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Hi I’m Paul, I’m gay and I’ve been living in Dominican Republic for nearly 10 years. I work in the tourist industry, speak fluent Spanish and travel around the island all the time. This site aims to help gay or bi men plan a visit and get the most from their visit to Dominican Republic. I’ve included information on how to get here, gay-friendly places to stay, the Dominican gay scene, gay sex and a lot of other advice, including how to stay safe. The Questions section is the place where you can ask me questions, and find answers. And finally, I’m happy to help you by organising a complete trip for you, taking care of all your transport and hotels.
An Introduction and Some Basic Geography
Firstly, it’s called Dominican Republic, D.R. or Dom Rep. Never refer to it as “The Dominican”. The Dominican Republic occupies about two-thirds of an island called Hispaniola – the other third is Haiti. It’s to the East of Cuba, and North East of Jamaica, pretty much slap-bang in the middle of the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic is the second largest country in the Caribbean, with about 10 million people. From east to west, driving mainly on highways, it takes about 6 hours to cross the country, and from north to south about 4 hours. So it’s quite a big island, way bigger than most people imagine.
Dominicans speak Spanish. In tourist areas like Bávaro, Boca Chica and Cabarete you’ll be able to find people who speak English, and you will also be able to find someone who speaks English for essential services like hospitals and banks. The currency is the Dominican Peso. The US Dollar is widely accepted, in supermarkets and larger shops as well as bars and restaurants in tourist areas. It’s easy to change money. Hotels tend to set prices in US Dollars. All hotels and restaurants are required by law to add a sales tax of 18%, and a service charge of 10% to their prices. In total this adds up to almost a third more, so it’s worth remembering that the prices you see advertised for hotel rooms and restaurants will go up quite a bit when you get the check.
Dominican Republic has the fastest-growing economy in the Americas, with 7% annual growth rates. Despite this, about a third of the population still live below the poverty line. If you travel around the capital, Santo Domingo, you’ll be struck by the sheer number of people and the differences between rich and poor. The key industries are tourism, sugar and gold mining.
Communications are generally good on the island, with fibre-optic internet being installed in many places, and 4G mobile phone network coverage across most of the island.
The Dominican Republic never got heavily involved with slavery, unlike the majority of other Caribbean countries, so from early days there was always more intermixing between white, black and the indigenous Taino Indians. This genetic mix of black white and Indian has left many to conclude that Dominican guys are some of the most stunning in the world. Certainly Dominican Republic has more than its fair share of beautiful men.
When it’s hot and when it’s not
The Dominican Republic has year-round sunshine. It’s never cold and it’s unusual to have a day without sun for at least a couple of hours. The nicest weather is between December and March, when it’s not quite as hot (about 25°C / 77°F) and you get a cool breeze. These are also the driest months.
The hottest time of year is in June and July when the temperature is often over 30°C and the humidity makes everything quite sticky. Rainy season is from May to September. When it does rain, the rain is very intense and generallly comes down for a couple of hours, followed by intense sun, and then more rain a couple of hours later. Hurricane season is August / September and every year there are several hurricane warnings during this time, although thankfully no recent hits. In 2017, Dominican Republic escaped the worst of hurricanes Irma and Maria, with only minor damage.
The center of Dominican Republic is mountainous and much cooler. In the hot summer months, many Dominicans go to areas like Jarabacoa as it’s generally far more pleasant with lower humidity and heat. In winter months, night-time temperatures in this area can drop to as low as 5°C / 41°F, so it can get a little chilly.
The layout of the island
Santo Domingo is the largest city in the Caribbean with about 3 million residents, so it’s bigger than Chicago and just a little smaller than Los Angeles. Santo Domingo is the oldest city in the Americas – founded in 1496, and the Colonial Zone is still full of ancient buildings and historical ruins. Santo Domingo is also the centre of gay life in Dom Rep and is where you will find most gay bars, gay hotels and gay nightlife.
Santo Domingo doesn’t have a beach, the closest one is in the resort of Boca Chica about 40 minute’ drive from the capital. Boca Chica beach isn’t the greatest, but this is good spot if you’re looking to hook up with local Dominican guys and there are some reasonable hotels in the area. Further east is Juan Dolio, less cruisy, but a much better beach and again some reasonable hotels.
Punta Cana and Bávaro are to the east of the island. These are dominated by all-inclusive hotels and package tourists. For the most part, if you stay in an all-inclusive you’re encouraged to stay inside and you’ll see very little of the real Dominican Republic. Cap Cana, in the same area, is a huge upscale gated community where locals are banned, so it’s a nice place to relax, but not so great if you want to discover the real Dom Rep and meet the locals.
