About 2 million visitors make their way to the Dominican Republic every year; visiting the island for the superb sprawling beaches, great year round weather and the excellent value for money resorts. There’s so much more on offer too, from arid desserts and vast mountain ranges to magnificent waterfalls, lush tropical rainforests and of course the Latin American charm. The north is the most popular area, providing affordable accommodation, great golden beaches and a lively nightlife. The west coast is quieter, offering more upscale resorts and some stunning white sandy beaches. In the south you’ll find the most secluded resorts, the island’s most breath-taking beaches and it’s ideal for exploring the island’s capital Santo Domingo.
Things to see and do in the Dominican Republic:
Attractions: The island’s UNESCO-listed capital, Santa Domingo, in the South of the island is a wonderfully energetic city with beautiful sights to explore. Head to the heart of the city, the Zona Colonial, with its cobbled streets and stunning historic sights such as the The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor (also known as Catedral Primada de América) the oldest cathedral in the Americas – and the equally historic fortress the Fortaleza Ozama. Elsewhere on the island, if you can tear yourself away from the stunning white beaches, there are plenty of other attractions to explore. Take an exciting excursion to the Damajaqua Cascades (also called 27 Waterfalls) in Puerto Plata to view some of the country’s thrilling cascades or discover the colourful tropical birds and butterflies at the Parque del Este National Park in Bayahibe.
Events/festivals: In February, head to the streets of Santo Domingo or La Vega for the biggest of the island’s Carnival celebrations. The carnival began as a religious pre- Lent activity but has now included the celebration of Dominican independence, which is on the 27th February and you will find parties, processions, salsa dancing and live music taking place across all the weekends in the month. The Dominican Republic Jazz Festival (or DR Jazz Fest) is an annual event that takes place in November in the North of the island where local and international artists come together to perform, take workshops and generally make music!
Sports: Baseball is big business in the Dominican and the Winter Professional Baseball Championship sees the island’s six professional teams compete against each other in an exciting event. This event takes place between mid October at the end of December and is a great time to catch a game. If watching golf is more your thing, head to Punta Cana in November for the Dominican Republic Golf Open when top class golfers compete in this event. The Dominican Republic is renowned for having some great golf courses with several championship courses dotted across the island. Watersports are also in abundance and you’ll find some fabulous scuba diving sites and and snorkelling opportunities.
Nightlife: The Dom Rep has plenty of nightlife options to suit all tastes – from bars with live music, nightclubs to more relaxing spots where you can chill out with a cocktail or two or a bottle of the island’s most famous beer, Presidente. The capital of Santo Domingo has a vibrant nightlife scene as has the more tourist spots of Puerto Plata, Punta Cana and Bavaro where you’ll find lots of bars and clubs. For the most authentic night out in the Dominican, visit a car wash at night – it might sound a little crazy, but these are transformed at night into mini nightclubs with a heady mix of booze and Dominican music and lots of locals.
Eating/Drinking: Many of the hotels on the island offer an all-inclusive option with a range of gourmet international cuisine. Dominican cuisine itself is a mix of Spanish, Taino and African flavours. Some of the tasty local dishes include pastele en hoja which is a meat turnover wrapped and steamed in banana leaves, and chicharrones de poola which is chicken fried in a mild spicy batter. Popular drinks are Presidente beer which is produced on the island and Mama Juana which is a heady concoction of local wines, rum, honey which is soaked in a bottle with herbs and tree bark.
Shopping: Shopping in the more tourist parts of the Dominican Republic usually involve open air markets and small shopping centres where you can pick up some local crafts, souvenirs cigars and rum. For the best shopping on the island however, head to the capital of Santo Domingo where you will find larger shopping centres and many smaller shops and boutiques.
When to go
The Dominican Republic is a great destination for warm weather all-year-round, thanks to its location next to the equator. The most popular time of year to visit is in the winter months when crowds escape cooler climes in other parts of the world. Hurricane season runs between July and September, however, storms don’t often linger and usually pass in about 24 hours.
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