The Dominican Republic offers a great place for a couple’s or family vacation. It is perfect no matter what time of year that you go. There are beach escapes available on the coasts as well as more active vacations available in Punta Cana. There are also many great resorts located throughout the island that provide something for everyone. There are modern structures as well as colonial architecture, valleys and peaks, mangroves and clives, white sandy beaches that are lined with palm trees and so much more to explore. When you add in the warm welcome from the locals, this is the perfect choice for your next vacation.
Brief History of Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a part of the island of Hispaniola. The Arawaks inhabited the island before the Europeans arrived. In 1492 Christopher Columbus landed on the island and named it Espanola. It was later changed to Hispaniola. Eventually the Spanish claimed ownership of the entire island, but settled mainly on the east coast area. This is the area that is now known as the Dominican Republic. The western part of the island was left mainly empty until the 17th century when the French took up settlement there. In 1697, the French were given the western third of Hispaniola and the rest remained with the Spanish.
The Dominican Republic gained its independence in 1844. The first president of the country was Pedro Santana, who became a dictator. In addition, the Dominican Republic suffered several invasions by Haiti. The Dominican Republic became a province of Spain in 1861 but by 1867 the Spanish withdrew. This was followed by a time of political instability and disorder within the country. After a rough political history that included help from the United States, the Dominican Republic has become a country with a growing economy. This is partly due to the rapidly growing tourism industry.
Top 10 Places to Visit in the Dominican Republic
1. Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is the oldest city of the New World. This great city has preserved the jewels of its rich culture and history. One of the top places to visit is the Colonial City. This is a World Heritage Site and offers Spanish Colonial architecture that is simply stunning. The cobblestone streets offer many great restaurants from which to choose. Perhaps the most significant sites located in Santo Domingo is the first cathedral in America. This is the oldest cathedral in existence in the new world. In addition, you will want to visit the museum of Royal Houses as well as the Alcazar De Colon from the 16th century. It was built by the son of Christopher Columbus.
If you love museums the plaza de la Cultura is the central area. Here you will find the museum of modern art, palace of fine arts, as well as the National Palace. There are other museums in this area as well. Some of the other highlights offered by Santo Domingo include Ozama Fort, Columbus Palace, and the National Botanical Gardens. The Malecon offers a gorgeous seaside promenade.
2. Eastern National Park
Eastern National Park offers another World Heritage Site in the Dominican Republic. This park offers a habitat for many species of animals and plants. There are 112 species of birds found within the park. In addition, Eastern National Park also offers one of the largest marine parks in the Caribbean. There is a huge coral reef system located here. In the marine park one will find manatees, bottlenose dolphins, as well as four species of turtles. There are also numerous types of fish that live within these tropical waters. Along with all of this biodiversity, the park also is the habitat for the paloma coronita, which is a rare white headed dove. It is also the home of the rhinoceros iguana.
Visitors to Eastern National Park will enjoy great snorkeling and diving. In addition, there are many examples of pre-Columbian art found in the system of caves. The remote beaches offer a great place to relax. One of the popular side trips for people visiting the area is to Saona Island, which offers great sandy beaches to enjoy.
3. Punta Cana
One of the most popular destinations for tourists in the Dominican Republic is Punta Cana. Punta Cana is located on the eastern tip of the country. This area of the island is packed with many resorts and world renowned golf courses. The all inclusive resorts offer a wonderful place to stay and relax on the wonderful beaches that are located in the area. When visiting Punta Cana, take the time to visit Scape Park. This park offers dune buggies and a zipline tour. You can also visit the Hoyo Azul Lagoon and enjoy the cool waters.
For those who want a bit of a slower pace, just north you will find El Macao. This is a small fishing village that offers a public beach that is popular with surfers. There are regular flights available to the airstrip located in Punta Cana.
4. Playa Dorada
Playa Dorada is just a few minutes away from Puerto Plata. This is one of the most popular destinations for those wanting to visit the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Playa Dorada is a massive resort complex that lies on a gorgeous stretch of beach that is dotted with coconut palms and deck chairs. This is where people go who want a true beach experience. This area is known as the first tourism destination of the country and it shows. There are tons of amenities in the area. This includes great restaurants, the Robert Trent Jones award winning golf course, as well as a great shopping center.
