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Altos de Chavon

Built in 1976 to resemble a Mediterranean village from the 1500s, Altos de Chavon, Dominican Republic, just east of La Romana and Casa de Campo luxury resort, is perched atop a bluff overlooking the Chavon River. Altos de Chavon includes an archaeolo...

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Amber Cove

On the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, Amber Cove lies near the city of Puerto Plata.

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Bahia de las Aguilas


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Bahia de Samana


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Barahona

Barahona (Santa Cruz de Barahona) is a remote province in the southwest of the Dominican Republic. It is known for incredible scenery, bird watching and wildlife viewing opportunities, surfing beaches, biodiversity of its forests and ecotourism.

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Bayahibe

Bayahibe, Dominican Republic, a fishing village 65 mi/105 km east of Santo Domingo, has somehow managed to retain its small-town feel and attitude—despite an explosion in the number of all-inclusive resorts in recent years. Bayahibe is considered one...

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Bermudez National Park

Bermudez National Park encompasses most of Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the Caribbean at 10,164 ft/3,098 m, according to surveys, although the Dominican government has officially deemed it to be 10,128 ft/3,087 m. The park is a popular place ...

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Boca Chica

Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, 15 mi/25 km east of Santo Domingo, is hugely popular with Dominicans, and the beach is often packed, especially on weekends, with vendors hawking their wares and merengue music blaring from portable radios. (Be aware t...

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Cabarete

The undisputed windsurfing and kiteboarding capital of the Caribbean, Cabarete, Dominican Republic, a pleasant and vibrant north-coast resort, is also the Dominican Republic's liveliest resort by night. It draws a more eclectic crowd than other resor...

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Cabo Rojo


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Cap Cana


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Casa de Campo

Casa de Campo, a posh resort of country club caliber, offers wonderful beaches, golf, tennis, horseback riding, hiking and many other activities. Enjoy pristine beaches, a beach barbeque, go swimming, snorkeling or partake in other water sports.

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Catalina Island/Casa de Campo

Located on the southeastern coast of the Dominican Republic, Catalina Island is a tropical palm-fringed island paradise. Visit Casa de Campo, a posh resort of country club caliber. Approximately 45 minutes by ferry from Catalina, Casa de Campo offers...

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Cayo Levantado

Cayo Levantado is a small stretch of land off the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic in Samaná Bay. The area offers the beauty of natural rainforest vegetation, marvellous white sand beaches and crystal clear water. Cayo Levantado, due to its ...

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Constanza


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Dominican Republic

With over 4 million visitors annually, the Dominican Republic is a top Caribbean vacation destination, which is no surprise considering the many hotels, resorts and attractions the island has to choose from as well as the country’s incredibly welcomi...

Categories: Caribbean


Higuey

All visitors traveling to or from Punta Cana will pass through Higuey, Dominican Republic, a large, vibrant and ungainly town, officially called Salvaleon de Higuey. It was founded in 1502 by Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon, although historic...

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Jarabacoa

The small mountain-town of Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic, 70 mi/110 km northwest of Santo Domingo, enjoys a pleasantly cool climate and is the main gateway to Pico Duarte and a variety of other outdoor thrills. Constanza, the only other town in the m...

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Jaragua National Park

Jaragua National Park protects a rare, dry deciduous forest at the extreme southwest corner of the nation. Endangered hutia and solenodon cling to life amid the cacti and scrub, and jade-colored Laguna Oviedo is a precious habitat for flamingos and o...

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La Isabela

Christopher Columbus founded the first European colony in the New World at La Isabela in 1493. About 115 mi/185 km northwest of Santo Domingo and consisting mostly of bare-bones ruins and a small museum, it's of interest mostly to devoted history buf...

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La Romana

La Romana is located on the southern coast of the Dominican Republic. The first thing that comes to mind is Casa de Campo, a vast and luxurious resort offering such indulgences as world-class golf, tennis, horseback riding, and water sports. A prime ...

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Lago Enriquillo

The lowest point in the Caribbean at 144 ft/44 m below sea level, the super-saline Lago Enriquillo is the remains of a sea passage that millions of years ago split the isle of Hispaniola in half. It's an anomaly in many regards. Not least, it is home...

