On Christmas Day 1492, Christopher Columbus’ vessel the Santa Maria came ashore a Caribbean island he named La Hispaniola. Just four years later, Columbus founded the New World’s oldest European city, Santo Domingo, the capital and most populous city in the Dominican Republic, the country which occupies Hispaniola’s eastern half.
The seemingly endless stretches of beaches and all-inclusive luxury resorts along the Dominican Republic’s northeast shores are the first images many people have of this popular Caribbean vacation and wedding destination. However, visitors who stick to sunbathing and water sports are only scratching the surface of everything the Dominican Republic has to offer. A stroll down Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone takes visitors past the western hemisphere’s oldest cathedral, the New World’s first street, and over five centuries of fascinating history spanning just a few blocks.
Eco-tourism is a booming business in the Dominican Republic, where 17 national parks occupy at least 10 percent of its landmass. Los Tres Ojos National Park’s interconnected caves and lagoons, Eastern National Park’s secluded beaches, and the low-lying saltwater Lago Enriquillo on the island of Isla Cabritos are just a few of the diverse landscapes to admire. Visitors who reach the 2,600 foot high summit of Mount Isabel de Torres can enjoy an unforgettable view from the comfort of a mountaintop botanical garden.
About half of travelers to the Dominican Republic arrive on package holidays whose costs include airfare, accommodations, and hotel transfers. Many of these deals are cheaper than booking hotels alone, and most all-inclusive resorts also include meals and drinks. Las Galerias, a small, pristine fishing village is another hot destination for guests looking to get a bit more off the beaten path.
Although there are no trains in the Dominican Republic, there is certainly no shortage of bus or taxi services. Unmarked street taxis are dangerous, but local minibuses called guaguas are generally safe, albeit crowded. A Caribe Tours bus journey, on the other hand, is downright luxurious, complete with movie screenings and air-conditioning so cold passengers are recommended to bring sweaters. Erratic driving by local motorists, poorly maintained rural roads, and the narrow streets of Santo Domingo encourage motorists to skip the rental cars and stick to public transportation.
- Stroll past 500 years of history along Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone
- Scuba dive around La Caleta National Marine Park’s famous sunken Hickory shipwreck
- Watch for some of the 4,000 whales in Samana’s warm waters
- Learn to wind surf or kite board on Cabarete’s legendary Kite Beach
- Play the seven holes of Casa de Campo’s famous Teeth of the Dog seaside golf course
- Cycle, hike, or ride a cable car to the summit of Mount Isabel de Torres
- Decipher the ancient Taino pictographs within the Cueva del Puenta’s 400 caves
- Admire or purchase the Dominican Republic’s most precious stones at Puerto Plata’s Amber Museum