Chances are, if you’re thinking about booking a vacation to the Dominican Republic, you’ve got one word on the brain: beach. Followed by sun. Followed by relaxation. Indeed, this beautiful Caribbean nation—which occupies the eastern part of the island of Hispaniola, and shares a border with Haiti—has risen in popularity over the past decade thanks to its numerous all-inclusive resorts. Many people choose to book a flight right into Punta Cana, a town with over 20 miles of beachfront and numerous hotels offering everything from golf to spas to world-class dining.
But there are other sides to the Dominican Republic, too. Up north, in the province of Puerto Plata, you’ll find the laid-back beach town of Cabarete. Popular with outdoor enthusiasts and sports lovers, Cabarete is known for its standout kitesurfing, kayaking, kiteboarding, and surfing. About an hour to the east lies Playa Grande, a mile-long crescent-shaped beach that borders the beautiful Amanera, a resort that made Travel + Leisure’s It List of the best new hotels of the year. The property is set on 400 acres of a protected nature reserve laced with hiking and biking trails, and it is also the first Aman hotel to have a golf course: an 18-hole stunner designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. with magnificent ocean views.
And then there is the Samaná peninsula, a thin strip of land jutting out from the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic. This bohemian enclave has a distinct European vibe thanks to the many French, Spanish, and Italian expats who have settled in the region and opened restaurants, hotels, and boutiques. If you visit this part of the country from January through March, you can do more then just work on your tan: you’ll likely be able to spot North Atlantic humpback whales on their migration route.
No matter the time of year, no matter your mood, there is a beach for you in this beautiful, varied country, which has nearly 1,000 miles of coast and nine distinct ecological zones. Here are Travel + Leisure’s favorite beaches in the Dominican Republic, from the windswept Atlantic shores of the north to the tranquil Caribbean stretches down south.