Sparkling waters, sliced sugar cane and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Just a few of the reasons why it’s a great idea to travel to the Dominican Republic with kids. Read on for our inside guide…
Travel the Dominican Republic with Kids
Sitting down to write this article, I honestly don’t know where to start. Should I lead with visions of aquamarine water and powder soft sand? Should I talk about cacao beans and chocolate and the scent of freshly roast coffee? How about the moment when my five year old strode across a rope bridge strung high in the jungle while I gathered my nerves to follow from the side?
Simply put, we found so many incredible things to do in the Dominican Republic with kids that a kaleidoscope of memories, notes and multimedia images still swirl around my brain. And I’m lucky. As a professional travel writer, I get to travel a lot. I have mountains of memories and a hoard full of hard drives. Yet this trip still stood out.
After years of pandemic and months of lockdown, who wouldn’t want to escape to Caribbean sunshine and sand? But the Dominican Republic has so much more to offer than that.
Let me share with you nine reasons why I think you should visit the Dominican Republic with kids. Plus, a mini Dominican Republic Travel guide at the end. Let’s go…
Wait, Where is the Dominican Republic?
The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. To the west of the island lies Haiti. The capital, Santo Domingo, lives on the south coast and most tourists head first to the most eastern point in Punta Cana.
Map of the Dominican Republic
Highlights of the Dominican Republic for Kids
You’ll find so many amazing reasons to visit the Dominican Republic with kids. We travelled when Rosa was five years old and loved the place for its wealth of things to see and do. Here are some of my favourites:
UNESCO Intangible Heritage Dancing: Merengue
Merengue (pronounced Meren – GAY) has its origins in the Dominican Republic and is so distinct that UNESCO have awarded the dance the status of an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
To kids, they’ll simply love the beat, the colours and the sense of fun.
You can take lessons or just hang around on the streets of Santo Domingo, waiting for people to come and strut their stuff.
UNESCO World Heritage Site City of Santo Domingo
After Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1492, he returned to found his first city here in 1498. He called it Santo Domingo and it was the first city of the “New World.” You can still see many of the original buildings, despite its stormy origins and subsequent history.
The old colonial centre is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site but it’s very much lived in and living. Watch out for live dance performances, pigeons, street food and music amid the crumbling stone buildings of a complicated vision from the past.
And if you’re thinking that this is all a bit dry for young children? You can reach them through the things they enjoy, like the Chu Chu Colonial tourist train that explores the World Heritage Sites and the Colonial Gate Theatre, which explains key stories through a 4D rollercoaster ride.
As ever, context is required when talking about Columbus. And it’s a good idea to also learn about the Taino people and their traditions before the European settlers arrive. A great place to do that is in Altos de Chavon (more about that later.)
If anyone knows anything about the Dominican Republic, it’s about its beautiful beaches. And with good reason. Not only is the sand so soft and white, the water so clear and blue but you’ll find resources to fit every beach-loving experience.
For isolation and the Robinson Crusoe experience, head on a speedboat out to one of the smaller islands. But for an easier beach life with kids, enjoy one of the many all inclusive hotels whose properties spill right onto the sand.
Beach time with the family was never easier.
Inside Tip: Stay at the Hilton La Romana for the best of both worlds. The hotel has its own sandy and rocky coves, including a space you can hire for just your family for the day. But walk along the shore and you can join the public beach of Bayahibe and experience a taste of the Dominican Republic away from the resorts. Weekends in particular see cafes, picnics and BBQs spring into life, with smoke, music and laughter in the air.
Now, as anyone with young children will know, wildlife spotting is not usually their strength. While the song, dance and glitter stage of childhood can be a lot of fun to join in with, it’s not usually conducive to wildlife sightings out in nature.
Luckily, the Dominican Republic has a few creatures who remain unfazed. Iguanas, who also conveniently look a little bit like dinosaurs, for one. And the turkey vultures who soar overhead for another.
- For the vultures, visit the village at Altos de Chavon in Casa de Campo or take the Jungle Tour with Seavis from Bayahibe near La Romana.
