Boasting one of the Caribbean’s biggest coastlines, the Dominican Republic is a highly popular and frequently visited island. As a diving holiday destination, the Dominican Republic is easy to reach, offers loads of accommodation options and has so many exciting dive sites that you’ll have to make a return trip to see them all.
Sharing the lush and beautiful mountain islands of Hispaniola with the nearby island of Haiti, the Dominican Republic offers warm, clear waters ideal for scuba diving.
The Dominican Republic has a hot and humid climate during the summer months averaging temperatures of 28°C. In the winter months the temperature cools to a comfortable and temperate 24°C. Divers can enjoy diving in the Dominican Republic at any time of year, however the area is prone to occasional hurricanes between July and November and is visited by wind more frequently in the winter months. The Dominican Republic boasts plentiful, healthy and biodiverse reefs with eels, sharks, eagle rays, turtles and a host of reef fish as the inhabitants.
The Dominican Republic offers a wide variety of scuba diving opportunities for all diving levels. The water is warm throughout the year and so a 3mm wetsuit or even a shorty is generally sufficient protection for divers. It boasts shallow reefs teeming with fish life for beginners and deep walls, drift dives, caves, caverns and wrecks dating as far back as the 16th century for those with more diving experience. The Dominican Republic’s far stretching coastline has so much to offer scuba divers with great visibility, lots of schooling fish and healthy, pristine reef systems.
Dominican Republic Dive Sites
There are so many different dive sites to explore along the large coastline of the Dominican Republic. Along the north coast, some of the area’s best scuba diving is found near Sousa and Puerto Plata. Here experienced divers can explore a number of deep sites including Five Rocks, Airport Wall and La Piramide (the Pyramids) which offers a series of connected tunnels to swim through.
Cabo Cabron on the Samana Peninsula is a stunning pinnacle that should not be missed. Starting at 165ft, divers encircle the pinnacle to spot an abundance of macro life hiding in the corals and encrusted sponges.
There are some great shallow reef sites along the eastern coast near Punta Cana. This areas boasts the island’s longest coral reef with a few well-lit caverns to explore.
For exquisite wreck diving, the southern coast of the Dominican Republic is a must-see. La Caleta National Underwater Park is a protected no-fishing zone serving as the resting place for the Limon and the Hickory. These two wreck sites are great for all levels of recreational diver, as is the St George, a vessel from 1962 that was abandoned in the 1980s around Santa Domingo. The St George was purposefully sunk in 1999 to serve as an artificial reef, and experienced wreck divers can enjoy a swim through of the 240ft vessel, encountering barracuda and other fish along the way. The shallowest section of the St George lies at 50ft and the deepest section is at a depth of 144ft.
An enjoyable wall dive along the southern coast is available off Catalina Island, and the nearby Saona Island is a beautiful island sanctuary offering shark sightings, turtle encounters and a host of exotic birdlife. Thanks to its protected status, divers will have the chance to encounter some large fish like grouper, and will be amazed by the wide variety of marine life surrounding these underwater parks.
The Dominican Republic has 3 very well-known and popular underwater cave systems. These systems are referred to as La Siren, also known as Taino Cave which is near Santa Domingo, Cueva Dud which is near Playa Dorada and Padre Nuestro which is near Bayahibe. A few dive shops will offer specialized training in order to explore the inshore cave systems and caverns – these should not be attempted without training and a local guide.
Silver Bank is a shallow area located 90 miles to the north of the Dominican Republic. Humpback whales frequent the area between the months of January and April as they migrate from their North Atlantic feeding grounds to breed and give birth to their young. It is possible to arrange a snorkelling trip around Silver Bank, and visitors may be lucky enough to encounter some of these majestic humpbacks.
The Silver Bank
The Silver Bank is the largest mating/calving grounds of humpback whales in the world located 80 miles North East of the Dominican Republic. Every year, between the months of December and April, some 3,000 humpback whales come to breed and give birth in these warm waters. It is also called the Exclusive Economic Zone. In 1996, with the goal of protecting the humpback whales, and endangered species, the Silver Bank on the Atlantic Ocean was declared a Marine Mammal Sanctuary. On July 1996, the sanctuary area was extended to protect the entire area where the humpback whales concentrate in Dominican waters.
The Silver Bank is a submarine platform of coral reef and it’s part of a system of banks which extends from the Bahamas to the Navidad Bank. Its crystal clear waters are protected from the heavy waves and winds by a strong reef which, though dangerous for ships and vessels, creates an ideal environment for the humpback whales to breed, give birth and nurse their newborn calves. This has made it a major concentration area for humpback whales.
Swimming humans stand little chance of keeping up with the boisterous, fast moving males. Instead, it is the cow and calf pairs or small family groups that present the best opportunity for in-water study and interaction. A maximum of three boats may watch the same group of whales. If whales approach within a 100 feet of a boat, the engine must remain in neutral. Swims with the whales are allowed only through a “soft encounter” technique that allows the whale to approach the swimmer, rather then the reverse. Chasing a whale is probited, as is scuba diving.
Adult humpbacks can rest underwater for up to 20 minutes, surface for a few breaths, then return to their resting state. But calves must surface every three to five minutes, depending on their age, before returning to their mother. Swimming with these majestic mammals is truly an amazing experience.
Dive shops will offer training and boat trips as well as snorkelling opportunities to visit Silver Bank during whale season. There are also liveaboards available in this area, which hold permits to be able to offer week-long trips around Silver Bank during the popular whale season.
When to Visit Dominican Republic
The months between December and April are mating and breeding times for the humpback whales.
Dominican Republic Resorts
Many tourists who visit the Dominican Republic opt to stay in the many all-inclusive resorts on the island. There are over 2 dozen resorts to choose from, with more being built all the time. These resorts are a cost-effective way of having an enjoyable, carefree holiday as airport transfers, accommodation, food, drink and entertainment are all included. There are many dive shops within the all-inclusive resorts, or the resort will be able to recommend one nearby.
How to Get to the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a very well-connected island with at least 6 international airports and 20 minor airports. The Las Americas International in Santa Domingo is a popular airport, as is Punta Canta International, Cibao International in Santiago and Gregorio Luperon International in Puerto Plata. The international airports receive international flights from far and wide – USA, Europe, Mexico and the many other islands of the Caribbean. The island offers a wide variety of resort accommodation options, many of which have an on-site dive shop or at the very least will be able to recommend a dive operator nearby. Resorts also generally offer airport pickup, making a trip to this beautiful island completely hassle-free. Rental cars are available at the airports, and thanks to a good highway system visitors can easily get from place to place by road.
The Dominican Republic is a popular tourist destination thanks to its friendly locals who will happily converse with tourists in English, Spanish or a number of other languages. Euros and US Dollars are widely accepted, but the official currency is that of the Dominican Peso.