One of the most geographically diverse countries in the Caribbean and the second largest in size, the Dominican Republic boasts an incredible range of scenery. Beyond its renowned beaches and over a thousand miles of coastline, you’ll find mountain ranges, offshore islands, lakes and waterfalls, offering plenty to do outdoors. As diverse as the landscape are the culture and history — from the Taino days to the Spanish colonial years with the arrival of enslaved Africans, and the influx of immigrants from Europe, Asia, the U.S., and the Middle East. These influences are reflected today in the people, the cuisine and the music. It’s this incredible range in nature and culture is what makes the Dominican Republic one of the most interesting destinations to visit in the Caribbean.
Hit the Beaches
Millions of visitors flock to Punta Cana every year for some of the Dominican Republic’s longest white sand beaches, but there are other spectacular and less crowded coastlines to explore. Venture northeast to remote Las Terrenas and Las Galeras on the Samaná Peninsula for long palm-lined golden and white sands. If you’re into water sports, head to Puerto Plata’s surf-rich coastline and beach hop your way from Playa Dorada to Cabarete and Monte Cristi. Wherever you end up, you’re sure to find beachfront restaurants with fresh catch (in season), plenty of rum, and music.
Tour the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990, Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial is recognized as the first European city built in the “New World,” serving as a model for the rest of the Americas. Today it’s a charming, culture-packed and lively neighborhood that’s a favorite of visitors and locals. Tour a number of important museums and colonial buildings, including the first fortress of the Americas, the first cathedral, the ruins of the first hospital, the first convent and the first university. Stroll the pedestrian Calle El Conde, lined with shops, outdoor sidewalk art, restaurants and cafes. Enjoy the outdoor parks and plazas, and dine under the stars at Pat’e Palo or Pura Tasca on Plaza España.
Taste Dominican Cuisine
Beyond the national dish – la bandera dominicana (a plate of rice and beans with stewed chicken and a side salad) – there are local specialties you should sample. Try mangú, a deliciously seasoned mound of mashed green plantains topped with sautéed red onions, for breakfast or sancocho, a hearty stew combining various meats and roots vegetables, served with a side of white rice and avocado slices. Desserts and salty snacks are popular as well, from yucca empanadas to coconut sweets.
In Santo Domingo, Villar Hermanos and Meson D’Bari are among the best Dominican restaurants, but you’ll also find local dishes in comedores or small local restaurants around the country.
Visit the Museums
The country’s museums shed an important light on the country’s fascinating history. Start in the Colonial City – tour the Alcazar de Colon, the former home of Diego Columbus turned museum, as well as the Museo de las Casas Reales. Continue to the Museo del Hombre Dominicano, the most comprehensive in the country, covers various eras starting with the origin of Dominicans to its present day culture and society. In Altos de Chavón, the Museo Arqueologico Regional Altos de Chavón boasts one of the most comprehensive collections of Taino artifacts and history.
Dance to Merengue and Bachata
Dance and music are an intrinsic part of Dominican culture. You can practice your merengue and bachata dance skills anywhere in the country, whether on the beach or at your resort’s nightclub, in local bars and at concerts. Live performances are also popular and an important part of the culture. In Santo Domingo, head to Jet Set Club for weekly concerts on Monday nights. In Puerto Plata, shows are held regularly at the Puerto Plata Amphitheatre.
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