Located on the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic is one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean.
Christopher Columbus, who landed there in 1492, dubbed it a “paradise” and its stunning white sand beaches shaded by palm trees, majestic mountains and deep valleys are more than deserving of the superlative.
The Dominican Republic is also one of the most visited places in the Caribbean, not only because of its natural beauty, but also due to the variety of historical sites, outdoor activities and exciting nightlife it has to offer. Venturing out to any of the many Dominican Republic resorts and hotels is truly a voyage of discovery.
Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, is a unique mix of ancient and modern. The city is the oldest in the New World. Founded by Columbus’ brother in 1496, it is home to many notable firsts in the Americas, including the first cathedral (Catedral Santa María La Menor), the first hospital and the first university: Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo.
Numerous historical sites and buildings are to be found in and around the Zona Colonial section of the city, a prime example being the Castle of Columbus – The Alcázar de Colón , which was built by Diego Colón, the son of Christopher Columbus.
On the Caribbean Sea, at the mouth of the Ozama River where the city lies, another gem shines in the sun: the oldest European fort in the New World.
Ozama Fortress was built to defend this valuable port city from pirates and offers breathtaking views of Santo Domingo. Also, walk up the Calle del Conde, a very old pedestrian shop-lined street that used to be the commercial heart of the city.
The North Coast of the Dominican Republic is where Columbus first set foot in the New World and is the site of a new museum commemorating the arrival of the legendary explorer.
The area is known as the Amber Coast, where the most sublime beaches can be found. The town of Puerto Plata is home to the Amber Museum, where a variety of impressive pieces may be viewed. These include the mosquito-filled sample seen in the film Jurassic Park.
Puerto Plata is also close to a natural wonder of the Dominican Republic, the Damajagua Cascades. Comprising no less than 27 waterfalls, all cascading down from different heights, there is exciting water action to be enjoyed in the form of cave diving, along with tropical jungle trails and excellent hiking opportunities.
When it comes to beaches, the Dominican Republic has plenty to offer, from deserted and remote retreats to busy stretches of sand and surf. Playa de las Aguilas is an ideal beach for visitors who enjoy desert type beaches. Scrub and cactus are the only greenery there, but the sand is pure white and the water a beautiful Caribbean blue.
Seafood lovers will enjoy the beautiful Playa La Ensenada, where fishing boats fill the horseshoe-shaped harbor. A great beach to stroll, enjoying the peace and quiet, is Playa Bonita. Though not as populated as Las Terrenas, it has its share of luxury residences and rental homes.
Finally, though it becomes packed with cruise ship passengers on docking days, La Playita is an ideal beach for anyone looking to enjoy a real beach experience without the overcrowding and high activity levels of those mentioned previously.
The Boiling Lake, a 100 meter wide lake that is being heated by a volcanic vent is another Dominican attraction. The lake is a unique natural phenomenon. The steaming, bubbling, grayish lake is what’s left of a volcanic eruption that occurred in 1880.
You might get a bit dirty but you will also get to experience, up close, the power of Mother Nature. Remember that the Boiling Lake is a 12 mile round trip hike (8 hours), very steep mostly on steps and switchbacks. A guide is recommended for inexperienced back country hikers, the terrain is rough and usually wet.