- For the iguanas, again you’ll see them on the Jungle Tour with Seavis.
- Just for fun, Hilton La Romana has some striking pink flamingoes on their grounds.
- Bavaro Runners also run a trip into “Monkeyland.” The monkeys are not actually endemic to the Dominican Republic but the company has created an enclosure for them in the hills. The monkeys are encouraged to jump on you, so this really is only for the very keen…
- You can also see whales, dolphins and manatees in the Dominican Republic but these are probably best suited to older children.
- For more outdoor adventures, explore any one of the eighteen National Parks.
Kid Food That’s Educational
Show me a child who doesn’t love sugar and I’ll… well, I suspect I’ll still be waiting. Bananas, chocolate, pineapple and sugar all grow plentifully on the Dominican Republic and it’s fascinating to see the whole process behind them. Plus, there’s coffee for the grown ups.
- The wonderful Jungle Tour from Seavis from Bayahibe takes a close look at sugar cane, squeezing out the juice to drink there and then. They also slice open the cacao fruit an groups are very small.
- The Bavaro Runners Monkeyland Half Day Tour gives an introduction into the roasting of coffee beans and cocoa beans. Group sizes are very, very large.
- There’s a Sugarcane & Rum Museum in Santo Domingo. OK, only the grown ups can taste the rum but the tour is educational and the kids still love the sugarcane!
- Mercado Modelo, the largest market in Santo Domingo, is a short walk from the Ciudad Colonial and a visit is a great way to encounter the tropical fruits and vegetables, alongside fresh herbs and poultry.
- We had our best introduction to the food and flora of the Dominican Republic from the guide at the Archaeological Museum in Altos de Chavon. While it helps that we speak (broken) Spanish – this was a wonderful and unexpected moment. It’s one of the things I love most about travel.
Sunken Pirate Treasure
Between Columbus and all the pirate ships and European settlers who followed, the shores of the Dominican Republic have seen a lot of shipwrecks. As a result, they have developed some of the most specialised sub-aquatic archaeological skills in the world. And you can see the result of that expertise at the incredible MAR Museum. Or, to put it into kids language, the pirate sunken treasure museum.
Altos de chavon at Casa de Campo
How to describe Casa de Campo and Altos de Chavon? Let’s start with Casa de Campo, a vast, vast private area containing villas, residences, a beach club, restaurants and Altos de Chavon. Home, or at least holiday home, to Bill Clinton, Beyoncé and Oscar de la Renta, it’s a resort complex on such a scale that once inside, it’s as though you were driving through a large leafy borough.
Within this borough is Altos de Chavon, open to residents and the public alike, with the right preparations.
Altos de Chavon is a recreated 16th Century Mediterranean village. But this is no Disneyworld. While rock concerts do take place in the amphitheatre, a stroll around the cobbled streets and narrow archways of the village could transport you to Italy in the blink of an eye.
Watch vultures soar overhead on the thermals, learn about the indigenous Taino people in the museum and shop for souvenirs amid the cafes and restaurants that flutter their shutters in this picturesque place.
Swimming in Cenotes
On the face of it, it doesn’t sound that appealing. Hike through the jungle, scramble down some slippery rocks and then jump into a cold water pool. But once you’ve swum in a cenote, you’ll understand.
Brilliantly turquoise (once someone has turned on a flashlight) there’s a curious thrill to the chill of the water that sets it far, far, far apart to the cold seawater swim in Britain on Boxing Day.
In the Dominican Republic, you’ll find cenotes to suit every adventure level but there are some with an easy hike and protected swim for little ones. We visited the National Parque del Este with Seavis when Rosa was five and she absolutely loved it. And so did we!
All Inclusive Resorts & Waterparks
Sure, the heritage and culture is nice. But also. Kids love waterparks and families love kids who are happy.
I’ll write more about this during the all-inclusive section, but simply put, life is easier with children in an all-inclusive. You don’t need to worry about picky eating, carrying lots of gear, feeling trapped in a small hotel room or struggling with parking and haggling while trying to keep an eye on a wriggling, bolder little explorer version of yourself.
