The Dominican Republic lies on the second largest island in the Greater Antilles, Hispaniola. It occupies two-thirds of the island, with Haiti occupying the western third. The Atlantic Ocean is on its north side and the Caribbean Sea on its south. There is a welcoming, hospitable culture in the Dominican Republic. Its soft-sanded beaches, warm waters, and a mixture of historical and cultural sites add to its charm. More than 5 million tourists visit the Dominican Republic each year, and it is a popular pick for destination weddings and honeymoons.
The Dominican national capital, Santo Domingo, sits on the southeastern coast of the island. Its historic district, the Zona Colonial encompasses 16 square blocks located in the heart of the city and home to architecturally significant buildings dating back to the 16th century. Despite its rich historical heritage, Santo Domingo is a thriving, modern center for Dominican culture, with an array of art galleries, shopping malls, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and nightclubs. Guides are available for walking tours. Bike rentals allow you to experience the city of Santo Domingo on your own. Families will enjoy a tour via the Chu Chu Colonial train, a 45-minute tour of monuments, parks, colonial homes, and churches in Santo Domingo.
With the island of Hispaniola dating back about 10,000 years, there are extensive archaeological resources to see. Visit the Regional Museum of Archaeology at Altos de Chavon to see a collection of 3000 pre-Columbian artifacts discovered in the Chavon River area. Locals say a visit here helps visitors understand the historical and archaeological significance of Santo Domingo. Several tours to landmarks, sacred and religious locations, and architectural sites are available throughout the Dominican Republic.
Many golfers consider the 30 courses located in the Dominican Republic to be the best in the Caribbean. Premiere resorts operate most of the golf courses. They also offer air-conditioned, plush rooms or rental houses with multiple bedrooms, private pools, and breakfast and lunch buffets. The Casa de Campo has two golf courses designed by Pete Dye, a legend in golf course creation and construction. Many people believe that one of these courses, Teeth of the Dog, is Dye’s masterpiece. It features a precise and challenging 18-hole championship course and breathtaking views of the ocean. If you need a break from your golf game, book a fishing expedition or relax in one of the beautiful spas.
If you plan to travel to the Dominican Republic between the months of October and January, take in one of the 50 Winter League baseball games. Not only does this league serve as a developmental testing ground for young players, but it is also a popular destination for major league baseball stars who want to sharpen their skills. Baseball in the Dominican Republic is a national passion. The first team on the island was Santo Domingo’s Tigres del Licey, founded in 1907. The professional team still competes today.
One of the most popular tourist destinations in the Dominican Republic is the Hoyo Azul (or “Blue Hole” in English), a cenote located in Scape Park in the Cap Cana area and near Punta Cana. Cool, turquoise-blue spring waters fill this natural swimming hole, which lies at the foot of a 246-foot limestone cliff. Visitors reach the water hole using a timber staircase and footbridge. Family-friendly tours also explore the surrounding rain forests, cliffs, and caves. For those seeking more of an adrenaline rush, try the Hoyo Azul Zip Line, a course with 8 zip lines, some of which reach heights of 250 feet above the forests. Experienced professionals guide you through the course, but children must be over the age of six to participate.
You’ll find all types of live music and dancing across the Dominican Republic, in local clubs, parks, and public spaces. Many people consider Santo Domingo to be a hub for nightlife. Every Friday and Saturday night, experience live cultural music on the Plaza de Espana or sample a regional craft beer at one of the popular craft brew establishments. Punta Cana is a great party destination for any budget, offering a wide array of music genres in its many discotheques, concert sites, bars, or restaurants.
Home to the finest amber in the world, the Dominican Republic has deep cultural and economic ties to this fossilized resin. The amber mined in Cordillera Septentrional, a mountain range in Santiago, is between 30 and 40 million years old and contains fossilized plant and animal remains. To learn more about amber and its history in the Dominican Republic, visit the Amber Museum in Santo Domingo’s Villa Bentz. The museum’s shop offers an extensive array of impressive amber jewelry for sale. Or, hunt for amber yourself on the beach in Cabarete. Peak opportunities occur after it rains when sea waves wash the amber up from the seabeds and leave it behind in the seaweed along the shore.
If you are an animal lover, you’ll find many tours and wildlife areas in the Dominican Republic. For bird watching, visit Cachote, a protected cloud forest area and home to 45 different species of birds. If you’ve dreamed of swimming with dolphins, head to Punta Cana for a half-hour experience including feeding, playing ball, and touching them. The aquarium option usually means a crowd will be watching your dolphin encounter. An ocean swim with one of these magnificent sea mammals is more private. While you’re in Punta Cana, explore the Monkey Land sanctuary where you can choose to have a 45-minute interaction and pose for selfies with intelligent, friendly squirrel monkeys.
The Dominican Republic has more restaurants than any other country in the Caribbean. Its culinary style draws inspiration from a diverse number of cultures but dominated by Spanish cuisine. The biggest meal of the day is lunch. Many restaurants serve sancocho, a rustic stew made with smoked ham, chicken, top round beef, or beef short ribs, and a selection of root vegetables and starches. Roadside vendors sell coffees, smoothies, coconut water or milk, and a popular local drink called Malta Morena, a non-alcoholic beverage made with corn semolina, hops, sugar, and malted barley. Rum is the spirit of choice in the Dominican Republic. Bermudez was first rum distillery, founded in 1852. It is located in Santiago de los Caballeros and still run by the Bermudez family who produces delicious varieties of Dominican rum.
Spending time with your special someone on one of the many exquisite beaches in the Dominican Republic may sound romantic, but there is so much more for couples to experience in this island paradise. Consider booking a day excursion on a private yacht from Punta Cana to Saona Island, one of the idyllic spots in the Caribbean, inhabited with sea turtles, whales, and other sea life. Eat a tasty fish and rice dish in one of the thatched-hut restaurants on the pristine white-sand beaches. Or, spend time with the rich and famous at La Romana. Go diving, horseback riding, or attend a polo match. If you prefer more action-packed adventures, consider kitesurfing in Cabarete. Or celebrating with fellow travelers in the open air bars in Boca Chica.