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On the protected south coast of the Dominican Republic, diving Santo Domingo, the capital, and Boca Chica offers pleasant reefs and historical wrecks.

Highlights

La Caleta National Underwater Park

Within the Park, two sunken ships, the Hickory and the Limon, lie within recreational limits. The Limon is today surrounded by healthy coral reef.

Cave Diving

Three water-filled cave systems near Santo Domingo, Bayahibe and Playa Dorada are ripe for exploration by tec divers. Several local guides can assist.

Diving in Santo Domingo & Boca Chica

Quick facts

While Santo Domingo and Boca Chica may not be the most desirable destinations in the Dominican Republic, they do offer some of the best dive sites around the island. This is due to the area’s protected bay and nearby Underwater National Park. In addition, Santo Domingo has long been a center of commerce in the New World, so it follows that many historical wrecks sit in its depths.

With calm currents and a shallow dive profile, most of the diving near Santo Domingo and Boca Chica is suitable to beginners. Intermediate divers can head further south where currents pick up enough to create gentle drift dives. Furthermore, some of the wrecks may lie at advanced depths and tec divers may wish to explore some of the freshwater caves nearby.

While there are a few shore dives near Boca Chica, the vast majority of dive sites are only accessible by a short speedboat ride. Some operators will utilize catamarans in order to offer a more stable journey.

Whether you choose to dive in Boca Chica, Santo Domingo, or elsewhere in the Dominican Republic, we are sure you will fall in love with the lovely conditions and outstanding variety of sites found around the island.

Keep in mind that insurance is mandatory for anyone who wants to dive in the Dominican Republic.

When to go

Diving near Santo Domingo and Boca Chica is fantastic year-round. June to November has uncrowded dive sites. December to May has the best conditions.

June to November

Santo Domingo and Boca Chica enjoy a hot and humid climate year-round, although June to November is considered the rainy season. It usually rains once a day, every day but for only short periods of time.

June to November is also hurricane season. If you are planning a trip to the Caribbean during these months, consider taking out travelers insurance on the off chance a hurricane forms during your vacation. In recent years, the DR has not sustained a direct hit from a hurricane, but several pass nearby annually.

Air temperatures during the summer months range from 77-85°F (25-30°C) while water temperatures are 79-83°F (26-28°C).

Because June to November is considered the rainy season, this is also the low season in Santo Domingo and Boca Chica. If you choose to dive in these months, you’re sure to get a great deal on flights and accommodation.

If you enjoy getting the best deals or diving at uncrowded dive sites, book your trip from June to November.

December to May

December to May is the dry season in Santo Domingo and Boca Chica. During these months, you can expect sunny, hot and mildly humid conditions. This is also the best time of year to dive on the south coast as the seas are calmest there at this time.

Air temperatures during the winter months range from 70-80°F (21-26°C) while water temperatures are 75-79°F (24-26°C).

In addition to great topside conditions for the southern coast, December to March is the best time to dive while listening to humpback whales. This is the time of year the island plays host to the humpback whales who migrate from the North Atlantic to the shores of Bavaro and Samana. As the males are there to impress their females during this season they are incredibly active and often present a spectacular show of splashing and rearing.

However, December to May also represents high season for tourism in the Caribbean. Therefore, you should book early to get a good deal on accommodation and flights.

If you wish to dive on the southern coast in locations like Santo Domingo and Boca Chica or see the mating rituals of humpback whales, book your holiday between December and May.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

Many of the most interesting dive sites are located in La Caleta near Boca Chica. Advanced divers can explore the caves and wrecks of Santo Domingo.

