The Dominican Republic represents half of the island of Hispaniola, along with the nation of Haiti. For those who travel there often, it is familiarly known as the “DR.” Unlike its French-speaking neighbor, the Dominican Republic is Spanish-speaking, and a wonderful destination for those who love island vacations.
For visitors looking for a more “authentic” island experience, the Dominican Republic is a lovely combination of comfortable resort beach areas, nine national parks full of richly biodiverse rainforests with hundreds of unique species of every kind, mountain treks and summits, and tropical mangrove forests, prehistoric cave pictographs, and a large farm area full of working plantations of coffee and other products.
Those who are interested in the “real life” on this Caribbean island should consider taking a guide to explore the region anyway. Dominicans are notoriously friendly and open, and are glad to share their culture and land with those who take the time to explore and ask questions about their country. The one subject that is not appreciated, however, is any thought regarding Haiti. Because the Dominican Republic was under the Haitian regime for many years, and only achieved full democratic independence in 1966, their neighbor nation can still be a sore subject for many who were alive during this period.
For those who come to the Dominican Republic just for the sun, the beaches and the watersports, they will not be disappointed. White sand beaches are abundant, and ready for laying out. The water is a mix of lagoon and surf, and perfect for swimming, snorkeling and diving. Divers with advanced certifications can enjoy wrecks, cave dives, and lagoon dives with a large number of beautiful tropical fish species and corals. Sailing “party boat” cruises are another very popular attraction. The DR has a large number of resorts to choose from, with a number of special focuses on different interest groups:
1. Luxury Bahia Principe Ambar Don Pablo Collection
This spa and golf resort is an adults-only location, catering to 18 and over. The Bahia Principe works hard to make it a truly all-inclusive experience for guests, as all of the four a la carte restaurants, the buffet, and drinks at all four bars are included in the package price. Area outings, dance and other classes, beach accouterments and access to non-motorized water sport equipment are all a part of a stay at this resort. Special packages for groups or honeymooners are available.
2. Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana
The Dreams Palm Beach resort caters to both couples and families, with certain features that appeal to each. For adults, the all-inclusive package includes things like unlimited top-shelf spirits, and a-la-carte extras from the full service on-site spa and salon. For families, there is a kids club up to age 12, and a teen club for older guests. All-family activities like big-screen beach movies and sand castle contests welcome play for everyone, or babysitting service while the parents play a round of golf is always a great way to go, too.
3. Majestic Elegance Punta Cana
This family-centric all inclusive resort boasts private balconies, air-conditioned premises, and a kid-centric water park area designed for ages 2-12. For older kids, a teen center at the Majestic Elegance offers activities and excursions. There are four lit tennis courts for day and night play, a proper English afternoon tea, seven restaurants, nine different room types, and much more. Elegance club members have extra VIP check-in and check-out access, and invitations to the private rooftop bars.
4. Excellence Punta Cana
This Dominican all-inclusive resort caters to adults only, and strives to wrap them in luxury from the moment they arrive. Guests at the Excellence Punta Cana are greeted at check-in with a cool towel and a welcome cocktail. They are given access to ten bars, eight restaurants, and unlimited non-motorized watersports. For those considering scuba, there is an introductory pool session that is complimentary.
5. Paradisus Palma Real
This all-inclusive resort caters specifically to families, and calls itself a boutique hotel. Nestled along the world-famous white sands of Bavaro beach, the Paradisus Palma Real works hard to find the best vacation for every family member in attendance. For kids, a huge “Fun Zone” has equipment, classes, and entertainment opportunities. A large spa can help adults relax and get some time away from the younger ones. Nearby golf, included watersport activities and live music shows round out each day at this spectacular resort.
