When we embarked on this journey to the Dominican Republic during a worldwide pandemic, we didn’t know what to expect. What is still open? Will we feel safe? Is the Dominican Republic even worth visiting right now?
The Dominican Republic falls under the CDC’s highest Covid-19 threat level – very high. But when you look at the numbers yourself, you’ll see a different story. They’re at their lowest in nearly a year. And about a hundred times lower than in the states.
The great thing is that the Dominican Republic is only a couple hours flight from major cities along the eastern seaboard. It’s almost as easy to get to as Florida!
Plus, the Dominican Republic has some of the laxest travel restrictions. You don’t need a PCR test to enter, you won’t have to quarantine, and there’s ample testing available for your return home. This makes it the easiest international trip we’ve ever taken during Covid-19 in 2021.
So what has changed in the Dominican Republic in 2021? The answer might surprise you.
In this article:
Best Resorts in the Dominican Republic in 2021
What to do in the Dominican Republic in 2021
What life is like in the Dominican Republic during Covid-19
Where to stay in the Dominican Republic
Where to get a Covid test in the Dominican Republic
Resort Life in the Dominican Republic
You may know the Dominican Republic for its incredible white-sand, all-inclusive resorts. All-inclusive resorts are a great way to enjoy the beach and decompress after that year we’ve all had. And some of the best resorts in the world are located right here in the Dominican Republic!
Resorts in the Dominican Republic are required to meet stringent health codes and sanitary measures to minimize the risk of Covid-19. Simply put, they’ve never been cleaner.
The only downside to resorts is “reduced services”; restaurants closing around 10PM, social distancing at bars and gyms, etc. These are worthy compromises considering how prices have never been lower.
Our favorite pick in the Dominican Republic is the Barceló Bávaro Palace in Punta Cana. It has the best reviews for resorts on google, it’s on one of the top 15 beaches in the world, and prices are currently nearly half off. Prices are still lower than usual, but they’re finally starting to pick back up as demand returns.
A rich island full of diverse beauty: what you can visit in the Dominican Republic in 2021
We were surprised to find that basically everything was still open, safe for a few restaurants and museums.
We woke up early from our lovely hotel, Villa Serena, to join our private tour from Samaná and take a private boat directly to the Los Haitises National Park. We were hugely surprised to find a strange huge blob floating in the water halfway there – only to find out it was a whale. Apparently, the protective waters of Samaná Bay provide an ample breeding ground for whales. Some actually travel all the way from Iceland, thousands of miles away! Wow, just wow.
As we approached the national park, our first thought was: did we arrive in Palau? A huge portion of this 1,600 km² (618 square miles) crown jewel of the Dominican Republic are the 30-meter (98-foot) high rock formations jutting out of the water – much like Palau’s intrinsically famous limestone “rock islands”.
The name “Los Haitises” actually comes from the Taino language, signifying the magnificent “hilly land” of the park. People typically visit the park to see caves known for having the highest numbers of petroglyphs and pictographs in the country. And the nice beaches and bird watching help too.
After driving about 4 hours from Santo Domingo all the way to Las Galeras on the northeastern shore of Dominican Republic, we were exhausted. But when we saw a picture of Playa Frontón on the tour board of our hotel, Villa Serena, we couldn’t resist. One problem though: Jennifer Lopez shut down the entire beach to film of her new movie!
Luckily, we know J-Lo and she gave us personal access… just kidding. She finished filming the next day so we were able to organize a round trip boat tour to Playa Frontón. And it only cost USD$40 per person!
Located on the most isolated and diverse section of the island, the Samana peninsula, Playa Fronton is perhaps the most beautiful and secluded beach on the island. We couldn’t resist staying on that one beach for over 4 hours. You can snorkel, hike, or just relax and take in the surrounding beauty.
Cotubanamá National Park
The Cotubanamá National Park, also known as the National Park of the East, is an incredible little peninsula just outside of Punta Cana. It harbors over 500 flora species, 300 types of birds, and long stretches of diamond white beaches on Saona and Catalina islands.
In fact, Saona Island is the most important turtle-nesting site in the Dominican Republic. And it offers the best snorkel and dive sites along colorful coral reefs and steep walls teeming with sea life. As such, it’s no wonder it’s the most highly-visited national park on the island.
Salto (Waterfall) El Limón
After hiking or horseback riding nearly two miles through dense Dominican rainforest, you’ll make it to this insanely gorgeous waterfall. Feeling hungry? You can pick pineapples on the way. Feeling hot? The waterfall drops 130 feet from the top of Sierra de Samaná into a lovely emerald pool.
El Limón is only about 20 minutes from Las Terranas. As such, it’s the perfect afternoon getaway (a getaway from a getaway?).
Life continues in the Dominican Republic
If you’re looking to escape wearing a mask and social distancing, the Dominican Republic is for you. Outside of the tourist and resort zones, the local, relaxed culture sets in. When you wear a mask in the Dominican Republic, you look out-of-place. Life is ‘normal’ here.
I personally don’t mind looking like an outsider if it means protecting myself and others, but this is just something to know if you’re careful and don’t want to take any chances – or if you are looking to party on like its 2019.
That being said, cases are still relatively low here. With all the nice beaches and incredible nature, there’s really no reason to stay indoors – whether you’re lounging at the beach or enjoying a “Ron Punch” (rum punch) at the bar.
Where to Stay in the Dominican Republic in 2021
One thing we love about the Dominican Republic is the choice you have! Whether its for food, experiences (inland vs beach), or hotels. You can stay in an airbnb, couch surf, or relax at a 5-star resort. Here are the best hotels you can find in the Dominican Republic in 2021.
Home to most of the islands resorts, Punta Cana is probably what you picture when you think of the Dominican Republic. As mentioned earlier, the Barceló Bávaro Palace is our top pick in Punta Cana – simply for its excellent value and top reviews.
You can find a list of top-rated all-inclusive resorts here.
We spent most of out time in this magical section of the island. Why not? There’s everything you could ask for: rainforest, jungle, white sand beaches, whale watching, and great food. These are our top picks:
Dominican Tree House Village (El Valle)
Imagine yourself sleeping in a tree house in the middle of the jungle in the Dominican Republic. Included is a fire pit, a spa, hiking tours of the surrounding rainforests, and great food.
The Banister (Samaná)
For those who desire creature comforts and luxuries, the Banister offers all you need. It’s located just outside downtown Samaná and offers a spa, top-rated restaurant, pools, and tours.
Villa Serena (Las Galeras)
Our stay at Villa Serena was great; air-conditioned rooms with balconies overlooking the sea, organized tours to secluded beaches, and good food onsite. Villa Serena definitely offers great value.
Clave Verde (Las Terranas)
This was simply our favorite stay during our week in the DR. You get the best of all worlds; best food on the island, incredible views of the jungle AND the water, excellent service, multilingual staff (French, English, Spanish), and a great location.
Samana Tropical Jungle Village (Tree House Hotel, Samaná)
This family owned-and-operated hotel really puts you deep in nature. It’s a great place to soak in the birdcalls, fresh jungle air, or take a dip in the huge included pool.
Where to get a Covid test in the Dominican Republic
It’s super easy to find Covid tests in the Dominican Republic – whether you need a PCR test or a rapid test.
The state.gov website has the most encompassing list of testing centers. We personally went with Laboratorio Referencia, and had our PCR test results in less than 48 hours. And conveniently, they have labs all over the island.
Most providers offer testing at home (or at your hotel). In fact, many hotels already have partnerships with testing providers and can arrange testing for you so you can simply enjoy your vacation, worry-free.