The government rates hotels with a star system, doling out one to six stars. Star ratings take into consideration the facilities that the property has to offer, including restaurants, spas, tennis courts, bathroom amenities, and service, but the ratings are not qualitative judgments. Therefore, a so-called five-star resort in the Dominican Republic may not be up to the same standards as a similarly rated resort in Mexico or the United States. Generally, Americans may not be satisfied with any resort having a rating lower than four stars. To be safe, go with five stars. Six is a new designation, so few hotels have it. Those that do are mainly the most expensive all-inclusives and luxurious boutique hotels.
Apartment and House Rentals
In Santo Domingo apartment rentals by the week do exist, but they are scarce. They're usually filled by word of mouth, with no "shingle" out in front. Renting an apartment can be risky unless you know the parties involved. At the very least, check out the situation in person before you hand over any money.
In the Southwest, foreign visitors who decide they want to be expats for a few weeks or months seem to have good luck in the towns of Los Blancos and Los Patos. Again, apartment rentals are usually found by asking around. Expats who have already found their rental in the sun are a good source. Realtors and owners sometimes prefer to have a good tenant in homes that are for sale, to ward off vandals or pests.
Rental condos or townhouses (often called villas) in the Dominican Republic are often the second homes of wealthy absentee owners. In some resorts like Casa de Campo they are the norm, though more often there are freestanding houses.
In Juan Dolio you can find a wide variety of villas in the Metro Country Club; Metro also has oceanfront condos in "new" Juan Dolio, also known as the Villas del Mar section. In "old" Juan Dolio there are more moderately priced apartments and homes for rent, many of which are suitable for singles or long-term renters.
On the North Coast much of the new high-end construction is designed to be privately owned but entered into a rental pool that is managed by the developers. Apartments are more common in Cabarete. The new oceanfront Seawinds Condominiums, at Punta Goleta, is one of the most luxurious such developments. The well-established Sea Horse Ranch development, between Sosúa and Cabarete, is a prestigious residential enclave with a beach club and restaurant, pool complex, and world-class equestrian center. In the Cabrera/Abreu area, about an hour west of Cabarete, the properties are in luxurious gated communities, where most rentals are managed by North Coast Management (NCM), a Cabrera-based agency. NCM is now renting less expensive homes and accommodations by the night, the week, or longer.
The Dominican Republic is best known for its all-inclusive resorts, which offer all you can eat, drink, and do for one moderate rate. These hotels, especially in the Punta Cana area, continue to be the big draw for this Caribbean island. Even though the escalating cost of food has driven costs up, they are still a great value, keeping the Dominican Republic at the forefront of cheap destinations in the Caribbean. But newer hotel developments are increasingly luxurious (and have high prices to match).
Perfectly nice, small, independent bed-and-breakfasts still exist in the Southwest near Barahona and are well priced, offering a more personal experience. In the mountain areas surrounding Jarabacoa, Constanza, and Valle Nuevo, rustic complexes—often with fireplaces—are the favored lodgings.
In Santo Domingo most of the better hotels are on or near the Malecón, with a growing collection of small, desirable properties in the trendy Colonial Zone, allowing you to feel part of that magical Old World neighborhood. But these hotels are still among the cheapest in the Caribbean.
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