Categories: Lago Enriquillo


Miches


Categories: Miches


Monte Cristi National Park

At the far northwest corner of the Dominican Republic, about 100 mi/160 km west of Santiago, Monte Cristi National Park protects the largest mangrove system in the nation. Flamingos and roseate spoonbills parade in briny lagoons, and American oysterc...

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Playa Grande

Playa Grande and Rio San Juan are nestled within Dominican Republic's pristine Caribbean jungle and boast one of the region's most beautiful sandy beaches. Relax or enjoy a multitude of outdoor adventures.

Categories: Playa Grande


Playa Rincon


Categories: Playa Rincon


Puerto Plata

Puerto Plata, nestled near Mount Isabel de Torres on the Dominican Republic’s north coast, has recently become a key resort destination in the Caribbean. It’s the eighth-largest city in the Dominican Republic, and has gone through a revitalization pe...

Categories: Caribbean > Dominican Republic


Punta Cana

The unspoiled scenery of Punta Cana will leave you breathless. Forty miles of pearl-white sand beaches and luxurious beach resort hotels line the eastern coast of this island. Deep sea fishing is king on these shores. Punta Cana has put a priority on...

Categories: Punta Cana


Punta Cana

A place known for its resorts and white sand beaches, Punta Cana is the leisure lover's ultimate getaway. Located on the most eastern cape of the Dominican Republic, the region looks out over the azure seas of the Atlantic Ocean and dense mangro...

Categories: Caribbean > Dominican Republic


Rio San Juan

Rio San Juan and Playa Grande are nestled within Dominican Republic's pristine Caribbean jungle and boast one of the region's most beautiful sandy beaches. Relax or enjoy a multitude of outdoor adventures.

Categories: Rio San Juan


Samana

A cultural oddity in a country usually associated with Columbus and Spanish domination, the town of Samana, 65 miles northeast of Santo Domingo, was founded in the 1750s and later settled by English-speaking U.S. slaves in the 1820s. This came about ...

Categories: Caribbean > Dominican Republic


Samaná

Considered by many Dominicans and visitors alike to be the prettiest part of the Dominican Republic, the Samana Peninsula is a naturalist's delight! Unspoiled white-sandy beaches, coconut-covered mountains, clear mountain streams winding through ...

Categories: Samaná


Santiago, Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic's second-largest city, formally named Santiago de los Caballeros, lies in the heart of the cigar-producing Cibao Valley about 80 mi/130 km northwest of Santo Domingo. However, this sprawling city is not a popular tourist destin...

Categories: Santiago Dominican Republic


Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo is considered to be the oldest city in the New World, where the settlement of all the Americas began. It is the home of the the first cathedral and the first hospital. Wander down cobble stone streets among the Spanish colonial architec...

Categories: Santo Domingo


Saona Island


Categories: Saona Island


Sosua

The small beach town of Sosua, 90 mi/145 km northwest of Santo Domingo, was founded by German Jewish refugees who were fleeing Nazi persecution in the late 1930s. Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo oversaw their settlement, hoping to gain favor with ...

Categories: Sosua


The white-sand beaches, impressive mountain ranges veined with spectacular rivers and waterfalls, and saltwater lakes teeming with exotic wildlife are part of the Dominican Republic's appeal. Whether looking to party, relax or explore, the Dominican Republic has a lot to offer. Steer a small boat through endless mangrove forests in search of gentle manatees. Spy on lovesick humpback whales in the Bahía de Samaná. Get back to civilization and prepare to party. The locals throw festivals, parties and carnivals. Folks in the Americas' first European city, Santo Domingo, don't just spend their time admiring the fine colonial architecture gracing their home. This town has not one, but two complete Carnivals, complete with parades, elaborate floats, live music, and dancing in the streets. Pre-Lent Carnivals are celebrated in Santiago, Cabral, Monte Cristi and La Vega as well. Check out the country's two major merengue festivals, the annual Latin Music Festival and the national surfing and windsurfing championships.
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11-night Caribbean Quest Voyage

Price: $2,640 - # of Days: 11 days

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79-night Circle South America Grand Voyage

Price: $18,389 - # of Days: 79 days

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3-Nights Eden Roc Cap Cana

Price: $1,629 - # of Days: 3 days

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5-Nights Sanctuary Cap Cana

Price: $2,060 - # of Days: 5 days
The 5 star plus Sanctuary Cap Cana Golf & Spa, conceived by Altabella Hotels, is set on the bluff overlooking the turquoise sea and virgin beaches that denote Cap Cana. One of the most spectacular Marines in the world, 2 miles of pristine beaches; the newly inaugurated Jack Nicklaus golf course,...

