Snorkeling Dominican Republic’s Atlantic coast

The Atlantic coast of the country is known for its harsh currents and rough waters. Snorkeling can be practiced there only at some specific locations, particularly in the Samaná Peninsula. While Punta Cana, at the eastern tip of the island, features the longest reef on the island, snorkeling is generally not recommended there.

Snorkeling in Bayahibe, Dominican Republic
Playa Magallanes rocky shore is home to fascinating marine life (left, a smooth trunkfish; right, a yellow stingray).

Samaná Peninsula is Santo Domingo’s north coast snorkeling hotspot. Playa Frontón, at the eastern tip of the Peninsula, offers good snorkeling in a spectacular setting. Boat tours are the best option to reach this reef located at the foot of impressive rocky cliffs, but you can also hire a guide and hike to the beach.

When the sea is calm and the visibility okay, you can also snorkel from several beaches in the northern coast of the peninsula, especially in Rincón, Playa Ermitaño, Portillo, and in Playa Las Ballenas.

From Playa Bonita area, you can also take a boat trip to explore Cayos Las Ballenas, 4 small coral islets laying some 3km off the coast. Cayo Levantado, a small picture-perfect island laying off the south coast of the peninsula, can be visited by boat tours from Samaná, but it is also possible to stay on the island resort. 

Apart from Samaná Peninsula, Playa Sosúa is one of the best options for snorkeling Santo Domingo’s northern side. This sheltered bay hosts a vibrant coral reef right off the beach.

Cayo Levantado
Cayo Levantado, just a short boat ride from Samaná, is one of the most popular tours in the region.

Snorkeling Dominican Republic’s Caribbean coast

The Caribbean coast of the country, sheltered from trade winds, offers the best conditions for snorkeling. Here, the sea is much calmer, with good underwater visibility, and almost no currents.

In the Santo Domingo area, you will find good snorkeling in Parque Nacional Submarino La Caleta (near the crossing between Las Americas highway and the road to Las Americas International Airport) and in Boca Chica beach, where snorkelers will enjoy a shallow lagoon sheltered by a coral reef.

Bayahibe region boasts some of the best snorkeling from the main island’s coast. Its rocky shore is home to vibrant underwater life, that you can encounter at Playa Magallanes, at walking distance from Bayahibe village.

Just south of Bayahibe, the huge Playa Dominicus resorts area has decent shore snorkeling. Some small coral patches are found at Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach.  

Artificial reefs have been installed in front of several hotel beaches (especially at Be Live Collection Canoa, Catalonia Royal La Romana, Dreams Dominicus La Romana, and at the southern section of Iberostar Selection beach). These artificial reefs, made of concrete jars, attract a lot of fish and invertebrates, just 50 meters from the shore.

But for the best snorkeling in the Dominican Republic, book a boat tour to the islands of Saona, Catalina, or Catalinita, all reachable by day tours from Punta Cana, Bávaro and Bayahibe resorts. These islands are fringed by vibrant coral reefs, especially in remote areas.

Cushion starfish in Dominican Republic
The Caribbean cushion starfish is pretty common in the country’s shallow waters, especially in seagrass meadows (here, photographed in Cayo Levantado).

Dominican Republic’s coastal waters attract colorful aquatic life, typical from the Caribbean reefs. You will easily spot butterflyfish, surgeonfish, grunt, triggerfish, and angelfish over a seabed packed with sponges and gorgonian.

Several moray eel species also dwell on the reef and lobsters can be seen, especially in the preserved areas. Rays can sometimes be spotted, usually in shallow beach areas.

If you are planning a snorkeling trip to the Dominican Republic (or anywhere else in the Caribbean), we recommend the excellent Reef Fish Identification: Florida Caribbean Bahamas (also available in ebook), the reference guide to ID the fish you will encounter snorkeling in the country.

When to go snorkeling in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is a year-round snorkeling destination, thanks to a pleasant water temperature around 27°C (81°F). Two main seasons occur in the Dominican Republic: a dry season, from December to April, and a wet season, from June to November.

The dry season is characterized by warm temperatures (25-29°C/77-84°F in average) and low levels of rainfall but is also the peak tourist season when loads of visitor come to enjoy the country’s beaches. During the wet season, the temperatures increase with daily highs of 30°C/86°F or higher and humidity is at its highest. Shower rains are frequent, but you can still snorkel the rest of the day.

Be aware that the wet season is also the hurricane season, and that the country gets hit with a major storm every decade or so.

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