Imagine miles-long white sand beaches set to a backdrop of lush rainforests, in a scene of what seems like perpetual summer. Jamaica and the Dominican Republic both fit the bill for an idyllic tropical getaway.
Though they may seem similar on the surface, a closer look will let you know that these two Caribbean countries have many differences that you should consider.
Jamaica vs the Dominican Republic: Cost
As two similarly popular Caribbean destinations, the differences in costs are minor. The Dominican Republic wins this category, but only slightly.
Expect the daily budget in Jamaica per person to be around $100. Depending on your accommodation, however, this can range drastically. If you are looking at an all-inclusive resort, expect to pay $250/night up to $1500 per couple per night.
Though vacationers in Jamaica may find their daily expenses to be a bit lower than their counterparts in DR, accommodation is a factor to consider. It’s harder to find cheaper, budget-friendly lodging in Jamaica.
The average daily budget in the Dominican Republic skews marginally higher, at $110-120 per person. Once again, it varies depending on where you’re staying.
Punta Cana, the definitive tourist area of the Dominican Republic, is on par with most Jamaican destinations in terms of costs. The further you are from Punta Cana, the prices become a bit lower and you have a better chance of finding bargains.
Jamaica vs the Dominican Republic: Resorts & Accommodations
This category is a tie. The average accommodation quality is better in Jamaica but it’s much easier to find deals on luxury lodging in the Dominican Republic.
The all-inclusive resort chains of Riu and Sandals (including its family-friendly off-shoot, Beaches) service the main tourist areas in Jamaica.
Other notable stays include Half Moon, a wellness-focused resort and spa in Montego Bay, as well as Jamaica Inn, a small yet luxurious and romantic resort in Ocho Rios.
Boutique hotels and villas are also very popular in Jamaica; Airbnb will be your friend if you decide to go this route.
Punta Cana, and the whole east coast of the Dominican Republic, is saturated with resorts — you’ll find something for you!
Bahia Principe, Catalonia Bavaro Beach, and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino are three of the most popular options. A more intimate alternative in Punta Cana is the Tortuga Bay Hotel.
Villas and boutique hotels are options wherever you go, and the latter are especially popular on the north coast, in and around Puerto Plata and Cabarete.
Jamaica vs the Dominican Republic: Food
You could go your entire vacation eating food that you’re used to, but you’d be missing out on Jamaica and the Dominican Republic’s exquisite local cuisine.
Jamaica wins this time, as its culinary offerings are more distinctive, affordable, and pervasive all around the country.
Jamaican cuisine is heavily African-based, with some Indian, English, and Spanish influences as well.
One of the most popular Jamaican dishes is a jerk. Jerk is a spicy marinade you can have on anything — chicken, pork, beef, goat meat, fish, or vegetables — best cooked over a wood fire.
Ackee and saltfish (dried, salted cod) is the island’s national dish and a fusion of flavors that are hard to compare to anything else. Oxtail and curries are also mainstays of the local cuisine.
Food in the Dominican Republic is a rather unique blend of Spanish, African, Taino (the indigenous peoples of many Caribbean islands), and even a bit of Middle Eastern cuisine.
Sancocho, a seven-meat stew served with corn and yam, and Mangú, a dish made from green plantains and red onions, are staples of Dominican cuisine.
The national dish of the country is la Bandera Dominicana. Translating to “the Dominican flag”, this dish consists of rice, red beans, and stewed meat.
Jamaica vs the Dominican Republic: Things to Do
As far as unique attractions go, Jamaica takes the cake, having a balanced mix of relaxing, adventurous, and cultural attractions. Tourism in the Dominican Republic is much more resort-centric, though there are still plenty of things to do.
Ocho Rios is the attraction hotspot of the island. Dunn’s River Falls is a must-see (and must-climb!), as well as Ocho Rios Blue Hole, a series of lagoons and caves.
The rugged and majestic Blue Mountains in the east of the island are also a fixture on many visitors’ to-see lists.
Aside from Negril, every part of Jamaica is steeped in culture and history. The Rastafarian Indigenous Village near Montego Bay and Bob Marley’s hometown of Nine Mile near Ocho Rios are two great examples of cultural attractions that are within a stone’s throw of tourist areas.
The Damajagua Waterfalls near Puerto Plata on the north coast are a gorgeous series of waterfalls and pools that are one the top-rated attractions in the country.
If you’re interested in experiencing Dominican culture and history, Santo Domingo is the place for you. The capital city, located on the south coast, is home to historical buildings and monuments dating as far back as the 1400s.
Aside from Santa Domingo, Dominican culture is a bit out of the way of tourist areas.
Jamaica vs the Dominican Republic: Beaches
One of the things Jamaica and the Dominican Republic have in common is their perfect white-sand beaches.
It’s a very close match whose winner depends on what exactly you want out of a beach. Overall, however, the Dominican Republic has better beaches.
One of the most famous beaches in Jamaica is Seven Mile Beach in Negril. This seemingly endless stretch of white sand and crystal blue water is the crown jewel of the island
On the north coast, Doctor’s Cave Beach in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios Bay Beach are two other stunning options.
The Caribbean Sea is a calm body of water and Jamaica is wholly surrounded by it, making beaches on this island ideal for watersports and snorkeling. The well-maintained coral reefs, especially around Montego Bay and Negril, are magical.
Any beach in the Dominican Republic will make a worthy backdrop to an island vacation. Apart from Negril in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic has more continuous miles of beachfront. Bavaro Beach in Punta Cana was voted one of the top 10 beaches in the world.
The waters in the Dominican Republic are a bit choppier than those in Jamaica, especially in popular Atlantic Ocean-facing destinations such as Punta Cana. This makes them less than ideal for surfing or snorkeling.
Jamaica vs the Dominican Republic: Nightlife
You’ll find a range of nightlife in either country, from toned-down bars to glamorous nightclubs.
The Dominican Republic is a clear winner for this category, though. The nightlife scene here is just much more vibrant and tourist-friendly.
Jamaica’s nightlife is at its peak in Kingston, the capital. Establishments like Dub Club in the mountains and Track and Records on the waterfront are two notable mentions.
The nightlife in Kingston is much more local-centric, though. For tourist-friendly nightlife, visitors would be better suited to Montego Bay and Negril. These two towns have an abundance of clubs and bars, too!
The Dominican Republic has one of the best nightlife scenes in the Caribbean.
Similarly to Jamaica, the capital of Santo Domingo is where you’ll find most of the action, except it’s very accessible to tourists as well. The streets absolutely come alive in the evening!
Punta Cana has no shortage of clubs and bars, either. Santiago de los Caballeros near the north coast is also a nightlife hotspot.
Jamaica vs the Dominican Republic: Conclusion
Despite their similarities on the outside, you’ve probably come to realize that Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are two different animals.
Neither is objectively better as a vacation destination. The choice comes down to what you prefer and prioritize in a vacation.
Beach lovers and those wanting a pure resort experience will prefer the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is also the place to be for lively, eclectic nightlife.
People who love getting out, exploring, and going on adventures will greatly appreciate what Jamaica offers. Jamaica is also the choice for people who want to be immersed in Caribbean culture.