The Dominican Republic has long been a favorite among European travelers, but in recent years it’s also become a popular vacation destination for U.S. travelers. European influence prevails, so don’t be surprised if you arrive at the beach to find topless sunbathers. For dive travel, the southern coast offers calm bays and wrecks at almost every port. There’s also great diving on the northern coast when conditions allow-at certain times of year, weather on this side of the island interferes.

On the lee side, three of the best cities with diving nearby are Boca Chica, Juan Dolio and Bayahibe. Boca Chica, just outside the capital city of Santo Domingo, was a busy port town in the 1930s and is still a popular getaway with locals. The shoreline is protected by a reef, but it’s the wrecks and freshwater caves that put Boca Chica on the dive map. Some divers simply skip down the coast to the small town of Juan Dolio for less-crowded stretches of beaches with intermittent cliffs, all-inclusive resorts and good offshore reefs. Bayahibe is a tranquil fishing village and the jumping-off point for Catalina and Catalinita islands.

Dominican Republic’s northern coast is more popular among tourists because of its bustling nightlife and many tourist attractions. The Atlantic coastline has fantastic reefs, pinnacles and walls, but expect choppy surge, and diving is off-limits in winter. The Samana Peninsula shelters a tranquil bay and is one of the best places in the Caribbean to observe humpback whales on their migration route.

Weather: Caribbean breezes keep summer temps in the high 80s to mid-90s near the beaches, peaking in August. Winter temps are a comfortable 75 to 85 degrees.

Average Water Temp: Temperatures range from a low of 77 degrees to a high in the mid-80s.

Average Visibility: Expect visibility on the leeward Caribbean coast between 60 and 100 feet and between 50 to 90 feet on the Atlantic side.

Travel Savvy: A valid passport is required. A tourist card must be purchased at the airport for US$10, and a US$20 departure tax is collected at the airport; this may or may not be included in your airline ticket price.

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