The Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean country, home to incredible beaches, wild nature and excellent shopping. Given it’s large size, there is just about everything for every type of traveler. Whether you’re looking for the calm blue hues of Punta Cana, or the wild rush of world-renowned Kiteboarding in Cabarete, you cannot go wrong in the Dominican Republic.
Luxury hotels are easy to come by in the Dominican, with resorts from major brands like Hyatt, Barcelo and Marriott, down to the boutique luxury hotel brands with personal butlers and elevated service. All-inclusive lovers will relish in the wide selection of options when it comes to finding the perfect resort for your style.
In the hub of tourism, Punta Cana, there is no shortage of high-end luxury resorts. From the large all-inclusive experiences like Hyatt Zilara and Ziva Cap Cana to the boutique brands boasting personalized luxury, you cannot go wrong. In this land of all-inclusives, travelers can expect to find a number of 5-star options, like the Secrets Cap Cana, boasting michelin-level cuisines. While you get what you pay for in most cases, travelers can find competitive pricing for excellent 5-star properties.
In the northern areas of Cabarete, Sosua and Las Terranas, the scene looks a bit different from the high-rises and luxury brands. Travelers can expect a more laid-back vibe with small properties and many more apartment-style accommodations. Think of the north as the Tulum to Mexico’s Cancun.
Depending on your plans for your trip, taxis are a great option. Particularly if you are planning to visit only Punta Cana as your home base. If you plan to explore further, renting a car for the day, week or month is also a great option. In our case, we booked a car for one month to give us the flexibility to explore the country as we wish. We also traveled during COVID-19, and therefore, felt it was most appropriate to minimize exposure to others.
The Dominican is a large country and travelers can also take domestic flights.
Outside the standard all-inclusive experiences (aka customary Asian, Italian, French and Mexican cuisines), the restaurants available in the larger towns and cities offer a wide range of options. Travelers can find small boutique coffee shops, like Vagamundo in Cabarete, to excellent Italian restaurants in the sand along the beach.
In the northern areas like Cabarete, for example, prices are incredibly low compared to other Caribbean destinations. For reference, one can purchase a Cold Brew coffee for $1.70 USD and an Avocado Toast for $2.70 USD, compared to the standard $4-5 USD coffee and $10-12 USD Toast.
Between markets and boutique shops, you’ll have more than plenty to do if you’re looking to pick up some items in the Dominican Republic. Prices are incredibly low across the board, giving travelers a great selection of jewelry, bathing suits and clothing at an affordable price. Trinkets and standard tourist items like artwork and the like can be purchased at the many markets in the more touristy destinations of Punta Cana and the like.
In the larger tourist areas an cities, travelers will find the Blue Mall (Santo Domingo and Punta Cana), home to some of the highest-end shops you can find in the DR.
The Dominican Republic is one of the earliest settled destinations in the Western hemisphere by Europeans, giving the country a diverse and global edge. The main language spoken is Spanish and it can often be difficult to find fluent English speakers, especially outside the luxury hotels. Dominican people are known for being friendly, outgoing and very religious. Ladies, expect to hear cat calls from friendly gents consistently.
We booked a flight to the Dominican Republic back in February, before the COVID-19 pandemic really took off. We got a great deal ($230 round trip from San Francisco) through Scott’s Cheap Flights for a two-week trip. Then…COVID hit.
As far as the Caribbean goes, the Dominican Republic is pretty inexpensive. Luxury resorts range from $300-$600 depending on season and typically offer excellent all-inclusive experiences. Food costs are low, with a dinner for two in Cabarete costing approximately $40 for 4 drinks, an appetizer and 2 main dishes.
Tipping is expected at the luxury resorts, despite the claims of “tips included”. Tipping is a nice gesture for excellent service at restaurants and bars. 10% is a great tip for excellent service, otherwise, 100-300 pesos is equivalent to giving a a $5 USD tip.
Suggested daily budget – Typical food & beverage costs range depending on how high-end the hotel brand is, but we typically budget $300 per day for food & alcohol, allowing us the flexibility to eat the hotel or nearby if you’re not staying at an all-inclusive. Transfers to & from the hotel to the airport range as well, but we typically budget $30-40 in Punta Cana. Plan to budget for activities and excursions, with many costing around $60-100 per person depending on the activity.
The Dominican Republic is an incredible choice for traveler most of the year, with perfect beach temperatures in the 80s and plenty of sun- particularly from December-April. Watch out for holiday high-season pricing over Christmas and school holiday breaks in the United States. The Dominican does fall in the hurricane belt, typically seeing stormy weather in the late summer, early fall.
Check out some of our favorite Dominican resorts and what we like and don’t like about each of them.
We spent two nights at the beautiful, adults only, all-inclusive Sanctuary Cap Cana and it really blew our minds.
Eden Roc Cap Cana is a spectacular property part of the Relais & Chateaux portfolio.
We drove down to Punta Cana a few weekends ago to exchange a rental car at the airport and therefore decided to spend a few days at the Westin Punta Cana.
Eden Roc Cap Cana is made up of two entirely separate areas of the resort: the tropical villas and the beach front suites and bungalows. We were booked into a one bedroom villa with a private pool.
The Hyatt Zilara and Ziva properties are next door to each other on the spectacular beachfront of Juanillo beach. Located in the gated community of Cap Cana, guests are welcomed into a perfect world of safety, luxury and blue water.
Welcome to the JW Marriott, Santo Domingo. This beautiful luxury hotel is one of the few 5 star experiences available in this beautiful city.
Max and I booked the Sanctuary Cap Cana on Chase Ultimate Rewards points on a great deal for our trip at the end of July. We were excited to check out this incredible, architectural wonder in Cap Cana.
The Westin is exactly what you would expect from a Westin hotel: clean, safe and quiet. Stay tuned for the end where we discuss our new COVID-19 Safety Rating.
If you’re traveling for 3-7 days, consider the following:
If you’re traveling for 7+ days, consider: