The Dominican Republic has some great beaches, but they aren't in Santo Domingo. The principal beach resort near the capital is at Boca Chica, about 3km (2 miles) east of the airport and about 30km (19 miles) from the center of Santo Domingo. Here you'll find clear, shallow water, a white-sand beach, and a natural coral reef. The east side of the beach, known as "St. Tropez," is popular with Europeans. In recent years, the backdrop of the beach has become rather tacky, with an array of pizza and fast-food stands, beach cottages, chaise lounges, watersports concessions, and plastic beach tables.
Long a favorite of Santo Domingo's city dwellers before its discovery by foreigners, Playa Boca Chica is one of the grand beaches of the Caribbean, very wide with white or golden sands set against a backdrop of coconut palms. The beach is fronted by the shallow Bahía Andrés. Unlike the north coast, with its turbulent waters, this beach is the most tranquil in the country.
Slightly better maintained is the narrow white-sand beach at Juan Dolio or Playa Esmeralda, a 20-minute drive east of Boca Chica. Several resorts have recently located here. The beach used to be fairly uncrowded, but with all the hotels now lining it, it's likely to be as crowded as Boca Chica any day of the week.
There are three major beaches spread along the Caribbean Sea, beginning with Playa Guayacanes in the west, Playa Juan Dolio in the center, and Playa Real in the east. These beaches are often referred to collectively as Playa de Villas del Mar. Our favorite of these is Playa Guayacanes, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in the area and home to a little community of locals called Guayacanes.
As you move east from Guayacanes, the sands are better than the water, the latter filled with wide expanses of dead coral, making the swimming less than desirable. Many of the best sandy beaches are maintained zealously by the all-inclusives.
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