If it involves being under the water or standing on a board, the Dominican Republic has it – here you’ll find world-class windsurfing, kitesurfing, surfing, wakeboarding and diving. While there are a few scattered spots across the island if you’re adventurous, the best places for surfing or diving in the Dominican Republic are on the North Coast.
Cabarete’s Bay seems almost custom-made for windsurfing, and it’s here that the sport is most popular – although you’ll also find a small windsurfing school in Las Terrenas. The best time to go is generally in winter when the wind is strongest, windsurfing requires stronger winds than kitesurfing does. The beach at Cabarete is lined with outfits renting windsurf equipment and offers lessons. In general, windsurfing is easier to learn than kitesurfing, meaning you can be out on the water enjoying yourself within a couple of days. Lessons and equipment rentals are also significantly cheaper.
2. Diving and Snorkeling
With miles of pristine beach, the Dominican Republic is a favorite destination for divers in search of Caribbean reefs, wrecks and humpback whales. There are many dive operators that don’t plan their excursions but wait to find out from the occupants of the boats where they would prefer to go. Underwater environments in the Dominican Republic include mangrove forests, deep wrecks and a vast reef structure featuring cavernous swim-throughs and extensive coral formations. Many of the dive sites are suitable to beginners, and many of the island’s resorts offer discovery dives for those that have never blown bubbles before. However, beginners will feel most comfortable on the southern coast where currents are calmer. Advanced divers can explore both coasts as well as the deep wrecks and walls. With balmy year-round water temperatures between 75-84°F, you’ll immediately warm up to the country’s underwater treasure trove.
Kitesurfing (also known as kiteboarding) is the most popular watersport in the Dominican Republic. It involves strapping a board to your feet and a powerful kite to your torso, which propels you through the waves at high speed.
Unlike surfing or windsurfing, where risk increases with ability – you have to be good to get out to the reef line – kitesurfing is risky from the very beginning. The kite leads pulled taught by the wind, are diving, swooping knife blades, and it’s important you learn from qualified instructors, for your safety and for that of others. Plenty of kitesurfing schools offer instruction on the North Coast.
Most people need a minimum of four days of lessons at a cost of around US$350 to US$450 to be able to do the basics. Schools and instructors vary considerably, so spend some time finding one where you feel comfortable. There are also a few good kitesurfing spots in Las Terrenas, Samaná, although the wind is lighter and the water shallower than in Cabarete. The learning curve to get good enough to enjoy kitesurfing is quite steep – as much as a week’s worth of lessons to go out solo, and weeks of practice to get comfortable with it. It’s also an expensive sport – to make this a regular hobby, you’ll end up investing at least US$5000 in lessons and gear. No wonder, then, that around 90% of students who take lessons don’t generally advance to become regular kiteboarders.
That said, if you’ve got the time and the money, and you relish a challenge, Dominican Republic is one of the world’s leading kitesurfing destinations – so much so that the International Kiteboarding Organization (www.ikointl.com) has its headquarters in Cabarete.
Cabarete is the top spot in the country for surfing, although the intrepid surfer traveling with board-bag in tow could easily explore many of the lesser-visited beaches along both the north and south coast. The best season to surf is December through March when the region can get waves of up to 4m high. Playa Encuentro, 4km west of Cabarete, has the best waves on the island, where awesome tubes often pound into shore. Other popular places for surfing are Playa Grande and Playa Preciosa, both near Río San Juan. There are a number of surf shops in Cabarete and on Playa Encuentro itself where you can rent boards or take surfing lessons. You can also rent surfboards at Playa Grande.
Water skiing has gone the way of corduroy bell-bottoms, and in its place is this new sport – the principle is the same but instead of ‘water skis’ you use a ‘waterboard,’ or ‘wakeboard.’ The sport has a small but passionate community of enthusiasts, and kiteboarders swear it’s a great way to develop your board skills. There’s only one wakeboarding school in the Dominican Republic, located at La Boca just outside Cabarete, where there’s more than 2km of flat, straight river water to play with. This spot attracts devoted wakeboarders from around the world, and on windless days they are joined by kiteboarders looking to practice their tricks.
At Cap el Limon we’d be happy to assist you in arranging your first kite-surf course or helping you to find the best dive spots in the region. Please feel free to reach out for any questions you might have.