With its rich history, unique blend of ethnicities, endless recreational opportunities and indescribably beautiful scenery, it’s no wonder the Dominican Republic is one of the top destinations for travelers to the Caribbean. Nowhere else in the world will you find this balance of European, African and Taíno Indian cultures, one that has created a people with an immeasurable passion for food, art, music and sports.
Christopher Columbus landed on the Taínos-inhabited area in 1492, helping to establish the first permanent European settlement in the Americas at Santo Domingo, the country’s capital. Today, visitors to Santo Domingo can tour a number of “firsts” for the Americas, including the first cathedral, the Catedral de Santa María la Menor; the first castle, the Alcázar de Colón, built under Diego Colón, Columbus’ son; the first hospital; and the first university.
Locally referred to as “La Capital,” Santo Domingo is a living museum, but one full of modern excitement and vibrancy. Step back in time by exploring other historical attractions, such as the Reloj de Sol, or “Sun Clock,” and the Monasterio de los Padres Dominicos, or “Monastery of the Dominican Fathers.” Walk down Calle Las Damas, the New World’s oldest paved street, past the relics of Dominican history to the hip, contemporary bars and restaurants on Plaza de España, all with outdoor cafés.
The Dominican Republic, however, offers more than just history. Head north from Santo Domingo to Jarabacoa and Constanza for mountain climbing, hiking, horseback riding and rafting. Journey to the southwestern part of the country to discover lagoons, dunes and even deserts. Get even closer to the water by visiting the northeastern coast; here, go diving or windsurfing, wonder at the waterfalls, or simply watch the humpback whales in the Bahía de Samaná. For the ultimate in beachside relaxation, travel to Punta Cana, which boasts miles of beautiful shoreline filled with sparkling white sand. If golf is your game, you’ll find the perfect professionally designed course in the Dominican, including Casa de Campo in La Romana; Roco Ki, La Cana and Punta Espada at Cap Cana, all in Punta Cana; and the Guavaberry and Los Marlins courses in Juan Dolio.
No matter where you go in the Dominican Republic, though, you’re sure to enjoy the food. Many dishes are Latin American-inspired, full of rice, beans and seafood, but with traditional Taíno ingredients, including yucca and plantains. Art is also key to the local culture, with Dominican craftspeople creating brilliant figurines and jewelry pieces out of native mediums, like amber, coconut husk and guano. For Dominicans, though, the largest source of national pride and identity is baseball. A large number of players in the U.S. major and minor leagues come from the Dominican Republic, counting such greats as Pedro Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Sammy Sosa.
So whether you come to lay on the beach, play in the sea, practice your swings on the greens, or explore the origins of the Americas — or all of the above — you’ll find everything you desire in a Caribbean vacation and more in the Dominican Republic!