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Occupying the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic (DR) has shrugged off a colonial past to emerge as one of the most modern, tourist-friendly destinations in the Caribbean. A quintessential island paradise, the coast is full of golden beaches, swaying palms, and verdant subtropical forests. Out on the turquoise waters, visitors can explore secluded bays by kayak, jump waves on windsurfing kites, jet skis, and parasails, or swim through kaleidoscopic coral reefs.
The DR offers much more than just an idyllic beach holiday, though; the capital, Santo Domingo, is the oldest city in the Caribbean and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the interior of the island, lush jungles and lofty mountain ranges offer adventure activities like hiking, mountain biking, and white-water rafting. More relaxed days can be spent exploring plantation estates and local villages for an authentic and insightful look at the DR's history and culture. Below, our suggestions for where to stay on your next trip to the Caribbean nation.
Best Overall: The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real
Situated on the sandy beaches of the popular north-east coast, the Reserve is an upscale, boutique enclave within the Paradisus Palma Real. Here, traditional island atmosphere melds seamlessly with modern architecture and luxe amenities. Guestrooms and suites feature a blend of contemporary and classic styles, with modern furniture and a graceful grey color scheme softened by polished wood and marble accents. Rooms come with well-appointed bathrooms and furnished private terraces. Additional features in some suites include swim-up access, hydromassage tubs, and ocean views.
The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real caters to traveling kiddos with a playful kids’ pool, a large outdoor playground, and bonus facilities like a rock climbing wall and a trampoline. Other activities and sports include tennis, yoga classes, and beach volleyball. On the sprawling beach, guests will find plenty of beach chairs and palapas, as well as water sports such as kayaking, windsurfing, and snorkeling. Guests also enjoy unlimited complimentary access to the nearby Cocotal Golf and Country Club. At Passion by Martín Berasategui, a Michelin-starred chef delivers a refined dining experience, while the Gabi Club serves international cuisine throughout the day in an elegant yet relaxed poolside setting. Other dining options include an Italian pizza trattoria, the Mediterranean flavors of Aqua, and the Japanese Teppanyaki grill experience of Mizu.
Best Budget: Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus
Located on the quiet south coast, the Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus stretches from the pristine forests of the Cotubanama National Park down to the soft sands of Playa Dominicus. The resort is less intensely developed than many neighboring properties, with immaculate green lawns, shady trees, and ornamental fountains. The wide expanse of beach faces toward a calm, sheltered bay, ideal for pursuits like snorkeling, parasailing, and catamaran rides. Other sports include mini-golf, beach soccer, volleyball, and archery, while activities include yoga sessions, Spanish classes, and light-hearted dance contests.
When it comes to dining, six restaurants provide themed experiences; stand-out options include the opulently decorated El Colonial, family-friendly Japanese La Geisha, and authentic Mexican at La Hacienda. Located next to the beach, the serene spa offers a Jacuzzi, sauna, and Turkish bath, and services like mud body wraps and beachfront massages in open-air treatment huts. Three bars keep the drinks flowing all day and into the early hours. While not part of the resort, the lighthouse-shaped Faro de Bayahibe bar, located right on the water’s edge, is the place to enjoy stunning sunset views and an evening cocktail.
Best Boutique: Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado
The Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado sits alone on a private island — the only one of its kind in the DR — offering guests an exclusive experience. Built like a classic colonial villa, the hotel is all scenic marble terraces, ornate balustrades, and hand-carved columns. Palatial rooms offer every manner of creature comfort, from soft linens on delicate four-poster canopy beds to indulgent pillow and scent menus and marble bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs and walk-in showers. An evening turn down, butler-, and 24-hour room service complete the luxury experience.
The Bahia Spa is particularly beautiful, with its Turkish bath, Finnish sauna, and bubble beds. There, you can treat yourself to hot stone, oil, or signature massages, caramel bath body wraps, and coconut oil lotions. Guests can choose to laze on the lounges of the large main beach or find a secluded stretch of sand in hidden coves. Around the hotel, guests can be spotted playing tennis and basketball, while out on the water, kayaks, paddleboards, and catamarans are available. A selection of elegant, formal dress restaurants takes guests on a culinary journey around the world, with specialty Italian, Mediterranean, and Brazilian eateries complementing the international buffet of Orquieda and the gourmet fine-dining of Don Pablo.
Best for Families: Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa
When it comes to family-friendly holidays under the sun, the Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa is unmatched. Guest apartments look out over lush gardens, flamingo ponds, and pristine natural jungle that extends to the edge of the palm-lined beach. The resort's showstopper is a massive free-form pool that winds and cascades its way through the length of the property, culminating in a beachfront infinity edge lagoon.
When they're not romping around on the beach, kids can head off to the Explorer’s Club where they can partake in fun supervised activities; there's a paddling pool with a model pirate ship and water slide, a giant sand-filled playground, and video and table games in the teen-focused Core Zone. The huge range of water and land activities include all the usual island offerings as well as harder-to-come-by things like horseback riding, archery, pistol ranges, and inflatable water structures. Homey rooms are outfitted with flat-screen TVs and iPod docks. Family dining options range from Italian and Asian cuisine in stylish indoor restaurants to wood-fired pizza around firepits on the terrace and casual beachside dining at open-air gill shacks.
