When it comes to dream getaways and honeymoon vacations, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica should be two destinations top of most people’s lists. Both of these friendly island paradises can offer amazing experiences, especially if you’re looking for sun, sea, and sand.
However choosing whether to visit the Dominican Republic or Jamaica for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday can be exceptionally difficult. Particularly as these island nations are very different from each other.
Having visited both, we compare the Dominican Republic vs Jamaica below, and show you what each has to offer!
Dominican Republic vs Jamaica: Stunning natural scenery
Both islands have stunning beaches and that picture-perfect white-sand coastline you expect from a dream Caribbean holiday. However, some of the more popular beaches in Jamaica have street sellers that are quite persistent – this is less of a problem in the DR.
The great thing about both of these island nations though, is that they have a lush mountainous inland. That opens up opportunities to do more outside than just sunbathe. Such as hiking and swimming in waterfalls, as well as culture-based activities.
However in Jamaica, the main language spoken is English. In the Dominican Republic it is Spanish, therefore a language barrier may exist for English speakers outside of resorts and tourist areas. However this might not be a problem as the DR is focused on resort holidays. Jamaica, on the other hand, tends to cater for all types of tourists, from backpackers to honeymooners staying in fancy resorts.
In terms of safety, both are safe countries, as long as precautions are taken – i.e. avoid unlit areas at night and confrontations with locals. Non-tourist areas in the Dominican Republic do have notable crime rates though.
Regarding cost, the resorts in the Dominican Republic tend to be cheaper than Jamaica. However considering both countries have a large local population, food (away from resorts) and public transport are very reasonably priced. However both are affordable destinations and are included on our list of cheapest Caribbean islands to visit!
Below we look in more detail at what both islands have to offer potential tourists, before showing how each is different culturally, and what to expect.
There’s no doubt the Dominican Republic has marketed itself primarily as a resort destination, and the region of Punta Cana is it’s crown.
Beaches here, such as Bavaro Beach and Macao Beach, are incredible white-sandy stretches of coastline that are perfect for a day’s swimming and sunbathing. The water is often calm here, but it can get a bit choppy.
For one of the best places to swim in the area, head to Hoyo Azul. This watering hole looks out of this world, and jumping into the clear blue water on a hot day is a must!
Staying in Punta Cana, take a visit to Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve. This nature reserve has shady hiking trails and lagoons for swimming.
There are hiking possibilities throughout the island, and for adventurous travelers the Caribbean’s highest peak – Pico Duarte – lies in the center of the Dominican Republic. This 3098 meter mountain has several spectacular hiking trails, which can be walked as part of a hiking tour. We’ve written about hiking Pico Duarte in a previous article which you can find by clicking here.
Jamaica has it all when it comes to a tropical island paradise, but what most tourists want are spectacular beaches!
One of the best on the island is Seven Mile Beach at the town of Negril. This is a popular spot, but this long stretch of gorgeous white sand is your stereotypical Caribbean paradise. Expect clear blue water, great snorkeling, and one of the best sunsets in the region.
For another beautiful beach with calm swimming water, head to Bloody Bay. The turquoise-hued water is a great place to swim, snorkel, paddle board and more.
There are many great snorkeling spots throughout Jamaica’s coastline, but one of our favorites is Montego Bay. Head there to swim beside colorful reef fish and sting rays. A great underwater camera – such as this one – is a must.
As one of the Caribbean’s largest islands, the diverse geography in Jamaica is one of the reasons to visit. The iconic Blue Mountains are stunning, and the gorgeous 14 mile Blue Mountain Peak Trail takes you through jungle waterfalls, coffee plantations and more as you make your way up Jamaica’s highest peak.
For panoramic views of the island head to Holywell National Park in the Blue Mountains. Here you can hike up through the jungle. Our top tip is to rent a tent and camp for a night or two – the stars up here, and the sunrise in the morning, are unrivaled.
