Spring Break = beach break. So, you’ve decided to head to the beautiful Dominican Republic for Spring Break. Cue the Instagram worthy parties, wave runners and all-you-can-eat buffets. Before you break out the new bikini you may want to pump the breaks and find out if your epic adventure falls during Holy Week in the Dominican Republic.
Holy Week or Semana Santa as it is known in the Dominican Republic begins on Palm Sunday and ends a week later on Easter Monday. In many Roman Catholic countries, it is considered by many to be the most important holiday of the year. For this reason, you may find that certain activities are severely limited if not cancelled all together.
Be prepared for motorized water sports to be unavailable as well as some non-motorized water sports. I’ve heard that horses on the beaches are banned as well during this time so you won’t be able to go for a nice ride along the beach like you may have planned.
- Loud music played outside may be curtailed or banned completely at certain times.
- Dance clubs and casinos may be closed even within the resorts.
- The sale of alcohol is banned as well. You will probably only be able to obtain alcohol within your resort if it has applied for a special permit from the government to serve during Holy Week.
- Boating around the Dominican Republic could be limited.
- Public beaches may have restricted beach hours.
- National parks or facilities may be closed.
In recent years these events have been more noticeable over Easter weekend starting on Good Friday rather than lasting all week.
Many visitors report that when staying exclusively on the resort property they have noticed little to no change as opposed to those that have ventured into town. The exception is Good Friday. This seems to be the day that everyone takes off. You will be hard pressed to find excursions or tours that occur on Good Friday, music within your resort may be off and if your resort casino or dance club is going to be closed it will probably be on Good Friday at the very least.
So what happens if you find yourself in the Dominican Republic during Holy Week? I say you should make the most of this unique opportunity! Instead of a non-stop, action packed party take this chance to let loose in a different sort of way. You’ll probably notice things are quieter during certain days or certain times of the day. Take that time for you and your travel companions to “unplug” and enjoy some good old-fashioned conversation. Spend some time on the beach just listening to the waves. I know that sitting by the ocean makes me stop and think about everything I am thankful for in my life and truly settles my soul. You can’t do that with your phone in one hand, drink in the other simultaneously trying find that perfect Instagram pose. Take a stroll down the beach without your phone, it’s oddly freeing.
If you have friends from the Dominican Republic or currently living there, maybe you can wrangle an invite to a family gathering. Enjoy a true local experience away from the resort version of the country and try some traditional foods such as habichuelas con dulce. It has a pudding texture and is a mix of red beans, condensed milk, spices and other ingredients that is served cold. People make it in large quantities during the week to share with friends and neighbors. I’ve never tried it but I know that some of my favorite Korean sweet treats contain red beans so I probably need to get my hands on some habichuelas con dulce and check it out.
Another option during the weekend would be to attend one of the religious processionals in town. When I was in Mexico City many years ago, I had the pleasure of attending one such processional and I am still glad I did. I would not call myself religious, I think I qualify as spiritual and I don’t believe you have to be a Christian to appreciate the spirit of that moment.
If you plan to venture outside of your resort remember that a lot of the residents will be off for that week and many travel to their hometowns to spend time with family. You may find that stores and restaurants are closed in the towns especially on Easter weekend. Speaking of weekends, I have heard epic tales of traffic jams leaving the cities on Thursday or Friday preceding Easter weekend and when returning Sunday evening that can rival our Labor Day traffic here in the U.S. You may want to keep this in mind if you have flights you need to catch during any of these peak traffic times. Prices may be higher at your resort because locals take this week to check-in and enjoy the beautiful resorts their country has to offer. Obviously, this can mean crowded beaches and facilities so be prepared.
I just compared pricing for Holy week at a popular all-inclusive resort and it was $200 more than the week before and the week after so if your dates are flexible and you want to participate in a lot of activities you may want to look at other dates. Whatever time of year you visit, you should expect a wonderful time and hopefully be inspired by the wonderful people of the Dominican Republic.
Have you ever traveled to the DR during Holy week? What was your experience?