Dominican Republic Travel Guide
Dominican Republic Summary
- Large selection of affordable all-inclusive resorts
- Six international airports, five with daily, direct flights from the U.S. on major carriers
- Average year-round high temperatures hover between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit
- Extremely warm, friendly people who seem happy to receive tourists
- The world capital of merengue and bachata music
- Rich in history and landmarks
- For non-Spanish-speakers, communicating can be very difficult
- Tap water is not potable
- Dengue fever and malaria are a risk (so bring strong bug spray and antimalarial drugs)
- Petty theft is common (but violent crime is minimal)
- More than a third of the population lives in poverty
- Prostitution is legal, and very visible
- Roads can be narrow, poorly paved, and nausea-inducing
- Many resorts sorely lack local culture, including music, cuisine, and dance
- Service at resorts can be slow and inconsistent compared with that of other Caribbean islands
- Dominican resort food is notoriously bad; upset stomachs are common
- Rooms and amenities can be dated and not up to American standards
- Puerto Plata: Puerto Plata is an historic and scenic shipping town on the north coast; Playa Dorada, 15 minutes west of the Puerto Plata airport, is a gated complex of 15 all-inclusive resorts.
- Punta Cana: Gorgeous white-sand beaches, high-end all-inclusive mega-resorts, and not much else.
- Samana: A lushly scenic, relatively undeveloped peninsula lined with little beach towns
- Cabarete and Sosua: Funky, Euro-inflected beach towns 15 minutes east of Puerto Plata airport; Cabarete is known for its kite surfing, Sosua for its prostitutes.
- La Romana: Seriously calm and scenic beaches, plus world-class golf -- but not much of a cultural vibe.
- Boca Chica: Lots of sex tourism, but also a protected bay with great snorkeling.
What It's Like
At their worst, Dominican resorts can represent the most frustrating aspects of foreign travel: language barriers, bad food, poor infrastructure, and dated rooms and amenities. But the worst can easily be avoided -- and at its best, the D.R. is very, very good, with a beautiful natural landscape, great weather, convenient flights, reasonable (sometimes strikingly low) prices, and ubiquitous merengue beats and dancing.
Dominicans themselves tend to be extremely warm and welcoming to tourists, even when they don't speak much English. (They can also seem very flirtatious to some Americans, an impression that may be exaggerated by the uncomfortable fact that prostitution is legal in the country.)
The bumpy, potholed roads are clogged with motoconchos (motorscooters) but worth braving in order to reach the island's stunning natural attractions, including the 27 Waterfalls of Damajagua, the surf-perfect winds of Cabarete, the white-sand beaches of Punta Cana, and the lush splendor of the Samana Peninsula.
Where to Stay
The resorts in and around Puerto Plata are mostly of the budget variety, featuring pleasant but unspectacular beaches. Most visitors to the area stay just outside the city, in the vast all-inclusives of Playa Dorada (a gated complex of 15 hotels to the east) and Cofresi (a cluster to the west). Punta Cana, meanwhile, on the D.R.'s easternmost tip, has what many consider the best beaches in the Caribbean and is home to scores of massive all-inclusive resorts, ranging from family-friendly spots like the Dreams Punta Cana Resort to luxury hotels like the famous Tortuga Bay.
Other areas have more singular identities. Near Puerto Plata, Cabarete is a kite-surfing capital where the hotels are smaller and independent, and the nightlife is great. Another, the Samana Peninsula, is more remote and sparsely developed, with lush mountains, waterfalls, whale watching, and a handful of resorts that take full advantage of the area's stunning natural beauty. La Romana, on the southern coast, offers terrific diving and, at the renowned Casa De Campo resort, Teeth of the Dog, the top-ranked golf course in the Caribbean. Finally, Boca Chica is renowned not so much for its beach as for its party scene and sex tourism.
Dominican Republic Hotel Guides
We compiled lists of the best value hotels, best luxury hotels, best family-friendly hotels, best romantic hotels, best hotel rooms, best hotel restaurants, super clean hotels, best hotel service, hotels with high design, best hotel pools and best hotel terraces, and selected one hotel from each list that bests its competitors (if only slightly).
We've traveled the length and breadth of the D.R. to find the quietest, most amenity filled, most exclusive, and most jaw-droppingly beautiful hotels in the country. Surprisingly, given its rep for mediocre, all-inclusive mega-resorts, Punta Cana turns out to have several top picks. But it certainly doesn't hold a monopoly.
Most Dominican resorts say they're great for kids -- and many are -- but some hotels go much further to ensure a fun, hassle-free family vacation. From massive lazy-river pools, to water parks, to Disney-themed cocktails, to big rooms with extra pull-out sofa beds, to buffets that satisfy even the pickiest eaters -- these are the perfect places to bring the kids.
Here's our list of quiet, secluded resorts with beautiful, comfortable rooms, obliging staff, and great pools and spas for extra pampering. Just the type of places we'd definitely bring someone back to!
These rooms delivered on their promise with comfortable beds, incredible views, great bathrooms, and good design. These are the places that made us feel so secure and pampered that writing our review didn't feel like work -- it felt like a vacation.
We can forgive lukewarm food and uninteresting dishes at an all you can eat buffet. But when we're paying out of pocket? ... Not so much. Here's a list of hotels where the food is fresh, well-cooked, and inventively prepared, with additional points for service and ambiance.
When you're surrounded by flora and fauna in the Caribbean, keeping a hotel clean is quite a challenge. A few mosquitoes here and there are unavoidable -- even at the poshest getaways -- but there's no excuse for dirty linens, dusty counters, sandy pools, and bottle-strewn beaches. The following is a list of places we've found to be the cleanest.
Resorts in the D.R. all claim to provide top-notch service, but here's our list of hotels that offer the best concierges, room service, freebies, and thoughtful features to ease even the most temperamental traveler.
We've been to over 100 resorts in the D.R. and we've gotta tell you -- if you're coming here on a "business vacation," forget about it. Most resorts have only spotty Internet service available in their lobbies, and nothing more. But if you really have to file that annual report -- or if you really have to upload those vacation pics to your profile -- let Oyster be your to the best hotels in the Dominican Republic with in-room Internet.