Dominican Republic vs Jamaica: Explore the sights and experience the tropics
Both the Dominican Republic and Jamaica are islands full of tradition and colorful culture.
For a more immersive Caribbean experience, Jamaica is probably the best choice though. That’s because the resorts and tourist areas in the DR tend to be more seperated from the local population. In Jamaica, there’s far more overlap.
The Dominican Republic’s culture has been formed through a mix of African and European influences. The result has been the creation of a lively set of traditions.
One of those is El Carnaval de la Vega. Taking place every year in February, around half a million people descend on the city of La Vega to watch the colorful parades and devil costumes as locals celebrate the triumph of good over evil.
Something that will make most people happy to hear, is that chocolate is a big thing in the DR! The chocolate made on the island is some of the world’s best, and ChocoMuseo in Punta Cana is a museum dedicated to it. If you take one of the half-day workshops, you will get the chance to make your own bar.
Baseball is huge in the DR, and the number one sport in the country. Get yourself along to a game one afternoon to get a true local feel.
Jamaica’s culture is colorful and vibrant, and the country is a wonderful melting pot of different religions and beliefs.
One of those is the Rastafarianism movement which was borne out of Jamaica in the 1930s. For visitors to the island, the Rastafari Indigenous Village near Montego Bay is an opportunity to connect first-hand with people practicing the religion, while also learning how to make traditional drums and cuisine.
Probably Rastafarianism’s most famous member was Bob Marley, and no visit to Jamaica is complete without visiting the Bob Marley Museum in Jamaica’s capital, Kingston.
The nightlife on the island is lively, and geared towards younger people. For a fun time, head to Montego Bay – named MoBay by locals. This party town is a place where you can enjoy a cocktail on the beach, or dance to reggae until the early hours of the morning.
Synonymous with both Jamaica and Rastafarians is marijuana – which is legal for medicinal use in Jamaica, and for use by Rastafarians. Being caught with small amounts (2oz or less) will result in just a small fine of around 5 USD. That makes Jamaica a relatively safe place to smoke for tourists looking for their ganja fix. It’s common for tourists to be approached about buying weed in Jamaica – always exercise caution.
Dominican Republic vs Jamaica: A taste of island life
Both the Dominican Republic and Jamaica will provide a treat for your taste-buds, with unique cuisine formed through each island’s history.
Food in the DR has strong influences from nearby Latin America, and as a former Spanish colony, there are many traditional Spanish dishes on the island.
Sancocho is a hearty stew made from meat and vegetables that is popular in the country, and is well worth trying.
Another iconic dish here is Pollo Guisado, which is served daily up and down the island. This braised chicken stew is served with vegetables and cooked until the meat easily falls off the bone. It’s delicious.
As for what to drink, the coffee – brewed in the highlands of the country – is unrivaled. For something a bit stronger, try Mama Juana. This alcoholic drink is made with rum, red wine, honey, tree bark and herbs!
Jamaica’s national food, ackee and saltfish, combines the national fruit of Jamaica (ackee) with salted cod. It’s a popular dish that famous Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt has said he often eats for breakfast!
Another iconic Jamaican dish worth trying is jerk chicken or pork. This type of cooking is native to Jamaica and the spicy cooking style may have been invented by slaves who escaped into Jamaica’s wilderness and invented it as they cooked over wood fires.
For something sweet, try Grater cake – a delicious cake made from grated coconut! As for what to drink, Jamaica’s very-own Red Stripe lager is popular on the island (and around the world). Rum cocktails are also made up and down the island with a variety of fresh fruit.
Dominican Republic vs Jamaica: Which should you choose?
Both countries have great beaches, and a stunning interior with hiking and walking opportunities. However if you want a holiday that is more resort focused, then the Dominican Republic will probably provide the best value for money.
If you’re looking for a vacation which involves time outside of a resort, then Jamaica would probably be a better choice than the Dominican Republic. This island offers a fantastic cultural experience for holidaymakers looking to immerse themselves in another country.
Recommended for your trip to the Dominican Republic or Jamaica
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