Last Updated on April 5, 2022 by Nellie Huang
With gorgeous beaches, family-friendly activities and resorts, Dominican Republic is a great island for family travelers. Here’s my guide on traveling Dominican Republic with kids.
Miles and miles of powdery white sand and spearmint blue water: the Dominican Republic is just as dreamy as I’d imagined. This summer, we spent two weeks exploring the Caribbean nation with our two-year-old daughter Kaleya, driving all over the country and also taking a side trip to Haiti.
It turns out that the Dominican Republic is a lot more than just beautiful beaches — the country is also home to a flurry of historical colonial cities, vast rainforests and pristine waterfalls. It’s one of the best Caribbean islands for kids, as there are plenty of things to do for kids of all ages, and the great infrastructure means it’s safe and easy to get around.
People’s attitude towards kids are amazing too — everyone stops to say hi to Kaleya, and most hotels and restaurants are more than willing to accommodate young children. Whether your kids are two or 14, they’ll surely love the tropical weather, beautiful beaches and lush green nature in the Dominican Republic.
Table of Contents
- Dominican Republic with Kids
- When to Travel the Dominican Republic with Kids
- How to Get Around the Dominican Republic with Kids
- By Car
- By Bus
- Driving in the Dominican Republic
- What to Do in the Dominican Republic with Kids
- 1. Explore the Old Town of Santo Domingo
- 2. See the Caves of Parque Los Tres Ojos
- 3. Caving and zip lining in Scape Park
- 4. Beach Bumming in Punta Cana
- 5. Catch a catamaran and go snorkeling at Isla Saona
- 6. Whale watching off the Samana Peninsula
- Where to Stay in the Dominican Republic with Kids
- Punta Cana: Sunscape Bavaro Beach
- Santo Domingo: Antiguo Hotel Europa
- Las Terrenas: Mahona Boutique Hotel
- How to Get Travel Insurance for Kids
- Is the Dominican Republic Safe for Kids?
- What to Eat in the Dominican Republic
- What to Pack for the Dominican Republic with Kids
- Packing List for Dominican Republic with Kids:
Dominican Republic with Kids
When to Travel the Dominican Republic with Kids
There are two peak seasons for tourism in the Dominican Republic: the summer months of July and August, and the winter season between December and late February, when the Dominican climate is at its optimum. While many major resorts were fully booked during our trip in August, we still found it quite easy to book on Airbnb at the last minute.
Keep in mind that the Dominican Republic is in the centre of the Caribbean hurricane belt, and gets hit with a major storm every decade or so. August and September is prime hurricane season, though smaller ones can occur in the months before and after. Hurricane Irma hit Dominican Republic just a month after our trip, but it didn’t cause too much damage or result in any casualties.
How to Get Around the Dominican Republic with Kids
Renting a car is undoubtedly the best way to explore the Dominican Republic. We spent around two weeks driving all over the Dominican Republic, and made the most of our time by exploring all the corners we wanted to see.
We booked our compact car online from Discover Car Hire for US$30/day, which was really affordable, but we had to pay a surcharge of US$60 for returning it at a different airport, and also a mandatory third-party insurance of $9.95/day.
Child seats are not common, even at car rental companies, and are almost unheard of in taxis or buses. We requested for one when we booked our car online, but when we showed up, the car rental company said they didn’t have any car seats (as in they never had any).
If you’re uncomfortable driving abroad, I would suggest using the bus to get around Dominican Republic. The most popular bus company in the country is Caribe Tours, which connects every corner of the Dominican Republic. Metro is another bus company that is bit more high-end and thus slightly more expensive.
Both companies have buses that go to Haiti — Caribe Tours runs the route from Santiago to Cap Haitien (5 hours each way), and Metro goes from Santo Domingo to Port-Au-Prince (10 hours each way). Note that you can’t drive your rental car into Haiti. Travel to Haiti can be quite challenging especially with kids, but as long as you’re mentally prepared and have made adjustments, you’ll be fine.
Driving in the Dominican Republic
It’s really easy to drive in the Dominican Republic, as roads are clearly marked and sign posts are easy to follow. It’s not a big country and distances are short, so you can easily drive from one beach town to another in two or three hours. Just download the DR map on Google Maps to access it offline.
