SURF IN THE CARIBBEAN

Yes, there is Surf in The Caribbean!

The Caribbean Sea is often associated with warm, tranquil, turquoise waters, white sand, and ideal weather.

But to the surprise of many, the Caribbean is actually home to a myriad of world-class surf breaks scattered throughout the various island nations.

Most people presumably think of umbrella drinks when they think of the Caribbean Islands, not pumping hollow waves that are perfect for a surf holiday.

Looking at a map, it’s hard to tell where swell comes from in the Caribbean, so many people assume that there is little to no surf in the region.

Unlike the West or East Coast of the United States, the Caribbean islands are susceptible to swell from multiple directions, making our Caribbean surf camp a must for any traveling surfer’s bucket list.

good waves
Fun waves at Playa Encuentro

When to surf the DR

There is consistent year-round swell in the DR that will provide waves for any beginner or intermediate surfer. During the fall and winter months, however, the surf picks up in size and consistency, making the Dominican Republic the warm water destination for any expert surfer who is tired of the cold.

For Beginners:

For people who have never surfed before and want to start their wave riding careers, any time of the year is a good time. When the waves get big we stay at the inside and surf the mellow inside part of the wave.

surf instruction
Learn to surf in the Caribbean

Intermediate surfers ( between 1 to 3 years surfing)

For intermediate surfers some of the best months of the year are actually the months with the smaller waves ( June,  July & August) Average wave size is around 1 to 1,5 meters ( chest to head high). If you are an intermediate and want to start riding bigger waves than the winter months are better ( Between Dec and April)

surfer girl
Ideal waves to improve

Expert surfers

Experts surfers have 2 options on the North coast of the Dominican Republic: The winter season will bring north swells with waves ranging between head high and double overhead on a very consistent basis. The other option is to do a strike surf mission to the north coast the moment a hurricane goes well north of the DR, this will produce good surfing conditions for 4-5 days.

Winter swells

Where our swell comes from & How it is formed

The Caribbean is vast, and its surf spots are spread out among the various islands. They can be organized into the leeward (protected from the wind) and windward (upwind to the east) islands. It’s the general rule of thumb that the windward Caribbean Islands receive much of the same swell that the East Coast of the United States receives (North Atlantic), with the added bonus that there is no large continental shelf inhibiting the swell before it reaches the islands.

The leeward islands receive surprisingly powerful north swells that originate in the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean and generate surf on the northern coasts of the islands.

Here at Swell Surf Camp, located on the Northern Coast of the Dominican Republic in the beautiful town of Cabarete, we have a variety of surf breaks to give guests of all levels their flawless day in the water. The local breaks work best with a north swell. North swells are most frequent during the late fall and winter months and even into the early spring.

Large North Atlantic swells occur when cold air from North America, usually eastern Canada, travels down and combines with the Gulf Stream (a warm air wind system) and creates a low-pressure system. This low-pressure system produces a large amount of wind which travels over the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico and generates fetch. Fetch is best defined as the area over water that wind blows in a consistent direction resulting in the generation of swell.

This swell travels hundreds of miles over the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic into the Caribbean Sea where it collides with the Dominican coastline’s sandbars and reef systems creating ridable waves on the north coast of the DR. When these systems intensify, they are known as “no’r Easters,” and wreak havoc on the East coast of the United States.

Our Waves

Swell Surf Camp is located on Playa Encuentro, on the Northern Dominican Coast. Playa Encuentro is positioned perfectly to catch North Atlantic swells as they track down the East Coast of the United States. There are a number of surf breaks along Playa Encuentro that will satisfy every level of surfer, from friendly beach breaks to fast, barreling reef breaks.

surfing Caribbean
© copyright surfingdominicanrepublic.com

Coco Pipe

On a proper north swell, usually during the winter, Coco Pipe will go off. There is a left and a right, however, the left is pretty short. The right, on the other hand, can produce picturesque barrels. This wave is not for beginners. It has a shallow reef bottom and a fast, critical drop in.

The Left

As its name will tell you, The Left is a long, dreamy left-hander that peels far down the beach. Like Coco Pipe, The Left breaks fairly shallow, meaning it is not for beginners.

