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Photos courtesy of Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism
One of the largest countries in the region, with the highest mountain and perhaps the largest resort, the Dominican Republic has 870 miles of coastline on three sides. It is rich in history, vivid in culture, and it possesses a wide variety of attractions for every taste and budget. The interior is punctuated with lakes and mountains, supporting a growing agriculture industry. Not to be confused with Dominica (see above), it shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, to the west.
The capital city, Santo Domingo, was established by Columbus during one of his voyages, making it as old as they get in this part of the world. UNESCO has designated the Colonial City of Santo Domingo as a World Heritage Site.
All that coastline means lots of beaches, and the Dominican Republic has them. Puerto Plata, La Romana, La Samana, and most recently, Punta Cana, all vie for attention.
Puerto Plata has about 40% of the country’s hotel rooms, nearly 20,000. The town is built around the base of Mt. Isabel de Torres, and it features a great many Victorian period buildings, painted in pastel colors, and holding shops, bars, offices, restaurants, and clubs. Also there is San Felipe Fort, in classic Spanish Colonial style.
West from Puerto Plata lie many smaller beach towns, most notably Playa Dorada, Sosua, Caberete (famous for windsurfing), and the Costa Verde area.
In the northeast lies the Samana peninsula with beaches, tiny tropical islets, the European beach town of Las Terrenas, and Los Haitises National Park.
Punta Cana is the newest resort development here, on the furthest east coast, and with its own international airport. With miles of spectacular beaches, Punta Cana has no town nearby, leaving it off by itself and very private feeling. But this means it offers very tranquil, low key vacation experiences, which many find ideal. The beach is the thing here, but day activities such as excursions, sailing trips, horseback riding, and golf are all available. Nightlife is limited to hotel variety shows, but the Barcelo Bavaro Casino has the leading Latin and Caribbean music production. And Club Med has one of its most popular properties here.
On the southeast coast you find the town of La Romana, famous for many years as the home of world-famous Casa de Campo, one of the largest and most full-service resorts in the world. La Romana has its own international airport, now no longer crossing the fairway of the golf course. Nearby are the islands of Bayahibe and Dominicus, with their exquisite beaches, and the National Park of the East.
Not To Be Missed – Climb to the top of Pico Duarte, the highest point in the Caribbean; watch humpback whales in Samana Bay, mid-January to March.