When you land in the Dominican Republic, you’ll quickly realize why this slice of paradise is the most visited vacation destination in the Caribbean.
A storied history, varied landscape and vibrant local culture provide many ways for your holiday agenda to fill up in no time. But, before you commit all of your time to testing out the world-class golf courses or laid-back towns, ease into the island life on Dominican’s main draw: the beach, of course! There’s an estimated 1,000 miles of sand clinging to the shoreline here, and plenty of variety to satisfy all types of beach goers. From popular spots in Punta Cana to lesser-known spots, here’s everything you need to know before you drag your beach bag in the DR.
1. Playa Rincón
Where: Las Galeras
Why you’ll love it: Vacation is all about getting as far away as possible from the hustle and bustle of everyday life – and there’s no setting that embodies this mantra more than an unspoilt stretch of sand. Playa Rincón is where you should go to find your ultimate zen, as there is almost no development. It’s a bit of a trial to get here, about four hours from Puerto Plata and almost double that from Punta Cana, but the surroundings are well worth the journey. While the beach is resort-free, it still has the essentials: beach chairs, and a few local vendors selling fresh seafood and ice cold beverages.
Pro Tip: The drive here can be a bit rough with dirt roads and pot holes, so instead, hop on a ferry boat from Las Galeras in the morning to whisk you there. Most depart around 9am and return at 4pm.
2. Boca Chica
Where: Santo Domingo
Why you’ll love it: If crystal-clear water and powder-white sands sounds like your idea of a good beach day, you’ll love Boca Chica. It’s a favorite among locals who visit from Santo Domingo city center, so for a taste of the local way at the beach, it’s the perfect experience. The water is very calm for swimming, so if you’re traveling with kids, this is a great option. There’s also several places to rent banana boats, do scuba diving tours and other aquatic entertainment if you feel the need to get up off of your beach mat.
Pro Tip: Go hungry! There are several local eateries that are known to be some of the best in the area here. Get your hands on some fried fish and plantains.
Where: Puerto Plata
Why you’ll love it: Snorkelers and divers flock to Sosúa to explore the stunning coral reef just 100 meters away from the shore. The beach is close to Cabarete, often considered the kitesurfing capital of the world. You can spend the morning wandering the local shops in Sousa town before taking to the water to explore the reed. Back on dry land, you can enjoy the soft sands and the several beach bars serving piña coladas and ice cold beer. If snorkeling is not your thing, there are many glass bottom boat and banana boat tour operators here, usually for a good price.
Pro Tip: If time permits, stay until sunset as Playa Sosúa for one of most colorful displays in all of the D.R.
4. Isla Catalina
Where: La Romana
Why you’ll love it: About halfway in between Punta Cana and Santo Domingo, just offshore, you’ll find Isla Catalina. It’s a small, secluded island comprised of palm trees and serious sun worshippers. If you’re staying at a nearby resort, like Casa de Campo, there are daily tour boats to Isla Catalina. When you step food on the island you’ll be delighted by the colorful homes dotted on the sand in between soaring trees. If you have time, take a guided excursion to see the island’s diverse ecosystems complete with sand dunes, mangroves and reefs.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget your face mask! Snorkelers will be able to see the famous William Kidd shipwreck that’s just 20 feet below the water, no scuba diving required for this one!
5. Cascada El Limón
Why you’ll love it: O.K., El Limón isn’t exactly a beach, but the wild rugged coast with majestic waterfall deserves a mention as it’s just so. The cascada (waterfall) is an impressive 170ft high, ending in a cool refreshing pool that summons swimmers to hop in. Most visitors reach the waterfall via horseback a tour from El Limón town. It may not be your typical beach day experience but the lush green scenery will be a welcome change.
Pro Tip: Dress for a jungle adventure! Have your swimsuit on, but wear long sleeves over top in case you encounter bugs. Rubber-soled swim shoes are also recommended as the journey toward the falls can be rather muddy.
6. Playa Dorada
Where: Puerto Plata
Why you’ll love it: If for you, a day at the beach involves plenty of activity, then Playa Dorada is where you need to be. Located on the island’s northern coast bordering the Atlantic ocean, if you want to try your hand at windsurfing, this is the place to do it. There’s also a host of hotels and resorts along Playa Dorada, which means you can wander around and take advantage of bathroom facilities, bars and restaurants. If you love to people watch and love the comfort of American-style development and amenities, Playa Dorada is sure to satisfy.
Pro Tip: In need of a break from the relentless sunshine? Playa Dorada is also home to a shopping center with a movie theater, several stores and even a classic joint for chicken wings and beer, and it’s not far from the spectacular viewpoint at the top of Mt. Isabel de Torres.
7. Minitas Beach
Where: Casa de Campo
Why you’ll love it: Located in the DR’s most exclusive resort, Casa de Campo, Minitas Beach is a picture-perfect private cove that welcomes the guests of Casa de Campo to stretch out with their book, once they are finished with their tennis game, art lesson or horseback riding session. Calm waters make Minitas Beach a great spot for snorkeling and swimming, and you can soak up the sun knowing that this stretch of sand was the go-to choice for power players like the Clintons and fashion icon Oscar de la Renta.
Pro Tip: The things to see and do in Casa de Campo are endless, but a must is enjoying one of the Polo matches that take place on the Campo grounds.
8. Cayo Levantado
Why you’ll love it: The public access area of Cayo Levantado is also known as Bacardi Beach, and what makes you think of getting sun-kissed in the Caribbean more than a delicious rum cocktail? The secluded sands and the adults-only resorts in this area make it a top choice for the honeymoon beach-going crowd looking for a quiet place soak up the sun and enjoy the sound of the waves.
Pro Tip: Bring your wallet! There are a handful of small restaurants and shops here, and you can even get a couple’s massage right by the shore.
9. Eagle Bay Beach
Where: Jaragua National Park
Why you’ll love it: The most off-the-beaten-path beach on this list and easily one of the prettiest, Eagle Bay Beach – or Bahia de las Aguilas – sits on the southwestern coast of Dominican near Pederneles in the Jaragua National Park. In stark contrast to beaches like Playa Dorada and Boca Chica, Eagle Bay Beach has seen virtually no modern development thanks to its prime location within the reserve. The sea life beneath the waves is fantastic, so bring your snorkeling gear and be prepared to swim in the company of star fish, lobsters and more.
Pro Tip: There are no facilities at Eagle Bay Beach, so be sure to pack yourself a cooler with snacks and plenty of water.
10. Punta Cana
Where: Various locations
Why you’ll love it: Most sun-seekers heading to Dominican Republic will find themselves in the mecca of action, Punta Cana. Hugging the island’s eastern tip, the clear turquoise water and thousands of swaying palms that provide necessary shade on the crystal sands makes it understandable why so many resorts came here to set up shop. There are a few stand-out stretches of sand in Punta Cana, beginning with Juanilo. You won’t be alone on the sand when you visit Juanilo due to the many hotels nearby, but it’s relatively free of vendors, and there’s a little beach restaurant too. We also love Playa Bavaro (right), with its warm water, relaxed atmosphere and an abundance of watersports activities to choose from.
Pro tip: It’s hard to find a stretch of sand without a crowd in this area, but that shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying the magnificent setting. Mornings and late evenings are usually quiet around Playa Bavaro and Juanilo, so go at these times to soak up the solitude.
Where to stay in the Dominican Republic