6. Iberostar Dominicana Hotel
This family-centered all-inclusive hotel sits nestled between the sugar-sand beaches of Playa Bavaro and a lush tropical garden. The Iberostar Dominicana Hotel is family-focused, with activities designed for different age groups, from babysitting services for the littlest ones to the kids and teens clubs, to bars and nightlife for the adults. Families who love to dive can utilize their PADI-certified dive center at a small additional charge. As always, guests can help themselves to the wide variety of restaurants, bars, and activities without worrying about any additional strain on the vacation budget.
7. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana
For those who like their vacations to, well, rock, the Hard Rock Resort chain has made a name for doing just that. The Bavaro location is no different, and offers the sleek, modern, and even edgy aesthetic that Hard Rock guests have come to expect. Add a 24-hour casino, world-famous entertainers like Ringo Starr, and one-of-a-kind rock legend museum pieces, and top it off with an all-inclusive price, and it becomes clear why lovers of the rock-and-roll lifestyle have found the Hard Rock a hit.
8. Ocean Blue & Sand
This all-inclusive resort caters to families with activities for all ages. After eating at any and all of the Ocean Blue & Sand nine restaurants, guests can enjoy adventure and stay fit while enjoying SCUBA diving, the kids or teens club, tennis, the resort’s own bowling alley and even rockclimbing. Tired guests can, for an additional fee, visit the full-service spa facilities to massage their tired muscles and rejuvenate their skin after a long day of sun and sand.
9. Melia Caribe Tropical
This couples and families’ resort offers a large number of fun, on-site activities for the adventurer. In addition to the restaurants, pools, kids and teen clubs that many of the all-inclusive resorts have, there are a few unique features at the Melia Caribe Tropical. These include a baby activity club from 8 months to 4 years, zip lining, and unlimited greens fees for golfers. They also promote their commitment to sustainability, from responsible resource use to green building, to donations to protect and enhance the natural environment around them.
10. Iberostar Grand Bavaro Hotel
This all-inclusive resort caters exclusively to adults who are eighteen and older, and seeks to make guests feel welcome from the moment they walk into the resort. Guests at the Iberostar Grand Bavaro Hotel are greeted with a moist towel to refresh themselves from the outdoor humidity, and a complimentary welcome drink. Those who opt for the elite resort rooms gain a personal butler who will check them in from inside their room. From there, four a la carte restaurants and a buffet, three pools, a full service gym, and a large number of indoor and outdoor games and sporting activities are just a quick walk or a concierge away.
11. Now Larimar
Featuring a casino, movies on the beach and 7 restaurants the Now Larimar is a kid friendly resort that offers a number of family activities on top of the standard dining and activities. Five swimming pools are available and the Caribbean-style guest rooms come with a private patio or balcony. The kids explorers club gives mom and dad a chance to enjoy a massage, or a trip to the bar with complimentary top-shelf liquor.
12. Iberostar Costa Dorada
The Iberostar Costa Dorada family resort is located on Costa Dorado Beach just minutes outside of Puerto Plata. Designed with Spanish colonial and Creole influences, this charming hotel offers 3 restaurants, swimming pools, a playground, fitness room and spa with Jacuzzi tubs and steam baths. A gorgeous setting, fun entertainment staff and all around high quality service make visits to this resort a treasure—an affordable treasure via the all inclusive package. Excursions on offer include a trip to Paradise Island or the cable car up Mount Isobel.
13. ClubHotel Riu Bachata
The sister club to Hotel Riu Merengue, Riu Bachata offers an all-inclusive holiday of tranquil lazing on the beach or active windsurfing fun, great meals and all the beverages and snacks a guest might desire. Abundant sun loungers around the pools and on the beach provide time in the sun or shade for all. Aquatic sports, golf, winning a few hands at the blackjack table or lazing on the beach keep guests at Riu Bachata happy and planning return visits to this slice of paradise. The resort is situated about 10 km (6 miles) from Puerto Plata.
