Why We Love Dominican Republic

One half the island of Hispaniola (shared with Haiti), the Dominican Republic offers some world-class beaches, both on the wide Atlantic north coast and the placid Caribbean sea to the east and south. The exciting Punta Cana area on the DR’s eastern shore is a world-class resort destination with fine hotels, top-notch cuisine, those perfect beaches and one of the finest collections of championship golf of any island in the world. Bustling Santo Domingo, founded by Christopher Columbus, is a Colonial jewel of a city, and the towns and cities of the inner island seem frozen in an age long forgotten.

Top Destinations in Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo, the oldest city in the New World, lovingly preserves the jewels of its rich history and culture. Top on the list of the city's treasures is the historic Colonial City (Zona Colonial), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with cobblestone streets, stunning Spanish Colonial architecture, and excellent restaurants. Perhaps the most significant site here is the First Cathedral of America, the oldest existing cathedral in the Americas. Also worthwhile is the Museum of the Royal Houses and the early 16th century Alcazar De Colón, built by the son of Christopher Columbus. The Plaza de la Cultura is museum central. Here visitors will find the Palace of Fine Arts, Museum of Modern Art, and the National Palace to name a few. Other highlights of the city include the Columbus Palace, Ozama Fort, National Botanical Gardens, and the Malecón, a picturesque seaside promenade.

Punta Cana

Punta Cana, on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic, is one of the most popular tourist areas on the island. Packed with resorts, this large town is known for its beautiful beaches (palm-lined Bavaro is a favorite) and world-class golf courses. Nearby Scape Park offers a zipline tour, dune buggies, and a visit to the cool waters of Hoyo Azul Lagoon. Those seeking a slower pace can head north to the quaint fishing village of El Macao. Its public beach is a popular surfing spot. An airstrip with regular flights and charters flies pleasure-seekers to Punta Cana from around the world.

Samana

Studded with islets and fringed by palm-lined beaches, the waters of the humid Samaná Bay (Bahía Samaná) are a haven for marine animals. One of the biggest draws here are the humpback whales that calve here during January and February. This lush peninsula also encompasses popular Parque Nacional Los Haïtises, an ecological wonderland of jungle-covered islands, translucent waters, and thick mangrove forests. Also in the park are unique rock formations (mogotes) emerging from the sea, bird-filled caves like the Cueva del Angel, and pre-Columbian pictographs. The Salto El Limón waterfall is also worth a visit as well as the postcard-worthy Playa Rincon, one of the most picturesque beaches in the country. Horse riding, hiking, biking, and birding are popular pursuits in the region.

Playa Dorada

Minutes from the center of Puerto Plata, Playa Dorada is one of the most popular beach destinations on the Dominican Republic's north coast. This massive resort complex lies on a picturesque stretch of replenished beach dotted with deck chairs and coconut palms. Known as the country's first tourism destination, the area is packed with amenities, including dozens of restaurants, a shopping center, and a Robert Trent Jones golf course.

La Romana

La Romana, on the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic, is home to the charming Altos de Chavón, a replica of a 16th century artisans' village and one of the island's best spots to shop for crafts. Visitors will also find the luxurious Casa de Campo resort here encompassing several hotels, beautifully landscaped gardens, a riding school, polo ground, and tennis courts. Dominican designer, Oscar de la Renta, helped decorate the rooms. Casa de Campo also boasts one of the top golf courses in the Caribbean, Teeth of the Dog, which dazzles golfers with spectacular ocean views. Isla Catalina, a cruise-ship port-of-call, south of La Romana, draws thousands of visitors a day.

Jarabacoa

An emerging eco-tourism destination, Jarabacoa lies in the spectacular Cordillera Central, (Central Mountains) a landscape of sweeping pine forests, rivers, waterfalls, and the highest peaks in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic's only whitewater river, Río Yaque del Norte, offers gentle rapids for rafters. Visitors here appreciate the milder alpine climate, and the region's rugged terrain, with many trails, is excellent for mountain biking, hiking, and rock climbing.

