The Dominican Republic’s natural beauty, great beaches and fantastic weather have seen it become a popular tourist destination and there are now many hotels and resorts across the country to cater for the booming tourism industry. In general the climate is tropical with hot temperatures year round and two distinct seasons: one wet and one dry. Temperatures vary very little across the year but the early wet season is generally the hottest time, while the early dry season is the coolest. In the capital, Santo Domingo, for example, averages vary from 25C in January to 28C in July. Santo Domingo lies on the south coast and its conditions are typical of the whole south coast.
The Dominican Republic is mountainous, home to the four highest peaks in the West Indies the tallest of which is Pico Duarte at 3098m. The country also features lakes, plains and plenty of coastline and this varied geography leads to a varied climate. The mountains especially cause a difference in rainfall across the country, with the north and east seeing a lot more precipitation. This is due to the northeast direction of the prevailing winds. In the mountainous regions it is always a little cooler and averages generally range from the low to the mid 20s. At the very highest elevations it can, however, get cold and sometimes drop below freezing.
The Dominican Republic has some of the clearest waters in the West Indies. This is one of the country's major tourist pulls. People come to enjoy the world-class scuba-diving and deep sea fishing. While scuba-diving conditions are not quite as good in the wet season, deep sea fishing continues year round. Many species of fish populate the waters year round, but some are seasonal inhabitants. For instance, both blue and white marlin can be found at any time of year but barracuda usually only visit in the wet season.
The Dominican Republic is a small Caribbean nation that takes up the eastern two thirds of the island of Hispaniola that lies in the centre of the Caribbean region. The rest of the island is taken up by Haiti. Hispaniola is the second largest Caribbean island after Cuba and the Dominican Republic is home to almost 10 million people.
Tropical Beach, Saona Island, Dominican Republic.
The dry season runs from December to April and is the main tourist season in the Dominican Republic. The best weather usually comes early on in the dry season as that is when temperatures are at their coolest. In Bavaro and Punta Cana on the east coast, for example, the average temperature is at its lowest of 24C in January and February. With highs of 27C and lows of 22C, the temperature generally stays within a very comfortable range and sunshine is plentiful making for perfect holiday weather. Temperatures are similar along the south coast including Santo Domingo and it Puerto Plata on the north coast.
The highlands do get a bit cooler and this time of year is when the tallest mountains, some of which are above 3000m, may see temperatures below freezing. The cold temperatures are purely down to altitude and are never seen anywhere else in the country.
One of the principal reasons behind the slightly cooler weather at this time is the influence of the north east trade winds. The alize is a well known trade wind that brings cooler air from the northeast, prevailing between November and February giving a great fresh feeling to the country, especially the coastal regions. The greatest effect of the northeast trade winds are obviously felt in the northern and eastern coasts of the country, meaning that these regions can be one or two degrees cooler than south coast towns such as Santo Domingo and La Romana. The inland plains can see the hottest temperatures as they are away from the coastal breezes and sheltered by the tall mountains.
Temperature does slowly build throughout the dry season, generally rising a couple of degrees on average from January to April. Come the start of the wet season, daily highs can be in the 30s in the coastal regions.
Tropical beach, Dominican Republic.
The wet season runs from May to November. As well as seeing a lot of rain, it is very hot and humid at this time of year so conditions can become a little uncomfortable. May to September sees the most rainfall before it begins to tail off in October and November.
Rainfall does vary a lot across the country. The annual average for the whole of the Dominican Republic is around 1400m but it can vary from as little as 500mm in the west at the border with Haiti up to 2500mm in the northeast. The mountains receive more rainfall than the plains and the coasts. September is usually the wettest month but these things vary year to year. In Santo Domingo you get an average rainfall of around 160mm in May, growing to 185mm in September, before dropping to 120mm in November. This is typical of the south coast where many of the tourist resorts can be found. The north coast sees a bit more rainfall, especially in the north east such as at Samana.
Temperatures during the wet season are the highest of the year; August to October sees average temperatures in the upper 20s in most of the country. Daily highs are often in the 30s, and the temperature is in the low 20s or above at night. Combined with high humidity things can feel quite muggy and uncomfortable.
A major feature of the Dominican Republic’s weather is that it lies in the Caribbean hurricane belt. Official hurricane season in the region lasts from June to November, but August and September are the most likely months. Hurricanes can be deadly and destructive when they hit but they are not all that common. Records show that the country is hit by a hurricane about once every 10 years and a severe hurricane hit (category 3 or more) is even rarer. The last major hurricane to hit the country was Hurricane George in 1998. At category three when it made land, the severe weather cost hundreds of lives and thousands of homes. The southern coast around Santo Domingo and La Romana were the worst hit. Flooding and landslides were widespread. More recently, in 2004, a category one hurricane struck on the east and north east coast. Due to their unpredictability any visit during hurricane season incurs a risk, but the country is now very well prepared for them; the majority of hotels are built to withstand the strongest storms and the resorts are well drilled in what to do in the event of a hurricane. Hurricane activity varies a lot year to year and so does the general amount of rainfall each year.
Many people take advantage of fewer crowds and cheaper prices to make their holiday during hurricane season and often you can still enjoy good weather at this time. There is still a good amount of sunshine during the wet season since most of the rain occurs in heavy tropical downpours that are over quickly to make way for good sunny weather. A lot of the rain falls in the evening too, leaving good beach weather during the day. If you don’t mind the risk of a few heavy downpours – and often they can be a great spectacle – then the wet season is not a bad time to visit at all.