So, you’re coming to the Dominican Republic for a beach vacation, and you are wondering how to pick the right place. Most likely, you’re considering an all-inclusive resort, and those are indeed a great choice for a hassle-free vacation!
But which one, exactly? Where? What beach? There are hundreds in the DR, and this country is actually quite big.
The best way to start to answer this question is, what kind of vacation do I want? Family? Honeymoon? Party crowd? Water Sports? Because while some of the resorts cater to everyone, the truth is you don’t want your 6 year-old to go anywhere near a beach with dangerous currents. And if you’re easily offended, clothing-optional resorts are probably not the best fit for you.
That said, you can easily find out plenty of information about all the resorts online at sites such as Trip Advisor. The purpose of this article is to focus on which beach in the Dominican Republic you should visit. Which area or town suits you best?
All of them will offer you a chance to take day trips to explore the country’s interior and/or to have some fun and adventure away from the resort. All will offer catamaran cruises, dive trips, snorkeling, kayaking, parasailing, zip lining, horseback riding, tours of Santo Domingo-and most will make this available to you right from the front door or the beach of your resort!
Plus, they’re all easy to get to, with regular jet service to all of the areas I have evaluated. But some are going to focus more on a particular type of tourist, and you know who you are. So just pick one based on what you’re looking for:
Best for: nightlife, families, honeymooners, romance, water sports, partying, and shopping
Bavaro is where most of the action is. Punta Cana is just the closest airport. This is the most popular tourist destination on the island for gringos. There really is something for almost everyone here. This is where you will find the bars, the stores, the sizzle and flash, the most expensive resorts, plenty of outdoor sports and activities, and the widest beaches. If you like to be where the action is, Bavaro is probably the best place for you! Lots of Americans come here, followed by Canucks and Russians, and with good reason.
Here is a review of the Breathless Resort that I stayed in.
Widest in the DR. Very calm wading surf suitable for children. Lots of palm trees. Vendors are discouraged from hassling you. Not too crowded.
Most are on the expensive side.
Safest in the DR, though you should still exercise caution, especially at night. Lots of nightlife, adult entertainment, shopping, and movies in English. Easy to get around. Fairly clean. Nice roads.
Best for: adult entertainment, nude and/or topless sunbathing, water sports, partying, budget conscious
A little more casual and a little on the raw/wild side compared to Punta Cana. There’s more of a village feel to the area, though it still has shopping, dining, and nightlife. It is not as popular as Punta Cana so it is less crowded. Close to equal numbers of Canadians to US. Some Russians and Germans.
Here is my review of the Blue Bay Resort in the area.
Generally a little narrow. The water is not dangerous in most areas. Plenty of palm trees. You will be hassled by vendors on the beach. Not too crowded.
Generally a less expensive choice than Punta Cana
There’s more than one, really. Puerto Plata itself has some nice shopping, entertainment, and dining options. For a taste of the local wildlife, go to Sosua. It’s a little gritty but fun. If you have time, take a day trip to this waterfall. Fun!
La Romana/Dominicus/Boca Chica
Best for: Local flavor, budget conscious, businessmen, adventurous, fishermen, water sports, SCUBA divers
The beaches between the capital of Santo Domingo and Punta Cana are spread out over a fairly wide area and each has their own character. Due to the proximity to the capital, these are the beaches favored by the locals most, and they bring their families with them. If you want to vacation like the natives do, here’s your spot! Lots of Spanish spoken here-Latinos easily outnumber Americans. Plenty of budget-minded Europeans as well.
Generally wide, but steep at the water’s edge. Surf can be dangerous, but there are lifeguards at many locations. Plenty of palm trees. There are some rocks in the water even at popular spots. Vendors will hassle you, but it’s a light sell. Very crowded, especially on weekends. Many beaches have shopping stalls right at the water’s edge. I found it charming.
Inexpensive. There are some very well-heeled yachters in Dominicus, however-and the prices reflect that.
Wide variance here in size but not flavor. A little seedy in places. You may be uncomfortable at night going out unless there is security nearby. If you are adventurous and are curious about how the natives live, this may be the right place for you!
Dominicus (Bayahibe) has the best SCUBA diving and sport fishing in the country.
I hope that this guide will help you find the right spot for your vacation. I would say that Punta Cana ticks the most boxes for the most people, but each area has something unique to offer.
NOTE: I left out the Samana Peninsula for 2 reasons: I haven’t been there, and it is much harder to access-though it is probably the least crowded and touristy spot. Most people would not want that for their first trip, however.
Car rentals are cheap here and easy to find. The agents are overly aggressive about selling their insurance, but if you stick to your guns they will give up-however this will take a little time. Allow 30 minutes to get your car. Yes, REALLY! The rules of the road are very similar to the USA. You only need to know a little Spanish. There are toll roads! Be prepared with local currency, 50 or 100 Peso notes. They will accept American $, but not gladly. Gas is always pumped by an attendant. Stations are not as plentiful as the USA. Plan accordingly. The speed limit on Ruta 3 is 100 KPH, but it is more like an autobahn in reality. The police are more interested in helping stranded motorists than issuing tickets-a pleasant change from the USA. I blew by several cops at over 150 KPH and was actually being passed by more powerful cars.
Local currency is pesos (about 40 to a dollar at the time of this writing). It is entirely possible to complete your vacation without any, especially at an all-inclusive if you have pre-arranged your transfers. Tips in dollars are gladly accepted, both within and without the resort. If you are going to be outside of the gates for any period of time, though, you’re best to have at least a little of the local dough. I’d suggest $20. As always, the best place to exchange money is away from the resorts and the airport.
English is widely spoken in the resorts, but most locals speak Spanish only. Learn a few phrases before you go. It is appreciated even by the bi-lingual staff.
Say please (por favor), thank you (gracias), and hola or buenos dias (hello) to everyone. These are polite people. Tourists should be also.
The DR, especially in the tourist areas, is not dangerous. There are security guards everywhere. But don’t go at night to Sosua town, for example, without a friend. Use normal precautions and you’ll be OK.
Agree to a price beforehand. Stories of ripoffs are commonplace.
Few beaches are clothing optional, but, even in the kid-friendly places, you’re likely to see topless women. The only way I know to completely avoid this is to stay away from the beach entirely, which kind of defeats the purpose. Best advice is either stay at a very family-friendly place where this isn’t allowed, or just let your kids get used to it.
I think a blog on the clothing optional resorts would have lots of potential.
Probably, but I’m not comfortable anywhere near those places myself. I’ll leave it to someone who’s more libertine than I. Yes, they exist. 🙂
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