(Lonely Planet) – Full of breathtaking beaches, from oases of calm to party hot spots, the country’s coastline can satisfy every taste. It’s blessed with year-round warm temperatures and waters, so bring a boatload of lotion to avoid sunburn and your favorite bathing suit and live it up. Here are 12 of the Dominican Republic’s best beaches.
1. Playa Grande
A long, broad, tawny beach with aquamarine water on one side and a thick fringe of palm trees on the other. The stark, white cliffs at this Río San Juan location jut out into the ocean in the distance. A surf school here offers lessons.
2. Playa Los Mino
This sweet little stretch of sand in Rio San Juan must be one of the DR’s best village beaches, easily accessible from the road under Bahía Blanca. White sand, a green fringe of vegetation dappling the sunlight and azure waters seem to radiate chill even to the toddlers roaming around the sand. The local vibe here is light-years away from the all-inclusives.
3. Bavaro Beaches / Punta Cana
The beaches along the coastline from Punta Cana to Uvero Alto rival those anywhere else in the Caribbean, both in terms of their soft, white texture and their warm aquamarine waters. Despite a lack of restraint on development, especially in the geographically-central area of Bávaro, the resorts and beaches here still manage to offer an idyllic Caribbean seascape for a seemingly endless crowd of sunseekers.
Remember, public access is protected by the law, so you can stroll from less-exclusive locales to these all-inclusive resorts, though you won’t have access to any of the amenities.
4. Playa Rincón
Pitch-perfect Playa Rincón in Las Galeras, with its soft, nearly white sand and multi-hued water good for swimming, stretches an uninterrupted 3km (1.9mi).
There’s a small stream at the far western end, which is great for a quick freshwater dip at the end of your visit, and a backdrop of thick palm forest. Several restaurants serve seafood dishes and rent beach chairs, making this Península de Samaná hotspot a great place to spend the entire day.
Most people arrive by boat; the standard option is to leave Las Galeras around 9am and be picked up at 4pm – it’s around 20 minutes each way.
Playita (Little Beach) is easy to get to on foot or by motoconcho (motorcycle taxi). It’s a stretch of tannish sand and mellow surf, backed by tall, dramatically-leaning palm trees. On the main road just south of Las Galeras, look for signs to Hotel La Playita pointing down a dirt road headed west. Beach chairs are available for rent.
6. Playa Los Patos
Playa Los Patos, a pretty white-stone beach, and its adjacent balneario (swimming hole) are idyllic traveler finds. Water flows clear and cool out of the mountainside, forming a shallow lagoon before running into the ocean.
Shacks serve good, reasonably priced food and cold cerveza (beer). Weekends at this South of Barahona locale are crowded with Dominican families, but it’s much quieter midweek. You can visit newly-opened caves housing Taíno petroglyphs across the street from the balneario.
7. Playa Cosón
The sand at Playa Cosón, 8km (4.9mi) west along the main highway from Playa Bonita in Las Terrenas, is tan rather than white, and the water greenish rather than blue, but it’s a good place to lose yourself for the day, with some excellent surf-sprayed restaurants to enjoy. Two small rivers run through the thick palm-tree forest and into the ocean; the easternmost is said to contain agricultural runoff. A taxi to the beach is the way to go.
8. Caya Levantado
A gorgeous public beach lies on the western third of this lush island, 7km (4.3mi) from Samaná. It’s the only section that’s open to the public – a five-star hotel occupies the rest. Boatmen at Samaná’s pier can get you there.
Note that the idyll can be somewhat marred by the commercialization of the experience. Large cruise ships dock here regularly, and the facilities, including a few restaurants and bars, don’t offer much peace and quiet. If you choose to visit, try to go in mid- to late afternoon when most of the activity is winding down.
9. Playa Boca Chica
For a lively, party spot, Playa Boca Chica is the way to go. There’s still powdery white sand and tranquil waters to enjoy, but not much peace and quiet. Flanked by Av Caracol and Av 24 de Junio, Playa Boca Chica is lined with coconut palms and food stands, restaurants and bars.
During the day, the beach is filled with locals and foreigners, and vendors selling everything from fruit to cigars to large canvases of Haitian paintings.
10. Bahía de Las Águilas
Bahía de Las Águilas is the kind of beach that fantasies are made of. This pristine utopia is located in the extremely remote southwestern corner of the DR, but those who make it here are rewarded with 10km (6.2mi) of nearly-deserted shore, forming a gentle arc between two prominent capes.
It’s reachable mainly by boat from Playa Las Cuevas, a tiny and remote fishing community and the nearest settlement – the ride weaves in and out of rocky outcrops and past gorgeous cliffs with cacti clinging to their craggy edges and sea-diving pelicans nearby. Paradise found.
11. Playa Dominicus
The advantage of staying in Dominicus Americanus is being able to walk to Playa Dominicus, a beautiful stretch of thick, nearly white sand, with good water for swimming and enjoying splashing in the waves. It does tend to get crowded, especially because there’s easy public access via a parking lot at the far eastern end of the enclave, which means no cutting through hotels or restaurants for beach access.
12. Kite Beach
Two kilometers (1.2mi) west of Cabarete. A sight to behold on windy days, when scores of kiters of all skill levels negotiate huge sails and 30m (98ft) lines amid the waves and traffic. On those days there’s no swimming here, as you’re liable to get run over.