The north coast of the island has a number of beach resorts. Puerto Plata is a reasonable-sized town, mainly dominated by resort hotels in Playa Dorada and Costa Dorada, family-oriented. There are some upscale hotels in Puerto Plata and a new cruise terminal. Sosúa is traditionally known as a place for older guys looking for younger girls and has nothing much to attract the gay visitor. Cabarete is the perfect spot for windsurfing and kiteboarding, and has a lot of restaurants, bars and clubs on the beach.
The Samana peninsula is further west. The main tourist resort is Las Terrenas which mainly has smaller hotels, nice restaurants and good beaches. Las Terrenas is a good choice if you’re looking for beach without crowds of package tourists. Las Galeras also has some fabulous beaches and is very quiet, a good choice if you want total relaxation.
The center of the island has the piton mountains, largest in the Caribbean, and the town of Jarabacoa from where you can do white-water rafting, mountain trekking and visit waterfalls. The scenery is stunning and completely unspoilt. The west of the Dominican Republic past the town of Barahona is the poorest and least visited by tourists, so this is your destination if you are looking for completely empty beaches and a taste of the real rural life. There are some stunning hotels in this area and fantastic scenery.
If you’re planning on visiting, feel free to ask me for advice on how to plan your trip. I can help you build up an itinerary for a tour of the island, recommend hotels and organize drivers. Just ask.
Dominicans genuinely have a very open attitude to sexuality and foreign gay men, particularly white gay men, are welcomed. In terms of acceptance of homosexuality, Dominican Republic feels a lot more like Brazil, Tunisia or Thailand than other Caribbean islands. Places like Barbados or Jamaica can be very homophobic.
Many Dominicans think that the most important thing in life is money (followed by their children and then food). If a cute young guy is dating an older foreign guy, this is mainly accepted because it’s assumed money is changing hands and that the younger guy is going to get a visa. Most young Dominican men know someone who has had a gay relationship with a foreigner, and talk about this as some sort of dream, rarely in negative words.
It’s important to understand that Dominicans like to appear to be honest, respectable and church-going in public. What goes on behind closed doors is fine, but they don’t like anything “in your face”. A gay relationship is fine, provided that it’s reasonably discreet. Kissing in public or holding hands would generally be a no-no. And while Dominican men who have been seeing a foreign guy for a while will refer to him as their husband, (“mi esposo”), most could not understand the idea of two men publicly getting married.
A Bugarron is a guy who claims to be entirely straight and has sex with tourists for money. Bugarrons are generally only sexual tops and will generally be the ones who hang around in the gay bars and on the beaches looking for tourists. They are prostitutes, usually walk around with photos of their dick and will negotiate a price for love. A Sankie-Pankie is a guy who has relationships with tourists, sometimes male, sometimes female, again for money. The sankies are mainly looking for something a bit more long-term, not just quick cash for sex but a regular feed to their Western Union account. These are the guys who work in the all-inclusives and you’ll find them in resort areas like Bavaro. Be careful about calling a Dominican a Bugarron or a Sankie-Panky, these words are quite insulting.
The Bugarrones and the Sankie-Pankies are the ones that you are most likely to meet as a tourist, and the ones that are most likely to try and take advantage of you. If you are looking to meet Dominicans, we would advise that you think about only meeting guys who are recommended to you by someone you can trust. If you don't know anyone at all in Dom Rep, then feel free to contact me and I can put you in touch with some trustworthy people. Remember that most Dominicans like everything to be discrete, so the nicer guys are less likely to be hanging around on the street outside a gay disco.
Answers To Some Of Your Questions About Dominican Men And Sex
Sex plays a big part in Dominican life, and Dominican men are among the horniest on the planet. I have been told the reason for this is because the poorer barrios have their electricity rationed, so quite often there’s no electricity in the evening, so no TV, and nothing to do but make sweet love. Or maybe it’s the heat.
Many Dominican guys have an obsession with arse (“culo”) and fantasize about fucking a massive booty. Because they love arse so much, even to the straightest Dominican the idea of topping another guy isn’t so awful, especially if the gay guy takes care of them and gives them a little change. If you’re bottom and you have a nice butt, expect to get a lot of looks from Dominican men and even wolf-whistles as you walk down the street.
