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.
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.