a dynamic Caribbean cultural and business center.
Samaná is a natural treasure. Wild, verdant, with coves, bays, waterfalls, mountains and awe-inspiring views – there is lots to explore. It is known for its wading and body-boarding beaches, nature trekking and whale-watching. Samaná offers a European vibe, where French and Italian are at least as useful as Spanish. The majority of visitors come to gasp at the North Atlantic humpback whales doing their migratory song and dance from mid-January to mid-March. Sophisticated Las Terrenas is the place for those who crave a lively social scene, but has an easygoing beach town feel, with some great shops, restaurants and bars. Las Galeras boasts several of the best and most secluded beaches in the Dominican Republic.
Cabarete is a small, laid-back Caribbean beach village located only 20 minutes away from the Puerto Plata International Airport on the northern shore of the Dominican Republic. It’s a perfect tropical vacation spot. With its charming, hip ambiance and a combination of relaxed and adventurous lifestyles, most visitors can barely resist the spontaneous temptation of extending their stay and just hang around for a little longer. Cabarete is spread out across the center of a gorgeous, semi-circular beach of golden, sun-soaked, sand. Just behind, limiting its size, lies a tranquil lagoon, backed up by richly verdant hills overflowing with luxurious tropical vegetation. Cabarete an exceptional location not only for water-sports such as kite boarding and windsurfing, but for regular surfing at El Encuentro beach as well. And Cabarete’s nightlife (restaurants, bars, discos and casino) is legendary.
If you are in the Dominican Republic (DR) and considering whether to do a trip to Isla Saona, GO! You cannot miss it if you have made it to the Dominican Republic. Saona is a tropical island located on the southeast tip of the Dominican Republic and is part of the Parque Nacional del Este. The island has no hotel and the only establishment on the island is Mano Juan (pop. 300). One cannot stay overnight (unless you crash with the locals in Mano Juan) and most tourists arrive on a day trip. The typical excursion includes a catamaran ride from Bayahibe to the island, dancing and drinking on the boat, buffet lunch, a stop at piscina natural (shallow sandbank with clear water), and a speedier motorboat trip back.
Things to Do
Punta Cana Small-Group Sailing and Snorkeling Catamaran Tour
Set sail on the crystal blue waters surrounding Punta Cana on this small-group experience that’s limited to just 16 guests. Swim in a nature reserve, snorkel in the seas and enjoy drinks aboard your comfortable catamaran. Relax in one of the boat’s hammocks and let the crew paper you with strong tropical cocktails. Anchor in a sandbar and enjoy beverages from a floating bar as part of this wonderful water experience. For more information call, or visit them on the web at 829 962-2010, or visit them on the web at Happy Fish Catamarans.
Marinarium invites you to discover the wonders of the reef and the marine life. Join them for an exciting half-day excursion cruise during which you will have the unique opportunity to snorkel with stingrays and nurse sharks. Snorkeling is followed by a beautiful sightseeing cruise along the coast of Cabeza de Toro and Bávaro. Finally, you will reach Paradise, where you will relax in the waist deep waters of Bávaro’s natural pool, with your favorite cocktail in hand. For more information call 809 468 3183 , or visit them on the web at Marinarium Excursions.
Caribbean Dream Punta Cana Tours Parasailing
Parasail over the Punta Cana/Bavaro coastline during this 40-minute activity departing from Punta Cana. Benefit from the expertise of experienced instructors and fly to heights between 100 and 250 feet (30 to 76 meters). Get breathtaking views of the beaches, turquoise waters and sprawling resorts that line the shore while tandem with a friend or on your own. Bring sunscreen, a bathing suit and a sense of adventure. For more information call 809 552 6862, or visit them on the web at Caribbean Dream Punta Cana Tours.
Passion Paradise Adventures – Full Day Catalina Island Scuba Diving Tour
Catalina Island is one of the most popular spots for scuba diving in the Dominican Republic and this full-day tour from La Romana is ideal for certified divers. Set sail aboard a catamaran, enjoy two thrilling scuba dives at ‘The Wall’ and ‘The Aquarium’; then swim and snorkel on one of the island’s private beaches and tuck into a delicious BBQ lunch. Hotel pickup and drop-off is included. For more information call 809 446 9602, or visit them on the web at Passion Paradise Adventures.