Lake Enriquillo

Lake Enriquillo (Lago Enriquillo) is the lowest point and largest saltwater lake in the Antilles. Flamingos and iguanas are found in abundance here, and an island in the center of Lago Enriquillo, Parque Nacional Isla Cabritos, has one of the largest wild reserves of American Crocodiles. The park is home to over 106 species of flora and 62 species of bird ranging from the Hispaniolan Parrot to the White-crowned Pigeon.

Bahia de Las Aguilas and Jaragua National Park

On the Dominican Republic's southwestern coast, near Pedernales, remote Bahía de Las Águilas is one of the country's most magnificent beaches. This six-mile-long stretch of powder-soft sand lies in the protected Jaragua National Park and is best accessed by boat from the small village of La Cueva. The shallow, turquoise waters teem with marine life and the bay harbors many species of birds. Due to its remote location in the national park, the beach remains completely undeveloped and unspoiled.

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Overview

When Christopher Colon–known to history as Columbus–first arrived in Hispaniola in 1492, few might have expected that this Caribbean island would one day become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. But today’s Dominican Republic attracts visitors ranging from the private jet-setter to the all-inclusive bargain hunter.

They come in search of the tropical beauties of this beautiful island, from the cloud-washed mountains to the fertile agricultural plains to the sun-kissed beaches that ring so much of the Dominican Republic. They come to sample the spicy Dominican cuisine, sip the smooth Dominican rum, savor the aromas of the fine Dominican cigars and dance the nights away under the endless stars to the insistent backbeats of the Dominican merengue.

The Old World meets the New head on in the cobblestoned Colonial streets of Santo Domingo, where businessmen, artists and visitors all combine to make the island’s capital city an attractive melange of endless fascination and ever-changing culture.

The Dominican Republic contains more than a thousand miles of coastline, and about a quarter of it is magnificent, white sandy beach, lapped by the calm and warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. Here, modern palaces of pleasure have sprung up, offering sybaritic delights of sun, sand, food and wine, and a full menu of activities and events designed to entertain, educate and eliminate the stress of the modern world.

And all across the island, the Dominican people, warm and welcoming, work hard to make visitors feel part of the island’s daily dance. Kids playing beisbol on pickup lots, fishermen sharing their catch of the day, women selling their handmade goods … the beautiful beat of island life goes on everywhere, ready to be savored and treasured by the island’s many visitors.

The Dominican Republic is a wonderful experience waiting to happen. Come explore this island paradise that so appealed to Columbus, and the millions who’ve followed him on these shores.

Quick Facts

The official language, Spanish, is spoken throughout the country, although English is also spoken in most of the tourist areas.

The official currency is the Dominican Republic peso (DOP). The U.S. dollar buys approximately 45.8 DOP. U.S. dollars are accepted in the tourist zones, but the informal exchange rates there may not be the best.

Electricity runs at 110v, 60hz. Appliances from the USA will run normally. Convertors and adaptors are required for those with European plugs. It is recommended that visitors use surge protectors for computers, laptops and other sensitive equipment, as the electrical supply can be varied.

Internet connections and WiFi spots are found throughout the country. Most major hotels provide good accessibility.

Visitors from the United States, Canada, Europe and most other countries do not need a visa to enter the Dominican Republic: a valid passport is required. Upon arrival, visitors will need to fill out a tourist card, which costs US$10, good for 30 days.

Drinking purified bottled water is definitely recommended and is available everywhere in the Dominican Republic. Hotels and restaurants use purified water to clean and cook their food, and purified water is used to make all ice. It is not recommended that you drink tap water.

The DR is in the Atlantic Time Zone and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. From March to November, the DR time is the same as Eastern Savings Time; but is one hour earlier from November to March.

The Dominican Republics high season for tourism runs from late November to late April, which coincides almost perfectly with the chill of winter in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, and includes Christmas, New Year's, Easter, and most school spring breaks. The high season is also the dry season.

