Cities in the Dominican Republic: What Gringos Need to Know
If you’re looking for the perfect Dominican Republic city to visit or live, use the information below to guide you:
Population: About 3 million with metro population included.
What It’s Like: The capital and biggest city in the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo offers a love or hate relationship for most visitors. The city is located on the Caribbean Sea, but has no beach. It’s huge, somewhat dirty, and can be chaotic. However, Santo Domingo is exciting. The city is filled with nightlife, tourism, and you’ll never, ever be bored here.
Pros: Big city living, good nightlife, cool things to do like visit Zona Colonial.
Cons: Horrible traffic, expensive by DR standards, dirty and ghetto in areas.
Best For: Travelers or digital nomads who like nightlife or need excitement. You’ll never be bored in Sant Domingo if you do it right.
What It’s Like: Santiago isn’t a city. It’s more of a big town. Even though Santiago de los Caballeros is the second biggest city in the Dominican Republic, you will start to see the same people over and over again after a week. Still, the city has its charms. People are friendly here. There are not many other foreigners. You can have some fun with the nightlife here. There are a few cool tourism activities, too – like the cigar factory tour.
Pros: Friendly people, smaller city, less traffic, decent nightlife.
Cons: If you’re not working online, you’ll run out of stuff to do quickly.
Best For: Digital nomads looking for a city with friendly people and little foreigners around.
What It’s Like: Puerto Plata, the city, is a decent sized city filled with beaches all around. The city is used to foreigners, and you’ll find enough amenities here to keep you happy. However, you’ll find this brings a lot of negative things, too. Overall, Puerta Plata may be ok for a short beach trip, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a digital nomad looking for a base.
Pros: Beach life, lower costs, modern amenities.
Cons: Lots of sex tourism, somewhat dangerous city.
Best For: A short beach vacation. I can’t recommend basing up here.
Population: 50,000 people live here, but there are always more due to tourism.
What It’s Like: Sosua is a small town on the north coast of the DR that offers a stunning beach and Caribbean vibes. However, if any of the cities in the Dominican Republic should be considered shady, it’s this one. Sosua is the sex tourism capital of the Caribbean. If you don’t like that scene, avoid this city like the plague.
Pros: Stunning beaches, great views, low prices.
Cons: Sex tourism all around.
Best For: Sex tourists looking for a relaxing vacation. I stayed here about 15 minutes before heading to Cabarete.
Population: 20,000 give or take.
What It’s Like: This is where all the gringos go in the Dominican Republic. Cabarete is the water sports capital of the country. Here you’ll find kite surfing, regular surfing, and so much more. The city is a tourism haven, and the beaches can be stunning. It’s also a small place, so it’s easy to get around.
Pros: Lots to do, great beaches, very easy for tourists to navigate.
Cons: Too many tourists, motorbike accidents often, some sex tourism.
Best For: Foreigners looking for an active vacation. You’ll never be bored here if you do it right. There’s always something going on.
What It’s Like: This mid-sized Dominican Republic city is not well known because there’s really nothing to do here – at all. There are only like ten rentals on Airbnb in the whole city. San Fransisco de Marcois is known for being dangerous and boring. I wouldn’t recommend a visit.
Pros: No other tourists, potentially cheap prices.
Cons: Nothing to do, little tourism infrastructure, potentially dangerous.
Best For: Not sure. If you like to get off the beaten path, then this could be the city for you.
Population: 30,000 or so. Not exactly sure, as it’s a touristy spot.
What It’s Like: I’ve yet to come across better beaches than you’ll find in Las Terrenas. The place is truly stunning in every which way. Except for the fact that sex tourism is a huge driver of the local economy. You’ll see old French and Italian men all over the place in Las Terrenas. Still, the beaches definitely warrant a visit. The Italian food here is awesome, too.
Pros: Amazing beaches and scenery, good food, lots to do.
Cons: Too much sex tourism, locals look at you like dollar signs.
Best For: A week or two vacations. The place is pretty fun if you’re looking for some amazing tourism to enjoy.
What It’s Like: The beach in Boca Chica isn’t anything special. In fact, it’s one of the worst beaches I’ve ever been to. Still, there’s a lot of restaurants on the beach, and the city is only 20 miles from the capital, Santo Domingo. So you’ll find a lot of other tourists here and good infrastructure.
Pros: Close to Santo Domingo, has a beach, tourist infrastructure.
Cons: Horrible beach, lots of sex tourism.
Best For: A quick day trip from Santo Domingo. I wouldn’t recommend staying too long here.
Population: 5,000 give or take.
What It’s Like: A small beach town filled with high rise buildings, many speculated a decade ago that Juan Dolio would become the new Punta Cana. That didn’t happen. And now you’ll find a near ghost town here filled with high rise apartments. The beach here is pretty decent, and the views are great. It’s only 15 minutes past Boca Chica, so I prefer it for a day trip from the capital.
Pros: Solid beach, great views, close to the capital.
Cons: Not much else to do, pretty quiet.
Best For: Day trips from the capital or a quick overnight stay. This is a pretty enjoyable place for a day or two if you like beaches.
What It’s Like: A small mountain town in the middle of the Dominican Republic, this place has its charms. Here you can visit stunning rivers or go paragliding. There’s also some nightlife, and the people are friendly. Without online work, you’d get bored here within a couple of days.
Pros: Close to the capital, stunning mountain views, friendly people.
Cons: Not much to do, not great tourism infrastructure.
Best For: A few days trip. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Other Cities in the Dominican Republic
This is a list of the major cities in the DR, but I didn’t cover all of them. Here are a few other cities in the country that may peak your interest and I haven’t been to:
San Pedro de Marcois
Bahia de Aquilas
Cities in the Dominican Republic: A Gringo’s Go-To Guide
The Dominican Republic isn’t a huge country by any stretch, but there are a decent amount of small to mid-sized cities here. If you’re looking for big city living or stunning beaches, the country has you covered.
If you have any questions or comments about cities in the DR, post a comment. I’d love to hear others opinions on the country.
Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel – one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.