Best Beaches in the Dominican Republic
Chances are, if you’re thinking about booking a vacation to the Dominican Republic, you’ve got one word on the brain: beach. Followed by sun. Followed by relaxation. Indeed, this beautiful Caribbean nation—which occupies the eastern part of the island of Hispaniola, and shares a border with Haiti—has risen in popularity over the past decade thanks to its numerous all-inclusive resorts. Many people choose to book a flight right into Punta Cana, a town with over 20 miles of beachfront and numerous hotels offering everything from golf to spas to world-class dining.
But there are other sides to the Dominican Republic, too. Up north, in the province of Puerto Plata, you’ll find the laid-back beach town of Cabarete. Popular with outdoor enthusiasts and sports lovers, Cabarete is known for its standout kitesurfing, kayaking, kiteboarding, and surfing. About an hour to the east lies Playa Grande, a mile-long crescent-shaped beach that borders the beautiful Amanera, a resort that made Travel + Leisure’s It List of the best new hotels of the year. The property is set on 400 acres of a protected nature reserve laced with hiking and biking trails, and it is also the first Aman hotel to have a golf course: an 18-hole stunner designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. with magnificent ocean views.
And then there is the Samaná peninsula, a thin strip of land jutting out from the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic. This bohemian enclave has a distinct European vibe thanks to the many French, Spanish, and Italian expats who have settled in the region and opened restaurants, hotels, and boutiques. If you visit this part of the country from January through March, you can do more then just work on your tan: you’ll likely be able to spot North Atlantic humpback whales on their migration route.
No matter the time of year, no matter your mood, there is a beach for you in this beautiful, varied country, which has nearly 1,000 miles of coast and nine distinct ecological zones. Here are Travel + Leisure’s favorite beaches in the Dominican Republic, from the windswept Atlantic shores of the north to the tranquil Caribbean stretches down south.
Playa Boca Chica
Located 20 miles east of the capital of Santo Domingo, Playa Boca Chica is one of Dominican Republic’s more popular beaches, so you can expect to see other visitors and plenty of souvenir shops and food stands. But that shouldn’t deter you from a visit: you’ll get the chance to mingle with locals, and of course, swim in the calm waters, which are protected by a coral reef.
Set on the eastern shore of the Samaná Peninsula, this is one of the country’s most beautiful stretches of white sand, a remote corner of paradise where the water is warm, turquoise, and ideal for swimming. The scenery is also stunning, as you’ll see virgin coconut forest and the cliffs of Cape Cabrón. To get here, you can either drive (the road is quite bumpy, so a four-wheel-drive is recommended) or hire a boat in nearby Las Galeras.
Guests of both the new Amanera resort and the intimate Playa Grande Beach Club—a stylish retreat designed by New York interior decorator Celerie Kemble—have access to this wide, golden, and secluded beach. Backed by cliffs and jungle, it’s the perfect place to unwind if you’re craving privacy. If you’re looking for more activity, you can set on a fishing excursion to catch marlin or sailfish.
With its 20 miles of jaw-dropping shorefront, renowned golf courses, and family-friendly hotels, Punta Cana is by far the Dominican Republic’s most popular resort area—attracting two-thirds of all visitors to the country. While here, you should definitely check out Playa Maco, a pristine stretch with gin-clear water and gentle waves, ideal for beginner surfers and boogie boarders. Playa Juanillo is another standout, recognized for its wide sands and relaxed vibe, as is Playa Cabeza de Toro.
Surfers know that they can catch major waves at this three-mile long white pebble beach located in Barahona, a region in the west of the country. Though the waves are great for professionals (and awesome to photograph), swimmers should take caution, as there is a strong undertow.
This is the windsurfing capital of the world, a paradise for those who love being out on the open sea. Guides are also available to take you out on glass-bottom boat tours, deep-sea fishing, and kayaking. After a day on the water, you can visit any of the top-notch cafes, restaurants, bars, and bakeries in the center of this quaint beach town, which has a distinct European feel. Many Italian, French, and German expats have settled here, which makes for an interesting, multi-cultural atmosphere (and excellent pastries and espresso!).
Close to the Puerto Plata International Airport, Sosua is a haven for divers and snorkelers thanks to an underwater park. And there’s also plenty of activity on dry land: vendors, snack stands, souvenir shops, and more. The beach town also has interesting history: Jewish settlers arrived here after World War II seeking refuge, and established a community. There is still a synagogue in operation today.
If you picked up the 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, you probably noticed models like Irina Shayk and Nina Agdal posing on this beach. Since the 1970’s, Casa de Campo has been one of the Dominican Republic’s most exclusive enclaves—a resort town built for executives and celebrities, with design touches by native son and fashion icon Oscar de la Renta. Guests of the resort and villas can go horseback riding and play polo, or try their hand at golf on the Pete Dye course. Better still, they have exclusive access to Minitas Beach, a protected cove with excellent snorkeling. They can also take day trips to nearby Saona and Catalina Island, where you can see the famous shipwreck of pirate William Kidd.
Honeymooners can retreat to this tiny island in the Samaná Bay, since it is home to three beaches (one of which often appeared in Bacardi commercials) and an adults-only Bahia Principe resort. The 268-room property also has two pools, six restaurants, and a spa.
Set on the southern coast, and lined with restaurants, high-rises, and bars, this bustling beach is popular with locals from Santo Domingo who come here on the weekend to unwind. It makes for an easy day trip from the capital as well as La Romana, since both are an hour away.
Eagle Bay Beach
It takes a little bit of effort to get to this nearly three-mile long beach, set along the country’s southwest coast (the nearest town is Pedernales, close to the border with Haiti). And you’ll need to hire a boat or rent a four-wheel drive. But the effort is worth it, as you’ll be rewarded with the sight of aquamarine waters, picturesque rock formations—and virtually no tourists. The beach is actually part of the Jaragua National Park, an area home to natural forests, beaches, wetlands, coral reefs, and numerous wildlife species, including the endangered West Indian manatee. Pack a cooler and lunch as there are no facilities along the beach.