When it comes to the Caribbean, most people tend to forget about the second-largest country in the region. The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and stands as the second-largest Caribbean country both by population and territory, behind Cuba. Like all Caribbean countries, the Dominican Republic boasts diverse cultural and social differences, together with untold natural treasures. 48,445 square kilometers (18,705 square miles) of land is home to around 10 million people with the capital in Santo Domingo.
Being a tropical paradise as it is, the Dominican Republic is a fine choice to visit throughout the year. Of course, the Dominican Republic’s geographic diversity means that some parts of the island (interior mountainous regions) don’t exactly follow this pattern. While an average annual temperature of 25 °C (77 °F) is spread throughout regions close to both the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean coasts, temperatures considerably drop with the rise of elevation and distance from the coastline. In other words, short trousers, slippers, and a short-sleeve shirt might not be enough if you truly want to explore the Dominican Republic.
Being close to the Equator, Dominican Republic features dry and wet seasons, but the fact that it also features an exit to both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, also means that these seasons differ in northern and southern regions. Atlantic (northern) coast is wet from November to January, while the Caribbean coast (south and east) is wet between May and November. This is important for planning your holiday as much as the choice of the destination itself.
Dominican Republic – the real paradise in the world
But, what’s there to be seen, apart from sea resorts and beaches? That’s something you’re about to find out here. So, let’s start with the Dominican Republic and its top-rated attractions. Of course, we’ll start with beach resorts since the traditional type of sun, sea and sand tourism still remains the most widespread in the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana is a town resort of some 50,000 inhabitants, located on the easternmost tip of the Hispaniola island.
This whole area features more than 30 kilometers (18 miles) of beaches and clear waters. Arguably the most well-known beach in the Punta Cana region is Bavaro. This model tropical island beach boasts white sands, turquoise waters, and palm tree lines for as long as the eye can see.
That, however, isn’t the only tropical paradise beach in the Punta Cana region. Further south and away from the city, you can enjoy similar scenery on Isla Saona (Saona Island). It’s a part of Parque Nacional Del Este (Eastern National Park), which truly is a tropical paradise. Of course, Punta Cana doesn’t only offer traditional relaxation and swimming. Dune buggies, surfing, scuba diving, water sports, zipline tours, etc are only some of the available activities. Not to mention the nightlife.
Puerto Plata is another important resort located in the northern part of the country. Playa Dorada is probably the most popular beach in the region and a place where most international tourists look to settle upon arrival. It’s different than Bavaro beach for aforementioned reasons, but nonetheless magical in every sense of the word. Samana Peninsula is also on the Atlantic coast of the Dominican Republic. Apart from picturesque beaches and amenities, Samana Bay draws whale watchers from January to February. This is home to Parque Nacional Los Haïtises and many maritime species as well, which makes it rather unique. Thick mangrove forests, caves, and waterfalls only add to its attractiveness.
Let us not disregard the southern coast. Bahia de Las Aguilas is an open white sand beach with Jaragua National Park (Parque Nacional Jaragua) in its background. This 6-mile long strip of sand and shallow turquoise waters is close to the Haitian border in rural areas. This is probably its biggest advantage since the beach itself is undeveloped and unspoiled at the same time.
If you go to the craft market you will see them everywhere. They represent the mix of cultures and races here in the Dominican Republic, that are the result of centuries of international commerce, colonization, conquest, and the slave trade. The facelessness means that there is no ‘typical’ Dominican woman.
Author: Sandra Rodriguez Barron
Resorts and place to enjoying
Beach resorts, however, aren’t the only attractions the Dominican Republic has to offer. Far from it. Capital Santo Domingo itself is one colonial attraction riddled with remarkable architecture and social elements that are only found in the Caribbean. Colonial City (Zona Colonial) inside Santo Domingo is UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cobbled streets, exquisite buildings, and first cathedral in America – correspondingly named Catedral Primada de America are sites well worthy of a visit.
Not only that, but Santo Domingo’s old quarter combines history with modern when offering a plethora of high-end restaurants. Columbus Palace, Ozama Fort, National Botanical Gardens, Malecón, and many other attractions should prolong your stay in Santo Domingo to more than a day – that’s for sure.
If you’re more into rural attractions, however, don’t miss an opportunity to visit the Lake Enriquillo (Lago Enriquillo). This largest saltwater lake in the Antilles is a natural habitat for many rare species including flamingos and iguanas. Isla Cabritos – an island in the center of the lake is also a national park (Parque Nacional Isla Cabritos). It’s home to over 106 species of flora and 62 species of birds. Furthermore, this is one of the largest colonies of American crocodiles.
Speaking about the Dominican Republic and not mentioning Jarabacoa Waterfalls would have been unfair. This natural wonder is located in the country’s interior, in Cordillera Central mountains. These Dominican Alps are becoming explored more and more as ecotourism is beginning to take its full swing. El Salto de Baiguate, Salto Jimenoa Uno, and Salto Jimenoa Dos are a trio of Jarabacoa’s waterfalls with Salto Jimenoa Uno being 60 m (196 ft) tall. Salto Jimenoa Duo is slightly smaller (40 m or 130 ft), but still as splendid as its higher cousin.
The Dominican Republic is a country with numerous tourist attractions. These would be Dominican’s top-rated attractions, but there’s much more to it than that. From pristine beaches, over lush and dense forests to mountainous regions – Dominican nature has it all. Cultural heritage and colonial architecture can easily be explored in the country’s cities with Santo Domingo being the most important such hub.
All in all, the Dominican Republic and its top-rated attractions are well-deserving of a visit. Caribbean paradise offers something for everyone and we wouldn’t have taken it any other way.
The Dominican Republic was explored by Columbus on his first voyage in 1492. He named it La Española, and his son, Diego, was its first viceroy. The capital, Santo Domingo, founded in 1496, is the oldest European settlement in the Western Hemisphere.
Spain ceded the colony to France in 1795, and Haitian blacks under Toussaint L’Ouverture conquered it in 1801. In 1808, the people revolted and captured Santo Domingo the next year, setting up the first republic. Spain regained title to the colony in 1814. In 1821 Spanish rule was overthrown, but in 1822 the colony was reconquered by the Haitians. In 1844, the Haitians were thrown out and the Dominican Republic was established, headed by Pedro Santana. Uprisings and Haitian attacks led Santana to make the country a province of Spain from 1861 to 1865.
President Buenaventura Báez, faced with an economy in shambles, attempted to have the country annexed to the U.S. in 1870, but the U.S. Senate refused to ratify a treaty of annexation. Disorder continued until the dictatorship of Ulíses Heureaux; in 1916, when chaos broke out again, the U.S. sent in a contingent of marines, who remained until 1924.
A sergeant in the Dominican army trained by the marines, Rafaél Leonides Trujillo Molina, overthrew Horacio Vásquez in 1930 and established a dictatorship that lasted until his assassination in 1961, 31 years later. In 1962, Juan Bosch of the leftist Dominican Revolutionary Party became the first democratically elected president in four decades.