Dominican men have a reputation for being well hung, so if you like your boy to be packing a monster, you’ve found your paradise. According to a survey, Latin America is the most hung continent on the planet and Dominicans have way above-average dicks, the average size being 6.2”. Haitian guys are even bigger – I’ve seen some Haitian guys with dicks nearly down to their knees. There is a massive Haitian population in D.R., particularly in the more rural areas. The downside of Haitian guys is that culturally they are far more homophobic, and less open to gay sex than Dominicans.
It’s true that most Dominicans are tops. The reason for this is that added to the maybe 10% who are exclusively gay, there are probably about another 20% of men who sometimes do gay sex, either because they like it or because they’re sankie-pankies or bugarrones, and these guys are mainly tops. If you are top and looking for bottom, you’ll probably need to focus more on the gay scene and on guys who are completely gay, instead of the “flexible” mainstream Dominicans. Most Dominican guys completely shave all of their body hair and despite the heat and basic conditions some Dominicans live in, it’s very unusual to find a smelly or dirty Dominican guy. I have never heard of an S&M scene in Dom Rep and while I guess it exists, it is very underground. You do see quite a lot of trans men in and around the gay bars and the trans people I have spoken to say that they are largely accepted by their families and don’t have a particularly hard time.
There are sex shops selling toys and lube in Santo Domingo. Condoms are easy to buy in any pharmacy and I would advise you to use condoms as HIV rates are particularly high amongst bugarrones and sankie-pankies. I have seen poppers for sale in sex shops sometimes, but nobody seems to know if they are legal or not in Dom Rep so they are sold under the counter, if at all. If you are bringing poppers from abroad be careful. Dominican police have a hard line on the use of other drugs and you risk being arrested and thrown into a very nasty prison if you are caught using drugs. So my advice is that this is not the country to do chem-sex, particularly as a tourist.
Need to know more? Just ask me a question.
The best airports for the gay traveller
Apart from the daily ferry from Puerto Rico, the only way to reach Dominican Republic is by air.
There are several airports. Gay visitors will probably be most interested in Santo Domingo, (airport code SDQ) which has several flights a day from New York, Miami, Atlanta, and non-stop services to Boston, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt and Panama amongst others. An alternative is Punta Cana (airport code PUJ) which is one of the busiest airports in the Caribbean with non-stop flights to 46 destinations including Toronto, London, Moscow and Washington. If you’re flying into Punta Cana and want to reach Santo Domingo, it’s a 3 hour drive and a taxi will cost you about $150 one-way (see getting around below).
The other airports are much smaller. Puerto Plata (airport code POP) has flights from Boston, New York and Toronto amongst others. Santiago (airport code STI) has flighs from New York, Miami and Panama. Samaná mainly serves Canada with non-stop flights from Halifax, Montreal and Toronto.
Everything about public transport, renting cars and taxis
There is no public transport from Santo Domingo airport to the city, so when you first arrive the only way to get to your hotel is by taxi. Most hotels offer an airport pick-up service for around US$ 40 one-way, and I would recommend that you use this – you will be travelling with your valuables and money and will be most vulnerable when you first arrive, and there have been reports of people being mugged when using airport taxis. If you’re staying within the Colonial Zone, you can walk pretty much anywhere, so you won’t need transport. To get to other parts of Santo Domingo, I would suggest you use Uber, the service is reliable and very cheap in Santo Domingo. You can also use Uber to take you to Boca Chica. I wouldn't recommend using Uber to or from the airport as the fixed price set by Uber is supposedly too low so the service isn't reliable.
For long-distance travel, the safest and cheapest way is by bus. Between Santo Domingo and the west (Barahona) and north of the island (Santiago, Sosua, Cabarete, Puerto Plata) Caribe Tours’ has hourly departures in air-conditioned coaches which are generally safe and comfortable. From Santo Domingo to Punta Cana / Bávaro, there is a separate service called Expreso Bávaro. This makes a stop at Punta Cana airport, so if you’re staying in Santo Domingo and flying home from there it’s perfect. It also stops to drop off (but not pick-up) at all the major resorts. Unfortunately, it only picks up from one central point in Bávaro for the return journey to Santo Domingo, so if you’re travelling from Punta Cana / Bávaro to Santo Domingo you will need to get a taxi to the bus stop. From Santo Domingo to Las Terrenas there is another bus company but only one bus per day (around 1.30pm) is a comfortable air-conditioned coach, the rest are little hopper buses.