Both the Hilton La Romana and the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana have huge waterparks that form part of the all-inclusive deal. Both have smaller splash areas for younger children, a lazy river and a range of water slides for different ages.
No need to go to the gym once you’ve climbed the stairs to the slides one hundred or so times…
A Life That’s Great For Their Parents
This combines all of the above, really. Happy kids, happy parents. Happy parents, happy kids. You’ll find a wealth of amazing things to do with kids in the Dominican Republic. So take the plunge and enjoy your trip!
Where to Stay in the Dominican Republic with Kids
The vast, vast majority of travellers stay east in the areas around Punta Cana and La Romana where you will find a world class network of all inclusive resorts.
From Casa de Campo, where Bill Clinton and Beyoncé play golf and dine, to budget options, it can become quite overwhelming when you look into the different options. So, I’ve picked out a few that we tried and tested to make things easier.
Elsewhere, you’ll find more of a range of independent hotels and guesthouses. In the capital, Santo Domingo, you’ll find plenty of business hotels, as you’d expect, but also some beautiful boutique properties near the UNESCO World Heritage Site Ciudad Colonial. I’ll cover those briefly as well but, in my experience, they’re easier to sift through than the all-inclusive resorts.
Of course, there’s an awful lot more of the Dominican Republic to explore than just the east and Santo Domingo. In particular, I heard great things about the Samana Peninsula for family vacations. But I will have to leave those until another day – and come back and fill you in later!
Recommended Family Friendly All-Inclusive Resorts
Either all-inclusive resorts have changed a lot over the years – or I have changed! Or possibly both!
The all-inclusive experience of my youth was of a characterless cement monstrosity, with cheap spirits in cheap syrups and an entertainment programme that made our school concerts look good.
Fast forward twenty years (twenty?!) and we found an entirely different experience.
The two properties I’ve picked out for you here have a lot in common. They both have premium options that really do feel premium. They both have calming, tasteful decor and links to local culture and traditions. Both will feel like a treat.
Both have more facilities than you will be able to use within a week – but that’s OK. It’s unlikely that you will fall in love with every aspect of each property. Some people love late night entertainment, others prefer calm spas. But you will find enough that is right for you in each property to fall in love with your stay in the Dominican Republic with kids.
Right, let’s talk specifics.
Hilton La Romana
This spacious all-inclusive family resort sits right next to a small fishing village (Bayahibe), making it a great place for mini explorers to start to see the country without a big excursion.
The city of La Romana is around an hour west of the airport at Punta Cana. The Hilton La Romana itself sits next to the atmospheric village of Bayahibe on the coast, a little way from the city.
This family friendly property is twinned with an adults-only property, allowing parents to slope off to experience a different vibe, either one by one or with the little ones in the kids club. Having said that, the premium pool was tranquil when we were there, with just a few families and no queues at the bar.
The hotel has arranged many of its restaurants along a “high street” which leads to the sea, which is a nice touch, as it feels a little more like a real village and less like a hotel in the evening.
- Astonishingly, the Hilton La Romana is one of the few all-inclusive resorts to offer a restaurant with food from the Dominican Republic. This is a crying shame – for the others – as Dominican food is delicious! I will be writing an entire article on the subject, but for now, make sure you try out La Chinola and don’t miss the chance to have a good Dominican breakfast at The Grill.
- You’ll also find a truly beautiful spot overlooking the white sand beach, where twinkling lights merge with music in the evening and breakfast arrives a la carte for premium guests in the morning. You can also go one step further and arrange a romantic evening dinner in a secluded area overlooking the sea. Sounds cheesy? Try it. I dare you not to feel rejuvenated!
- And the same goes for the family pod (that’s my nickname for the spot.) You can hire a private area for the day with a mini pool, bed and waiter service. It’s a real lesson in slowing down as for the first hour or so, I was pacing around and checking my phone. By the end of the day, I had finally allowed my mind to switch off a little with the rhythm and rest of the waves.
