The Dominican Republic is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean, and with good reason. From beautiful beaches to vibrant history to nightlife to remember, the country has something for everyone.
The island country isn’t that large but is surprisingly packed with things to do.
That is why figuring out where to stay in the Dominican Republic so that you don’t miss out on anything that you want to do is so important. Keep reading to learn about the best areas in the country, and the best hotels in each area!
Why You Should Visit the Dominican Republic in 2023
There are so many reasons to visit the Dominican Republic that it is hard to list them all, but we will try. The beaches are definitely the primary draw for visiting here.
The most famous beach area is the resort town of Punta Cana, which boasts countless resorts perched along a strip of pristine beach.
However, the island country is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, so even if you don’t want to stay in Punta Cana, you can find beautiful beaches in many other places, such as the more affordable Puerto Plata.
Besides swimming, the country’s resort areas offer many other activities. It has everything from adventure parks where you can swim with dolphins to golf courses for adults. The Dominican Republic is also a great place to go for adventure tourism.
Of course, the country is not just resort areas (it would do a disservice to the many things you can do in the country to pretend as if that were true).
It has cities and towns with centuries of history and vibrant modern cultures, such as the capital Santo Domingo. The Dominican Republic also has amazing nature, from the in-land jungles to the coast, where you can go on whale watching excursions.
There is so much to do, it’s no wonder that the country attracts such a diverse set of travelers.
However, depending on where you stay, your experiences will differ drastically. That is why choosing the best area to base yourself in during your vacation is such an important decision.
The 5 Best Parts of the Dominican Republic
- Punta Cana: Best for first-time visitors, resorts, and those looking for a relaxing vacation
- Puerto Plata: Best for budget travel, adventure tourism, and beaches
- Santo Domingo: Best for culture, history, and sightseeing
- Samaná: Best for exploring nature, adventure excursions, and young families
- Las Terrenas: Best for an elegant vacation and for couples
Where to Stay in the Dominican: Best Areas & Hotels
If you want to visit the Dominican Republic, you might get overwhelmed by the many options that you have when it comes to choosing a place to stay. Just looking at resort areas alone, you have almost infinite choice!
In this guide, we narrowed down your options to the very best of the best. No matter where you stay on this list, you should have a good time.
1. Punta Cana
When most people think of vacationing in the Dominican Republic, the first place that they probably think of is Punta Cana. Punta Cana is the Dominican Republic’s most popular resort area, and it receives the most visitors annually.
Thanks to its popularity among tourists, Punta Cana has some of the best tourist amenities and excursions in the whole country. You can enjoy shopping, dining, clubbing, and even gambling in the town’s casinos.
If you are interested in more adventure tourism, you can book a private catamaran tour or drive ATVs in the area around Punta Cana. Of course, the primary attraction in Punta Cana is the beach.
The miles of pristine sandy shores are perfect for all visitors, from adventure travelers to families with children learning to swim for the first time. It is the perfect place for relaxing.
The same amenities that attract many people to Punta Cana may put others off. Punta Cana has everything tourists may need because it is designed with tourists in mind, meaning that if you want a more authentic experience, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
Punta Cana is also fairly expensive since most accommodation options are high-end resorts, although budget options are possible to find if you look hard enough.
Things to Do
- Swim at one of the many beaches, such as Juanillo Beach or Bavaro Beach.
- Swim with dolphins at one of the several dolphin parks such as Dolphin Explorer.
- Take a day trip to Saona Island and enjoy the beautiful coral reefs.
- Head into Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve to learn more about Punta Cana’s nature and history.
Where to Eat
- Have a meal right on the beach at Jellyfish Restaurant.
- Enjoy American-style fast food on a budget at Kat’s Corner.
- Try Latin American specials at fast food counter Pepito City.
- Enjoy fusion cuisine in an elegant dining room at Citrus.
Punta Cana Budget Hotels
- Art Villa is one of the few budget options in Punta Cana. This simple yet stylish hotel features an on-site bar and parking space as well as access to a private beach, although it is located outside of Punta Cana’s central resort area.
