The Dominican Republic isn’t just about all-inclusive resorts! Canadian snowbirds looking for a winter getaway should definitely consider the Dominican Republic. A stay at a resort in the Dominican Republic is an entirely different experience from that of being an expat there.
Ideally suited to Snowbirds, the Dominican Republic offers affordable accommodation, excellent restaurants, grocery stores, heavenly beaches, vibrant expat communities and a variety of activities.
How to get to the Dominican Republic?
Direct flights take only a few hours, depending on where in Canada you are departing from. For example, say you’re leaving from Montreal, there are direct flights to Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, La Romana and Samana. Flights take between 4 and 4.5 hours.
When to go to the Dominican Republic?
The Dominican Republic has a tropical climate, which means it is warm all year round, regardless of the season. Even so, it is still advised to visit during the dry season, which lasts from November to April, when the weather is at its best. It is important to note that the dry season is also the high season, which means the prices for accommodations and activities will be higher during Christmas and spring break.
Where to stay in the Dominican Republic for snowbirds?
There are several places that are perfect for snowbirds, especially in the north of the Dominican Republic. For maximum savings, booking your accommodation several months in advance is best to avoid the high holiday rates.
First-timers may want to book a month or a few weeks in each region and discover several places on the island before deciding on the winter destination for the coming winters.
Cabarete (accessible from Puerto Plata airport)
In addition to being one of the top kitesurfing destinations in the world, Cabarete is also a favourite place for snowbirds trying to escape winter. Most tourists in Cabarete rent apartments or villas, making it a popular destination for independent travellers. As there is only one all-inclusive resort in Cabarete, the experience is completely different from what you may expect if you stay in Punta Cana. Cabarete offers a variety of accommodation options at affordable prices.
It is not uncommon for travellers to stay for long periods of time and return year after year. There are so many charming cafes and restaurants in the area with different prices and tastes to suit everyone's budgets and preferences. You will be able to enjoy walking along the seafront of Cabarete's beach right in the heart of the action. There is no need to worry about walking around alone as it is a safe place.
The residential areas in Cabarete are those on Cabarete Beach and the ProCab area. There are lovely apartments for kitesurfers and retirees at Kite Beach that are just a few minutes drive from Cabarete. You can also find lovely villas and apartments in Perla Marina and Encuentro, a little further towards Sosua.
It is important to note that Cabarete is a very windy destination. This makes it an excellent place for kitesurfing and keeping mosquitoes at bay, but not so suitable for swimming. Staying somewhere with a pool is ideal if you plan on making swimming part of your daily routine.
Sosua (accessible from Puerto Plata airport)
Sosua Bay's white sand, turquoise water, and colourful coral make it a picture-perfect destination. And it's also a fantastic spot for a swim. Sosua has a diverse range of modern grocery shops and is much more affordable than Cabarete or Las Terrenas in terms of rent prices. Sosua is a popular tourist spot, but it is also a controversial and busy destination that might not be right for everyone. It's wise to spend some time there and get to know the area before moving there permanently.
Las Terrenas (accessible from Samana airport)
Las Terrenas is a small expat paradise that draws an international crowd, including many French speakers who settle there for very long periods of time. The beaches of Las Terrenas are heavenly, and there are so many good restaurants to choose from around the area. You will find a wide range of villas, apartments, and rooms to rent. On the beach, you can always find a group of people up for a drink at sunset. A trendy and chic destination known as the "French village," Las Terrenas is definitely a location worth visiting.
Cabrera (accessible from Puerto Plata or Samana airport)
Located in the north of the island, Cabrera offers a quieter alternative to the other destinations, making it a popular destination for snowbirds. Most of the accommodations are apartments or villas that can be rented for a longer period of time. During your stay in Cabrera, you will need to rent a car for your daily activities in the area. The famous Playa Grande beach, where you can enjoy fresh seafood with your feet in the sand, is just minutes away. Also, be sure to add a refreshing visit to Lagon Dudu to your list.
