Dominican Republic Guide
If your only knowledge of the Dominican Republic is as a shout-out in a rap song, then you're missing out. This Caribbean country, which gained its independence from Spain in 1844, occupies two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola which it shares with Haiti to the west. With the Atlantic Ocean to the north and Caribbean Sea to the south, the Dominican Republic is blessed with over 1,000km of beaches boasting sands in hues of white, golden brown and volcanic black.
Inland, the geography is among the most diverse in the Caribbean with picturesque alpine mountains, tropical rainforests, swampy mangroves and arid desert scrub, but the sea is what really shapes this nation. From fishing villages to tourist-luring azure waters, the Dominican Republic has all the luxurious resorts and so much more to offer the holidaying traveller.
The country's capital, Santo Domingo, is also the largest city in the Caribbean. Santo Domingo, or La Capital, is a fusion of cultures and neighbourhoods and the pulsating heart or ‘merenguing' centre of the country. The urban city is also home to colonial-era relics such as churches, a fortress and the romantic cobblestoned area of Zona Colonial with white-washed and pastel-hued buildings and flowers amid wrought-iron filigree detail where Christopher Columbus once strode.
But idyllic beaches and azure waters are what draw visitors to this part of the Caribbean. The city of Cabarete boasts the best spot to try windsurfing and kite surfing, while Playa Limon offers secluded beaches and lagoons for those in the know. The Samana Peninsula is where you can view the majestic humpback whales during their annual mating season and is also home to the Bay of Samana – described as ‘paradise on earth'. Divers will adore the underwater delights within the tropical reefs of Playa Fronton, and those seeking relaxation will find relief in the resorts of Casa de Campo and Cap Cana to the east.
Dominicans also like to party and La Vega is one of the country's most popular Carnival parties where traditional costumes, mask and dancing is on show every Sunday in February annually. Music and dancing is all about merengue and bachata here and after clubbing, locals pile into restaurants to eat the national dish, sancocho, a meat and starch concoction thought to lessen hangovers.
With an impressive growing economy, stunning natural attributes, colonial past and ebullient culture, the Dominican Republic may not be the best-kept secret in the Caribbean for much longer.