There's a collective sigh of relief in December. The Atlantic hurricane season ended in November and is no longer a major concern for travelers heading to the Caribbean. December also introduces the official dry season for more sunshine, brilliant blue skies, and stellar beach weather without the extra heat and humidity of the summer months. Though there are occasional rain showers this time of year, usually in short bursts, visitors will experience less moisture than in the wet season (May/June to November).
Weather along the country's extensive coastline is consistent with slight regional variations. Expect daily temperatures to get as high as 84°F (29°C) and lows around 71°F (21°C). Bring light, breathable clothing for the day, and light layers following an early sunset—usually just after 6 pm in December. If you’re headed to the mountains for active adventures, like hiking to the summit of Pico Duarte, it is critical that you pack for cold weather as the temperature dip with higher elevations. You'll also want to bring waterproof hiking boots and a rain jacket in case of wet weather and muddy trail conditions.
Crowds & Costs
The month has a bit of split personality: The first half is quiet with fewer crowds, much like the previous months of the wet season, while the middle of the month sees the sudden influx of sun-seekers arriving to spend a few weeks in paradise during the December holidays. If you prefer more space and privacy, as well as uncrowded beaches and ample reservations for restaurants and activities, aim for early in the month.
The same goes for prices. The first half of the month is when rates are still attractive, making it a wise time for thrifty travelers. This is a good time to snag deals on flights, accommodations, and rental cars, while around the middle of the month there’s a noticeable shift as the country hits "high season", with some of the busiest and highest prices of the year. It’s best to book early to secure availability.
Where to Go
Most visitors in December are looking to spend the holidays on the beach, and there are hundreds to choose from with the country's 800 miles (1287 km) of coastline. Popular beaches are scattered between the capital of Santo Domingo on the southern Caribbean coast and Punta Cana on the east coast. One to consider is Playa Bayahibe, which puts you in a prime position to access the forests, beaches, and caves of Cotubanamá National Park. Also from Bayahibe are day trips to two offshore islands called Catalina and Saona known for snorkeling and scuba diving (great for beginners), so there's plenty to do here.
Another option is the northern coast where you can look for small hotels and apartments that cater to independent travelers. Check out walkable towns like Las Terrenas and Cabarete with access to a range of beaches and activities, some that take advantage of trade winds. Further west is Puerto Plata with a UNESCO-listed historic district and scenic cable car, and more beaches stretching to the Haiti border.
The DR is also home to some of the highest mountain peaks in the Caribbean, especially in the Cordillera Central mountain range. Base yourself in one of the charming mountain towns, like Jarabacoa or Costanza, with crisp morning air and access to trails and rivers. Another lesser-visited region is the southwest Barahona Province, where you can explore ecotourism attractions, like Jaragua National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve known for desert-like landscapes and unique flora and fauna.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
If you're staying in Punta Cana, activities like mountain biking, fishing, and catamaran trips to Saona or Catalina islands are nearby. There are also off-road buggy tours and a safe version of scuba diving for beginners that don’t require certification.
The Samaná Peninsula picks up steam in terms of tourism during the second half of the month so you can expect crowds at the waterfalls, like El Limón, as well as day trips to the dreamy island of Caya Levantado, and boat tours through Los Haitises National Park. Get there early in the month if you want to avoid the hubbub, or rent a car to discover your favorite beaches. Surf waves begin to pick up this time of year making it a great time to learn, while trade winds near Cabarete bring in a steady stream of wind- and kitesurfers (instructors are available). PADI-certified scuba divers will want to head to Sosua Beach for shipwrecks and underwater sites.
Inland activities allow you to take advantage of the DR's stunning countryside and mountains—places where most tourists miss. You can take part in coffee production tours, as well as water rafting in freshwater rivers, hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking. And let’s not forget about Santo Domingo on December 31st when the capital celebrates with fireworks (more below).
Christmas Eve, nationwide. Christmas Eve, versus Christmas Day, is said to be the biggest day of the year for Dominicans. Rather than opening presents on Christmas morning, many Dominican families stay up all night to open presents at midnight.
New Year’s Eve, nationwide. The last night of the year is celebrated in the DR just like in other countries. Here, Dominicans take to the streets and celebrate in local bars with all-night music and dancing. If you're in the capital, head to George Washington Avenue and watch fireworks over the coastline at midnight.
Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana, San Juan Bautista de Bayaguana. Starting on December 28th, this inland town puts on a four-day celebration with vaqueros (cowboys) leading young bulls into the streets. Check out a range of festivities including singing, dancing, and fireworks.
Traveling to the Dominican Republic in December? Consider these itineraries.
Dominican Republic Self-Drive Adventure. Take the wheel on this relaxing 12-day itinerary as you tour the Dominican Republic's historic cities, idyllic beaches, and stunning national parks. Cycle through colonial history in Santo Domingo, explore breathtaking dive sites in Sosúa, discover the pristine beaches of the Samaná Peninsula, and kayak through the mangroves and islands of Los Haitises National Park.
Ultimate Dominican Republic: Samaná, Cabarete, Jarabacoa & Santo Domingo. Adventurists will love this fast-paced 10-day itinerary. Hike to waterfalls on the Samaná Peninsula, take your pick of world-class watersports in Cabarete, then head to the mountains to discover the rushing rivers and rugged canyons of Jarabacoa before ending in the historic capital of Santo Domingo.
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