Horse Play Punta Cana – Punta Cana River Horseback Riding and Zipline Tour
Experience the beauty of Punta Cana on this incredible adventure that pairs horseback riding and zip lining for a day of adrenaline pumping fun! Walk, trot or gallop through some of Punta Cana’s most stunning scenery as you make your way along the Anamya River. Then, join your guide at a cigar plantation before soaring through the treetops on an amazing zip line ride. Choose to upgrade your tour and participate in a real-life cattle drive. Whatever you choose, this tour is sure to entertain, and includes a typical Dominican meal, plus a tour of a coffee, vanilla and cocoa plantation (samples included!). For more information call 829 956 6580, or visit them on the web at Horse Play Punta Cana.
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$$$ Passion by Martín Berasategui
Passion’s dinner menu can best be described as a lovely marriage of French, Mexican and Basque flavors. The defining experience is the indulgent, decadent seven-course tasting menu that showcases the chef’s passion and creativity with plates like smoked tuna tartare with black garlic, tepid lobster salad and Kobe flap meat with liquid Brie cheese spheres. Expect a mix of the chef’s signatures, plates from his Restaurante Lasarte in Barcelona and local dishes. Although the menu does feature à la carte meals (like foie gras and mushroom ravioli with rich truffle sauce), the tasting menu paired with the sommelier’s wine recommendations offers a unique dining experience. For more information call 34 943 366 471, or visit them on the web at Passion by Martin Berasategui.
$$$ El Meson de la Cava
The restaurant, considered one of the most distinguished in the area by both residents of and tourists to the Dominican Republic, is tucked into a natural limestone cave created by waves over billions of years. In addition to provisions from the OAS, the restaurant displays several of the valuable belongings found in the cave from previous occupants. While some might expect that the restaurant relies on its unique environs to draw visitors in, the Meson de la Cava is known for preparing some of the region’s best cuisine. Local, hand-selected ingredients are brought in daily, as is a catch from the Caribbean Sea. The diverse menu is focused around Spanish-influenced modern classical French and local Caribbean cuisine. For more information call 809 533 2818, or visit them on the web at El Meson de la Cava.
$$ Eze Bar & Restaurant
Eze Bar is not visible from the main drag, and unless you approach it from the beach, to get there you must walk through a windsurfing shop. The place is small but chic, with a fairly unoriginal Miami Beach vibe, so it’s a bit of a shock when the Italian food arrives and blows your mind. The tuna tartar might be the best in all the Caribbean, with mouthwatering morsels of fresh fish, avocado and an unusual ingredient – black olives. The dorado is a flaky dream, and the menu also features exquisite salads, healthy wraps, homemade pastas and meat dishes. The Italian chef is known around town for opening ambitious restaurants but this is his first home-run. It’s pricey but worth it, and happy hour is every day from 5pm to 7pm. For more information call 809 571 0586, or visit them on the web at Eze Bar & Restaurant.
$$$ Mares Restaurant & Pool Lounge
Distinguished chef Rafael Vasquez-Heinsen has converted his elegant home into a candlelit destination for foodies. Top Chef and food channel fans won’t be disappointed. The kitchen turns out what elsewhere might be defined as haute fusion cuisine – dishes that creatively combine Dominican ingredients with other culinary traditions: try Dominican goat marinated with rum (RD$600). Reservations recommended. For more information call 809 224 1999, or visit them on the web at Mares Restaurant & Pool Lounge.
$$ Taberna El Conde
This casual but enchanting establishment is constantly raising the culinary bar in Sosúa with its craft cocktails and innovative gastromony. The incredible honeysucklesmoke cocktail is made with rum, lime, orange and a cinnamon-smoked glass (tastes just like honeysuckle!) and dishes are things like Tandoori mahi mahi with mango chutney. Also, everything is totally under-priced (don’t tell the owner/chef). For more information call 829-868-0909, or visit them on the web at Taberna El Conde.
Bars & Nightlife
Coco Bongo Punta Cana
At Coco Bongo, revel in a high-voltage environment of one-of-a-kind entertainment, pulse-pumping music, nonstop dancing in a sea of balloons and confetti—all while being taken care of by an amazing and attentive staff who keep your glass full with an unlimited number of drinks. For more information call 809 466 1111, or visit them on the web at Coco Bongo Punta Cana.
Drink Point Punta Cana
To enjoy a night of drinking and dancing with locals, head over to Drink Point. Unlike some clubs that are only busy around the weekend, Drink Point is crowded every night of the week, so you can party on a Tuesday if you want to. The club caters to locals by playing more traditional Caribbean and Latin music, such as bachata and merengue. If you can’t manage to pick up the moves, order rum and coke at the bar and just sit back and enjoy the show. For more information call 809 552 0920, or visit them on the web at Drink Point.
