Attracting visitors from all around the globe, the Dominican Republic is home to popular tourist resorts as well as more remote locations that travellers can venture off to explore. When booking a summer holiday, many tourists will want to know when is the best time to visit the Dominican Republic, and particularly what the best months are for visiting the Dominican Republic’s beaches.
Boasting 1500km of stunning coastline, impressive highlands and even desert landscapes, the Dominican Republic offers tourists the opportunity to engage in the local Caribbean culture year-round. Even in winter months, the Dominican Republic boasts warm temperatures, though summer is the hottest time of year on the island.
The Dominican Republic offers something for every kind of traveller, no matter what time of year they visit. Outdoor sports can be subject to availability in the rainy season (May to mid-November), however, so adrenaline junkies should take this into consideration when planning their trip to the island.
The weather varies in the different regions of the Dominican Republic. So consider not only what month you are visiting the island but also which part of the island you wish to visit. Although the temperature changes from season to season, with the summer months being the hottest, temperatures don’t vary significantly throughout the year – the island has an average annual temperature of 25°C.
May to mid-November is the Dominican Republic’s rainy season, although it doesn’t mean you won’t get a downpour in January or experience nothing but sunshine if you visit in the summer.
Be aware that the Dominican Republic is in the centre of the Caribbean hurricane belt, and gets hit with a major storm every decade or so. The hurricane season runs roughly from June to November with the stormiest months usually August and September.
The best time to visit the Dominican Republic is subjective, but many tourists find that the months between December and April are the best time to visit Dominican Republic hotspots. This season is favourable because the July/August peak tourist season has died down and the temperatures are cooler than the summer months. This makes exploring the island a more enjoyable as temperatures are pleasant but not oppressive.
You’ll save a bit of money and have an easier time booking a hotel room on the spot if you take your holiday in the Dominican Republic during the spring or fall. Also, the temperature doesn’t drop hugely during this time.
Winter season between December and the start of April sees the weather in the Dominican Republic at its optimum, being a little cooler than in the summer. It is peak season on the island though – along with summer – so it’s inevitably busy.
Humidity is relatively low during the winter months and it tends to cool down in the evenings much more than in the summer, especially in mountainous regions.
Many tourists find the dip in temperatures during winter very pleasant. But some locations, such as the mountainous interior – particularly the Cordillera Central, are significantly cooler. Temperatures on the mountain peaks have been known to drop below zero, so bring appropriate clothing if visiting these regions is on your itinerary.
Winter is a popular time for wildlife lovers to visit the Dominican Republic, as humpback whales migrate to Samaná Bay (Bahía de Samaná) each winter, making the town of Samaná a popular viewing point.
Savvy travellers opt to visit the Dominican Republic in spring to capitalise on the better flight prices and hotel rates and to enjoy a more peaceful island. They also manage to sidestep the rainy season ahead. Although the busy tourist season is over by winter, there are still plenty of events and festivals for travellers to enjoy.
Beaches in the southeast of the islands, such as Punta Cana, are popular destinations in early spring, when it’s pre-rain season and pre-intense summer temperatures.
If you’re banking on a bit of tranquillity during your visit though, you might think twice about going when it’s Spring Break in the US (usually late February to mid-April). This is when college students head for the island in groups, lured by the balmy temperatures and the chance to party.
Summer is considered the high season for tourism in the Dominican Republic as travellers from the Northern Hemisphere flock to the Dominican Republic to enjoy the sun and make the most of school holidays. There are a multitude of hotels on the island, so finding accommodation even in peak season shouldn’t be a problem. There are also several guesthouses and hostels available as an alternative to hotels, should you prefer a more independent travelling experience.
Even in peak summer season, you can find quiet beaches in the more remote areas of the island, such as those west of Puerto Plata in the north. There are superb scuba and snorkelling opportunities in the waters off La Isabela Histórica, and the Estero Hondo Marine Sanctuary offers the chance to spot manatees.
During the period between June and August, the island is at its hottest. May to mid-November is also rainy season in the Dominican Republic, though heavy rains can appear year-round and you may even get two weeks of unbroken sunshine. Also, it doesn’t mean the island will be hit with torrential rain on a daily basis during the rainy season, rather heavy downpours may suddenly appear. However, these can be quickly followed by sunny spells.
If you decide to go trekking in mountainous areas, such as in the Cordillera Central, during the summer months, bear in mind that you could be scuppered by heavy rains.
On rainy days, it’s worth dipping into the city of Santo Domingo, the oldest colonial city in the Americas. The Zona Colonial is an area of delightful old buildings and boutique hotels, pretty squares with great options for eating and drinking, while Gazcue has the city’s biggest museums. Film fanatics may recognise scenes from The Godfather II which were filmed in Santo Domingo.
