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With 30 miles of near-uninterrupted white sand lining a turquoise sea, flanked by all-inclusive resorts ranging from budget to luxury, Punta Cana is the undisputed king of Caribbean getaways. Some might even think Punta Cana is all there is to the Dominican Republic. But here’s what you should know: There are other dreamy beach towns around the DR brimming with soft sand, filled with charming boutique hotels and bursting with local life. Your only dilemma will be deciding on which of these five to pick.

RELATED: 7 tips to make the most of your Punta Cana getaway

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Las Galeras, Samaná Peninsula
Tucked on the edge of the Samaná Peninsula on the northeastern corner of the DR, Las Galeras is as remote as it gets. Tourists flock to this fishing village daily for a boat excursion to Playa Rincón. Staying overnight means you can enjoy secluded stretches like La Playita, leisurely horseback rides in hills dotted with coconut trees and refreshing river dips. Nights are for cliff top dining at El Cabito or mingling at the only local beach bar. Villa Serena is an ideal base; it’s just a short walk from the heart of the village, and from the boat captains ready to show you this stunning coastline.

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Las Terrenas, Samaná Peninsula
With one foot in the Caribbean and the other in France, Las Terrenas is the perfect multicultural beach town. Its main entrance road hugs a coastline of beach and blue water, signaling a sun and sand paradise. Days are spent beach hopping–to Playa Cosón and Playa Bonita–kayaking, or taking bachata dance classes at sunset. Green escapes aren’t far either: Salto de Limón, the peninsula’s most impressive waterfall, is a 30-minute drive away and perfect for hiking and swimming. End nights dining and dancing al fresco in Pueblo de los Pescadores, a lively row of beachfront bars and bistros.

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Bayahibe, La Romana
Thousands of day trippers descend on Bayahibe for a catamaran trip to Saona Island, located 12 miles offshore. But they miss seeing this picturesque southeastern fishing village beyond the departure bay. Aside from keeping an ultra-Dominican vibe, Bayahibe is the DR’s top diving destination. A handful of PADI-certified shops offer excursions to the coastline’s shipwrecks, reefs, and offshore islands, including Catalina and Catalinita. On shore, there’s plenty of culture and adventure. Stroll the village streets, lined with traditional pastel-colored wooden homes. Sample Dominican dishes and fresh catch in comedores. And visit the National Park of the East, home to Taíno caves and springs.

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Cabarete, Puerto Plata
Riding waves by day and bar hopping by night is Cabarete’s modus operandi. Home to world famous Playa Encuentro, the Caribbean’s top surfing destination, Cabarete is also where you can learn to kiteboard or windsurf to your heart’s content. But it’s not just about water sports. Experience the multicultural dining scene on and off the beach, from upscale tapas bars to roadside barbecues. Go mountain biking and cave exploring inside El Choco National Park, with its entrance in town. And park yourself at Velero Beach Resort, for a magical sunset from the pool, and a short walk to all the action.

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Río San Juan, Northeast DR
Looking for that perfect red ball sunset? You will find it in Río San Juan. This tiny fishing village is an ecotourism escape, home to white sand beaches and iridescent turquoise waters, a mangrove-lined Laguna Gri Gri, where bird colonies thrive, and rocky shores with swimming coves. A ten-minute drive away is the popular Playa Grande, but you’ll also find gorgeous stretches within the village. Spend days beach hopping, or go on a bird watching excursion by boat along the lagoon, onto the mouth of the sea. On the village’s main road are bakeries, bars, and small local and international restaurants.


Tagged: Caribbean, Punta Cana

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Lily Girma

Lily Girma

Lily Girma

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