The Dominican Republic is a small island nation in the Caribbean. About ten million inhabitants call the Dominican Republic home. It encompasses an area of 18,000 square miles and shares its island locale with the country of Haiti. Columbus landed in present day Dominican Republic and set off a chain reaction of many “firsts” for the new-found “Americas”. The Dominican Republic was the site of the first cathedral and castle in the Americas. Today, the small island nation is the largest and most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean. Estimates project that five million tourists will visit the Dominican Republic in 2012, bringing with them $5B in tourism dollars. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular tourist places to visit in the Dominican Republic that keep luring visitors back year after year.
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The Colonial Zone of the Dominican Republic is the site of the first settlement founded by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The Colonial Zone covers five square kilometers and is the site of many traditional and cultural performances and events. It features some of the oldest and most historically significant architecture in the country and has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
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If you want to partake in some of the best windsurfing and kitesurfing in the Caribbean, the city of Cabarete is the place to do it. Aside from its popularity for extreme watersports, the city also has a thriving nightlife district where tourists and locals alike flock each evening to see and be seen.
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Even though the Dominican Republic is a Caribbean nation surrounded by sea, it has a lot of rivers throughout its landscape, which are very popular with tourists and locals. One area in particular, Jarabacoa (Also known as The City of Everlasting Spring) draws the most traffic. It’s a scenic area nestled among the mountains that enjoys a mild temperature year round. Jarabacoa has three rivers that flow through the area that provide ample opportunity for exploring, hiking, picnicking, horseback riding and just enjoying the countryside away from the bustling cities.
Cathedral of Santa Maria
Source – wikipedia
The Cathedral of Santa Maria is the oldest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere. Constructed in 1523, the cathedral was the site of the headquarters of Sir Francis Drake, who captured the capital city of Santo Domingo and held it for ransom. Today, the cathedral is still in use where mass is conducted regularly. A beautiful building that truly is a must see!
Columbus Lighthouse Monument
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Citizens of the Dominican Republic revere Christopher Columbus a great deal and his inspiration, influence and contributions to the country are still widely felt today. In the early 1990s, a lighthouse was erected in the shape of a cross and its lights project the image of a cross into the sky at night.
This is also said to be the final resting place of Christopher Columbus’ remains, which makes the lighthouse a very popular tourist destination.
National Aquarium – When visiting the Lighthouse Monument, don’t forget to stop by the National Aquarium, located just a mile up the road. It’s considered to be one of the best aquariums in all of the Caribbean. The most famous resident of the aquarium is Tamaury – a manatee that was rescued off the country’s coast as a baby. Tourists will enjoy an up-close and personal encounter with all kinds of marine life via the aquarium’s walk-thru tunnel.
Mount Isabel de Torres
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Mount Isabel de Torres is a mountain with manicured gardens at its summit which features a statue of Christ. There is also a restaurant and ample opportunity for taking in the panoramic views of Puerto Plata below as well as the lush, natural surroundings of the gardens themselves. The area is accessed via a cable car ride that takes visitors up the mountain. This is a great way to explore various elevations of the country that might not be accessible otherwise.
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The Damajagua Cascades, outside of Puerto Plata, is an amazing chain of 27 natural waterfalls untouched and uninhibited by man. They vary in size and height and are accessible by a network of footpaths and hiking trails that point the way. Alternately, guides are available to assist visitors in navigating the cascades. A visit to the cascades is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should not be missed.
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If you’re looking for world class snorkeling in a natural, secluded environment, Isla Catalina is the place to go. A popular spot among diving enthusiasts due to the abundance of beautiful coral reefs, it’s said that the marine life in the area are so tame they will eat from your hand. Isla Catalina is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the metro areas of the Dominican Republic.
Cordillera Septentrional Route
Source – wikipedia
To truly experience the Dominican Republic as a native, you have to go off the beaten path. You can do so by renting a car at one of the local rental agencies. Once you’ve done that, set off to explore the Cordillera Septentrional Route – a gorgeous scenic drive that meanders through the country’s mountainous areas. You’ll encounter quaint, remote villages and farms as well as breath taking views of the countryside and valleys below. The end of the route will find you in Moca, which is the cigar making capital of the country and another great region to explore.
Playa Grande – Cabrera
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If you’re looking for a traditional, resort-type beach with all the amenities and perks you can imagine, Playa Grande in Cabrera is the one. It was voted one of the top ten beaches in the world by Conde Nast travel magazine for its pristine white beaches and beautiful blue-green waters. Various eateries and establishments line the beach beneath the palm trees and their staff awaits to cater to your needs. Surfing is a favorite pastime in Playa Grande, which is also home to a popular golf course that golf enthusiasts flock to each year.
- Hurricane season runs from June through November. Keep this in mind when planning your trip as evacuations could be ordered in the event of a storm.
- Tourist cards are required, in addition to passports and other documentation. They can be ordered online or at points of entry.
- Cholera is a big problem in the Dominican Republic and has caused many deaths in recent years. Malaria and Dengue fever are also concerns.