Note that there are tolls all over the Dominican Republic. Most of the tolls are around 60 Pesos (1.29 USD) each — expect to spend around 320 Pesos (6.70 USD) to drive from Santiago (west of the country) to Punta Cana (extreme east). It is particularly expensive to drive to the Samana Peninsula in the north; it cost almost US$20 each way to get to Las Terrenas.
What to Do in the Dominican Republic with Kids
Ditch the iPads and playstation and prepare your kids for some outdoors adventure and time on the beach! Here are some of our favorite things to do in the Dominican Republic with kids:
1. Explore the Old Town of Santo Domingo
We could have easily spent a week just wandering around the historical quarter of Dominican Republic’s capital; the cobble-stoned streets here are lined with beautiful colonial buildings, many of which have been converted into interesting museums. The museum that will get your kids most excited is probably the Museo Infantil Trampolin, which has an interesting guided tour for children aged 2-12.
2. See the Caves of Parque Los Tres Ojos
In the outskirts of Santo Domingo is an impressive national park with spectacular caves that are filled with clear-blue emerald waters (similar to the cenotes in Mexico). Unfortunately, swimming is not allowed at Parque Los Tres Ojos, but you can still walk all the way down to the water and even catch a hand-drawn boat to a part of the caves accessible only by water.
3. Caving and zip lining in Scape Park
Located in Cap Cana, Scape Park is a natural theme park with numerous attractions ranging from adventurous and adrenaline-pumping activities to cultural and highly entertaining experiences. It’s excellent place to visit in Dominican Republic with kids, especially for teenagers and older kids. Try zip lining, visit the numerous cenotes in the area, or clamber through the vast underground network of chambers and tunnels that lie beneath. Book an all-day adventure here!
4. Beach Bumming in Punta Cana
The easternmost part of the country is touristy, but it’s also where you’ll find the most family-oriented resorts. We stayed at a quiet Airbnb there and we were surprised to find how few people there were on our stretch of the beach. Rent a car to explore all the beaches in Punta Cana — Macao beach is our favorite, with big waves and wide sandy patches that are often empty of tourists. There’s also a surf camp there where your kids can learn to surf!
5. Catch a catamaran and go snorkeling at Isla Saona
Saona is a tropical island located on the southeast tip of the Dominican Republic and is part of the Parque Nacional del Este. The island has no hotel and it’s not allowed to stay overnight here. But the water is absolutely pristine here and a day trip here is excellent especially for those traveling Dominican Republic with kids A typical Saona Island day trip includes a catamaran ride from Bayahibe to the island, a buffet lunch, and a stop at a shallow sandbank. Book your boat trip here.
6. Whale watching off the Samana Peninsula
Every January to March, humpback whales migrate through the north coast of the Dominican Republic after feeding in the north. This is considered one of the best spots in the world to spot whales, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Base yourselves in Las Terranas and go on whale-watching trips from there.
Where to Stay in the Dominican Republic with Kids
There’s a huge variety of accommodation available in the Dominican Republic, many of them are kids-friendly. We mostly stayed at Airbnb apartments that had fully-equipped kitchens and enough space for Kaleya to run around. They’re really affordable — we spent around US$50-70/night on Airbnb apartments.
We’re not fans of all-inclusive resorts, mostly because we don’t like the concept of staying within the resort boundaries and not going out to explore. But I’d admit that all-inclusive resorts are great for those traveling Dominican Republic with kids as they have the best child-friendly facilities and services.
Punta Cana: Sunscape Bavaro Beach
We only stayed at one all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic, and we were pleasantly surprised. Sunscape Bavaro Beach is located on a gorgeous stretch of Bavaro Beach. The atmosphere there was relaxing and laid-back, and we were floored by just how many swimming pools, restaurants and bars there were. We stayed there on the last two days of our trip after exploring all over DR, so we were happy to just chill at the resort.
