With an average annual temperature of 25 degrees, stunning beaches and great nightlife, it's tricky to work out why you wouldn’t want to go on holiday to the Dominican Republic.
Boasting access to tranquil spots, as well as great nights out, this Caribbean nation on the island of Hispaniola, is hugely popular with groups and couples alike.
You'll be swigging the local beer Presidente in no time, as you work out whether to save yourself till later, or just succumb to the delights of beach bar.
But this island ain't just for party lovers. It's also home to some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the Caribbean.
The North Atlantic population of humpback whales migrates into the Bay of Samana to calve or mate, every year from December to early March. And the Dominican Republic recently created the world’s first Whale Sanctuary. There are many whale tours to go out on, so don't forget to check one of them out between cocktails.
Another popular attraction is the small island of Cayo Levantado (just one kilometre square) located at the entrance of the Samana Bay. Just a fifteen minute walk from end to end, it's the ideal place to escape for one day and contemplate existence. As well as sunbathe, of course.
The island is also known as Bacardi Island because their palm trees appear in advertisements for the well-known brand of rum. So once on the island, the natives typically offer food and... beverages, often accompanied by music!
While culture vultures will absolutely love a visit to the city of Santo Domingo. Tourists are regularly told to follow in the footsteps of the island's first tourist (Christopher Columbus in 1492!) down the cobblestone streets of the oldest city in the 'New World'.
The city has many famous historical sights including the palace, the first cathedral of its kind in the region, and the first hospital. It's also a terrific place to sit back and watch the hustle and bustle of Dominican Republic life go by.
Dotted throughout the Dominican Republic's breathtaking surroundings are an extraordinary variety of the hottest and newest hotels ranging from luxury resorts to boutique properties. So whether you fancy a hotel with colonial charm, or high-end luxe, there are plenty of options.
Playa Encuentro, five minutes outside Cabarete, is famous for its surfing conditions. Boards and lessons are available through a variety of tour companies in Cabarete. Other good surfing spots, but recommended for experts only, include Preciosa beach at Playa Grande, east of Rio San Juan, and Playa Boba, north of Nagua.
Caberete’s nightlife is legendary. Great restaurants, bars, clubs, shops, cafés and lounges are everywhere, and most of them are right on the beach, which really is the only way to live.
After dark on a Sunday night, there's no where quite like club Bonyé. Located in the ruins of Ruinas del Monasterio de San Francisco, you can dance till dawn in this old cathedral!
Thousands of humpback whales head to the Samana Bay region, located on the east coast of the Dominican Republic, every year from mid-January to mid-March. Look out for boat excursions that take you deep into the bay, where you can witness these large, warm blooded mammals up close as they play in the sea.
Most famously known as the setting for the Bounty chocolate bar adverts, Saona Island is a tropical island paradise located a short distance from the mainland on the south-east tip of the Dominican Republic. It is a government protected nature reserve and famous for the natural beauty of its beaches. Visitors can enjoy a speedboat excursion to Saona, with a grilled lobster lunch on the island, before sailing via catamaran to the natural sandbars between the island and mainland to swim with the resident starfish!
The Dominican Republic has some stunning natural waterfalls that can be easily accessed by visitors. Salto de Jimenoa: In Jarabacoa National Park, this 131-foot waterfall, fed by the Yaque del Norte, is reached by a hiking trail and narrow suspension bridge.
This park focuses on nature, animals and the history of the Dominican Republic. Located in Bavaro, Punta Cana, the park is centred on an incredible landscape of magnificent gardens abundant with orchids and tropical plants. This park is a huge hit with kids as it encourages them, with the assistance of professionals, to hold non-poisonous snakes and play in a pool with dolphins.
Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, Dominican Republic is a diver’s paradise with nearly 1,000 miles of dramatic coastline. Beneath the surface of the azure blue seas surrounding the Caribbean’s second largest country, divers are within easy reach of magnificent reef structures, amazing shipwrecks, dozens of islands, mysterious tunnels and caves, and abundant marine life. Discover the endless underwater world of the Dominican Republic featuring a kaleidoscope of colourful fish, diverse fauna, calm bays and intriguing wrecks.
The month of February ushers in the vibrant colours and music of carnival to the Dominican Republic. Dating back to the 1800s, the Dominicans used the carnivals to assert their identity after gaining independence from Spain. Each city in the Dominican Republic adds its own flavour to the celebrations, but the central figure is El Diablo Cojuelo, a playful devil. The National Carnival Parade in Santo Domingo brings together carnival representatives from all over the country. Other important regional carnivals are held in La Vega, Azua, Cotuí, Montecristi, Puerto Plata, Salcedo, San Pedro de Macoris, Santiago, and San Juan.
There are miles of hiking trails in the Dominican Republic’s national parks. Some require walkers to obtain permits from the government before setting off; others stipulate that a registered guide accompany hikers.
Located at the entrance of the Samana Bay, Cayo Levantado is an island of just one square kilometre of tropical Caribbean. It is a perfect place to escape one day and contemplate and enjoy its beautiful turquoise waters, two beaches of white sand, as well as being ideal for swimming or snorkelling practice.
The unofficial kite-boarding capital of the world is known for hosting the most spectacular kite-boarding events. The region ensures the perfect wind and water conditions for competitors.
The oldest city in the New World is well worth a visit. Don't miss the Columbus Statue and Cathedral in Parque Colon, Santo Domingo. Columbus was officially the island's first tourist when he arrived in 1492.
The Dominican Republic has a fantastic food culture. Every year in June, the island holds the Punta Cana Food & Wine Festival. For two days you'll find out about local gastronomy, taste food, watch culinary demos and sample cocktails!
Another terrific way to acclimatise to local life is by eating the food.
Dominican cuisine is heavily influenced by Spanish cooking with added touches of Caribbean herbs and spices. Look out for dishes prepared “a la criolla” or “guisado”. These are meat (beef, pork, chicken) or seafood (shrimp, crab, conch) prepared in a tomato-base sauce with garlic, onions, olives and cilantro. Yum.
Favourite desserts include “dulce de leche” (like a caramel sauce) and “dulce de coco” (sweet coconut). Fruits cooked in syrup are also popular, for example bitter orange, papaya, guava, cashew or pineapple.
Dominicans also have their favourite local drinks. As the country grows a lot of tropical fruits, there are plenty of fruit juices, which are often served as “batidas” with ice and sugar, and sometimes milk or ice cream.
For those who prefer something a little stronger, the Dominican Republic also makes its own beer, Presidente, and rum. And be warned, even the native coffee is strong!
After you’ve eaten and drunk your fill, you’ll want to dance off those dishes. And there’s no better weekend place than Imagine - a disco built into a cave in Punta Cana.
Alternatively, if you hit the island on a Sunday, just head to club Bonyé. Located in the ruins of Ruinas del Monasterio de San Francisco, you'll love what happens after dark in this old cathedral!
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