Average High and Low Temperatures

Things To Do in Dominican Republic

Zona Colonial

The Zona Colonial is the historic heart of Santo Domingo. This square mile of pretty streets and shady squares contains some of the oldest colonial buildings in the Western Hemisphere, including the cathedral. To walk along the Calle de las Damas is to retrace the steps of the first Spanish conquistadors, who used Santo Domingo as a base for the conquest of Latin America. Yet this district is no museum piece. It’s dotted with shops, restaurants and cafes, many housed in colonial-era buildings. It is also a real neighbourhood, where families sit outside their homes enjoying the cool of the evening.

Constanza and the Dominican Alps

The cool uplands of the country’s interior are a world apart, barely 80-km away from the tropical heat of Santo Domingo. Dominated by the towering Cordillera Central, the mountain range that forms the island’s spine, the central region is a nature-lover’s paradise of protected national parks, streams and valleys. The gentle climate encourages crops such as strawberries, and at high-altitudes frosts are not uncommon. The green meadows and pine forests are far from the usual image of the Caribbean, and Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the Caribbean, dominates the scene.

Santiago

Santiago de los Caballeros (Santiago of the Gentlemen) is the Dominican Republic’s second-largest city. It has long been the hub of the country’s agricultural industry, and since the 1980s, it has been one of the centers of the DR’s cigar industry. The noted firm of Carlos Fuente maintains massive tobacco warehouses and rolling rooms, as do several other major cigarmakers. The city is calmer than Santo Domingo, but lively enough in Calle del Sol and around the landmark Monument to the Heroes.

Puerto Plata

The “Silver Port” lies between the glittering Atlantic Ocean and the imposing bulk of the Pico Isabel de Torres. Its roots go back to 1495, but it was during the 1970s that this once-sleepy provincial back-water was rejuvenated by the advent of mass tourism. The nearby resorts of Playa Dorado and Sosua attract legions of visitors each year, but a tour of Puerto Plata’s colourful center, complete with Victorian-era architecture, galleries, and restaurants should not be missed. This is the best place to soak up the atmosphere of a bygone golden age.

Whitewater Rafting

An easily accessible mountain resort area, Jarabacoa sits at an altitude of 1,736 feet (529 meters) and is a favorite with Santo Domingo residents seeking the cooler temperatures and mental relaxation provided by the panoramic views. It is ideal for adventure seekers with the best river rafting in the Caribbean, as well as mountain biking, canyoning, paragliding, rappelling and mountain trail horse riding. Jarabacoa is also the most popular gateway for excursions to the highest peak in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte.

Beisbol

Even moreso than in the United States or Cuba, baseball (or beisbol) is the national obsession of the Dominican Republic. From Juan Marichal to David Ortiz, the DR has sent a steady stream of major leaguers to the US, and the one small town of San Pedro de Macoris has sent more than 35 players to MLB. The DR’s professional season runs from October to early Feburary, with games starting at 7 p.m., 5 p.m. on weekends.

Scuba Diving

Comfortable water temperatures allow for year-round snorkeling and scuba diving in the Dominican Republic. Visibility is generally an underwater photographer’s dream. The ultimate experience for a privileged few will be to dive with the humpback whales in the Silver Banks area off the North Coast. But for the less adventurous there are dives to coral heads, reefs, canyons, walls, caves, natural and artificial shipwrecks, some dating back to the 16th century. Experts recommend the dive spots in Puerto Plata, Espaillat and María Trinidad Sánchez provinces, in Samaná on the north coast, and off Boca Chica, Juan Dolio and La Romana on the south coast.

Golf

Pete Dye started it with his “Teeth of the Dog” course at Casa de Campo in La Romana, a magical seaside course. But once Punta Cana got cranked up, the menu of excellent courses expanded dramatically, with championship links designed by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, P.B. Dye, and Nick Faldo. Robert Trent Jones’ course at Playa Grande on the north coast is visually stunning, and it was recently renovated by his son Rees. No destination in the Caribbean can offer the quality of golf to be found in the DR.