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9-night Southern & Eastern Caribbean Cruise

Price: $748 - # of Days: 9 days

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7-night Southern & Eastern Caribbean Cruise

Price: $798 - # of Days: 9 days

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15-night Southern Caribbean Explorer / Tropical Cruise

Price: $1,304 - # of Days: 15 days

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21-night Eastern Caribbean Wayfarer / Western Explorer Cruise

Price: $2,579 - # of Days: 21 days

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10-night Southern Caribbean Explorer Cruise

Price: $1,007 - # of Days: 10 days

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14-night Panama Canal: Costa Rica & Dominican Republic Cruise

Price: $1,478 - # of Days: 14 days

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Dominican Republic


Travelers familiar with the Lilliputian scale of the Caribbean's Leeward Islands may be surprised by the Dominican Republic's size. This is not just another tiny Caribbean island with a beach and a straw market.

Instead, it's a big country with spectacularly varied scenery that includes the tallest mountains (with elevations of more than 10,000 ft/3,048 m) and lowest point (more than 100 ft/31 m below sea level) in the region; ecosystems that range from desert to cloud forest; stretches of talcum-white sand that run unbroken for miles/kilometers; and the Caribbean's oldest and—some claim—most cosmopolitan city, Santo Domingo.

No surprise, then, that the "DR," as it is colloquially known, outstrips all other Caribbean destinations in the number of international visitors by a wide margin.

The Dominican Republic was long one of the Caribbean's more obscure destinations. In the 1970s, a group of investors developed Punta Cana as a beach resort destination unrivaled by any other. Then the Dominican Republic's government began proudly splashing its assets around the world in colorful TV and print advertisements in a determination to elevate the country's name on the list of Caribbean vacation spots.

Evidence of its success is visible throughout the country. Visitor numbers, which top 5 million annually, have soared along with the construction of dozens of world-class, all-inclusive resorts. There's also been an increase in visits by cruise ships to the ports of Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata, Samana and La Romana.

Other improvements can be traced to the pursuit of tourism income: Many of the country's roads have been widened and paved, historic areas in the major cities have been renovated, Santo Domingo has gained an underground metro system, and the nation has gained a new cache among the world's rich and famous as more and more deluxe boutique-hotels, chic resorts, championship golf courses and marinas open.

Although the growth in tourism has eased some of the country's economic troubles, it hasn't ended the desperate conditions experienced by many Dominicans. The unemployment rate is high, and more than a quarter of the people live in poverty—many residing in shantytowns and rural shacks that even visitors to all-inclusive resorts will find hard to ignore.

Geography

At 250 mi/400 km by 150 mi/240 km, the Dominican Republic is larger than any other Caribbean nation except Cuba. It is also the most diverse territory in the region. The Dominican Republic boasts both the highest point in the Caribbean (Pico Duarte at 10,164 ft/3,089 m) and its lowest (Lago Enriquillo at 144 ft/44 m below sea level).

Cacti stud the desert-dry southwest in the lee of mountains clad in cloud forest. The lush agricultural valley of El Cibao lies within a one-hour drive of north coast beaches that abut mangrove-lined lagoons sheltering manatees. The bathtub-warm waters of Samana Bay attract thousands of humpback whales in winter, while nearby Los Haitises National Park is a rugged karst terrain pitted with caves. Drawing the lion's share of tourists, the talcum sands of Punta Cana and neighboring beaches shelve into waters of Maxfield Parrish hues stretching almost to the horizon.

History

The Dominican Republic was originally inhabited by the Taino people. Their peaceful way of life changed in December 1492, when Christopher Columbus came upon the island of Hispaniola (which is now divided between the Dominican Republic and Haiti). On Columbus' second voyage, in 1493, he established La Isabela, the first Spanish colony in the Americas, near today's Luperon on the north shore. His brother Bartholomew stayed to govern and later moved the capital to what is now Santo Domingo on the south coast.

