Dominican Republic

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Dominicans will extend a gracious welcome, saying, "This is your home!" and indeed are happy to share their beautiful island bathed by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south. Among its most precious assets are 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of gorgeous beaches studded with coconut palms and sands ranging from pearl-white to golden brown to volcanic black. The Caribbean sun kisses this exotic land, which averages 82°F year-round. In recent years, the D.R. has grown up, as the all-inclusive resorts have become more upscale, and small, stellar boutique properties have opened in all of the most popular tourist areas. The level of service staff and middle management has also improved.

A land of contrasts, the Dominican Republic has mountain landscapes, brown rivers with white-water rapids, rain forests full of wild orchids, and fences of multicolor bougainvillea. Indigenous species from crocodiles to the green cockatoo, symbol of the island, live in these habitats. Bird-watchers, take note: there are 29 endemic species flying around here.

The contrasts don't stop with nature. You can see signs of wealth, for the upper strata of society lives well indeed. In the capital, the movers and shakers ride in chauffeur-driven silver Mercedes. On the country roads you'll be amazed that four people with sacks of groceries and a stalk of bananas can fit on a smoky old motoconcho (motorbike–taxi). This is a land of mestizos who are a centuries-old mix of native Indians, Spanish colonists, and African slaves, plus every other nationality that has settled here, from Italian to Arabic.

Accommodations offer a remarkable range—including surfers' camps, exclusive boutique hotels, and amazing megaresorts that have brought the all-inclusive hotel to the next level of luxury. Trendy restaurants, art galleries, boutique hotels, and late-night clubs help make Santo Domingo a superb urban vacation destination. Regrettably, most Dominican towns and cities are neither quaint nor pretty, and poverty still prevails. However, the standard of living has come up along with the growth of North American tourism. Prices at all-inclusive resorts have been slowly increasing since the early aughts; however, a vacation in the D.R. can still be a relative bargain. Even the new boutique hotels are still well priced for the Caribbean. Nevertheless, government taxes on hotels and restaurants are 18%, and most non-AI hotels charge an additional 10% service charge This 28% is obviously a major budget item. Also, when making a reservation, inquire if the rates quoted include this 28%; sometimes they do, especially with the smaller properties.

The vibrant lifestyle of this sun-drenched Latin-Caribbean country, where Spanish is the national language and where people are hospitable, makes the Dominican Republic a different cultural experience. If you pick up the rhythm of life here, as freewheeling as the trademark merengue, this can be a beguiling destination.

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Santo Domingo

Since many visitors to Santo Domingo base themselves in the historic Zona Colonia (and because this is where the vast majority of the interesting...

Bavaro

Bávaro is centrally located along the eastern coast of the peninsula and is a hub of tourist activity. Many of the region's all-inclusive resorts...

Las Terrenas

Las Terrenas is the main tourist base on the Samaná Peninsula. It, rather than Santa Bárbara de Samaná, the peninsula's biggest town, is the...

Puerto Plata

Although it has been sleeping for decades, this was a dynamic city in its heyday. You can get a feeling for this past in the magnificent Victorian...

Cabarete

Of the towns within easy reach of the Puerto Plata airport, Cabarete has the best dining, the longest beaches, and the most youthful spirit...

Cabrera

Cabrera, Abreu, Río San Juan, and the Playa Grande area are largely unspoiled and pristine coastal areas. There's a raw beauty, with some beaches...

Santa Barbara de Samana

The official name of the city is Santa Bárbara de Samaná; but these days it's just called "Samaná." An authentic port town, it's getting its...

Las Galeras

Sleepy Las Galeras, a dot on the map between two protected and undeveloped green mountain capes, is the endearingly unkempt North Coast sister...

Juanillo

Juanillo was once a simple fishing village on one of the east coast’s most desirable stretches of powdery, white-sand beach before Cap Cana...

Punta Cana

Investors bought land in this isolated peninsula in the eastern D.R. in 1969 and developed the Punta Cana Resort & Club, which now encompasses...

Sosua

This small community was settled during World War II by 600 Austrian and German Jews. After the war many of them returned to Europe or went...

Bayahibe

Columbus dropped anchor here in 1494, and Puerto Rican fishermen founded the town in the middle of the 19th century. Now many of the local fishermen...

Uvero Alto

Ranches and rustic living characterize this beach village, which has coconut groves and a stunning beach where development continues to press...

La Romana

Neither pretty nor quaint, La Romana has a central park, an interesting market, a couple of good restaurants, banks and small businesses, a...

Boca Chica

The Boca Chica resort area is immediately east of Las Américas International Airport. A seasoned destination, Boca Chica is popular mainly with...

Macao

Macao is a pastoral village amid farms and ranches. Its striking beach, with dramatic headlands, inspired one of the most ambitious resort...