An easier option is to use a driver. I know a couple of Dominican taxi drivers who are not only reliable and inexpensive but also very nice to look at, so if you are interested in having your own driver, just contact me and I will put you in touch.. Hiring a car is Ok, provided that you are not intending driving too much in Santo Domingo. Over three-quarters of the cars in Dominican Republic are in Santo Domingo, and the traffic is crazy. Even if you think you’re great driver, if you’re mainly going to be in Santo Domingo, check out the roads first in a taxi before you hire a car. Elsewhere in Dominican Republic the roads are generally good quality and car hire is not a bad option. I do recommend that you take out all the insurance options available. If you're thinking of hiring a car, get in touch and I will happily recommend places to you.
On street corners at intersections, you will often see a group of guys sitting on motorbikes. These are called Conchistas (riding MotoConchos), basically they’re a motorbike taxi service. They never have a second helmet for the passenger so it’s a pretty dangerous method of transport and not to be recommended. Uber has started offering a similar service in Santo Domingo, and does provide passenger helmets, and if you decide to do this then I wish you luck. Personally, I think the traffic in Santo Domingo is dangerous enough on four wheels, so even with a helmet, I’m not sure I’d risk it.
If you are feeling rich, there are private charter planes and helicopters which you can use to take you from one side of Dom Rep to the other. Check out DominicanShuttles.com for details.
Dominican Food is different to what you might expect in a Caribbean country because it is not spicy. Chicken, pork, fish and goat are definitely the best things to go for, the chicken in Dom Rep is almost always absolutely delicious and has a much nicer flavour to the chicken you get in the US or Europe. Dominican beef is not good at all, so if you do want a steak, make sure you choose Imported Beef – most good restaurants have this option.
Dominicans tend to have their main meal at lunchtime. Working class people eat at 12 mid-day, and more upmarket types eat at 2pm. The traditional lunch menu is “the bandera” – the flag, which includes rice, meat, beans and a salad. You can normally choose which type of rice you have – white, or with beans mixed in, and whether it’s chicken (pollo), pork (cerdo) or beef (res). Local restaurants will usually offer this at a fixed price, around RD$ 200 (about US$ 4). Dominicans are also big on soups (“sopa”) and stews (“sancocho”), normally served with rice.
Plantains (savoury bananas) play a big part in Dominican cooking. Fried plantains are called “Tostones” or “Fritos” are delicious and an alternative to French fries or rice. Mashed plantains are called Mangu and normally served at breakfast time. And a Dominican special is Mofongo, which is plantains mashed with pork crackling, which you normally eat as a side with pork or chicken.
Generally, food hygiene standards are high and it’s unusual to hear of someone who has got food poisoning from a restaurant, even from a small local eatery. You can’t drink tap water anywhere in Dominican Republic. Bottled water is always available, best to buy in a supermarket to avoid hotel prices. Restaurants and bars will only use bottled water to cook and make ice, so don’t worry. Tap water is supposedly clean, especially in Santo Domingo, so it's fine to use for teeth cleaning and washing vegetables. An excellent site if you’re interested in learning more about Dominican Cooking is Dominican Cooking.com by the wonderful chef Aunt Clara.
Where The Best Boys Hang Out
If you’re looking for gay bars, clubs and gay events, you’ll need to head to the capital, Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo has two gay-owned hotels. Casa Sanchez (about $100 a night incl breakfast) is the nicest, it has an amazing reputation and is always number one small hotel on Tripadvisor. It's just round the corner from Esedeku and has a pretty pool and a roof garden with a jacuzzi. The other option is Adams Suites (about $75 incl tax), directly opposite Fogoo, run by the lovely Gilbert. Rooms are more basic, but the service is good, so Adams Suites is an option if you just want a cheaper place to lay your head. Both Casa Sanchez and Adams Suites allow you to bring visitors back to your room. Casa Sanchez insists that you book a room for two people, and Adams Suites sometimes makes an additional guest charge. If you do bring someone back, they will need to provide ID. Casa Sanchez offers a 10% discount to GayDomRep readers who book direct, using the promo code GayDomRep.
There are two long-standing gay bars – Fogoo and Esedeku. Fogoo is in Arzobispo Nouel in the block between Santomé and Espaillat. Esedeku is in Calle Mercedes, on the corner of Santomé, not far from the big church. Both of these bars have shutters that cover their signs in the daytime, so you would only know they are there if they are open. Both are open from Thursday to Sunday evenings. Thursdays are always reasonably dead, Fridays and Saturdays the party gets going after midnight, and Sundays around 11pm. The owners of Fogoo also operate a couple of other newer gay bars - one is next to Fogoo, in the premises previously occupied by G-Lounge, and the other is called Gallery Bar in Calle Billini.
