There's no doubt that Punta Cana is one of the most popular destinations in the Dominican Republic, not to mention the whole collection of Caribbean islands.
This resort town on the eastern tip of the island has been bringing millions of tourists from around the world since the 70s, and it's garnered quite the reputation as a romantic escape, a nightlife hotspot and a center for water sports and aquatic recreation.
But it certainly isn't the only beach town in the Dominican Republic you should consider visiting. As one of the most geographically diverse islands in the Caribbean, the country offers a variety of distinct beach experiences, whether you're a fan of ramshackle seaside communities or luxe resorts on secluded stretches.
1. Boca Chica, near Santo Domingo
Boca Chica is where the frenzied Dominican urban experience meets the laid-back European vacation lifestyle. You can sip a Presidente beer and dance with a stranger at a colmado (corner store), barter with incessant mobile vendors and hum the addictive refrains of the bachata and merengue that perpetually float through the air.
Alternatively, you can practice your Italian with the middle-aged owners of one of the many Italian restaurants lining Duarte Avenue behind the beach, have a frothy brew at the German beer garden or dance with young tourists at the late-night bars.
Boca Chica's hard-packed sand and shallow, crystal-clear waters are absolutely irresistible. Early mornings on the beach, before the tourists and locals show up, are precious and the perfect time for a private dip.
The beach's location close to the capital makes it a great choice if you want explore the remnants of the first city in the Americas, along with the fast-paced Caribbean metropolis that sprawls out from it.
2. Las Terrenas, Samaná Peninsula
This gem on the north side of the island, in the Samaná Peninsula, is the kind of dreamy coastal vacation town that many travelers seek. First, there's the sheer beauty of the beaches, with their turquoise water and shady palms.
But even the town itself is relaxing. There are no high-rise hotels dominating the beachfront, and most of the breezy restaurants and cafes can be reached on foot or even by four-wheeler, which is another popular way of getting around.
Las Terrenas boasts an extremely international community especially loved by the French. Foodies will swoon at the wide range of culinary options offered up by the cafes owned by expats who couldn't tear themselves away from the area's pristine sunsets and tranquil mornings.
3. Cabarete, Puerto Plata Province
Cabarete is as close to a hippy hangout as you can get on this island. This former fishing village attracts laid-back beach bums, sun-tanned surfers and partygoers from all corners of the earth.
Though the beachfront is wide and scenic, and the waves strong enough for aquatic adventurists (kiteboarding is huge here), most after-hours activity is confined to a small strip of businesses close to the beachfront.
Around dinnertime, the restaurants and bars on the strip move operations right onto the sand, so visitors can dine while listening to the waves lap at the shore. As it gets later, the bass bumps a little louder, thanks to the clubs that crank it to get the party going for vacationers.
4. Juan Dolio, near Santo Domingo
This under-the-radar beach town is almost always passed over for more popular places, but overlooking this beauty is a mistake. How a locale so close to the big city has remained so simple, clean and graceful is a mystery.
Perhaps it's the lack of visitors from abroad; Juan Dolio has always been favored by weary city-dwellers who come for the weekend to unwind on the wide, palm-filled shores.
There are just a few restaurants and eateries in this little town, and very few high-end mega-resorts. Here's how to make the most of it: pack a picnic, secure a cooler with cold drinks, and gather up some friends for a day at the beach.
The gentle waves rolling in from the Caribbean Sea stay deliciously warm even after the sun takes its time turning the horizon pink and gold.