14. VH Gran Ventana Beach Resort
The VH Gran Ventana features spacious rooms in an elegant Caribbean décor. All meals, beverages and snacks are included and minibars in the rooms are restocked daily. Gran Ventana’s entertainment team keep visitors as busy as they wish to be, while evening shows get them dancing. Children have their own pool and Kid’s Club programs so their parents can enjoy the adults’ pool with swim up bar or catch up on email with free wifi. Close by lies a champion-designed golf course and lovely Puerto Plata itself with lovely shops, museums, discos and casinos.
15. Lifestyle Tropical Beach Resort
Popular with budget-minded vacationers, this beachfront all-inclusive resort is on Cofresi Beach, 5 minutes from Ocean World Adventure Park and Marina. Eleven restaurants, 12 bars and lounges, three nightclubs and a variety of pools and beaches and fun for the kids are all inclusive. Those who live to be active can go from a scuba lesson to golfing to kayaking and snorkeling, tossing in a dance lesson or two. The buildings at the Lifestyle Tropical Beach Resort are 3-story Mediterranean style, amid Caribbean influenced roofs and cobblestone walkways.
16. Viva Wyndham Tangerine
The Viva Wyndham Tangerine in Cabarete provides a diverse all-inclusive experience targeted toward all sorts of guests. Classes ranging from dance to yoga to local cooking to cocktail preparation are included with a stay here. Kids club activities are open for families, and as always with a five-star stay in a Wyndham all-inclusive resort, a diverse range of restaurants, bars, pools, beach amenities and watersports come with a stay here.
17. Casa Marina Beach
The Casa Marina Beach Resort in Sosua is the largest all-inclusive location in the country that is owned and operated by Dominicans. Their Casa Marina location was chosen as a good mix of beach and local culture for those who like “authentic” travel. It includes, in addition to the standard all-inclusive amenities, access to a private beach, and the same all-inclusive rights at their Casa Reef Sister hotel.
18. Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus
The Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus resort offers five-star comfort near the picturesque town of Bayahibe. Families and couples can enjoy the wide variety of all-inclusive services that are offered by the resort, including a buffet and four a la carte restaurants. Water lovers will enjoy free access to kayaks, catamarans and windsurfing equipment, as well as beginning scuba lessons in the pool. For those who like indoor activities, billiards and target shooting, as well as nightly entertainment options can all be found here at no additional charge.
19. Dreams La Romana
Like all Dreams resorts, this all-inclusive hotel near the town of Bayahibe strives to offer five-star luxury with everything they offer. Catering to both families and couples, the Dreams La Romana is the full package, offering the highest quality experience in all aspects from gourmet dining at ten on-site locations, to unlimited top-shelf spirits, to immaculate grounds and white sand beaches.
20. Catalonia Gran Dominicus
This eco-green resort strives for family or couples fun in the sun, and full enjoyment both day and night on their beautiful grounds. From sports like windsurfing to beach volleyball and relaxation like cooling off in the infinity pool or laying out on the manicured grounds, the Catalonia Gran Dominicus is all about outdoor fun. For an additional fee, the resort can set guests up with diving and golfing opportunities, and return them home in time to enjoy dancing, drinks and music under the starlight.
21. Grand Bahia Principe La Romana
The Grand Bahia Principe hotel is located near the cities of La Romana and Altos de Chavon, in the East part of Dominican Republic. Though it doesn’t have an age limit, there are few kids activities included here, and instead it caters mostly to an adult crowd. All-inclusive perks include six bars, four restaurants, day trips, dance and other classes. Rooms are suites only, allowing guests room to stretch out between trips to the white sand beaches and tropical garden grounds.
22. Grand Bahia Principe El Portillo
The Grand Bahia Principe El Portillo resort truly caters to families. From an on-site water park to junior suites with an adult and kids room included, Grand Bahia has made it easy for families to take full advantage of resort life in a way that works for them. During the day, families can enjoy activities like horseback riding, table games, non-motorized water sports and much more. Five restaurants give a great combination of gourmet, exotic, and kid-friendly foods. At bedtime, adults can dance the night away in the 18 and older disco, while taking advantage of babysitting services.