With more than 200 beaches facing both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, the Dominican Republic has stretches of coastline to suit any taste. Here you’ll find sands ranging from dazzlingly white to jet black, waters that are ripe for everything from surfing to snorkeling, and vibes that run the gamut from Cast Away to beach party. These are some of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic, arranged by the most popular tourism centers.
The La Romana area
Playa Isla Catalina
In the 15th century, pirates would use Catalina Island as cover as they waited to attack Spanish ships sailing to and from the capital of Santo Domingo. Today, it’s famous for its picturesque beach (think tawny-colored sand, gin bottle–blue waters, and a dappling of petite, one-story-tall palm trees) and the coral reefs with barracudas, eagle rays, and moray eels, just off the shoreline. One of the top-rated dive sites in the Dominican Republic, the Catalina Wall, is here.
If you’d rather stay on the sand, there are free beach loungers and striped umbrellas, a small clutch of gift shops selling handicrafts, and a beach bar where piña coladas are made with real pineapple. Catalina Island is part of Parque Nacional del Este and sits 1.5 miles off the coast of the mainland Dominican Republic. Various tour operators in La Romana can organize boats, and guests of the five-star Casa de Campo resort can hop aboard its daily scheduled trip to the island.
Powdery, khaki-hued sand meets almost still water on this beach spotted with palm trees and ferns. A string of rocks roughly 25 yards off the shore makes for a natural pool, which means the waves are very gentle. Beachgoers will find hundreds of woven beach loungers and cream-colored umbrellas, two beach bars, a restaurant, two food trucks, a volleyball court, and, if salt water isn’t your thing, a chlorinated swimming pool. It’s possible to rent paddle boats, snorkeling gear, and more from a beach shack.
If you were to picture yourself on a beach with a cocktail in hand, chances are that mental image would look strikingly similar to Dominicus Beach. With thick, eggshell-colored sand, clear waters great for swimming, and palms that provide an awning against sunburn, it’s nothing short of idyllic. There’s some good snorkeling here, particularly in front of Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus, where an artificial reef supports a wide variety of kaleidoscopic tropical fish.
Where to stay in the La Romana area
Casa de Campo
So sprawling it feels like a city unto itself, this celeb-favorite resort (it’s hosted everyone from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jordan to Bill Clinton) on the southern coast features 247 guest rooms and 50 rentable 3- to 10-bedroom villas that feel luxe without being stuffy. There are plenty of amenities, including world-famous golf courses, equestrian and polo facilities, tennis courts, a marina and yacht club, eight restaurants, nine bars, and a sumptuous spa complex.
The Punta Cana area
Despite being more than 12 miles long, Bavaro remains one of the busiest beaches in the Dominican Republic, thanks turquoise water and sand the color and consistency of powdered creamer. You’ll find all manner of escape here—from parasailing and tubing to heavy-handed Cuba libre cocktails at the various beach bars. Loungers near the beach are typically free for guests of that hotel, but visitors can also pay to plunk down. There are designated safe swimming areas along the beach—this is a popular spot for motorized water sports and for personal boats to anchor. While the vibe can skew more rowdy than restful, there are pockets of calm, especially if you walk further from the access points.
For surfers, there’s arguably no better spot for waves in the Dominican Republic. Swells ranging from one foot to nine feet breaks on the caramel-colored shores of this crescent-shaped beach. It’s still a good place for newbies to learn (there’s a small surf lesson area on the southern end of the beach) and even for casual swimming. Macao is popular with local families, and there’s very little infrastructure—just a couple of stands selling Presidente beers and a few spots where it’s possible to rent an aging plastic beach chair and weather-worn umbrella. If you’re looking for somewhere no frills but staggeringly beautiful, this is the place.
There’s a reason Playa Limon (not to be mistaken with Playa El Limon on the Samana Peninsula) isn’t more popular—it’s found on the outermost edge of Punta Cana, and dozens of other excellent beaches sit between here and the airport. It’s a place you have to want to get to. But those who do are rewarded with a sublime Atlantic beach, likely nearly all to themselves. Here, the palms bend in a deep stretch toward the water, and waves gently lap the golden shores. And because two freshwater lagoons border the beach, it makes for an excellent spot for bird-watching—you might see a flamingo or two.
Where to stay in the Punta Cana area
Finest Punta Cana
The Punta Cana area can admittedly be a lot—it’s popular with international visitors and packed with hotels. However, this chic all-inclusive, situated on the quiet Uvero Alto beach on the northern end of Punta Cana, feels like a relaxing reprieve that caters to various traveler types. Split into two sections (one for all ages and one that’s adults only), the resort has 455 suites but never feels too crowded. There are also 15 restaurants (including Shoji, a Japanese restaurant, and Duke’s, a beachside lobster-focused eatery), 13 bars (some are swim-up), a spa with a variety of treatment options and hydrotherapy pools, and a daily activity schedule designed to keep kids active and engaged.
The Samaná Peninsula area
Another pristine, white-sand beach that gives way to excellent snorkeling is Playa Fronton. Off its shores are candy-colored coral beds spotted with urchins and sponges and home to butterflyfish, triggerfish, angelfish, needlefish, and more. The beach sits at the foot of a sheer rock cliff that’s popular for climbers (and people who like poking around dark, mysterious caves). Note that Playa Fronton is fairly remote (Colombia’s version of Survivor was filmed on this beach), so the easiest option for getting there is by hiring a boat in Las Galeras, although those confident in their jungle way-finding abilities can opt to do the two-hour-long hike in.
Somewhat hard to get to and even more challenging to leave, this three-mile stretch of pearly white sand, bordered by a thick fringe of palm forest, looks like something out of a rum commercial. Just under three miles long and with very little development (save for a handful of family-run beach eateries and spots to rent loungers and snorkeling gear), it feels gloriously secluded. If you walk a few minutes down the beach, you’ll think you have the whole place to yourself. In the spring, you might see humpback whales off the shore—they come here to mate each year.
Where to stay on the Samana Peninsula
Dominican Tree House Village
If you don’t mind driving to the beach, Dominican Tree House Village is arguably one of the most unique (and sustainable) offerings on the Samana Peninsula. Each of the 22 stilted cabins is open on three sides (don’t worry, there are mosquito nets), includes either a queen- or king-size bed and hammock chairs, and is set above the treeline, so you’ll have incredible views of the surrounding jungle.
Puerto Plata and the northern coast
With golden sands, shimmering turquoise swells, a clutch of pastel shacks slinging freshly caught lobster and fried plantains, and beach chairs rentable for a few dollars, Playa Grande is an easy place to while away an afternoon. There’s a surf school that offers lessons. However, take note: The waves can get strong, and locals will warn of the undertow, so swim at your own risk.
It’s a short catamaran ride to Cayo Arena, otherwise known as “Paradise Island” from the mainland. In all fairness, it’s really more of a sandbar than an island. However, what sets it apart is the easy snorkeling access to technicolor coral beds, where schools of surgeonfish, octopus, crabs, yellowtail snappers, and damselfish swim (or scuttle) surprisingly close.
Where to stay on the northern coast
- Book now: Amanera
This coveted Aman group property on a cliff top overlooking Playa Grande offers 25 villas, some with private pools and all with floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the spectacular coastal scenery. According to AFAR contributor Laura Begley Bloom, “The central hub of the resort is Casa Grande, home to the main restaurant (with organic produce, fresh seafood, and contemporary interpretations of Dominican cuisine), a bar (custom Amanera cigars and an extensive rum selection), and an infinity pool. Down at the seaside Beach Club, you can enjoy toes-in-the-sand lunches, torch-lit dinners, and ceviche cooking classes.”