Cabrera, Dominican Republic: The Caribbean’s Best-Kept Secret

Not far from the popular beach town of Puerta Plata, there’s the much quieter and lesser-known Cabrera, Dominican Republic. You won’t find manicured all-inclusive resorts here, but you will discover cliff divers, a blue lagoon, pristine and unpopulated beaches, and most welcome of all, small-town hospitality.

If you’re seeking an authentic Dominican experience away from the bustling tourist hotspots, Cabrera offers an enticing blend of natural beauty, tranquility, and local charm.

Looking for more romantic getaway ideas? We’ve got 23 enchanting Caribbean Islands plus 50 more, nearly one for each week of the year, in our roundup of romantic getaways in the USA.

Motorcyclists passes the church and a dog in the town square in Cabrera, Dominican Republic.

Where Is Cabrera, Dominican Republic?

Set along the north coast of the Dominican Republic, Cabrera is a charming coastal town that’s slightly off the beaten path. Located in the María Trinidad Sánchez province, it is approximately 110 miles north of the capital city, Santo Domingo. Puerto Plata is relatively close by (70 miles,) but on the winding roads along the coast expect to take at least two hours for the drive.

Blessed with a stunning shoreline, Cabrera boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, including the renowned Playa Grande, often referred to as the ‘Pebble Beach of the Caribbean.’ This idyllic location has also gained fame as a destination for luxury villa vacations and destination weddings, thanks to the presence of exquisite properties like those found in gated communities such as Orchid Bay Estates.

Things to Do in Cabrera Dominican Republic

GO: Playa Grande.

Deemed one of the ‘Top Ten Most Beautiful Beaches’ in the world by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, Playa Grande invites long romantic strolls on unspoiled white sandy shores.

But, because this beach is located facing the Atlantic Ocean (rather than the calmer Caribbean Sea) expect good surf for skimboarding or boogie boards.

Tourists are far and few between, but occasional vendors take their chances anyway offering handcrafted souvenirs and made-on-the-spot piña colada in fresh scooped-out pineapples.

Playa Grande - Cabrera Dominican Republic

GO: Cabo Frances Viejo

Declared a National Monument in 2009, Cabo Frances Viejo is where San Juan River empties out onto Bretón Beach. In addition to beaches, rivers, there are also three lighthouses along the 1.5-mile coastal trail of the national park.

GO: Dudu Lake.

A blue lagoon, limestone caves, and a crystal-clear natural pool cenote are reason enough to visit this attraction, but for the more adventurous, there are rope swings, cliff jumps, and a Zipline.

Dudu Lake - Cabrera Dominican Republic

HIKE: Monumento Natural El Saltadero. 

A short walk rewards you with a natural waterfall in a rainforest pocket, and for a few pesos, you can watch daredevil cliff divers brave the death-defying leap (“saltadero” literally means jump point.)

Cliff Diver - Saltadero Natural Monument - Cabrera Dominican Republic

DO: Playa Grande Golf Course

Spanning 370 acres across a mountainside cliff, the Robert Trent Jones-designed landscape of the Playa Grande Golf Course features breathtaking views and a challenging course.

Boats in the mangrove in Rio San Juan.

VISIT: Rio San Juan. 

Stop by the nearby village for a glass-bottom boat tour through bays and mangroves to Playa Caleton, a sweet little beach where you can get the freshest fish cooked while you wait.

DO: Whale Watching.

From January through March, spot thousands of Humpback whales mating and nursing their young on a Whale Samana excursion. Watch the whales from cliffs overlooking the bay, or sign up for a boat excursion to get close to the action.

Windsurfing - Cabarete Dominican Republic

GO: Surf In Cabarete.

Just 45 minutes by car, head to Cabarete for the best surfing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding. Stay for a bite at a great restaurant, Mojitos is popular and worth waiting in line, and the lively nightlife.

Cabrera Dominican Republic Restaurants

Dining in and around Cabrera is about as casual as it gets. You can’t beat the fresh flavor of fish and lobster grilled beachside, but when dusk falls, most food stands shut down for the night. Luckily, a couple of restaurants pick up the slack.

Dominican Breakfast

BREAKFAST: Savor a traditional Dominican Breakfast at Hotel La Catalina: Mangu slathered in marinated onions, eggs, toast, and salami sausage.

Platanos and Lobster

LUNCH/DINNER: Go for the ocean view from the cliffside perch on the Malecon, and stay for Tostones (fried platanos) and freshly grilled conch, lobster, or octopus at the Mira Mar Bar Restaurant.

Mannys Bar Restaurant - Cabrera Dominican Republic

DINNER/BAR: Pretty much the only game in town when night falls, Manny’s Bar Restaurant is a fun place to hang out any time, but especially January through March when you can watch humpback whales from the seaside joint.

Pool - Hotel La Catalina - Cabrera Dominican Republic

Hotels In Cabrera Dominican Republic

BOUTIQUE: Catalina Tropical Lodge

A tropical garden oasis, Catalina Tropical Lodge offers both simple hotel rooms and fully furnished 2-bedroom condos. Perfectly located as a base for exploring Cabrera’s quiet pleasures, or venturing further afield, the hotel provides two lovely pools, a full restaurant, fitness facilities, tennis courts, and hidden nooks in the lush landscape that just beg you to relax and rejuvenate.

Pool - Balaji Palace - Rio San Juan - Dominican Republic

LUXURY: Balaji Palace

The extraordinary Balaji Palace brings romance and fantasy to life. Set on a cliff overlooking translucent shores, 13 individually decorated rooms marry Indian luxury and Dominican comforts. Begin mornings with breakfast in bed, spice up afternoons at the swim-up pool bar, and culminate your day at balcony dinners served up by a private chef. No amenity is overlooked by the full-service staff.

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  • Sandra Foyt

    Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, road trip junkie, and award-winning travel photographer. A veteran of many cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the Fossil Freeway, the Extraterrestrial Highway, and even “The Loneliest Road in America.” Sandra is based in Upstate New York, with family homes in California and the Caribbean. Her work is influenced by tropical colors and warm relationships. And she believes that the best travel photography connects us across time, place, and culture.