- Hostal Johnnier Macao Punta Cana is a colorful local guest house with comfortable rooms, including the option to book family rooms or rooms with balconies, and a shared garden.
Punta Cana Mid-Range Hotels
- Costa Atlantica Beach Condos is the perfect choice if you want more space. All guests book air-conditioned apartments with seating areas, kitchens, and access to shared amenities such as a fitness center. Accessible options are available.
- Breathless Punta Cana Resort & Spa is one of the more affordable resorts in the Punta Cana area, but still has amenities such as swimming pools, hot tubs, and a nightclub.
Punta Cana Luxury Hotels
- Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana is perfect for a honeymoon or couple’s retreat thanks to luxurious amenities such as nightly entertainment, a massive pool, and easy beach access.
- Tortuga Bay is an ultra-luxurious resort that even has a private beach just for its guests! Other perks include kayaks and bikes, a desk for arranging excursions, and a pool.
2. Puerto Plata
If you want to enjoy the Dominican Republic resort experience but don’t quite have the budget or the patience for Punta Cana, then Puerto Plata is the next-best option.
Many people actually consider Puerto Plata the better resort area. The Puerto Plata region includes a few different towns. Most people stay around Puerto Plata de San Felipe, a historic town nestled in the mountains with a great fort and delicious regional cuisine.
Puerto Plata is a family-friendly location. The beach and resort activities are definitely a highlight of Puerto Plata (this was the Dominican Republic’s first tourist hot spot, after all).
Playa Dorada, whose name translates to “Golden Beach,” has miles of spectacular sand perfect for swimming and playing in the water. You can also enjoy water sports such as kayaking.
The nature around Puerto Plata is also spectacular. Many visitors take a day trip to jungle excursions such as Damajagua, when you need a break from the beach.
Puerto Plata has something for almost everyone. However, it does not have many luxury resorts. If you are interested in high-end travel, you are better off looking in other areas of the Dominican Republic.
Things to Do
- Pick a spot on the many miles of Playa Dorada and enjoy the sun, sand, and surf.
- Take a cable car tour of San Felipe de Puerto Plata and take in the spectacular views.
- Swim with dolphins, enjoy the water slides, and more at Ocean World Adventure Park.
- Check out the stunning 27 waterfalls of Damajagua, the biggest cluster of falls in the Dominican Republic.
Where to Eat
- Have monkfish and other Caribbean specials at Kaffe Restaurant.
- Enjoy Mexican food with an ocean view at Los Charros y Los Pinches Chaparros.
- Have a beachfront lunch at Big Lee’s Beach Bar & Grill.
- Try surprisingly delicious vegetarian food at Kilometro Zero.
Puerto Plata Budget Hotels
- Hotel Galsi has simple rooms with private bathrooms, a shared lounge, and excellent service.
- Beach House One is highly recommended for families. This accommodation option gives families extra space with studios and apartments, allows access to a shared pool, and is affordable.
Puerto Plata Mid-Range Hotels
- Emotions by Hodelpa Puerto Plata offers guests amenities such as a pool, in-house restaurant and bar, and comfortable, stylish, air-conditioned rooms.
- Xeliter Green One Playa Dorada is very close to the beach, and has a pool, courtyard, and picnic area. All guests stay in spacious apartments and suites.
Puerto Plata Luxury Hotels
- Skylight Suite Hotel prides itself on its sustainability, but thanks to amenities such as a pool, beachfront access, and spacious apartments, you can’t even tell.
- Luxurious Casa Colonial Beach & Spa offers guests elegant rooms, some with canopy beds, a rooftop infinity pool, several hot tubs, and a gym right on the beach.
3. Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic’s bustling capital, is the place to go when you want a bit more complexity than a simple resort vacation. The city is packed with history and is one of the liveliest capitals in the Caribbean.
Santo Domingo is hundreds of years old and once was the capital of the Spanish empire in the Americas. The Colonial City, protected by UNESCO, features stunning buildings dating back hundreds of years.