- The rum and chocolate tasting session on the adult side of the property brought a sense of education to a tasty aperitif.
- We loved that you could walk straight along the beach to the village of Bayahibe and enjoy the best of both worlds: an all-inclusive resort and travel to other parts of the island.
- Adults can access both sides of the resort therefore extending the number of pools / bars / restaurants etc
- Unlimited access to gourmet à la carte dining options without reservations required
- Limitless international and domestic top-shelf spirits
- Pool waiter service
- Daily refreshed minibars with soft drinks, juice, bottled water and beer
- A wide variety of beach, land and water activities including beach volleyball, giant chess, dance lessons, and ping-pong
- Live nightly entertainment including theme nights, a casino and disco
- Water park with a variety of slides and a lazy river
- Blue Flag Beach Certification: a world-renowned eco-label for meeting strict environmental, educational and safety-related standards.
- Personalised check-in and check-out with concierge service
- Premium VIP Lounge offering daily continental breakfast, afternoon hors d’oeuvres, desserts & cocktails
- Premium beach area
- Premium pool
- Bathrobes & slippers
- Complimentary computer access in Premium VIP Lounge
- Pillow menu
Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana
Cool blue pools, white sand, a creative approach to, well, everything and a health drive in between the swim-up bars. The beautiful Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana offers everyone a refreshing and relaxing stay…
Hidden inside the exclusive enclave of Cap Cana on the east of the island, it’s hard to be believe that this little stretch of paradise is only around 15-20 minutes from Punta Cana airport. It opens onto Juanillo Beach, a two mile stretch of spectacular white sand and a protected harbour. The beach is windy, mind, which is great for windsurfing but bear that in mind if you plan to drift around on an inflatable flamingo instead. The hotel buildings provide plenty of wind breaks, though, so you can float to your heart’s content in one of the many pools… Golf courses are nearby…
The beach is a big draw at the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana, as the white sand stretches out in both directions. It’s a health conscious place, with chia seeds and carb free menu options and exercise classes seemingly around the clock. But it’s creative, too. Kids and adults alike are invited to paint on the beach and there’s plenty of space to swim, float or stare at the clouds as well.
- The premium Chinola restaurant overlooks the beach and serves fresh, health conscious food with a smile.
- The arts and crafts activities on the beach make you feel more virtuous, even if you don’t actually join in…
- We loved the family disco held outdoors and run by one of the most enthusiastic DJs I’ve ever seen. Honestly, pre-kids this would not have been on my radar but it was truly heart-warming to see kids sing their little hearts out and dance with their dads beneath the stars.
- A coffee shop with pastries that’s all-inclusive. Part of a parent’s survival kit…
- Canapolis water park with lazy river, water cannons and five slides. (Minimum req. height: 3.94 feet.)
- Extensive themed dining options including à la carte restaurants, gourmet buffets, bars, lounges, food carts and 24-hour in-room dining
- Unlimited cocktails, spirits, beer, wine and soft drinks served throughout the resort at 6 restaurants and 7 bars and lounges
- Unique daily and nightly activities, including aqua cycling, water sports, cooking lessons, shows and more
- 300-seat open air theatre for nightly live performances featuring world-class performers
- State-of-the-art 14,000 sq. ft. fitness centre with separate cardio area, strength zone, TRX training, spinning room. Yoga, step and Pilates classes
- Cenote-inspired Larimar Spa with over 26,900 sq. ft. of tranquil space including a hydrotherapy circuit, 14 treatment rooms and outdoor oasis lagoon, located at Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana
- Adults can access both sides of the resort, thereby extending the number of pools / bars / restaurants etc
- Private check-in and check-out in an exclusive area
- Personal concierge services
- Premium-brand liquors
- Complimentary domestic & international calls
- 10% discount on spa and salon services
- Food menu available at Club Pool
- Exclusive Club Level Lounge with premium drinks, appetizers and continental breakfast, table games & Wi-Fi
- Exclusive access to breakfast & lunch a la carte at the Chinola
- Late check-out based on availability
- Access to Club Pool
Other Places to Stay with Kids in Santo Domingo
Right in the heart of the Ciudad Colonial is the 4 star Hotel Gran Europa in cooling white and green. The suite has two bedrooms and one shared lounge, perfect for a stay in Santo Domingo with kids. For the city part of this trip, you’ll be out exploring for most of the day, so the facilities here are all that you need.