Main Peak

longboarding cabarete
Main peak at Encuentro in summer

The main peak at Playa Encuentro offers a left and a right. The right is mellow and skatey, perfect for practicing turns. This wave is ideal for intermediates and experts.

Bobo’s

Bobo’s offers lefts and rights with some barreling potential. The inside waves at Bobo’s offer are ideal for beginner surfers. Our learn to surf camp lessons will begin at Bobo’s.

 

Destroyer’s

Fast, shallow, and hollow, Destroyer’s is popular amongst body borders and daring expert surfers. Destroyer’s works best during the winter months on a large, north swell.

Other Nearby Breaks

El Canal

hurricane waves
Surfing El Canal

While it is difficult to access and requires a long walk to reach it, the wave at El Canal offers a great left that works well during winter north swells.

 

El Mañanero

A friendly beach break that works well during summer mornings before the winds kick in.

Playa Grande

As its name suggests, Playa Grande is a large stretch of beach offering multiple peaks. Playa Grande is best during the winter months.

Preciosa

One of the best waves on the island ( in fact one of the best waves in the Caribbean) however its not super consistent, it’s needs specific north swells to really start working well. When it’s good, expect a great barreling left over reef, and a shorter right. Surfers need to be confident in powerful reef breaks before paddling out here.

El Barco

Offers a quality right-hander but is known for its powerful riptide and currents. Not beginner friendly.

 

MORE INFO ON SURFING THE CARIBBEAN

If you found this article interesting and want to  start planning your Caribbean surf trip, then have a look at our extensive Dominican Republic Surf Travel Guide. 

Or if you are interested in join Swelll for a unique adventure holiday, then have a look at our surf packages and contact Clare today to reserve your Caribbean surf Holiday with Swell.

ABOUT SWELL

Swell offers luxury Surf & Yoga Holidays, but it’s not just surfing and yoga that is on offer; located in the action sport capital of the caribbean is the surf town of Cabarete. In Cabarete you can surf in the morning, learn to kitesurf in the afternoon and finish with a Yoga session at sunset.

Other activities include: Canyoning – Mountain Biking – Horse riding – Diving – Snorkeling – Windsurfing and Stand up Paddle surfing. In short if you are looking for an action packed adventure holiday, then visit us in Cabarete.

Hasta Pronto!

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BEGINNER SURF DESTINATIONS

surf holiday beginner

Worldwide beginner surf destinations

Even though our surf camp is in the Dominican Republic, we are also surfers ourselves and have travelled extensively in the search for waves to catch. Based on our experience, here are our beginner surf destinations worldwide for beginner, intermediate and expert surfers.

Dominican Republic.

Our own place, Swell, is located on the North coast of the Dominican Republic. We chose this location after having visited many countries around the globe which might be suitable as a place to build a surf camp.

The criteria we rely on to see if a surf destination was suitable to build a surf camp retreat is:

  • Consistency of surf
  • Are there waves for multiple levels of surfers?
  • Are there any dangers in or out of the water?
  • Ease of access to the waves
  • Distance to an international airport

Consistency of surf

To be suitable as a beginner surf camp destination we wanted a place where our guests would be able to surf at least 300+ days of the year.

The North coast delivers on this, with at least 340+ days of surfable waves at Playa Encuentro.

surfing dominican republic

Waves for multiple levels of surfers

Of course not everyone is a beginner surfer, so a suitable destination for a surf camp needs to cater not just for complete beginners, but for intermediate and even expert surfers. Fortunately for Swell once again Playa Encuentro delivers; there are multiple waves and different peaks, all within a short walk from each other. From mellow inside beginner waves to big barreling waves on shallow reefs for expert surfers + everything in between.

Are there an dangers in or out of the water?

Playa Encuentro is a very safe spot to surf or to learn to surf because there are no dangers in or under the water. Tidal differences are minimal so getting injured from the reef bed is almost impossible. There are no dangerous rips or currents at Playa Encuentro, so there’s no danger of being dragged out to sea.
Neither are there sharks or other dangerous sea life (for example crocodiles, as seen in certain parts of Costa Rica) so the Dominican Republic scores very highly on this element of our criteria. It also helps having very warm water year-round, so another bonus point is scored there.