Note that hurricane season runs from June to November, with the stormiest months often being August and September. Tourists shouldn't be overly concerned, however, as major hurricanes only occur every decade or so.
Those looking for more bang for their buck might visit the Dominican Republic in fall. As in spring there are better deals on accommodation and you can afford to be more spontaneous in where you choose to stay.
As the Dominican Republic enters the fall the humidity lowers and evenings are much cooler. Temperatures vary across regions – for example, in September the average temperature in Constanza is 20°C, while in Puerto Plata it’s more likely 27°C. Punta Cana has a similar climate to Puerto Plata and has an average temperature of 28°C in September. In November the average temperature for all locations falls slightly, but only by a degree or two.
Punta Cana is hugely popular with tourists from the US, looking to escape the winter weather back at home. While the best weather in Punta Cana is found between November and February, this is also when the area and beaches are overcrowded. Therefore, the best time to go to Punta Cana is during the shoulder season between March and May. As long as you avoid coinciding with Spring Break the majority of crowds have dispersed and the water is still warm.
The Dominican Republic has a bewildering barrage of festivals. On every day of the year, there seems to be some kind of celebration somewhere. The majority are the regional fiestas patronales, held in honour of the city’s or town’s patron saint, who is often an amalgamation with an African god.
These traditional fiestas are one of the great pleasures of a trip to the DR; there’s at least one in every city, pueblo and campo. The date is dictated by the saint’s day as stated in the Bristol Almanac (published by pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers-Squibb), considered the authoritative source for such matters throughout Latin America. In addition to the actual saint’s day, there will often be a nine-night celebration, called a novena, leading up to it.
The format of the fiesta follows one of the two models. In more remote parts of the country, the fiestas patronales have retained their original character and are syncretic religious ceremonies that feature large processions carrying an icon of the saint, religious folk songs accompanied by enormous palos drums fashioned from tree trunks, Haitian gagá music employing long wooden tubes and keyless metal trumpets that are both blown through and rattled with a stick, and spirit possession. Many others in the major towns and tourist areas have shed this religious affiliation and are today merely vibrant outdoor parties with a lot of drinking and a few traditional contests like a race to climb up a greased pole. An intermediate version are the many cattle festivals of the southeast, where processions of cattle and cowboys descend on the city from all sides. Regardless, they’re invariably lively and will certainly be one of the highlights of your trip. In the big city festivals, though, women travellers should be prepared to deal with unwanted sexual advances and everyone should take precautions against pickpockets.
Those who frequently travel to the Dominican Republic may feel as though every day of the year involves some kind of celebration. Festivals that celebrate the patron saint of a town can last for many days and involve round-the-clock music celebrations. If you'd like to align your visit with a major celebration, the festivals below may be of interest…
January 5-6: Three Kings’ Day
This is the major gift-giving celebration of the Dominican year and carries as much importance as Christmas. Many adults are given time off work to celebrate Three Kings' Day. So, if you visit the Dominican Republic during this time, be aware that some businesses and attractions may be closed.
Every Sunday in February is a build-up to one of the largest celebrations of the year, held on the 27th February. Festivities in La Vega are the largest, followed by Santiago. Santo Domingo and Montecristi are also great locations for joining in the carnival fun.
June 17-24: San Juan Bautista
If you are in San Juan de la Maguana in June, the area will be alive with celebrations for John the Baptist and his African counterpart Chango. The religious festival involves African drum circles and sarandunga, a distinct music style.
August 14: Festival of the Bulls
The famous Festival of the Bulls is quite a spectacle – involving cattle, cowboys and women carrying icons of the Virgin Mary whilst singing rosarios, which are similar to hymns. There is another Festival of the Bulls held on December 28th if you miss this one.
October 24: San Rafael
If you enjoy a procession followed by a party, the San Rafael festival in Samaná should be on your to-do list. The event ends in a huge party and features a bambulá dance battle.
December 4: Santa Bárbara
Fans of bambulá music will enjoy the fiesta patronal in Samaná: it includes a procession featuring the music of the queen of the bambulá, Doña Bertilia.
There are festivals throughout the year in the Dominican Republic. For a more comprehensive festival guide, check out the calendar of annual festivals.
Jan 1 Santo Cristo de Bayaguana. A major procession of local bulls to the church in Bayaguana, where some are given to a local priest as a sign of devotion and thanksgiving.
Jan 1 Guloya Festival. The famous mummers of San Pedro de Macorís run a morning procession through the streets of San Pedro’s Miramar barrio. A great opportunity to see this unique sub culture’s music, costumes and mini dance dramas.