Travel Tips: A Dominican Republic Travel Guide
When planning this trip, we found it surprisingly difficult to track down information on travelling within the Dominican Republic with children. So, here’s what we wish we had found!
When to Visit the Dominican Republic with Kids
As with most tropical countries, the Dominican Republic spends its days in either the wet or the dry season rather than rotating through summer, autumn, winter and spring.
December through to April are the most popular months for visiting: chances of sunshine are good and it’s not too hot. August is usually the hottest month, a particular issue if you’re travelling with children. July is the driest month and November the wettest. As you’d expect, prices increase during the peak seasons.
Although, when all is said and done, whenever you visit, you are likely to see a mix of both sunshine and rain. Don’t wait too long for the perfect moment to travel…it will never come!
Getting to the Dominican Republic with Kids
The Dominican Republic is extremely well connected to the United States and to Europe and the country has no fewer than seven international airports. For most tourists, though, the Punta Cana gateway is the main one.
The airport at Punta Cana (PUJ) is a short drive from the all inclusive family resorts on the east coast and direct flights leave from London Gatwick to Punta Cana with British Airways at the time of writing.
If you’re just heading straight to Santo Domingo and skipping the resorts, there is an international airport near the city as well. It’s called Las Américas (SDQ.) There’s also Gregorio Luperón International Airport near Puerto Plata in the north.
Make sure to check the travel requirements in advance and have your Dominican Republic e-ticket ready upon arrival.
Getting Around the Dominican Republic with Kids
From the airport in Punta Cana to the main resorts, transport is an absolute breeze. The roads are smooth and the exits signposted. You will also find a number of transfer companies readily set up to whisk tourists from the airport to their hotels. We used Amstar for transfers and they were immaculate each and every time.
To travel further than the all-inclusives, here are the main options.
You can easily hire a car and drive yourself around the Dominican Republic. Certainly, between the popular areas like Punta Cana, La Romana and Santo Domingo, roads are well maintained and the signposts are easy to follow. Petrol stations, likewise, are easy to navigate.
Few companies have car seats, however, so it’s best to bring your own on the plane. Actually, that’s worth doing even if you plan on using private transfers. Most airlines will let you bring a child car seat onto the plane for no extra charge but obviously check with your airline in advance.
Buses between the main cities in the Dominican Republic are pretty swish coaches. We came close to using them but didn’t because of Covid testing concerns. The other issue was that you couldn’t buy tickets in advance – you have to turn up around an hour before departure and hope for the best. While that sounds like a great adventure for those in their twenties with time on their hands, it sounded more of a handful with a young child in tow and a plane to catch.
By Private Transfer
In the end, we opted for private transfers. We were travelling during Covid times and knew we had to face Covid tests to be allowed back to normal life at home. We travelled through Amstar Transfers, who were absolutely reliable and reassuring.
What to Pack for the Dominican Republic with Kids
Ah, packing. At least when you travel to somewhere like the Dominican Republic, clothing is lightweight. In general, the weather is warm and the dress code forgiving, certainly within the resorts.
Beyond the resorts, Dominicans tend to dress more smartly than tourists, wearing trousers more often than shorts and dresses more often than hot pants. Government buildings may refuse entry to those in sleeveless T shirts or open toe shoes, but that’s a rare activity on a holiday with kids. If you head out to a nice restaurant or to the theatre, it’s good to wear trousers or longer skirts and a jacket. Golf courses, too, may follow more strict dress codes.