Ease of access to the waves

‘Highway surfing’ is not a term that surfers want to be using as it means they are constantly on the search for waves, without finding them. Again, the Dominican Republic’s waves score highly on the ease of access criteria; it’s only a journey of 10 minutes to a charming surf beach.

neno swell

Distance to an international airport

Just as with the afore-mentioned highway surfing we also wanted to minimize the travel time for our clients, so we wanted to be close to an international airport. Our location in Cabarete is just 25 minutes from Puerto Plata international airport. Santiago International airport (airport code STI) is one and a half hours away. Santo Domingo international airport (airport code SDQ) is also an option, with buses running north every hour during the day.

Because Cabarete and Playa Encuentro tick all the above boxes, that’s where we put our own purpose-built surf camp. We didn’t say anything about the criterias of food, beauty of beaches, additional activities or a party scene, but Cabarete has all of these too, so it remains our firm No.1 even when some other countries might have more ‘perfect’ waves.

We have clients who come and visit us year after year, and always at some point they ask us ‘is there any other surf camp destinations that you can recommend to me, since I want to experience a new country?’

As mentioned earlier, we have visited more than 20+ surf destinations and countries over the last 25 years.

Here is our opinion on some of them:

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and surf tourism is also very present here. There are some fine surf camps and surf resorts in Costa Rica, suitable for an awesome surf holiday.

Pros:

  • Pretty country and scenery
  • Good surf spots
  • Politically safe country
  • Plenty of flights to Costa Rica from lots of countries

Cons:

  • On average 40 to 70% more expensive than a surf holiday to the Dominican Republic
  • Travel time from airport to the beach can be between 3-8 hours
  • Crowds

More info on surfing in Costa Rica as a surf destination for beginners:
 https://www.surfline.com/travel/costa-rica-surfing-and-beaches/3624060

Nicaragua

Nicaragua is less popular than it’s neighbor Costa Rica. Because of political turmoil, tourism only started to take off 20 or so years ago.

Pros:

  • 30-40% cheaper than Costa Rica
  • Offshore winds create clean surf conditions

Cons:

  • Not a large variety of good beginner surfing spots
  • Travel distances between surf spots is long
  • Recent political unrest is causing real instability

More info on surfing in Nicaragua
https://magicseaweed.com/Popoyo-Surf-Report/939/

Hawaii

Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing. Year round warm weather and water and great beginner waves around the south coast of Oahu make it a great place to have your first surfing experience.

Pros:

  • Beautiful scenery and beaches
  • Safe place to visit
  • Plenty of other activities besides surfing
  • Great surf for expert surfers

Cons:

  • Very expensive (there are only a few surf camps but they are pretty basic and tend to be double or triple the price of Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.)
  • Very, very crowded in the water leading to well-known local aggression.

More info on surf camps in Hawaii:

http://www.surfhawaii4u.com/surf_camps.html

Portugal

If you are based in Europe then one of the most popular place where people go surfing is Portugal. The long, exposed coastline with plenty of beaches is very suitable for surfers of all levels.

Pros:

  • There are plenty of cheap and basic surf camps (tend to be more suitable for 18 to 25 year olds)
  • Variety of surf spots suitable for people of all levels
  • Surf & culture & city life close to Lisbon

Cons:

  • Cold water year round to you need to bring a wetsuit
  • There are 100’s of surf camps and schools so it’s surfboard mayhem at times.
  • Surf schools tend to teach in very large groups; often 20 students to one surf coach
  • Cold air temperature between November and April

More info on surf holidays in Portugals:
http://www.surferdream.com

Bali & Indonesia

Indonesia is widely regarded as one of the most blessed surf countries in the world, with 100’s of world class surfing spots along its many different islands.
Bali is a small island with a large variety of waves that suit surfers of all levels, from complete beginners to pro’s looking for big barrels.
Bingin is the location where we are building our new Bali Surf Hotel. Bingin is one of the best waves in Bali at low tide, but at higher tides is an ideal place to learn to surf

Pros:

  • High quality surf for surfers of all levels
  • Stunning scenery & culture
  • Reasonable cheap surf camps and surf resorts
  • Bali surfing beaches are close to the airport
  • Some of the best expert surfing waves in the world

Cons:

  • Unless you live in Australia, it’s going to be a long flight
  • Heavy rainy season between December and March
  • Crowded beginner spots

More info on surfing in Bali

The above is our personal opinion of several trips to each and one of the above countries. It’s also far from a definitive list, as there are many more countries in the world who cater for the beginner surfers with suitable surf camps and surf resorts. Other places that you might take into consideration are:

Sayulita Mexico: A charming fishing village just north of Puerto Vallarta; not super consistent for surf, but when there are some waves it’s great fun.

Canary Islands: Off the coast of Morocco are a cluster of islands which are part of Spain. Great winter climate and some fun surf spots.

Maldives: Not cheap for a surf trip, mostly boat charters, but pretty water and fun waves.

If you have any questions about surfing destinations, feel free to send us a message; normally, we’ve been there and can tell you if it’s suitable for you. If you prefer to come back to us in the Dominican Republic at our Surf Retreat , just send us a message with your dates.

Enjoy the waves wherever you go!

Jeroen & Clare
Owners Swell Surf Camp

beginner surf destinations

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FAMILY SURF HOLIDAY

surfing encuentro

A family surf trip!

The summer is almost over; we are headed into Autumn and then the (often dreaded) long months of Winter.

We all need something to look forward to, so thoughts often turn to next summer’s plans to keep us going through the cold months. Family vacations are always best planned well in advance to make sure of space for your preferred choice.

Family surf vacationPerhaps you are all thinking about a family beach vacation; most family holidays understandably involve the beach, who wouldn’t want to be on a sandy beach with their family?

But Mom and Dad, is a sandy beach and the ocean enough to keep the kids entertained for days on end? Wouldn’t you prefer to have something planned which will not only keep the kids entertained and enthralled with the ocean, but also wear them out a little, challenge them and teach them a sporting skill which will stay with them for life?

A FAMILY SURF VACATION

Teaching your kids to surf on a family surf vacation is quite possibly the best choice you could make; let us explain why.

Firstly, learning to surf when a child means that they will pick up this sport way faster than their ‘old’ parents. Kids are normally devoid of fear and have a low centre of gravity, which means they can stand easily and quickly on a surfboard. You can imagine, a small person + a large surfboard (we use soft tops to avoid injury) equals lots of flotation; what every surfer needs. In our experience, kids learn fast and pick up advanced surf skills even faster, like turning and ‘trimming’ the surfboard. It is said that every surf session a young person has is worth 20 sessions for an adult.

Family surf campBeing able to surf opens horizons for kids. There is a ‘spiritual’ aspect to surfing: Without sounding too way-out-there, the feeling of riding the open face of a wave is akin to experiencing real joy. Just you and the wave, gliding. It’s very hard to describe how amazing this feeling is, you just have to take my word for it until you try it yourself.

SWELL’S FAMILY SURF CAMP

At Swell surf camp, we tend to turn people into surfers for life.

People who surf are happier, more fulfilled and calmer and that’s not even taking into account the endless fitness benefits of surfing.

Surfing’s health benefits include cardio-vascular fitness, increased core-strength, stronger arms and legs. It’s great for burning calories with an average burn of 700 calories per surf session. Paddling for a wave is a low impact cardio-vascular exercise. Surfers say you either have a great surf session or a great work-out; it’s win-win. Doesn’t every parent want to set their kids up for life with a healthy, fulfilling passion?

Surfers are also passionate about the planet: As surfers, we see at first hand the damage humans have done to marine life and the water. We’ve all paddled through plastic at some stage in our surfing lives. Teaching your kids to surf will also give them a care of the ocean and the environment they will not be able to learn anywhere else.

A family surfing holiday with us also means the opportunity to do many more activities other than surfing. From Swell, we regularly organise trips like canyoning, snorkeling, horse-riding (on the beach or up in the mountains), 4-wheeler tours, mountain biking, SUP and Yoga

So if you have a child or children who are 8 years old and up, who can already swim (we teach in warm, shallow water, but being able to swim is essential) and would like to plan a family surf vacation at Swell surf camp in summer 2019, do get in touch with us.