Santiago

The second city of the D.R., where many past presidents were born, sits about 90 miles (145 km) northwest of Santo Domingo and is about an hour...

Juan Dolio

Like Boca Chica, Juan Dolio is a story of boom and bust. The resort area began life as a pristine beach and developed into the place for ...

Playa Dorada

One of the Dominican Republic's longest established resort areas, Playa Dorada has benefited both from good reefs, which are right off-shore...

Higuey

Meaning "place where the sun rises" in the language of the indigenous Taíno Indians, Higüey was one of the first areas to be settled by the...

San Pedro de Macoris

The national sport and the national drink are both well represented in this city, an hour or so east of Santo Domingo. Some of the country's...

Jarabacoa

Nature lovers should consider a trip to Jarabacoa, in the mountainous region known rather wistfully as the Dominican Alps. There's little to...

La Vega Vieja

Founded in 1495 by Columbus, La Vega is the site of one of the oldest settlements in the New World. You may find the tour of the ruins of the...

Santo Domingo

Since many visitors to Santo Domingo base themselves in the historic Zona Colonia (and because this is where the vast majority of the interesting...

Bavaro

Bávaro is centrally located along the eastern coast of the peninsula and is a hub of tourist activity. Many of the region's all-inclusive resorts...

Las Terrenas

Las Terrenas is the main tourist base on the Samaná Peninsula. It, rather than Santa Bárbara de Samaná, the peninsula's biggest town, is the...

Puerto Plata

Although it has been sleeping for decades, this was a dynamic city in its heyday. You can get a feeling for this past in the magnificent Victorian...

Cabarete

Of the towns within easy reach of the Puerto Plata airport, Cabarete has the best dining, the longest beaches, and the most youthful spirit...

Cabrera

Cabrera, Abreu, Río San Juan, and the Playa Grande area are largely unspoiled and pristine coastal areas. There's a raw beauty, with some beaches...

Las Galeras

Sleepy Las Galeras, a dot on the map between two protected and undeveloped green mountain capes, is the endearingly unkempt North Coast sister...

Santa Barbara de Samana

The official name of the city is Santa Bárbara de Samaná; but these days it's just called "Samaná." An authentic port town, it's getting its...

Sosua

This small community was settled during World War II by 600 Austrian and German Jews. After the war many of them returned to Europe or went...

Bayahibe

Columbus dropped anchor here in 1494, and Puerto Rican fishermen founded the town in the middle of the 19th century. Now many of the local fishermen...

Punta Cana

Investors bought land in this isolated peninsula in the eastern D.R. in 1969 and developed the Punta Cana Resort & Club, which now encompasses...

Uvero Alto

Ranches and rustic living characterize this beach village, which has coconut groves and a stunning beach where development continues to press...

La Romana

Neither pretty nor quaint, La Romana has a central park, an interesting market, a couple of good restaurants, banks and small businesses, a...

Boca Chica

The Boca Chica resort area is immediately east of Las Américas International Airport. A seasoned destination, Boca Chica is popular mainly with...

Macao

Macao is a pastoral village amid farms and ranches. Its striking beach, with dramatic headlands, inspired one of the most ambitious resort...

Santiago

The second city of the D.R., where many past presidents were born, sits about 90 miles (145 km) northwest of Santo Domingo and is about an hour...

Juan Dolio

Like Boca Chica, Juan Dolio is a story of boom and bust. The resort area began life as a pristine beach and developed into the place for ...

Higuey

Meaning "place where the sun rises" in the language of the indigenous Taíno Indians, Higüey was one of the first areas to be settled by the...

San Pedro de Macoris

The national sport and the national drink are both well represented in this city, an hour or so east of Santo Domingo. Some of the country's...

Jarabacoa

Nature lovers should consider a trip to Jarabacoa, in the mountainous region known rather wistfully as the Dominican Alps. There's little to...

La Vega Vieja

Founded in 1495 by Columbus, La Vega is the site of one of the oldest settlements in the New World. You may find the tour of the ruins of the...

Punta Cana

As the sun rises in the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana awakens to the lapping ocean—clear, unspoiled blue brushing up against the pristine stretches...

North Coast

The Autopista Duarte ultimately leads (via a three- to four-hour drive) from Santo Domingo to the North Coast, sometimes called the Amber Coast...

Samana Peninsula

Samaná (pronounced sah-mah-NAH) is a dramatically beautiful peninsula, like an island unto itself, of coconut trees stretching into the sea...

Southeast Coast

Las Américas Highway runs east along the coast from Santo Domingo to La Romana. Midway are well-established beach resorts such as Juan Dolio...

Cibao Valley

The heavily trafficked four-lane highway north from Santo Domingo, known as the Autopista Duarte, cuts through the banana plantations, rice...

The Southwest

As you drive into the mountains southwest of Santo Domingo you enter another world. The major city in this region is Barahona, a smoky, noisy...

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