The climate in the Dominican Republic is best described as a tropical, with sunny days year-round and average annual temperatures hovering just below 80°F (26° C). Variations from that average are determined more by altitude than anything else.
Temperatures at higher elevations in the central mountain range, the Cordillera Central, can drop into the 60s F (17° – 18° C), and it’s not uncommon to see temperatures above 90°F (32°C) on the coastal plains. Northeast trade winds blow off the Atlantic year-round and are especially welcome on the northern side of the island. The average temperature in the capital, Santo Domingo, is 75°F (24°C) in January and 80°F (27°C) in July.
Changes in seasons in the Dominican Republic means changes in rainfall patterns as opposed to changes in temperature. The rainy season for the north coast runs from November to January; for the rest of the country, rain falls more regularly between May and November. During the rainy season, rains tend to fall in the afternoons in short bursts after which sunshine returns.
The mountainous northeast see the heaviest rains, with average annual rainfall of more than 100 inches (2,540 mm). The western valleys along the Haitian border, as well as the northwestern and southeastern extremes of the country, are relatively arid and usually see only about 20 inches (500mm) of annual rainfall. The humidity can be oppressive during the heat of summer months, but winter brings relief in the form of cooler, dry nights.
Tropical Storms in the Dominican Republic
Living in the Dominican Republic puts you squarely within the hurricane belt. In fact, hurricanes claim a special history in the DR—their name is said or have originated from the indigenous Taino people’s word for the fierce and destructive storms that can batter the island: “hurakans.” When Europeans arrived in the Caribbean in the 16th century, they had never seen weather to equal a tropical storm and had no word for them. Hurakan quickly became a borrowed word and was incorporated into Spanish as huracán. Hurricane is the anglicized form.
Generally, hurricane season in the Dominican Republic is from June to November. Historically the most active month is September, but some of the most severe and destructive storms have come significantly earlier in the year; it’s impossible to predict when the storms will come. While a major storm hits once every quarter-century, the island is affected by at least outer bands of storms more frequently—close to every five years.
Hurricanes are a part of life in the Dominican Republic and something you’ll need to accept if you want to live here. It’s important to remember, though, that the island is used to this kind of extreme weather and is well prepared for it. Construction new and old is up to hurricane code and drainage is sufficient across the country—neither of these things were true even five years ago, but today, the DR is taking this concern seriously and has already corrected problematic infrastructure.