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Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Travel Tips: Resorts, When to Go

Dominican Republic beach
© Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

Dominican Republic is the Caribbean leader in beach vacations and all-inclusive resorts.

More than 5 million people visit the country every year for overnight vacations, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Most of them go to the resort enclaves of Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. The total visitors far exceed the next most popular destination for Caribbean beach vacations, which is Cuba with 3 million annual visitors.

Every island we have visited in the Caribbean has attractive qualities. But Dominican Republic has many of them packaged in one experience. It has white sands, perfectly colored water, swaying palm trees, steady breezes and unique excursions.

Where is Dominican Republic?

Dominican Republic is on the eastern side of the island of Hispaniola, which is shares with Haiti. Hispaniola is about 450 miles east of Jamaica and less than 200 miles west of Puerto Rico.

The popular resort destination of Punta Cana is on the far eastern tip of the country. Puerto Plata, another popular resort destination, is 250 miles away from Punta Cana on the northern coast. The two are far enough away from each other that they have somewhat different weather patterns that determine the best times to visit each one.

Resort Visitor Tips

Punta Cana

Dominican Republic tourism statistics
Dominican Republic tourism statistics. © Scott S. Bateman

Punta Cana resort visitors usually arrive at the Punta Cana International Airport right in the city. Its charming open-air terminal with thatched roofs reveals the massive inflow and outflow of tourists.

Resorts are clustered somewhat to the south of the Punta Cana airport but mostly to the north.

Punta Cana resorts are usually all-inclusive to keep people on the properties as much as possible. Expect to pay $250 to $450 per night per person depending on the room size, time of year and other factors.

Resorts are often fenched for security reasons. The area is somewhat remote and not known for attractions outside of the resorts. But they do a great job of offering many things to do. Count on plenty of white sand beaches.

Puerto Plata

Puerto Plata visitors usually land at Gregorio Luperón International Airport about 25 minutes to the east of Puerto Plata. A small resort area around Playa Sosua is another 10 minutes to the east of the airport.

Most of the Puerto Plata resorts are clustered near the city. Although Puerto Plata is also known for all-inclusive resorts, the nearby area has more things to do outside of the resorts than Punta Cana.

They include Fort San Felipe, one of the first European forts in America, the Amber Museum and the Brugal Rum Factory. Others include Ocean World Adventure Park and a cable car ride up the side of Mount Isabel de Torres, which is 2,600 feet high.

Puerto Plata is Dominican Republic’s eighth largest city with a population of more than 250,000 people. The area also has the nearby cities of Cabarete and Sousa, the Amber Cove cruise port as well as various natural attractions.

Tourism / When to Go

This video explains the best time to visit the Dominican Republic and avoid the annual hurricane season.
Full-Screen Version | YouTube Caribbean Channel

Dominican Republic is the second most popular island in the Caribbean for both cruise and resort vacations and takes first place for resort vacations. It attracts 5 million resort visitors and about a half million cruise visitors to this eastern Caribbean island each year, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

That total number of resort and hotel visitors is nearly twice as many as Cuba, the second most popular island. Dominican Republic is unique in the Caribbean for the high number of resort visitors and relatively low number of cruise visitors.

The country is far more popular with European tourists than American or Canadian. Be aware, as a result, that topless bathing is common in the resorts.

The most popular month to visit in July, followed by March. The least popular month is September followed by October, consistent with other islands in the hurricane belt.

The country lies in the middle of the hurricane belt, with the active season between June and October. Plan a visit with that in mind.

That said, Punta Cana and Puerto Plata have different times of the year when it is best to visit.

Weather

Punta Cana monthly temperatures. © Scott S. Bateman

The climate is maritime semitropical, with an average yearly temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It has little seasonal temperature variation.

The country lies in the middle of the hurricane belt and subject to severe storms from June to October.

Punta Cana has moderate rainfall for most of the year. May and July usually have the most rain at about six inches each month, according to the Dominican Republic National Office of Meteorology.

The dry season is December through April, but the season also daytime temperatures in the low 80s Fahrenheit. Seawater is sometimes too cool for swimming.

July is the best month of the year for a combination of warm temperatures and low risk of rain.

Otherwise, average high temperatures range from the low to upper 80s Fahrenheit throughout the year. Average lows, mostly at night, stay in the low to upper 70s.

Puerto Plata is both warmer and wetter. The average highs reach into the 90s Fahrenheit during the summer.

Unlike most Caribbean destinations, the Puerto Plata rainy season runs from November through May. The dry season is June through September.

Currency / Tipping / Taxes

Dominican peso, but U.S. currency is widely accepted. Like many top Caribbean destinations, bills are accepted but return change will be in pesos.

A 10 percent service charge is added to hotel and restaurant bills.

Upon arriving at the airport, expect local help to cart baggage from the terminal to the bus. A few dollars is a sufficient tip. Goods and services have a 16 percent sales tax.

Culture / Geography

Spanish is the dominant language. For a long time, the country was known for exporting sugar, coffee and tobacco. But the service sector has outgrown those industries because of tourism and free trade zones.

The geography consists of rugged highlands and mountains with fertile valleys interspersed. That said, the majority of the trip from the airport to many resorts is flat roads.

More Information

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
March 29, 2024

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