Best for Couples: Zoetry Agua Punta Cana
If you're planning a romantic retreat, do yourself a favor and opt for the Endless Privileges program at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana. Rustic-chic rooms are done up in true island style with hardwood floors, soaring thatch ceiling, plush bedding, and lavish amenities. Bathrooms, meanwhile, come with soaking tubs, rainfall showers, and double vanities, as well as soft shower robes and artisanal bath products. If you feel like really going for it, some rooms even offer private plunge pools on ocean view patios. Guests can take advantage of well-stocked minibars, 24-hour room service, and a personal butler to arrange private dinners, rose-petal baths, and romantic activities such as horseback rides along the beach.
The program also allows access to four gourmet restaurants offering European-fusion, Italian, Caribbean, and light international fare in intimate candle-lit restaurants and scenic alfresco terraces. Guests are kept refreshed by unlimited cocktails and top-shelf spirits from the poolside swim-up bar, the tropical open-air lobby cocktail lounge, and the oceanfront Indigo Bar. The hotel spa is one of the finest in the DR, with facilities such as Jacuzzis, Finnish saunas, steam rooms, and sensation showers set amidst lush gardens. Specialist couple’s massages are also available in sensual private suites or in open-air beach huts.
Best for Luxury: Sanctuary Cap Cana
Sanctuary Cap Cana overlooks Caribbean waters from its cliff-top perch like an old castle. A collection of grandiose colonial Spanish buildings, the resort is all rough-cut limestone walls, warm pastel stucco, and ornate balustrades and towers. Guestrooms come in a variety of styles, but all are opulent with old-fashioned fittings and every modern comfort expected of a hotel of this standard. Guests lazing in lounges and cabanas on the powdery white beach can avail themselves of food and drink wait service from the beach bar, just as can guests around the pool can.
A stunning marble edifice built around a serene courtyard, Sanctuary Cap Cana's spa is a true highlight. Step inside and you'll find Jacuzzis, saunas, steam rooms, and treatment rooms offering a full menu of massages, body scrubs, facial cleanses, vitality rituals, and salon services. Superb dining options include the seafood specialties of Blue Marlin — perched on stilts above the water in a rustic alfresco terrace — and the casual elegance of Casabella which serves an international buffet for breakfast and lunch. Other options include an authentic sushi restaurant and an Argentine-style grill.
Best for Singles: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana lives up the brand's reputation, offering a glam experience and electrifying atmosphere. Stunning suites feature quirky yet plush retro décor and contain amenities such as marble bathrooms and in-room jacuzzi tubs. An incredible thirteen pools offer a variety of atmospheres, from quiet oasis-like enclaves to social swim-up bars scenes; dedicated activities hosts keep energy levels high at the more lively ones.
While the beachfront pools see plenty of action, with in-pool lounges, waterslides, swim-up bars, and ocean views, the spectacular guitar-shaped pool is the centerpiece of the resort. Drinking options range from the sophisticated Eclipse Terrace to the moodily lit Moon Lounge. The cavernous Oro nightclub is one of the best nightclubs in the DR, where top DJ’s spin on award-winning sound systems and dazzling light displays illuminate bars and dancefloors filled. Looking to test your luck? There's also a casino with blackjack, craps, roulette, poker, and slot machines.
Best Adults-Only: Iberostar Grand Bavaro Hotel
Built in the style of a Greco-Roman villa with pillared arcades and dome-topped roofs, the Iberostar Grand Bavaro Hotel is an exclusive adults-only resort that appeals to guests looking for refinement. The hotel is built around meticulously landscaped grounds containing hidden artworks, vibrant flower beds, and a three-masted sailing ship in its own personal pool. Down on the beachfront, three free-form pools are surrounded by lounge chairs, palapas, and private cabanas, and guests are served snacks and drinks by discreet wait staff. Golfers will enjoy playing a round on the 18-hole course, and spa aficionados will appreciate the Jacuzzis, saunas, and hamman in the full-service spa.
As for dining, La Tentazione serves classic Italian cuisine in an ostentatious dining room filled with marble floors, carved pillars, and mosaic Greco-Roman frescos. Meanwhile, Hashira serves delectable Asian dishes in a stylish red, black, and gold room, and El Galeon provides surf and turf fare in a casual maritime-themed atmosphere. Your options don't end there, though — there's also gourmet dining at Le Tourbillion, Mediterranean flavors at the seafront Casa de la Playa, and international buffets at Bella Vista and La Perla. Top-shelf spirits, premium wines, and craft beers are available from the lobby bar, the swim-up Aqua bar, the sophisticated cigar lounge, and the characterful Cala Esmerelda, housed in the pool-anchored ship.
Best Beachfront: Excellence Punta Cana
As the most northerly resort along the northeast coast, Excellence Punta Cana offers guests an unparalleled opportunity when it comes to exploring the secluded stretch of sand. Guests can easily find privacy and solitude among the sheltered dunes and palm groves, while virgin tropical forest lines the beach for a half-mile in either direction. In front of the hotel, staff make use of the expansive beach by spacing palapas and cabanas at wide intervals.
Smart, contemporary suites come with jetted whirlpool tubs in the marble-lined bathroom and scenic soaking tub in the living room. Different suites offer additional features such as private plunge pools, ocean views, and swim-up access. The spa, designed in a modern, angular style, offers a full service of treatments that utilize botanical and marine elements in signature products, as well as hydrotherapy tubs, Swedish saunas, and yoga. A wide range of restaurants provides everything from gourmet French to authentic Mexican so you'll have no trouble quelching cravings.