see + do
Concierge.com's insider take:
There are literally hundreds of beaches to choose from in the Dominican Republic, but each area has its own character. Beaches on the south-central coast, like Boca Chica, have relatively calm water, so they're good for families and snorkelers. Boca's proximity to Santo Domingo makes it convenient for those visiting the capital, but the beach is crowded with city dwellers, vendors, and plastic chairs during the weekends. On weekdays, you have the best chance to enjoy the powdery sand and the reef-protected lagoon (the Caribbean's largest) in peace.
Northern beaches are the windiest, and are best for kiteboarding and windsurfing—though the islets around the Samaná Peninsula, such as Cayo Levantado, are a tranquil exception. Levantado has fluffy sand and translucent, placid waters, and between January and March, there's whale watching. Colonial Tour & Travel runs day trips that include transport to and from Samaná hotels, visits to two different beaches, and lunch (809-688-5285; www.colonialtours.com.do). Punta Cana, where 50 percent of travelers to the DR end up, is, thankfully, large enough to absorb the masses with a near endless stretch of white sand on the far east coast.
On the northwest part of the island, Playa Cofresi attracts serious tanners with its perfect sun exposure, and bodysurfers and boogie-boarders with its excellent waves. Cayo Arena (also known as Cayo Paraiso) is a small island off the northern coastal fishing village of Punta Rucia, and makes a good day trip from Puerto Plata. The islet has a long spit of white sand, surrounded by shallow water and 250 coral reefs—fabulous for snorkeling. Cayo Arena Tours, based in Punta Rucia, offers daily trips (809-224-4793).