One of our writers, expert beach bum Skye Sherman, recently took a weekend trip to Cabarete, Dominican Republic. This three-day itinerary lays out exactly how she made the most of her weekend in paradise.
I recently boarded a quick flight (seriously, it was less than 2 hours!) from Miami to Puerto Plata, on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, to spend a long weekend exploring a country that was totally new to me. I wasn’t expecting much, because I knew almost nothing about the Dominican Republic, but I can confidently say there’s a lot to love about the chill vibes of this lush country.
For whatever reason, this Caribbean island gave me serious Koh Samui, Thailand, vibes—I guess because it’s a casual and beachy area that’s not overrun by tourists, but really feels like an authentic “locals-only” kind of place. They also have on-beach bars, water sports and abundant tropical foliage in common. I didn’t visit any, but the Dominican Republic also has waterfalls to hike, jungles to trek and even their version of Mexican cenotes to swim. It’s a great spot to visit, whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure or just a laid-back beach vacation.
Know Before You Go
The currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican Peso, but U.S. dollars and credit cards are widely accepted, too, making it a virtually hassle-free vacation destination. Keep in mind that it’s usually easier (and cheaper) to withdraw pesos out of an ATM; currency exchange centers are notorious for taking a large cut! A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that $1 USD equals around 50 Dominican Pesos.
Easy as it is to visit, not everyone in the Dominican Republic speaks English, so there are some distinct cultural differences (and that’s the beauty of traveling somewhere new, isn’t it?). The official language in the Dominican Republic is Spanish, but you can get by without it—just know that por favor and gracias go a long way!
Day 1: Arrive in Cabarete
I touched down in the late afternoon and spent a couple hours just settling in and chilling by the pool, soaking up the Dominican sunshine. Fortunately, our accommodations were an itinerary item in and of themselves!
While there are resorts all over the Dominican Republic, I can’t make any personal recommendations because my favorite way to stay is to rent an Airbnb, and that’s what we did on this trip. We stayed in this awesome three-story villa in a gated resort-style community called Sosúa Ocean Village; there’s another home next door owned by the same host, so it’s a great little compound if you’re planning a group trip or family reunion. The homes came fully equipped with everything you could possibly need, and the pool/patio areas outside were a fun way to wind down after a day playing in the DR.
Once the sun set, we headed out to dinner at Tuva, a fun eclectic spot that’s located beachfront in Cabarete. It has beautiful decor and they leave the doors open for the sea breezes to drift through, and the food has a Sicilian flair. They had great cocktails and lots of fresh seafood on the menu, but for some reason, I couldn’t resist the gnocchi. It was served in a rich parmesan cream sauce and hit the spot.
Day 2: Exploring Puerto Plata & Dinner on Cabarete Bay
We originally planned to take a clear kayak tour this morning, but a rainstorm the previous night foiled our plans. (Luckily, we were able to postpone it to Sunday, so more on that in Day 3!)
Instead, we got an earlier start on our day-long tour of Puerto Plata with a local guide. We booked the Puerto Plata Best Kept Secrets Tour on Airbnb Experiences, one of my favorite ways to book activities that are truly locals-only, totally unique experiences for any trip.
Seeing Puerto Plata From Above & Lunch at Skina
Julio, our host, was born in the Dominican Republic and has never left the island, so he was able to show us around and provide an endless well of knowledge on all things Dominican Republic. We traveled up to the top of Mount Isabel via teleférico (cable car) and soaked in epic views galore while we explored the park area at the mountain’s peak. Julio and his co-host Dailonis then took us around to historic sites and even a cigar factory.
Mid-day, we enjoyed a traditional Dominican lunch at Skina in Puerto Plata. After a feast of beef, fried plantains, rice and beans, I was in heaven—and stuffed! We also snacked on crunchy casabe de yuca with pesto, which is almost like the Dominican’s take on a pita chip. A definite must-try during your visit.
Dinner on Cabarete Bay at La Casita de Papi
For dinner, we headed to La Casita de Papi, a staple restaurant on the beach in Cabarete Bay. (In fact, someone replied to my Instagram Story from this spot and told me they had eaten at the same restaurant during their honeymoon!) The restaurant has a gorgeous view of the beach and is well known for serving some of the best traditional Dominican fare. We tried their signature offerings, paella-style lobster and shrimp. Both dishes were licked clean!
Day 3: Surf Lessons & Clear Kayaking
Filled with watersports galore, this day was probably my favorite of the trip. We departed early for a lesson with a professional surf coach at Chino Surf School on Playa Encuentro in Cabarete. Everyone in my group got up, even those who had never surfed before—a testament both to our surf coaches and to the ideal conditions of this secluded surf spot!
This beach is perfect for beginners and experienced surfers alike because it has five near-constant surf breaks that offer easy swells for anyone wanting the guarantee of catching a few waves. The surf village vibe going on between the neighboring surf schools here had me about ready to cancel my flight home.
Lunch at Vagamundo & Rum-Filled Coconuts at Kite Club Cabarete
After paddling around for a couple hours, we worked up an appetite and headed to Vagamundo, a super-cute café that serves what I like to call “surfer food.” (Can you sense a theme going on in Day 3?) I’ve never been to Tulum, Mexico, but I was picking up serious Tulum vibes here. They serve coffee, Liége waffles and bowls…what more could you ask for?
I went with the Istanbul waffle (topped with ricotta, honey and toasted almonds) and a 7 Summits coffee. The ingredients of this coffee elixir are a closely-kept secret, so I have no idea what I was drinking, but I can confirm it was delicious to the last drop and fueled us for the next few hours spent walking the beach, shopping downtown Cabarete and sipping rum-filled coconuts at Kite Club Cabarete.
Clear Kayaking & Lunch at Yalla
In the afternoon, we paddled around the Sosúa Bay cove on the Crystal Clear Kayaks Tour offered by Henry, an American expat who left his job in the oil industry to soak up the beachy lifestyle in the Dominican Republic. It’s a serene little beach with lots of boats and a coral reef garden you can view through the bottom of your kayak.
This was my first time using a clear kayak, but I’d been dying to try it for a while now—my friend just launched Get Up and Go Kayaking Crystal River, in my home state of Florida, and it looks like such a fun way to explore and really get a good view of the waters you’re paddling. Now I can confirm (my husband and I sort of hate normal kayaking): this is way, way better than normal kayaking.
After a full day of activities on the water, it was time to head back, shower and rest up before dinner at Yalla, a traditional, Spanish-style tapas bar. I’m pretty sure we ordered every tapas plate on the menu, and I may or may not have cried from a dish that was so spicy I can’t even remember it clearly. I just know it involved jalapeños and cheese, and I regret nothing. Order it.
Day 4: Departure
We took it easy on departure day, kicking off the morning with a yoga session at the villa before getting ready to depart for the airport. On the way to the airport, we stopped at Fresh Fresh for lunch; there are various locations around Puerto Plata and it’s a super yummy, healthy spot for a quick lunch.
Our Dominican Republic flights departed POP for MIA (grab a window seat for this flight, you won’t regret it!) and instantly began missing the easygoing, fun-loving pace of the areas I explored in the Dominican Republic. Now to figure out how I can pack up everything and head back to that surf village for the foreseeable future…