Also in Santo Domingo, a good gay meeting spot it Parque Duarte, an open-air square on Padre Billini between Duarte and Hostos. You’ll find a lot of Dominicans there on Fridays and Saturdays, everyone sitting around on benches and drinking beers which you can buy from one of the little colmados (drinks shops) around the square. The end of the square nearest to Duarte is gayest, on a Friday night you’ll sometimes get maybe 200 gay guys there. These guys are out gays, rather than straight guys looking for cash. If you prefer straighter guys, just take a seat at night on any of the benches in the Conde on your own, particularly heading towards Parque Independencia. You'll see a procession of mainly straight guys looking for tourist dollars walking past you. Smile at anyone you like and they will come and talk to you.
The Apollo Sauna is a gay sauna, just around the corner from Parque Duarte, on Arzobispo Nouel between 19 de Marzo and Duarte. It's well run and does not provide massages, and the crowd is mainly locals. If you’re looking for rent boys, there are a couple of other options. Bar Friends on Calle Polvorin, close to Independence Square, is a place where rent-boys meet tourists, open every evening. Juan Bin-Bin offers gay massages with all the extras. They have branches in Santo Domingo (Emilio Prud’Homme 26, near to Independence Square, advisable to go by taxi at night as this area can be a bit seedy), and also provide their service in Bavaro and Santiago. Their twitter page (@JuanBinBin) has a lot of images of the boys working and contact details.
Santo Domingo has an annual gay pride, which consists of a small parade which goes along the Malecon, and then a big party, normally close to Plaza Colón. The party is the main event and normally attracts several thousand people.
Santo Domingo doesn't have a beach, but the gayest beach is almost certainly Boca Chica. Take a seat at any of the bars or restaurants on the beach, and you'll see a constant procession of young guys again mainly looking for tourist dollars. You will normally be approached and asked if you want boys or women several times at the beach. Boca Chica is pretty sleazy at night, so not recommended for a stay
There is very little organised gay life outside Santo Domingo. Bavaro is very family and couple oriented, thousands and thousands of all-inclusive holidaymakers and very little for the gay man. If you are outside the capital, you'll find the usual gay sites like Grindr and Adam4Adam are probably the best way to meet the locals.
How to stay safe in paradise
The Dominican Republic is a reasonably lawless place, certainly compared to the U.S. or Europe it’s like the Wild West. Police are often more interested in trying to get a back-hander, so unless it’s a life or death situation, they can't be relied on to help. The CesTur are the tourist people, they are the guys in the white and blue T-shirts. Theoretically they speak English and their job is to protect tourists, so if you do need the police, they are the ones you should contact.
There are two things which are absolute no-no’s for tourists. The first is sex with a boy who is under 18. This is considered to be sex with a child (even if the boy is 17) and leads to a prison sentence, and then deportation back to your home country as a sex offender. Not good. All Dominicans who are over 18 carry ID at all times, their I.D. card is called a “cédula” (pronouced “Sed-u-la”), this has their photo and their date of birth. It’s always a good idea to take a photo of the cédula with your phone camera for anyone you meet, this way if anything goes wrong you have their I.D. and the police can find them quickly. If someone won’t show you his I.D. chances are he is underage or has something to hide, and it’s best to move on. Check the back of the cedula, because if the guy is under 18 is has the word MENOR written in big letters at the top left corner.
The second no-no is drugs. Although drugs are available on the street, the scam is that the drug seller is working with the police, you buy the drugs, you get arrested and then are asked for a large bribe to be freed. If you do try to take any drugs home, the drug detection at airports is very sophisticated and you are very likely to be caught.
Driving in the Dom Rep, particularly in Santo Domingo, is not for the faint-hearted. Dominican roads are the second most dangerous in the world and most days you will see an accident. Driving at night is dangerous, mainly because there are so many motorbikes with no lights and it is easy to hit them and severely injure the rider. There are no DUI / drink-driving laws in the Dominican Republic, so at weekends and holidays many drivers are drunk. The easiest way to move around is to use a Dominican driver. I know a couple of Dominican taxi drivers who are not only reliable and inexpensive but also very nice to look at, so if you are interested in having your own driver, just contact me and I will put you in touch..
Dominican hospitals are reasonably good, provided that you have insurance. Always make sure that you have travel insurance and save the emergency contact number for your insurer in your phone. No hospital will start to treat you, even in an emergency, unless they know you can pay.
< Most tourist areas are reasonably safe to walk around in the daytime, the main danger is being mugged. Your gold jewelry should not be coming on your trip with you and should be left at home. Don’t walk around with expensive cameras and try not to use your phone on the street and you should be fine.