Whilst we are talking about learning to surf, don’t only book your child in for surf lessons, make sure you do it too. They may learn faster than you do, but doing something fun, active and meaningful with your child is absolutely priceless. Lastly, as a comforting thought to you if you feel too old to surf, I learned to surf at 51; my only regret is that I had done it so many years earlier when my kids learned themselves.

JOIN US IN 2019

Interested in joining us for a family summer surf camp?

Send us a message today and your family could be off on a one of a kind surf holiday

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Top Things to do in Cabarete

Top Things to do in Cabarete (other than Surfing & Yoga)

Caberete, the action sport capital of the Caribbean. Located on the North coast of the Dominican republic, 20 minutes from Puerto Plata international airport (POP).

 

all inclusive hotel cabareteThe first words that come to most peoples minds when they think of a holiday to the Dominican Republic is: Lazy all inclusive holiday. Whilst this is true for most resort towns in the DR like Punta Cana, Sosua, Puerto Plata. It couldn’t be further from the truth for Cabarete.

No gated big all inclusive resorts are found in Cabarete. What you will find is lots of smaller hotels / guesthouses and B&B’s. Why? The people that visit Cabarete are not your average lazy all inclusive hotel guests that sit on a sunbed and drink horrible cheap rum & coke’s from a plastic cup. The average tourist visiting Cabarete is there to be active in, under or above the water.

 

So what are the Top Things to do in Cabarete?

kitesurf-holiday1. KiteSurfing  and Windsurfing

Cabarete is ranked as one of the world’s top Kitesurfing and windsurfing destinations in the world. Big beaches, side onshore trade winds make for safe conditions for kitesurfers of all levels. The other reasons that beginners, intermediates & pros all love Cabarete is the variety of kite surfing spots in and around Cabarete. From the flat water at la Boca to the waves on the offshore reefs or the flat water at Kitebeach cabarete that is ideal for beginners and intermediates

 

G09556652. Snorkeling and Diving

A short drive from Cabarete is Sosua. Clear water makes for great snorkelling and diving. There are a few dive operators offering half day snorkelling trips. From Swell we usually organize a snorkeling trip to Sosua once per week. Ask our manager for the snorkeling schedule. It is also possible to do a Padi dive course in Sosua or Cabarete.

 
 

active-holiday3. Canyoning through the waterfalls

Swell guests repeatedly say that the Cayoning trip organised by Helmut and Matt for Swell is one of the best adrenaline fun filled day trips they have ever done. Expect to see spectacular scenery, jumping off waterfalls, swimming through gorges.

 
 

cabarete beach4. Enjoy fine food and drinks at Cabarete beach

Cabarete beach has a great dining and party scene. Start of with a sunset drink on one of the beach side bars, under palms trees on a white sandy beach. Then enjoy some fine food, from new york steak to fine sea food. Top recommendations are La Casita de Papi’s sea food restaurant right on the beach.

Party scene: the bars and nightclubs start to getting going by 10 in the evening until …. well..late. Which days of the week? Any day although friday and saturday it’s usually a BIG party.

 
 

5.Take a day trip to Playa Grande & ziplining at Laguna Dudu

Playa Grande is an hour away from Cabarete and is  a stunning white sandy beach, lined with tall palm trees, and no development. Laguna El Dudu is an exciting and mostly unknown attraction on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. It requires a bit of bravery before one is able to swim in the water as the lagoon is surrounded by natural cliffs from which to jump into refreshment.

Top Things to do in Cabarete

This is just a short list of the top things you can do in and around Cabarete, there’s loads more stuff to do. Have a look at this video and see for yourself if Cabarete and Swell Surf & Yoga retreat is the kind of place for your active holiday.

 

TOP ACTIVITIES IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC


Want to see more ideas on what the Dominican republic has to offer? Read our extensive article on the top 20 DR activities

top 20 activities in the DR

 

Interested in an Active Surf & Yoa Holiday? Send us a message

Read our 5 reasons why a visit to the Dominican republic will satisfy all adventure holiday makers

Single / Solo Traveller? Read this article why Swell is the place for you

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Surf photos

Paloma has been taking great surf photos of our clients who are enjoying their surf holiday here in the Dominican Republic.