5. La Romana
Located on the southeast coast, La Romana is the home to Altos Chavon. This is a charming replica of an artisan’s village from the sixteenth century. This is one of the best spots on the island to shop for crafts. Caso de Campo is a wonderful and luxurious resort located here. It offers several hotels, gorgeous landscaped gardens, a polo ground, riding school, as well as tennis courts. The rooms at the hotels were decorated by Oscar de la Renta, who is a Dominican designer. One of the top golf courses in the Caribbean is located at Casa de Campo. The name of the golf course is Teeth of the Dog and offers spectacular ocean views all along the course. There is a cruise ship port called Isla Catalina that is just south of La Romana. This port draws thousands of visitors each day.
6. Samana Bay and Samana Peninsula
Another top spot to visit in the Dominican Republic is the Samana Peninsula. Samana Bay is a haven for many marine animals. One of the marine animals that is a big draw to the bay is the humpback whales. The whales will calve in this area during the months of January and February. This peninsula is also the home of the Parque Nacional Los Haitises. This park is an ecological dream that offers translucent waters, jungle covered islands, as well as mangrove forests. In the park there are also many unique rock formations that emerge from the sea. There are also bird filled caves found throughout the park. The caves also offer pre-Columbian pictographs.
It is also worth visiting the wonderful waterfall known as Salto El Limon. Playa Rincon should also be included in your list of places to visit in the area. It offers one of the most gorgeous beaches in the entire country. Some other popular things to do while in the Samana Peninsula include birding, biking, hiking, and horseback riding.
Jarabacoa is becoming a popular ecotourism destination. Jarabacoa is located in the central mountains. This area offers sweeping pine forests, waterfalls, rivers, as well as the highest peaks in all of the Caribbean. The Rio Yaque del Norte, which is the only white river located in the Dominican Republic. Here rafters can enjoy a cruise down the gentle rapids of the river. When visiting this area expect a climate that is a bit milder. The terrain is a bit rugged and offers many wonderful trails that are perfect for hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking.
8. Jaragua National Park and Bahia de Las Aguilas
Located on the southwestern coast of the Dominican Republic is Bahia de Las Águilas. This is one of the most magnificent beaches in the country. The beach stretches for six miles and provides extremely soft and gorgeous sand. The beach is protected by the Jaragua National Park. The best way to get to the beach is to take a boat from La Cueva, a small village located nearby. The waters are shallow and a beautiful turquoise color. Here you will find tons of marine life swimming just below the surface. The harbors of the bay are home to many different species of birds. Since the beach is in a remote location, it is completely unspoiled and undeveloped.
9. Lake Enriquillo
Lake Enriquillo offers the biggest saltwater lake of the Antilles. Here you will find an abundance of iguanas and flamingos who call this area home. An island that is located in the middle of the lake is home to the Parque Nacional Isla Cabritos. This park offers one of the biggest wild reserves for the American crocodile. In addition, there are more that 62 species of birds as well as over 106 flora species.
10. Basilica of Our Lady
When in the Dominican Republic, visiting the Basilica of Our Lady is typically on people’s lists of places to go. Every year on the 21st of January there is a pilgrimage from across the entire country that comes to the church for Mass. The Basilica offers one of the finest and best examples of modern religious architecture in all of Latin America.
All Inclusive Resorts
If you are planning a trip to the Dominican Republic, an all-inclusive resort may just provide you with the best bang for your buck. These all-inclusive resorts offer wonderful amenities that can make your trip go from okay to fabulous.
There are many resorts located throughout the Dominican Republic. No matter what your preferences may be, you will be able to find a resort that perfectly meets all of your needs. There are more than 100 all-inclusive options located in Punta Cana and in the less well-known beach havens that are found in Las Terrenas. It can be a bit overwhelming trying to find a place to stay. Here are a few of the top choices of all-inclusive resorts to help get you started.
Tortuga Bay is located in the Puntacana Resort and Club. This is a AAA five diamond hotel and is known for its great service and style. All of the rooms offer great views of the sea or the golf course that is near the property. You will be provided with your own personal golf cart to cruise around the resort along with many other great amenities.
For those who are looking for a family-friendly place to stay, one of the top choices is Reserve at Paradisus. This boutique resort that provides an all-inclusive experience of Punta Cana. All guests are provided access to the activities, amenities, and restaurants of the neighboring resort, but are provided with an atmosphere that is more laid back than that of one of the larger resort options.
Sublime Samana is the perfect choice for those that are looking for a quiet place to stay. The resort offers just 26 private suites that are right on the beach. There is easy access to the town of Las Terrenas and plenty of things to do at the resort as well.
Overall, there are many great resorts and other locations available in the Dominican Republic. Each of these places offers a wonderful and unique experience that people of all ages are sure to enjoy.
Also published on Medium.