As the early headquarters of the Spanish Empire in the New World, Santo Domingo flourished. It was the first city in New Spain to build a cathedral and found a university—just two of its many "firsts." Meanwhile, within a few decades of Columbus' arrival, most of the Taino were dead—wiped out by musket, sword and disease.

Spain's influence began to wane in the late 1600s as neighboring Cuba gained prominence, and the Spanish ceded the western part of the island—Haiti—to France. The Spanish, French, British and Haitians continued to battle for control of eastern Hispaniola until 1844, when Juan Pablo Duarte led the movement to establish the Dominican Republic as an independent nation.

The early decades of independence were marked by constant civil wars between competing caudillos (wealthy, power-hungry leaders) and several Haitian invasions. The government remained in turmoil well into the 1900s, with the U.S. intervening on several occasions. At one point, an annexation agreement was drawn up to make the Dominican Republic part of the U.S. It was ratified by the Dominican Senate but defeated by the U.S. Senate in 1870.

Gen. Rafael Trujillo seized power in 1930. He established a brutal reign that continued until his assassination in 1961. In the mid-1960s, Joaquin Balaguer (a corrupt Trujillo protege) took over as president, serving seven terms (with brief interruptions) until the mid-1990s. His opponents often alleged that his electoral victories were fraudulent, and some consider the 1996 election the country's first fair election.

Recent decades have been marked by a surge in tourism, heavily focused on Punta Cana, where every year sees the opening of at least one or two new megaresorts. Meanwhile, Santo Domingo—second in size only to Havana, Cuba, within the Caribbean—has evolved into a sophisticated metropolis.

Despite extreme poverty throughout the island, the nation has a robust economy. Agriculture continues to be the economic mainstay and sugar is the most important export, but the republic's tobacco industry is also important. The growing tourism revenues, however, have been most important.

After the election of Leonel Fernandez in 1996, the country made major advances and began working to overcome corruption scandals involving high-profile Dominican military leaders and drug-trafficking controversies. The current president, Luis Abinader, was elected in 2020.

Snapshot

The Dominican Republic's foremost attractions are its beautiful beaches and warm tropical waters, historical sites, casinos, golf courses, mountain scenery, national parks, merengue dancing, baseball games, cigars, reef and wreck diving, windsurfing and kiteboarding, and caves full of pre-Columbian art.

Travelers who are interested in resort activities (watersports, golf, tennis), colonial history and Caribbean culture will be happy in the Dominican Republic. Those who would rather not witness conditions in a poor, developing country or who can't tolerate reckless drivers may prefer the Virgin Islands or other smaller Caribbean resort destinations.

Potpourri

Where are the remains of Christopher Columbus? It's a matter of debate—either in Santo Domingo or in Seville, Spain. The confusion started in the late 1700s when some bones believed to be the admiral's were sent from Hispaniola to Cuba, then on to Seville. Another skeleton labeled "Cristobal Colon" was later found in Santo Domingo, however, and many experts believe that it's the authentic one. It now resides in the Columbus Lighthouse in the capital. The Dominican Republic government refuses to allow the remains in Santo Domingo to undergo DNA testing.

Lago Enriquillo is the only saltwater lake in the world with resident crocodiles.

Many consider Dominican Republic cigars to be the best in the world, surpassing in quality even those of Cuba, from whose seeds they derive.

The Dominican Republic outranks all other countries in the Caribbean and Central America for producing major-league baseball players, including superstars such as David Ortiz, Sammy Sosa and Pedro Martinez. Many honed their skills in poverty-stricken sugarcane communities around San Pedro de Macoris and La Romana.

Frequent blackouts, sometimes lasting up to 14 hours or more, continue to plague the Dominican Republic. The government even announces them in advance on the radio—sometimes. Many blackouts—apagones—are caused when the immensely powerful floodlights are switched on for special celebrations at the Faro de Colon. Many hotels and restaurants maintain their own generators.

The Taino Indians, who occupied the island before Columbus arrived, believed that their ancestors were spirits that inhabited caverns. Caves were considered sacred places, and the Taino carved zemis—effigies of spirits—to guard the entrances.

Three upper-class sisters—Patria, Minerva and Maria Mirabal—were leaders of the movement to overthrow Trujillo. They were tortured and eventually murdered by Trujillo's secret police and are today honored as national heroes known as Las Mariposas (the butterflies).




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