The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with its lesser developed cousin, Haiti, and enjoys a year-round summer, with sugar-white beaches shaded by palm trees, crystalline waters teeming with rainbow-hued fish, and Spanish colonial history stretching back 500 years. Small fishing villages attract locals and backpackers, while larger all-inclusive resorts appeal to couples and families. Spicy food, spicier merengue, and a leisurely lifestyle draw more travelers to the Dominican Republic every year.
Things to Do
The white sandy beaches and swaying coconut palm trees make exclusive Punta Cana a respite for sun worshippers. Scuba divers can plunge deep for shipwrecks in the translucent waters of Bayahibe. Inland, the vibrant Santo Domingo, one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean, has a 12-block Colonial Zone whose cobblestone streets take you past old stone buildings and museums. Away from the city, discover the thundering waterfall Salto de Aguas Blancas or observe marine life at Manati Park.
Stock up on the world's finest smokes in the cigar-making region in and around Santiago, or bring home a bottle or three of aged Dominican rum. In Santo Domingo, browse El Mercado Modela, a market stuffed with local crafts and spices. Check out Harrison's in Puerto Plata for amber jewelry, worn by Keith Richards and Madonna. Duck in the art galleries of Altos de Chavon, a re-created 16th-century village, then linger along the cliff for awesome Punta Cana views.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Locals and visitors alike flock to the dance clubs after dinner in the city and the hotels along the beach. Move to DJ-driven beats in Santo Domingo or Puerto Plata, or taste umbrella-topped cocktails at a beach bar in Cabrera and Barahona. Casinos in the larger cities and resorts offer late-night gaming; players enjoy free drinks. Baseball is a way of life here, and fans can watch future Major Leaguers compete in the country's professional league.
Restaurants and Dining
Dig into fresh rock lobster or zesty braised red snapper in Santo Domingo, or head to Puerto Plata for crayfish or grilled shrimp kabobs. Locals love their national dish La Bandera (rice, beans meat, vegetables and fried plantains), as well as the subtle flavours of stewed fish and conch at Samana, the national coconut capital. Wash it down with a bottle of Dominican Republic Presidente beer or a rum cocktail.