She is great at taking water shots, and she got her new long lens so the surf photos from the shore will also be great.

Prime surf season has started and will be in full swing all the wait into April. This means good waves for beginners – intermediates as well as the experts surfers who are looking for overhead waves at Encuentro or at any of the numerous quality reef breaks around Cabarete.

Interested in joining us for a yoga surf holiday? Send Clare a message today

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Summer in Dominican Republic

Summer in Cabarete

Summer time is here, and contrary to popular belief, it’s actually a great time to be on the North Coast of the Domican republic for a surf holiday. Maybe not for expert surfers seeking to find double overhead barrels, but for beginners and intermediate surfers, the DR offers great conditions.

See the magicseaweed and Windguru forecasts on surfing and kitesurfing conditions in Cabarete in summer

Surfing conditions in the summer in the Dominican republic

Generally wave size between June and September is about 3-4′ or 1,5 meters or waist to chest high. Which we belief to be the best wave size to make quick progress.
Another reason that many of Swell Surf Camp‘s clients keep coming back to Cabarete in the summer time is that the surf is very uncrowded. Swell’s surf transport leaves early in the mornings, and we are usually the first ones at Playa Encuentro for our surf lessons.

Best surfing in the Caribbean

The Dominican Republic is one of the few places in the Caribbean that consistently has waves year round. In general we have about 350 surfable days per year. It might not always be perfect head high and barreling, but if you don’t mind grabbing a longboard in mellow chest high waves, Cabarete is a very consistent surf base in the Caribbean.

 

Stuff to do in Cabarete

Another reason why many people choose the summer months over winter months is the variety of other water sport activities that are superb in summer time: Kitesurfing and Windsurfing; the tradewinds pick up like clock work everyday at around 1 in the afternoon. There’s a reason why all the pro kitesurfers keep coming back to Cabarete every year.

Rememeber that swell offer year round surf & yoga holiday, or Yoga and Kitesurf camp. Molly gives Yoga sessions 3 times per week in Swell’s backyard.

 

Looking for a good surf camp deal?

We have dynamic pricing so if you are flexible on when to come to the DR for a one of a kind surf holiday, check the prices for September and August, they will be discounted, since it’s a bit more quit in Cabarete
during those months.

More info on the surfing in the Dominican republic can be found on this website with surf spots and travel tips for a surf holiday to the Dominican Republic

Want to stay up to date what is going on at the #1 surf camp in the Caribbean?
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Want to join us on a yoga & surf camp holiday ?

For those interested in learning to kitesurf on their caribbean, here’s a good starter guide

For more information on kitesurfing Dominican Republic visit this page which has a full kitesurfing dominican republic travel guide

If you are looking for more info on the seasons in the Dominican Republic:

Best time to visit the Dominican Republic

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Best summer camps

best surf vacation

Spring has begun and we at Swell Surf Camp already get a lot of inquiries and bookings in for the summer.

Maybe it’s because we got mentions on a lot of external / independent websites for offering awesome summer surf camp holidays.

Mentions:

Needless to say we are very happy when we get a mention in the media, another thing to say is that we never pay for media coverage or let anyone have a free stay in return for a write up. These reviews of Swell Surf Camp are genuine.

What’s going on in Cabarete?

Winter has provided us with lots of top quality surf days at Playa Encuentro, and the kite surfers have also been happy days with plenty of windy afternoons. With summer coming up: if you have been wanting to learn kitesurfing, the next few months is the time to come over to Cabarete for a kite surfing lessons / course. Steady trade winds in the afternoon will be a steady fixture all the way until the end of August for kiteboarding

Want to learn to surf ? Summer months provide excellent learning conditions for beginners with waves in the waist to chest high range.

Did we mention the Yoga Surf Camp ?

Need more activities? have a look at the active adventure holiday page.

 

We hope to see you in Cabarete, the action sport’s capital of the Caribbean this summer.

For those interested in learning to kitesurf on their caribbean, here’s a good starter guide

If you are looking for more info on the seasons in the Dominican Republic:

Best time to visit the Dominican Republic

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