Jan 5–6 Three Kings’ Day. The major gift-giving day of the Dominican year.
Jan 21 Virgen de Altagracia. By far the most important religious day on the Dominican calendar, a prayer-of-intercession day to the country’s patron and a massive gathering of celebrants in Higüey.
Jan 26 Duarte Day. Holiday in honour of the Father of the Country, with public fiestas in all major towns, biggest in Santiago and La Vega.
Feb Carnival. The pre-eminent celebration of the year, held on every Sunday in February and culminating on February 27. La Vega, Bonao and Santo Domingo are your best bets.
Feb 2 Virgen de Candelaria. A religious procession in the capital’s barrio San Carlos, in honour of this aspect of the Virgin.
Feb 27 Independence Day. Celebration of independence from Haiti and the culmination of the Dominican Carnival. Battle re-enactments in Santo Domingo and major parties in other big Carnival towns.
March 19 de Marzo. The major fiesta in Azua, in honour of the battle in which the Haitians were defeated here, ensuring Dominican independence.
Variable, usually early to mid-April Semana Santa. The Christian Holy Week is also the most important week of Haitian and Dominican Vodú. Traditional gagá festivals take place in the Haitian bateyes. Meanwhile, the town of Cabral holds its famous Carnival Cimarrón, in which townspeople adorned with demon masks descend on the city from the lagoon and castigate passers-by with whips.
May 2–3 Santa Cruz. A popular nine-night celebration in El Seibo, with a cattle procession to the sixteenth-century church on the final day and a very different spring festival in Azua and Baní, where all of the crosses in the area are covered with bright-coloured paper.
May 3 San Felipe. A huge cultural celebration on Puerto Plata’s Malecón, with lots of live music.Seven weeks after Semana Santa.
May 3 Espíritu Santo. In honour of the Holy Spirit, syncretized to the Congo region’s supreme deity Kalunda. Best in Santo Domingo’s Villa Mella barrio.
June 3 San Antonio. Great, authentic celebration in the town of Yamasá, two hours north of Santo Domingo.
June 17–24 San Juan Bautista. A religious festival in San Juan de la Maguana in honour of John the Baptist and his African counterpart Chango, plus a smaller fiesta in Baní that features a distinctive style of music called sarandunga, a rapid-fire African drum-and-chorus rhythm that’s beaten out in drum circles.
June 29 San Pedro Apóstol. A magnificent Cocolo festival in San Pedro de Macorís, with roving bands of guloyas performing dance dramas on the street.
July 24–26 Santiago Apóstol. Celebrating Santiago, the warrior patron saint of the Christian armies that conquered Moorish Spain. A large civic festival in Santiago with a lot of requisite partying around the Monument.
Aug 14 Festival of the Bulls. Higüey’s fiesta patronal, featuring cowboys on horseback, large herds of cattle, and women carrying an icon of the Virgin on their shoulders and singing traditional rosarios.
Aug 16 Restoration Day. Nationwide celebration of independence from Spain, with large parties in Santiago around the Monument and around Plaza España in Santo Domingo.
Sept 24 Virgen de la Merced. A traditional fiesta patronal in the small Santo Domingo barrio Mata Los Indios, beginning mid-month, plus nationwide festivities.
Sept 29 San Miguel. This saint’s also known as Belíe Belcán and is honoured with major festivals taking place in the capital’s Villa Mella and barrio San Miguel, Haina and across the country. Look for the green-and-white-frosted cakes consumed on this day.
Oct 14–15 Santa Teresa de Ávila. The patron saint of Elias Piña, where you’ll see a wonderful syncretic celebration using palos drums, rosario processions and gagá, plus a less traditional merengue party around the Parque Central.
Third week of October Merengue Festival. A major music festival in Puerto Plata, with major acts playing all over town; lots of partying on the Malecón. Date varies slightly from year to year.
October 24 San Rafael. In Samaná you’ll see a procession through the town, partying on the Malecón and a traditional Dominican dance called the bambulá, which has died out in the rest of the country.
Nov 1 Todo los Santos. A major Vodú festival in the San Juan de la Maguana and southern border region, especially in nearby pueblo Maguana Arriba, where locals proceed to the cemetery to ask for the release of their relatives for the day.
Dec 4 Santa Bárbara. Fiesta patronal for the city of Samaná, including a procession that features the music of Doña Bertilia, queen of the bambulá, which is a major popular music on the peninsula.
Dec 28 Festival of the Bulls. Traditional cattle festival in Bayaguana, featuring unique traditional “cattle songs” that are sung to the bulls in order to bless them and prepare them for the January 1 procession to the local church.