Discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus, the Dominican Republic is a mosaic of beautiful beaches, majestic hills, and lively people. The Island of Hispaniola, as Columbus named it, has always been described as one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean. Columbus refers to it as, “”a beautiful island paradise with high forested mountains and large river valleys” in one of his journals. Today, the Dominican Republic is one of the top tourist spots in the Caribbean offering a range of activities to those seeking peace, excitement, and a connection with nature in its purest form. Go back in time to the 1500s in colonial Santo Domingo, go scuba diving in the blue waters of the Caribbean, or dance the merengue all night long in one of the many beach clubs and resorts, the choice is yours.
Where to Go
Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic and the oldest city of the New World, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city features the first cathedral, first university and first hospital in the Americas. There is no need for a time machine when you are walking on the Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo. The place will transport you back in time. There are plenty of museums and historical buildings in this area including the famous Alcázar de Colón (Castle of Columbus). This castle was built in the 1500s by Christopher Columbus’ son Diego and features artifacts that belonged to the Columbus family.
In the East Coast, you will find the area of Punta Cana/Bavaro, which is considered one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean. Punta Cana offers a variety of all-inclusive resorts for individuals and families seeking peace and relaxation in ocean-front luxury suites. The sugar-colored beaches attract people from all over the world looking for secluded areas. Although Punta Cana has become a popular destination for Americans, the majority of tourists are European. Some celebrities like Oscar de la Renta and Julio Iglesias have purchased their summer retreats in this coast.
The North Coast, also known as the Amber Coast due to the prevalence of this gem, features the popular towns of Puerto Plata, Cabarete and Sosua. This area boasts jungle forests, mountain ranges, blue waters and golden beaches. It was here that Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Hispaniola, and it is precisely here where a new museum focusing on Christopher Columbus’ discovery will be opened. Jurassic Park fans may also want to know that the amber mosquito seen in the movie is housed at the Amber Museum in Puerto Plata.
The North East Coast offers an intimate connection with nature. The Samana peninsula is an ideal destination for eco-tourists and nature lovers seeking unspoiled beaches, coral reefs, mountain waterfalls, rain forests, and humpback whales. In fact, this coast offers one of the best spots in the world for whale watching. Samana is also known for its unique diversity and culture mixing traditions from French, Spanish, Italian settlers and African-American immigrants.
What to Eat
Although culinary specialties vary from region to region, you will be able to find something that suits your taste. Traditional Dominican dishes have a strong Antillean and Creole influence – rice, fish, seafood, meats and vegetables. Some also add light spices and coconut for some extra flavor. The Sancocho prieto, which includes a combination of seven meats, including goat is an authentic and popular Dominican dish for those with daring palates. Seafood restaurants are, of course, the more popular choice for those visiting the beaches. All-inclusive resorts feature Seafood restaurants, buffets, and ethnic restaurants. Click here for a list of popular restaurants by region.
Where to Study
Many US universities offer study abroad options for the Dominican Repubilc. The two most common cities hosting exchange students are Santo Domingo and Santigo. You can also review Study Abroad agencies that offer Spanish and academic programs in the Dominican Republic.
Visas & Documents
Visas are not required by citizens of the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and most EU countries except nationals of Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia and Malta. Also, citizens of Argentina, Chile, South Korea, Ecuador, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Peru, Liechtenstein, and Uruguay do not require a visa. Nationals of certain countries may require a tourist card to enter the Dominican Republic. For more information, contact the Dominican Republic embassy or consulate in your country.
For more information on the Dominican Republic, visit its tourism site: Dominican Republic
Links you may find useful: Wikitravel Dominican Republic