You can explore it on your own, or take a dedicated walking tour, including tours that expose the slave labor that built the town. Santo Domingo isn’t all heavy history.
The city also has its own beaches, although they are not as beautiful as the ones in Punta Cana or Puerto Plata. Stroll along Calle El Conde for excellent shopping and bars — Santo Domingo’s nightlife is famously lively.
However, it is a bustling city, which means you will encounter crowds, pollution, and potentially crime. Staying in a resort area is more relaxing. Although the capital has beaches, the beaches elsewhere are much better.
Even if you decide to base yourself elsewhere for most of your Dominican vacation, it’s worth spending a day or two in Santo Domingo before you leave or after you arrive from the airport.
Things to Do
- Stroll through the Colonial City and look at the buildings, or take a tour for more context.
- Visit one of the many museums, such as The Rum Museum, which talks about the role of slavery in the rum industry.
- Take a day trip to Los Tres Ojos National Park to see the stunning pools.
- Shop for souvenirs along Calle El Conde.
Where to Eat
- Try upscale takes on traditional Dominican food at Buche Perico.
- Join the pirates and dine at Pat’e Palo, open since the 16th century as a pirate tavern.
- Try food from neighboring Haiti at Maison Kreyol.
- Rub elbows with the locals at retro diner La Cafeteria.
Santo Domingo Budget Hotels
- La Aldea is a simple yet stylish hotel that has air-conditioned rooms with amenities such as a TV, and an in-house French restaurant.
- El Beaterio Casa Museo may be the most unique hotel in Santo Domingo. This former convent now boasts modern, air-conditioned rooms with historic décor right in the center of the Colonial Zone.
Santo Domingo Mid-Range Hotels
- Hotel Villa Colonial is a lush hotel in a colonial building with gorgeous, comfortable rooms, amenities such as air conditioning, and a pool surrounded by gardens.
- Homewood Suites by Hilton Santo Domingo has all the benefits you might expect from Hilton hotels, such as clean rooms, around-the-clock service, and even a pool.
Santo Domingo Luxury Hotels
- InterContinental Real Santo Domingo features luxury amenities such as rooms with blackout curtains and Egyptian cotton sheets, an infinity pool, and hotel bar, all with stunning views of the city.
- JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo is worth staying in for the service alone, before getting into the extra amenities such as the indoor hotel pool and business center.
If you want to get far away from the bustle of resort areas, Samaná is the best place to stay in the Dominican Republic. This nearly untouched town is perfect for lovers of nature.
Many travelers use Samaná as a base for different adventure activities. The town is on Samaná Bay, an important stopping point for migrating whales, and whale watching excursions are offered every winter.
Even if you don’t come during whale season, you can enjoy other outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, and even spelunking. The small town of Samaná has plenty of charm on its own.
Make sure that you stroll on the colorful boardwalk, which is particularly beloved by families. This area may not have luxury amenities, and if you are looking for that you should stay elsewhere in the Dominican Republic, but it has its own charms just the same.
Things to Do
- Go on a whale watching tour (or visit The Whale Museum if you are here during the wrong season).
- Stroll along the boardwalk and get a meal with a view.
- Take an excursion to Cayo Levantado, a nearly deserted island where Bacardi filmed a commercial.
- Hike to El Limón waterfall.
Where to Eat
- Try fresh seafood at Tierra y Mar.
- Have quick, unpretentious food at Le Royal Snack Bar & Restaurant.
- Eat right on the beach at Glamour Restaurant Snack Bar.
Samaná Budget Hotels
- Samaná Suites Hotel is an unpretentious hotel with all the amenities you would expect from a modern hotel, such as air conditioning and wifi.
- Coral Village Family is an entire villa where you can enjoy privacy with multiple bedrooms and baths but also hotel amenities such as private security and car rental services.
Samaná Mid-Range Hotels
- Edma Apartahotel offers guests plenty of space with their own apartments or spacious rooms. Amenities include free breakfast, a jacuzzi, a restaurant, and security.
