“We have beaches that look like swimming pools”, proclaims a hoarding on one of the main streets in Santo Domingo. It’s March, the month when ‘every day’s a beach day’, as the saying goes in the oldest city in America. It’s all part and parcel of living in the Dominican Republic. Did you know that the country has an average temperature of 25 °C, throughout the year? Those of us who were born here say, in part as a joke but also partly seriously, that the year has only two seasons: summer and hell. The fact that we have a moist climate only makes it feel hotter, because the thermometer can shoot up to 34 °C in the period from June to August.
But along with high temperatures, nature also gave us water, everywhere: the country has 1,500 kilometers of coastline. Anywhere on the second largest island in the Caribbean there’s a beach to suit even the most demanding of tastes.
Various international reviews also refer to our beaches: Playa Bávaro, in the east, is one of TripAdvisor’s top 25 in the Caribbean, while Cayo Arena, at Puerto Plata, was declared by CNN to be one of the 100 most beautiful in the world.
Dominican Republic beaches have won worldwide acclaim for good reason.
There are beaches with fine, coarse, white, yellow or grey sand, and many of them are blue-flag certified. Getting to know them all at once sounds impossible, but we will give it a try in the following lines.
Take a trip in your mind to ‘the land Columbus loved most’. Put your coats away. Pack your sunblock, get the swimsuit out that looks best on you, and off you go! Imagine that you arrive during the day, beneath a burning sun, at Las Américas International Airport. The sun hitting you is the first thing you notice as you leave the aircraft. But precisely 10 minutes away is an ideal spot to cool down: Boca Chica, the best-known of all the country’s beaches.
Three kilometers of fine sand for walking, swimming or enjoying watersports.
The sun rises in the east
Boca Chica is one of the main hotel areas on the Dominican Republic’s southeast coast. The beach is well protected by a large coral reef, and the shallow water makes walking and immersing yourself in it up to the waist a real delight.
The best-known hotel is the Hamaca, whose Pelícano restaurant gives a whole new meaning to the idea of eating by the sea. And at a slightly less ‘gourmet’ level, Boca Chica is famous for its yaniqueques or ‘long plays’, which are crunchy flour fritters.
Further east, Playa Caribe, Guayacanes and Juan Dolio are the three most important beaches in San Pedro de Macorís province. The big waves at the first of these make it an ideal spot for surfing and boogie-boarding. Guayacanes and Juan Dolio, meanwhile, are perfect for taking long walks under the coconut palms.
Bayahibe beach, which is noted for its magical sunsets, is the point where small boats called yolas depart from for Saona Island, one of whose principal attractions is a natural pool.
Another nearby beach is on Catalina Island, to which catamaran excursions operate from La Romana. And if you continue along the recently opened Autovía del Coral, you come to the Varón, Punta Cana and Bávaro area.
The south exists as well
The area facing the Caribbean is famous for its swell. Punta Salinas beach, which has grey sand, is at Baní, near Las Calderas Bay. And further west, towards the Haiti border, is an area of beaches that the locals refer to as ‘The Bride of the Caribbean’ or ‘The Pearl of the South’. Dotted with palm trees and bathed in sunlight, this is the delightful Barahona.
Eternal candidate to be the next great Dominican Republic tourist destination, its blue waters can catch people off guard. What San Rafael, Paraíso, Los Patos, Saladilla and El Quemaito have in common is that they are just off Sánchez Highway, where the panoramic views are unforgettable. But be careful: watch out for the strong currents!
We can’t end this section of our journey without mentioning Bahía de las Águilas, a national park in Pedernales province that can only be reached by sea.
Few things on earth can compare with enjoying a virtually virgin beach.
Towards the north east
Along the same ‘Route of the Sun’, as national poet Pedro Mir proclaims in his Hay un país en el mundo, are the fine, white sands of the north east, reached via John Paul II Highway, which runs from Las Américas to Nagua. We are talking of the area near Samaná Bay, or the ‘gulf of arrows’, as Christopher Columbus called it, where the first confrontation occurred between natives and Spaniards. Here are to be found the largest areas of beach, such as Playa Rincón or hidden paradises like Cayo Levantado. This latter key, in the middle of the bay, is reached by boat.
Returning to the main island, you now head further into the peninsula, to the northeastern tip of the island. At Las Galeras, not only is the water calm, there is also a natural aquarium where you can go diving.
After this, El Limón highway takes you to Las Terrenas, which was ‘discovered’ in the 1980s by European immigrants and has now become the perfect spot for beach lovers in Holy Week.
One final recommendation: Playa Rincón. This beach, which is two kilometers long, is a real rarity these days, because there are no hotel developments on it. Instead, virgin nature makes it one of the finest beaches in the world, with calm water on one side and a big swell on the other.
Welcome to the Dominican Republic, land of waves and multicolored sand! Here’s hoping that the journey you began in your mind by reading this article translates into a suitcase that is ready to accompany you on an enjoyable vacation.
You can linger longer in Samaná because the season warrants it. From January to March, visitors flock to this city to see one of nature’s most spectacular sights. Between 3,000 and 5,000 humpback whales migrate in this period and mate and reproduce in the Banco de la Plata mammal sanctuary.
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