With more than a thousand miles of coastline facing both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and the second-largest country in the region, the Dominican Republic is blessed with hundreds of beaches and some of the most continuous stretches in the Caribbean. It’s the primary reason more than 5 million visitors visit the Dominican Republic every year.
Among its beaches, however, are a handful of standouts, from the mainland to offshore islands. Whether it’s a local vibe you’re after, water sports, lively bars, or seclusion in the middle of nowhere, there’s a beach here that fits your needs.
Keep in mind that all beaches are public. It can also get crowded and loud on Sundays, as Dominicans love to relax on the beach with family on their day off. Most beaches have changing or restroom facilities when there are restaurants on site. The more secluded, the more challenging it is to find modern conveniences.
At all times and as with any beach in the Caribbean, remember to heed the swimming flag alerts, and never go into the water alone if it’s a wave-active Atlantic beach. Avoid touching corals and sea life, and never remove shells.
One of the longest beaches in the DR, Bavaro Beach is also the most well-known and the best fine white sand stretch in the Punta Cana region. While it’s lined with numerous all-inclusive resorts and restaurants, Playa Bavaro is ideal for a long walk, and its shallow, turquoise waters are ideal for swimming. Walk its length to Cortecito and Los Corales, where you’ll find plenty of lounges and bars, as well as arts and crafts vendor areas. Water sports are also popular here, from parasailing to sea kayaking and banana boat rides.
Head one hour north of Uvero Alto towards Miches, and turn in from the highway to begin a bumpy, dirt road ride down to Playa Esmeralda. This stunning beach only recently got its first resort, but it’s still wide and uncrowded in other parts. It boasts a long shoreline of over a mile, and turquoise waters that are ideal for swimming. Bring your picnic and don’t expect any public facilities.
With sky-reaching palm trees lining the shore’s edges and diamond-white sand, Playa Juanillo is a stunner. Located on the southern tip of the Punta Cana area, in Cap Cana, it’s near some of the more exclusive resorts. A couple of restaurants here offer places to park yourself with a fabulous cocktail if you prefer to stay out of the sun and enjoy the scenery. You might even find someone who’ll cut a fresh coconut for you on the beach. It’s a great spot to escape the crowds of Bavaro Beach for the day.
The most glorious beach in Las Terrenas boasts over a mike of gold-colored sand and a breathtaking backdrop of hundreds of coconut trees. You’ll find beachside fish grills selling lunch to beachgoers daily. Kitesurfers also practice here at times, while families flock here to relax on the weekends. The beach is so vast and long, however, that it never feels crowded. There’s an area where the river meets the sea, in case you crave cooler waters. If you walk the length of Playa Coson, you can reach another beauty, Playa Bonita.
Located 12 miles south of Bayahibe, southeast of the DR, Saona Island is the Dominican Republic’s largest and most breathtaking offshore island. Part of the Cotubanama National Park, Saona’s endless beaches filled with coconut trees are as dreamy as it gets., It also boasts a giant natural pool and sandbank where starfish thrive. Saona is one of the most popular daytime excursions from Punta Cana, but it’s even more accessible if you stay in Bayahibe Village. Book your trip ahead of time and pick a responsible tour operator. Choose one that will take you to see the only inhabited portion of Saona at Mano Juan, home to a turtle conservation center.
Playa El Valle
Unlike the east coast beaches’ flat landscapes, Playa El Valle’s backdrop consists of green hills and dramatic boulders, framing a beautiful golden stretch. The water is a deep jade turquoise and attracts fishermen, who launch their canoes here for the daily catch. As picturesque as the beach is, it’s best to stick to the shoreline when swimming as there can be rip currents during the year. It’s still a breathtaking spot to relax and enjoy a plate of fresh seafood from the local beachside restaurants.
The Samana Peninsula’s greatest asset, Playa Rincon, stretches three uninterrupted miles along the northeastern corner of the DR. This gorgeous wild beach is ideal for snorkeling and grabbing a local lobster lunch and drinks from a couple of restaurants lining the main beach. If you’re up for more adventure, get a motorbike ride to the eastern edge of the beach where the river meets the sea. You’ll find a refreshing river pool where local families hang out, as well as women with outdoor grills for more local food. Reached by boat from Las Galeras, it’s still wholly undeveloped—go and visit before resorts arrive.
Bahía de Las Águilas
The most remote of all beaches, tucked on the southwestern edge, is also one of its most outstanding. Hugged by a flat Caribbean Bay of Eagles, brilliant and undeveloped white sand draws visitors from around the country. Facilities are few, save for a couple of public toilets. You’ll want to use the bathroom at the nearby restaurants in Cabo Rojo before taking off for this beach.
Reached by boat from Las Galeras, Playa Fronton is a standout for its unique topography. Towering black cliffs hug its thin, white sand shoreline, and its water is so clear and an iridescent emerald color that you can see to the bottom, where corals and urchins lie, a few feet away from shore. Bring your water shoes and wade along the shoreline. It’s rockier but Playa Fronton has this “deserted island” look that you’ll find hard to stop photographing. Walk the whole beach and you’ll find caves where the Taino once took refuge.
Playa Punta Rucia
While visitors flock here as a jump-off point to the offshore Cayo Arena, Punta Rucia’s beach village boasts a stunning white sand stretch that’s well worth visiting. The Atlantic is calm on this north coast, and the brilliant turquoise waters are suitable for swimming and snorkeling. Stay clear of the boating areas and stick to the areas facing local restaurants and bars, all of which offer restrooms for their customers.
Playa del Morro
The northwestern border is home to a beach reminiscent of the Mediterranean: Playa del Morro. This golden beach is flanked by a towering limestone mesa known as El Morro, which is one of Monte Cristi’s landmarks. The sunset at Playa del Morro is breathtaking, as the golden sun turns the entire area into a golden yellow, reflecting off the limestone rock and casting a golden shadow onto the sand, which is partly covered with soft stones.
This lively beach is worth a visit for its unique international vibe, and its long, exciting stretch lined with lounges, restaurants, and bars. If you’re into windsurfing and kitesurfing, you’ll find plenty to keep busy. Otherwise, sip on cocktails and lounge the day away at one of the numerous lounges along the beachfront. You could also bar hop all day or night. Happy hour attracts the largest crowds when the sunset is paired with two-for-one cocktails. An excellent spot to park yourself is Mojito Bar.
This off the beaten track golden beach is well worth the bumpy ride from Puerto Plata inland to Playa Cambiaso. You’ll only find crowds here on the weekend, but even so, the beach is wide enough, with a couple of local restaurants on site. Walk to its edge where the river runs into the sea, and hike into the woods to find another hidden, golden sand beach.
Playa Cayo Montechico
An hour off the shores of Monte Cristi, Cayo Montechico is one of the Seven Brother Cayes—a series of remote, uninhabited cayes close to the border with Haiti. These cayes are as remote as it gets in the Dominican Republic. The ideal spot to swim is at Cayo Montechico, with a pristine, uncrowded white sand beach with waters teeming with tropical fish. Bring your snorkel gear. There are no changing facilities nor restrooms here; it’s pure wilderness.
Golden Playa Macao is a surfer’s hub with its constant waves and trade winds, making it an all-year spot for practicing the sport. A short drive north of the resorts in Bavaro and Punta Cana, it’s a popular day trip offered from the resorts for some local beach flavor. You can dine on-site at one of the local seafood shacks, offering grilled lobsters and cold beers. Sign up for a surfing class through one of the schools on-site, or rent equipment to bodyboard for fun.