    Snorkeling in Santo Domingo & Boca Chica

    There is a fair amount of snorkeling near Boca Chica. Once you arrive, you should be able to rent snorkeling equipment from the sporting equipment stands that line the beach. Then just wade out into the water and explore the nearby reef. For more abundant marine life, organize a boat tour to the outlying reef or La Caleta Underwater National Park.
    Located just off the coast of Boca Chica, La Caleta Underwater National Park is considered one of the best diving areas in the whole of the Caribbean. Here, divers will find healthy coral reefs that attract a variety of colorful creatures. The park also features three 20th Century sunken ships, including The Hickory and The UFO, a strange-looking vessel that is actually an old oil rig rather than an extraterrestrial aircraft. Closer to Santo Domingo, La Sirena Cave is often reputed to be one of the best cave dives in the world. At only 26 feet (8 meters) deep, this cave presents great training opportunities for both cavern and freshwater techniques. Divers will see plenty of stalactites and experience the clarity of ground water which can have a visibility of up to 200 feet (60 meters). These are only two of the wonderful sites surrounding Santo Domingo and Boca Chica. There are plenty more for you to explore on your Caribbean vacation.

    What to see

    Much of the Dominican Republic’s marine life is threatened by overexposure and harmful underwater practices. However, steps are being taken to create protected marine areas in the hope that plentiful marine life will soon return.

    One thing you are sure to see in Boca Chica and Santo Domingo are beautiful corals. The island is home to 35 species of coral and 12 types or gorgonians.

    In addition to these gorgeous corals, you might also spot stingrays, eagle rays, reef sharks, barracuda, small schools of fish, moray eels and crabs. Lucky divers have a chance of seeing a manatee. Of course, the invasive lionfish has created issues for the local ecosystem. If spotted, expect the dive master to kill this poisonous species.

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    Area

    On the south, central coast of the Dominican Republic, you will find Santo Domingo, the bustling capital of the island country. 19 miles (30 kilometers) to its east, Boca Chica lures foreign guests to its beautiful and protected bay. Both areas are on the Caribbean Sea and protected from harsh currents by their southerly location.

    Santo Domingo, originally founded in 1496, is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the Americas. It was also the original seat of Spanish colonial power in the New World and hosts the first university, cathedral and fortress in the Americas. Today, Santo Domingo is the cultural and political capital of the Dominican Republic and the city’s Colonial Zone has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

    Historically, Boca Chica was a sugar plantation retreat developed by Juan Bautista Vicini Burgos. This would change in the 1950s and 1960s when wealthy Dominican families built quiet beach homes in the area. The Dominican dictator, Trujillo, also ordered a hotel to be built. It was called Hotel Hamaca and would later be famous as the residence of Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista who was granted asylum following the Cuban Revolution. The hotel closed when the Cuban leader was killed in 1961. In the 1990s, investment in the tourist infrastructure grew and Boca Chica became one of the most popular destinations in the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, today the area is known for its sex industry and isn’t considered safe at night.

    Wherever you choose to spend your time, be it in Santo Domingo or in Boca Chica, you are sure to be charmed by the natural beauty of the Dominican Republic’s southern coast.

    Other attractions

    While they may be close together, the cultures of Santo Domingo and Boca Chica are completely different. In Santo Domingo, a bustling capital city, visitors can fill their time with shopping, monuments and museums. Be sure to check out the Catedral Primada de America and the Agora Mall. The 3 Eyes National Park also offers an interesting diversion. Boca Chica is a resort built with only relaxation in mind. A long sandy beach, sunny weather and clear water make this one of the most popular destinations on the island. Other than diving, guests can also take sailing excursions, snorkel in the bay or practice their sport with some deep sea fishing. Evening activities abound with several discos and a casino.

    Getting there

    Both Santo Domingo and Boca Chica can be accessed via Las Américas International Airport. Flights to Santo Domingo originate from major airports throughout North America and the Caribbean.

    It is also possible to enter the Dominican Republic overland from Haiti. Buses and taxis will take you as far as the border, but won’t cross it, so be sure to arrange additional transport to meet you on the other side.

    You can choose to get from the airport to your accommodation by chauffeur, rental car or local transportation.

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    Time zone

    DOP

    Currency

    +1829

    Calling code

    120 V

    Electric volt

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    B

    Plug type

    SDQ

    Main airport
    Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.