- Nilka Hotel Boutique has amenities that include a terrace, an in-house restaurant and bar, and small touches such as free toiletries.
Samaná Luxury Hotels
- Hacienda Samana Bay Hotel is a great getaway with lush rooms, a swimming pool, and a garden where you can relax.
- Bahia Principe Grand Cayacoa is Samaná’s most luxurious hotel, with amenities including a spa bath in each room, a nightclub, and an excellent beachfront location.
5. Las Terrenas
Las Terrenas is located on the Samaná Peninsula but has a completely different atmosphere from the town itself. Where Samaná is laid back, Las Terrenas is elegant.
The upscale atmosphere makes it a favorite destination for luxury travelers and couples on vacation (many of the accommodation options are adults-only resorts). The main attraction in Las Terrenas is definitely the beach.
This is the best place for a relaxing vacation of just sitting around doing nothing, except for swimming. There are occasional beach parties, but they don’t get too rowdy.
Try to find hidden coves and inlets, or stick to popular beaches such as Las Ballenas, perfect for whale watching. If you want to break up your beach time, there are day trip options from Las Terrenas, such as the rock formations of Los Haitises National Park.
Las Terrenas is the perfect relaxing vacation destination, but more adventurous tourists may get bored after a few days. It is also not the most kid-friendly or budget-friendly location in the Dominican Republic.
Things to Do
- Enjoy the beautiful beaches such as Playa Ballena or Punta Bonita.
- Visit Los Haitises National Park and take a boat tour, if possible, to explore the spectacular coastal landscapes.
- Stroll along the boardwalk and check out the shops and restaurants.
Where to Eat
- Try Zu Ceviche & Brasserie for excellent seafood and even better service.
- Have a romantic meal at La Terrasse, one of the oldest restaurants on the boardwalk.
- Eat delicious lobster and other seafood at Chez Sandro by the Beach.
Las Terrenas Budget Hotels
- Hotel Enjoy guests have the option of staying in regular rooms or in beach bungalows. Shared amenities include a garden, sun terrace, grocery delivery, and pool.
- Mahona Boutique Hotel is surprisingly affordable, considering that it offers massages, a great location, and elegant beach-themed rooms.
Las Terrenas Mid-Range Hotels
- Saman Boutique Hotel lets you enjoy the romantic atmosphere created by the lantern-lit outdoor pool, a garden, and inclusive breakfast.
- Takuma Boutik Hotel has a rustic exterior that actually conceals hotel rooms with modern comforts such as air conditioning and wifi, services such as a currency exchange, and an outdoor pool.
Las Terrenas Luxury Hotels
- Puerto Plaza Las Terrenas guests stay in spacious apartments, and get to enjoy great resort amenities such as a spectacular rooftop pool, fitness classes, and a great location.
- lbachiara Hotel is one of the most luxurious options in Las Terrenas, thanks to amenities such as spacious rooms and suites with balconies, an outdoor pool, and out-of-this-world service.
So, Where Should You Stay in the Dominican Republic
|☀️ Best Area for Resorts||Punta Cana|
|🏖️ Best Area for Beaches||Puerto Plata|
|🏛️ Best Area for History||Santo Domingo|
|🌴 Best Area for Nature||Samaná|
|👩❤️👨 Best Area for Couples||Las Terrenas|
There are so many places in the Dominican Republic that are worth visiting, but these are just a few of the very best. Many people flock to Punta Cana, the country’s world-famous resort area.
If you want the typical resort experience, you should go there as well. If you want to enjoy the beach but Punta Cana is a bit out of your budget, the older resort area Puerto Plata is a great place to visit.
The capital Santo Domingo, with its hundreds of years of history, is the best place to visit to learn more about the history and culture of the country.
The Samaná Peninsula is another popular tourist region in the Dominican Republic. The town of Samaná is best for nature lovers thanks to its whale watching and other activities, while elegant Las Terrenas is a favorite among couples.
No matter where you stay in the Dominican Republic, make sure that you do your research and pick the right hotel for your budget and needs!