Jellyfish Beach Restaurant
Located on Bibijagua Beach in Bávaro, Punta Cana, Jellyfish Beach Restaurant is the perfect place to watch the bright Caribbean day fade into a vibrant Caribbean night. There’s a dining room inside but be sure to check out the restaurant’s stunning beachfront terrace that is lit up at dusk to take in the ocean views. Enjoy an island-inspired cocktail and revel in the company while steel drums play in the background. For more information call 809 840 7684, or visit them on the web at Jellyfish Beach Restaurant.
Captain Cook Bar
Sitting right on El Cortecito beach, Captáin Cook Bar has been a favorite among visitors to Punta Cana for some time, earning a number of prestigious awards and accolades. Captáin Cook is most famous for its open grill and huge platters of seafood. Patrons are able to choose their preferred catch as well as its preparation to guarantee maximum satisfaction. Popular options include lobster, red snapper, and Creole-style langoustines (a type of large shrimp). Wash it all down with a few shots of mamajuana, a powerful rum-based liquor native to the Dominican Republic. For more information call, 809 552 0645 or visit them on the web at Captain Cook Bar.
Don Queco Cigar & Rum Bar
Located in the Westin Puntacana Resort & Club, the Don Queco Cigar & Rum Bar, is the perfect place for those who enjoy the finer things. Relax on one of the leather chairs in the dimly lit indoor seating area, or outside on the bar’s patio, and enjoy a menu featuring a robust selection of the best Dominican rum and cigars. A far cry from the crowded clubs most visitors associate with the Punta Cana nightlife scene, this one is more refined and relaxed than anywhere else in town. For more information call 809 959 2222, or visit them on the web at Don Queco Cigar & Rum Bar.
Top Dominican Republic Hotels
JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo
JW Marriott Santo Domingo is an elegant venue fully equipped with a concierge desk, gift shop, currency exchange services, an indoor pool and a restaurant. This smoke-free hotel has free Wi-Fi. The hotel also has a fitness center, fully equipped meeting facilities, luggage storage and ticket services. Grocery shopping services can also be provided, and coffee and tea are available in-room. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room now, visit JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domigo.
Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro
Featuring free WiFi and an outdoor pool, Iberostar Grand Bavaro Hotel offers accommodations in Punta Cana, just 3.4 miles from Dolphin Island Park. Free private parking is available on site. There is a hairdresser’s at the property. You can play tennis at the resort. Freshwater lagoons is 15 miles from Iberostar Grand Bavaro Hotel, and Cap Cana Marina is 15 miles away. The nearest airport is Punta Cana Airport, 12 miles from Iberostar Grand Bavaro Hotel. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room now, visit Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro.
InterContinental Real Santo Domingo
Real InterContinental Santo Domingo is located in Downtown Santo Domingo, in the Piantini district, just across the street from Acropolis Centre. The Blue Mall is 2,300 feet away. The hotel features an infinity pool on the 3rd floor. Guests can enjoy 3 unique concept restaurants: The Market, Factory Steak & Lobster and NAU Sushi Lounge. This hotel also features 2 bars: Van Gogh Bar and Blu pool bar & lounge. Spa InterContinental offers world class services, while the hotel’s state of the art fitness center overlooks the city and the outdoor infinity pool. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit InterContinental Real Santo Domingo.
Zoetry Agua Punta Cana
Zoetry Agua Punta Cana is located right on the Dominican Republic’s beautiful Caribbean coast. This luxurious resort features several outdoor pools, a spa and health club, and an open-air restaurant overlooking the beach. The on-site restaurant serves a variety of nutritious, gourmet meals. Guests also receive a free 10-minute wellness or fitness consultation. 24-hour room service is available, and the modern bar serves top-shelf spirits. Activities like snorkeling, horseback riding and billiards can be arranged by the tour desk. The popular surfing beach of Playa del Macao is 5 miles from the property. For more information, pricing, ,or to reserve your room, visit Zoetry Agua Punta Cana.
The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real – All Inclusive
This property is a 13-minute walk from the beach. In Punta Cana, this impressive resort has direct access to a private beach area. There is a large outdoor pool with waterslides, as well as an extensive spa, available for an extra cost. The Reserve has 3 restaurants, offering Mediterranean food, Teppanyaki food or international food. There is also a Michelin-star chef at the Passion by Martin Berasategui Restaurant. There are also several bars, including a poolside bar. The Reserve offers a wide range of activities for adults and children. There is a kids’ club, and the resort offers yoga, pilates and other sessions. Some rooms include free green fees at the nearby Cocotal Golf Club. There is also an on-site casino. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real.