Santo Domingo (accessible via Santo Domingo airport)
Santo Domingo is an excellent choice for snowbirds who want to be closer to the action. The capital has a lot to offer: good restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, shopping centres and much more. A large city like this has many neighbourhoods you can choose from when looking for a place to stay. The Colonial Zone (Zona Colonial) is the most popular tourist area, as it is full of historical sites, restaurants, and bars. Caution should be exercised in this large city, as some areas are not safe. Although the capital's airport is internationally connected, there may be fewer direct flights from large cities in Canada, so you will likely have to make a stopover to get there.
Jarabacoa and Constanza (accessible from Santiago de los Caballeros airport)
Discover Jarabacoa and Constanza's mountain villages, which are inland from the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Alps' climate, which is pleasantly cool and even cold at night in the winter, will surprise you. Jarabacoa and Constanza are quiet and popular places for nature lovers. Aside from the beautiful landscape, there are many activities to enjoy, such as hiking, horseback riding, and zip-lining. Accommodation in these villages is usually small hotels, cozy apartments or Airbnbs. You can get there by car from Cabarete or Las Terrenas. Santiago de los Caballeros airport is the closest airport to these mountain villages, but a stopover is likely required if you are flying in from Canada.
La Romana and Bayahibe (accessible via La Romana airport)
If you wish to stay on the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic, La Romana and Bayahibe are excellent choices. You will be amazed at how blue the water is; it is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Bayahibe is a small fishing village, while La Romana is a larger town with plenty to do. Both are excellent for snorkelling and diving. This region is home to several all-inclusive resorts, but you can also rent apartments and villas here. It can be enjoyable to spend a few days or weeks exploring the area, even though it’s a less popular destination for snowbirds and expats.
Punta Cana (accessible via Punta Cana airport)
Punta Cana is a world-famous beach resort in the east of the country. The all-inclusive resorts are luxurious, and the area offers many activities, such as golf, scuba diving, windsurfing, etc. However, all-inclusive resorts are not ideal for snowbirds, as they are frequented mainly by short-stay travellers who do not travel independently. Long-term accommodation and making friends who aren't just there for a vacation will be more challenging. Punta Cana is still an exciting destination with its beaches, golf courses, and excursions.
Tips for snowbirds in the Dominican Republic
- Rent an apartment: renting an apartment gives you greater privacy and more space than a hotel room. It will also allow you to prepare your own meals;
- Monitor and limit your electricity consumption: most accommodations do not include electricity costs. Unlike Canada, electricity in the Dominican Republic is expensive. Get into the habit of turning off air conditioning and other sources of electricity while you are away.
- Make sure you book your accommodation in advance, especially if you plan to travel during the high season (December to April);
- Take advantage of the many activities offered outside of the all-inclusive resorts, such as kitesurfing, whale watching, hiking, etc.;
- Always carry Dominican Pesos (RD$) in cash, as not all establishments accept credit cards;
- Learn some basic Spanish phrases for getting by;
- Don't drink tap water to avoid traveller's diarrhea and other diseases;
- Brush your teeth with bottled water;
- Eat recently cooked or boiled food;
- Avoid raw foods, except for fruits and vegetables that need to be peeled;
- Avoid uncooked egg-based foods;
- Avoid consuming non-industrial ice cubes;
- Wear mosquito repellent (especially in the morning and evening) to avoid fevers and tropical diseases from mosquito bites;
- Be vigilant at all times, don't follow someone who invites you into their home for no reason and listen to your instincts;
- Make sure you have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and repatriation.
Visa and exit tax for snowbirds
A 30-day tourist card is issued with your airline ticket without further action on your part. Travellers who wish to stay longer on the island must obtain a 60-day extension at the immigration office or pay an exit tax for the exceeded days.
Soak up the Dominican Sun!
Canadian snowbirds in search of an affordable and exotic winter getaway should consider the Dominican Republic. One visit will make you fall in love with its beautiful beaches, rich culture, and friendly people! Don't forget to talk to a soNomad agent about your travel insurance when planning your next trip. Getting travel insurance before you leave is a must!