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The Dominican Republic is the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean and when you visit, it’s not hard to see why. This small country is home to lush tropical rainforests, vast swatches of pristine desert, luxurious resorts, exotic food and drink, historic towns and villages preserving the tales of colonial days bygone, and – believe it or not – even alpine ranges. If you’re an adventure enthusiast, you’re going to be spoiled for choice with all the mountain biking, water sports, and trekking this gorgeous Caribbean nation has to offer. For a stress-free trip to the Dominican Republic, book your car rental in advance with Enjoy Travel.
Guide to the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic occupies two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, the other one-third of which is occupied by Haiti. It is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south.
The landscape of the Dominican Republic comprises pristine white-sand beaches, tropical forests, verdant valleys filled with lush vegetation, deserts with sand dunes, mountains and rugged highlands.
Santo Domingo, the capital, is one of the nation’s oldest cities.
The Dominican Republic experiences a tropical maritime climate. Temperatures range from 16°C (60°F) to 32°C (90°F), and there is little seasonal variation. On average, you can expect mornings to hover around a pleasant 23°C while afternoons can warm up to 32°C. As the nation is perched on the border of the tropical zone, the Dominican Republic gets plenty of rainfall throughout the year. Between the months of June and October, the island is subject to severe storms and, occasionally, hurricanes, which often leads to flooding. So the best time to visit, in our opinion, would be between March and May, when the peak tourist crowds have dispersed and you can enjoy the resorts in peace, while narrowly avoiding the hurricane season.
Culture in Dominican Republic
A melting pot of many cultures – including indigenous Taíno, African, and Europe – the Dominican Republic is a multicultural and multi-ethnic nation. This diversity is reflected in its art, music, religion, food, and family structure.
An interesting fact about the Dominican Republic is that it is the only country in the world to have an image of the Holy Bible on its national flag. The bible is said to be open to the Gospel of John, chapter 8, verse 32, which reads “Y la verdad nos hara libre,” which translates to “And the truth shall set you free.” This is reflective of the deeply Catholic beliefs of the majority of its population.
One of the rarest gems in the world is larimar, and it is found only in the Dominican Republic. There is only one mine located in the Barahona province that produces this precious gemstone which is a calcium-sodium silicate or pectolite formed by the massive heat generated during volcanic eruptions. It can be found in several colors, the most coveted of which is clear azure blue, reminiscent of the dazzling waters that surround the island. As such, these make for unique and special souvenirs for loved ones. At the Larimar Museum in Santo Domingo, you can learn all about the origin of the stone and how it is mined, polished, and turned into beautiful jewelry.
Things To Do in the Dominican Republic
Take a day trip to Isla Saona
Isla Saona (or Saona Island) is the Dominican Republic’s largest coastal island and a tourist magnet for all sorts of day trips from nearby resort destinations like Punta Cana and La Romana. It is the perfect tropical island paradise with soft white sands, swaying coconut palms, and iridescent turquoise waters. Jump on a catamaran and head to the island for a relaxing day of lounging on the beach and working on your tan. Walk or ride (on a jet ski!) along Saona’s stunning coastline scenery if you get the chance. Saona Island is also Dominican Republic’s most important turtle-nesting site.
Explore art and culture
The 500-year-old capital city of Santo Domingo is known for its rich history and heritage. Much of the colonial architecture is today home to museums, restaurants, art galleries or hotels. The activity is centered around Zona Colonial - a UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed colonial city center with cobblestone streets. A grand bronze statue of Christopher Columbus is the main attraction at Parque Colon (or Columbus Park) as a testimony to his enduring influence. A stone’s throw away, the Calle Las Damas is the oldest paved road in the New World. You can walk around here for days at a stretch as there is so much to explore in this district, including crumbling ruins like those of Monasterio de San Francisco and gracefully preserved buildings such as the Catedral Primada de America and the majestic Alcazar De Colon.
Jump off waterfalls
Hidden amidst sugarcane fields in the Northern Corridor mountain range is a series of 27 cascading waterfalls known as 27 Charcos or Damajagua Falls. Discovered in the 1990s, they are a top sight for adrenaline junkies seeking to climb up to the top of the waterfalls and then jump off the top of each of them into the pool below. As you ascend, you may witness similarly adventurous folks on their splash-filled descents. Some of the drops are quite steep so do take caution. While the experience is breathtaking, it may quite literally leave you wheezing if you’re not careful.
Discover open-air caves
One of Santo Domingo’s most unique attractions is the Los Tres Ojos National Park, a 50-yard-long open-air limestone cave that holds three lovely lakes or ojos: Lago de Azufre, La Nevera and El Lago de las Damas. A nearby underground river feeds water to the green, blue, and yellow-colored ponds. A remarkable array of stalactites and stalagmites bewitchingly surround the lakes.
Go whale watching
A very popular tourist attraction in this Caribbean country is to go whale watching in Samana Bay. Every year in winter - between December and March - thousands of migrating humpback whales enter the bay from cooler climates, to mate and give birth. It is the final destination for one of the largest migrations of marine mammals on earth. You can opt for day-long excursions into the ocean to see the splashing tail fins and mating rituals of the mammoth males. Alternatively, you can choose longer boating expeditions accompanied by marine biologists that offer up-close-and-personal meetings with these beautiful giants of the sea along the shores of Puerto Plaza.
Eating Out in the Dominican Republic
Dominican cuisine has a lot of Spanish, Middle-Eastern, African and indigenous Taino influences. Being a former Spanish colony, many traditional Spanish dishes have been incorporated into the local cuisine, with a twist. African and Taino dishes still dominate, some of them with no change. Like in Spain, the largest or main meal of the day is lunch.
The national dish of the Dominican Republic is called La Bandera (The Flag), and it typically consists of white rice, red beans, meat, and a side dish of salad. Other popular dishes that should be tasted here include Sofrito, Sancocho, Mangu, Pollo Guisado, Habichuelas Guisadas and Bizcocho Dominicano.
Some of the best restaurants across the island include: Restaurante Don Pepe, El Meson de la Cava, La Yola, Le Papillon, Otra Cosa Restaurant and Mi Corazon.
Dominican Republic Transport
The major airports receiving international tourists in the Dominican Republic include: Las Américas International Airport (SDQ) in Santo Domingo, Cibao International Airport (STI) in Santiago de los Caballeros, Gregorio Luperon International Airport also known as Puerto Plata Airport (POP) in Puerto Plata, and Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) in Punta Cana.
There are many different types of road transportation options such as buses, caro publicos, guaguas, the metro and motoconchos. The private bus companies usually have air-conditioned 52-seater buses. Caro publicos are small cars used as shared public taxis and recognized by the signs on the roof which show their specific route. Mostly plying between cities, towns and villages, guaguas are privately owned mini-vans. These vehicles will stop anywhere and everywhere along their assigned route. Motoconchos are privately owned motorcycle taxis and they are much easier and cheaper to find than regular taxis. They are perfect for shorter distances.
Santo Domingo has a metro system, the first mass transit system of its kind in the country.
Most visitors traveling through the Dominican Republic often rent a car as it offers increased comfort, flexibility, and convenience. The well-connected road network system makes road travel the most preferred mode of transport, and if you’re traveling in a large group, a 7 seater or a 9 seater van would actually work out to be more cost-effective than taking multiple buses.
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