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Your guide to Dominican Republic
All About Dominican Republic
Surrounded by turquoise waters, the island nation of the Dominican Republic contains lush rainforests, some of the highest mountain peaks in the Caribbean, and picturesque historic cities. The country, which occupies two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola (the other third belongs to Haiti), is lapped by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south, and its beautiful beaches are one of the biggest draws here.
Along Punta Cana’s coconut palm-lined shores — one of the longest white sand coastlines in the Caribbean — you’ll find a recreated 16th-century Mediterranean city and a natural reserve filled with shady, blue-green lagoons. At Cabarete Beach in Puerto Plata, you can try your hand at kitesurfing or windsurfing among some of the best waves on the island. Or explore the protected natural paradise of Bahia de las Aguilas, where the shallow crystalline waters lap the pure white sand against sheer, rugged cliff faces inside the Jaragua National Park, which is a protected UNESCO World Heritage site. The capital, Santo Domingo, was the first European-built city in the Americas. Here, you can browse the Museum of Natural History and the Memorial Museum of the Dominican Resistance, which commemorates those who resisted against Dominican dictator Trujillo, as well as the Calle El Conde, a pedestrian street lined with restored colonial buildings that now house restaurants, cafes, and shops.
One of the best ways to experience the country’s culture is through its food. The national dish is La Bandera Dominicana, which is rice and beans with stewed chicken, and is found in comedores (local restaurants) all over the country. Mangú, mashed green plantains with sautéed red onions, is a favorite for breakfast.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic benefits from a warm Caribbean climate year-round, so any time is a great time to enjoy a stay at one of the many vacation rentals around the country. Summer is the warmest and rainiest season, with humidity at its highest from April to October. You can expect very warm days, and the chance of short, intense rainstorms. Festival de Merengue is the biggest summer festival here, which celebrates the country’s national music. December through March are the coolest months, but you can still expect plenty of daytime sunshine for enjoying the beach. In mountainous areas, temperatures can be quite cold, so if you’re visiting places like Jarabacoa and Constanza make sure you bring layers. In February, Carnival takes over the Dominican Republic, and San Domingo hosts the country’s liveliest celebrations with a street party every Sunday.
Top things to do in Dominican Republic
Zona Colonial (Colonial City)
Zona Colonial, originally founded in 1496, is in Santo Domingo and was the first city built by Spaniards when they arrived. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for being one of the most beautiful cities in the Caribbean, Zona Colonial comprises three beautiful cobblestoned streets surrounded by a walled perimeter. Buildings from the 16th century are still standing and can be explored, including the first fortress of the Americas, the country’s first cathedral, and its first university. When you’re done with a self-guided tour here, stroll along Calle El Conde, which is lined with shops and outdoor restaurants.
Head to the foot of the Dominican Alps to the mountain town of Jarabacoa, where you’ll find lush forests and a series of beautiful waterfalls. From the town, you can drive to individual falls, or you could do a full day hike to three of the most beautiful ones — Jimenoa Waterfall, Baiguate Waterfall, and Salto Secreto Waterfall. All offer spectacular scenery, and the chance for a refreshing swim.
Hoyo Azul (The Blue Hole)
Just outside Punta Cana, you’ll find the spectacular Hoyo Azul Lagoon, also known as the Blue Hole. This natural pool is a sinkhole located at the base of a cliff with the most amazing crystal-clear blue waters. To get there, you’ll need to walk for about 30 minutes through a tropical forest, and then take stairs down into a cave. You can swim in the lagoon and even zipline across it.