Don’t forget to pack sunscreen, hats and bug spray. Some waterproof shoes you can wear in rocky shores can also be handy. If you plan on any wildlife trips or safari tours, then wear safari colours: beige or military green. It’s also a good idea to buy proper walking shoes for the little ones as the slippery jungle paths to the cenotes can be treacherous. See also this article on what to wear in the jungle.
A travel towel can be handy to reduce the bulk of your luggage if you plan on visiting beaches or cenotes off the beaten track.
Is the Dominican Republic Safe For kids?
I’ll be honest, we heard a number of rumours about the safety of this trip before we set out. As you know, once you have kids, your relationship to risk changes and it becomes imperative not to put your children into any dangerous situations.
Luckily, as a professional travel writer, I had plenty of people I could turn to to ask for advice, from those who had previously travelled with kids in the Dominican Republic to those who still live there.
Their advice was to watch out for pickpockets in crowded parts of Santo Domingo and to be careful about the border with Haiti. The quality of the roads the further you get from Santo Domingo into the north was also a concern.
As it happens, we didn’t have enough time to explore those areas. We did travel to the east and south and within Santo Domingo and had absolutely no trouble at all. When we walked to the Modelo market in Santo Domingo, a policeman sought us out and gave us directions and then escorted us back to the Ciudad Colonial.
The roads between Punta Cana, Altos de Chavon, La Romana and Santo Domingo are as good as I could imagine roads could be.
As ever, as always, though, check the very latest in travel safety advice from your own government. For the UK, you can find travel safety advice for the Dominican Republic here.
Everything You Need
Download an entire toolkit of resources to help you travel more easily, with more purpose and more joy after all the upheaval of Covid-19.
Yes, even if you’re travelling solo. Yes, even if you have a young child.
What About Healthcare?
You will need to visit a healthcare professional around 8-12 weeks before a trip to check which vaccinations you will require. Some are not able to be given to children under two, so in that case I’d recommend waiting until they are older.
Obviously, as ever, as always, get your medical advice from a qualified professional whom you meet in person, not a travel blogger on the web. Yep?!
I can recommend this website from the CDC to get you started, though.
Travel Insurance For the Dominican Republic with kids
You always need travel insurance, OK? Not for the odd thing like a lost pile of laundry but for major things like hospitalisation, repatriation and legal costs. These can run into thousands upon thousands of pounds and leave you bankrupt (on top of having gone through a rotten old time.) We use Heymondo travel insurance and love their easy to use app.
What to Eat in the Dominican Republic with Kids
Ah, food in the Dominican Republic is a delight! Think fresh fruits like pineapple, coconut, mango and sugar cane, together with plenty of pork dishes and fried plantain. Mangú is a real breakfast treat and I will be writing an entire post about food in the Dominican Republic soon.
In the meantime, rest assured that the food you’ll come across in the Dominican Republic is very kid-friendly and that you will find plenty of options for picky eaters.
More Travel Tips For the Caribbean
If you liked the Dominican Republic, how about…
- Build your Bahamas itinerary with this guide to the best things to do in Nassau
- What happens on Canouan island in St Vincent & The Grenadines?
- The best Caribbean islands for solo travel
- How to make a painkiller in the British Virgin Islands
- 21 Beautiful things to do in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands
- Why you should travel to Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas
- 21 Unique things to do in Aruba for couples
- 3 Delicious Bajan Recipes From Flying Fish to Cou Cou
- Slavery in Barbados. When did it really end?
- Inside a Bri Bri village in Costa Rica
Looking For More Family Travel Tips?
- Discover the best places to travel with a baby.
- And the baby travel gear you need (and what you don’t.)
- How to entertain a toddler on a plane
- The easy way to plan a zika-free babymoon
- The best pregnancy travel tips for Spain
- The best travel gifts for kids, from toddlers to teens
- How to breastfeed on a plane in a few easy steps
Disclosure – Some parts of this trip took place in partnership with Go Dominican Republic and the Hilton La Romana and Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana hotels. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. Otherwise, there’s just no point. Also, if you book or buy through any of the links on this page then we may earn a small commission. Thank you for that!