Santo Domingo: Antiguo Hotel Europa
Located in the heart of Santo Domingo’s old town, this hotel has a great location and beautiful architecture. We love its striking exterior and the balconies with the characteristic ironwork of the 19th century. I really enjoyed the hotel’s Terraza Restaurant, which has panoramic views of the San Francisco Ruins and spectacular sunsets over the colonial city.
Las Terrenas: Mahona Boutique Hotel
This was probably my favorite hotel that we stayed at in the Dominican Republic. It’s a small but intimate boutique hotel that has a wonderful Polynesian feel to it. Our room featured wooden planked walls, turquoise furnishings and a four-poster bed covered by a white linen net. There are hammocks, conch shells and rattan benches everywhere. I just love the design and the ‘Moana’ vibes of the hotel.
How to Get Travel Insurance for Kids
I highly recommend getting travel insurance as well as it covers personal loss, theft, and medical on top of damages that may incur on your vehicle in the Dominican Republic. Read my travel insurance guide for details.
Many travel insurance providers offer free travel insurance to cover kids who are traveling with their parents, or even grandparents. Travel insurance plans usually have a minimum (around 6 months) and a maximum age (17 to 20s) for traveling kids to qualify for the free coverage.
Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date.
Is the Dominican Republic Safe for Kids?
Safety is always an issue when traveling with children, but the Dominican Republic is relatively safe and easy to travel with kids. As compared to other Caribbean Islands that we’ve been, the DR is rather affluent and most beach towns are relaxed, calm and safe. Only parts of Santo Domingo (being the largest city in the Caribbean) can feel quite dodgy, but stay in the old town and you’ll be absolutely fine.
Tap water is not safe to drink in the Dominican Republic. We didn’t have any problems at all, even at cheap street side eateries. In fact, the best food we had was at a truck stop along the highway from Santo Domingo to the Samana Peninsula — the barbecued pork belly was ridiculously succulent and tender, perfectly matched with rice and bean stew.
What to Eat in the Dominican Republic
In comparison to other Caribbean islands, Dominican Republic has a huge variety of food and restaurants available. You’ll find anything from Italian taverns to Japanese sushi joints, American chains and big food courts, especially in the resort areas. It won’t be difficult to find something your kids will like.
If you’re looking for something local though, try Dominican Republic’s staples like fish, barbecued chicken or deep-fried conch meat with rice and beans. Arroz and habichuelas (rice and bean stew) are omnipresent in every local restaurant here, whether it’s an upscale restaurant or a simple eatery. A menu del dia (set lunch) at a local restaurant usually costs around 200 pesos.
For those wanting to cook, there are several supermarket chains in the Dominican Republic. Our favourite chains are Nacional and Jumbo, which have the biggest variety. In other Caribbean islands like Jamaica or Cuba, it can be quite difficult to find supermarkets that are stocked with affordable baby supplies.
What to Pack for the Dominican Republic with Kids
My mantra has always been, “the less you pack, the happier you’ll be.” Packing light makes it easier to move around, and allows you to explore more without the extra weight. Especially for a beach destination like the Dominican Republic, you really don’t need anything more than a few sundresses, bathing suits and flip-flops.
For your kids, remember their floaties and waterproof t-shirts. If you plan to go hiking in the jungles, then pack hiking shoes. I always bring my KEEN covered sandals as they’re waterproof so great for kayaking and jungle hikes.
In terms of food for babies, you might want to bring a few jars of puree and yogurt for the flight and stock up at the supermarkets in the Dominican Republic. We actually found the same brands here as those at home. Other baby necessities like diapers and formula are pretty affordable here and cheaper than in US or Europe.
Packing List for Dominican Republic with Kids:
- SPF 70 Sunscreen for kids
- Mosquito repellent with DEET
- Dry bag for snorkeling/kayaking
- Quick-dry towels
- Sun hat that covers the neck
- UV protection swimsuit for kids
- KEEN covered sandals
- Floaties if your kid can’t swim
- SteriPen to sterilize water
- Thin jacket for night walk
- Long pants for night walk
- Head torch for night walk
Did we miss anything in this guide to Dominican Republic with kids? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments field and we’ll be more than happy to answer them for you. Enjoy your family trip to Dominican Republic!