The overwhelming beauty of the mountains, the charm of the Spanish-colonial architecture, and the shimmering sand of the many beaches best define the Dominican Republic. Located in the Greater Antilles archipelago, the Dominican Republic is the second largest and most populated nation in the Caribbean.
The animated cosmopolitan city of Santo Domingo, established as a colony in 1496, exists as the oldest continuously inhabited city of the New World. Although some might prefer staying within the bounds of a luxury resort, it is highly recommended to escape to the Colonial Zone at least once during your stay in the Dominican Republic. Recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990, the Colonial Zone is a grid of colorful cobblestoned streets that features pieces tracing back to the 16th century. During a short 45-minute ride on the Chu Chu Colonial, visitors can relive over 500 years of fascinating history as they spot some of world’s oldest attractions. The tour includes a view of the first Cathedral built in the Americas, decorated with an intricate Gothic ceiling and ancient oil paintings. Visitors can also explore Fortaleza Ozama, which overlooks the Ozama River and is considered to be the oldest military fortress.
Photo courtesy | Joe deSousa
Within walking distance from the Colonial Zone is Avenida George Washington, better known as the Malecón. While this nine-mile boulevard is home to lively nightclubs and cozy hotels, it houses some of the most incredible restaurants that serve authentic Dominican dishes like chicharron and fritos. The base of each dish is a sofrito, a mixture of flavors that includes cilantro, garlic, onion, and peppers. Families looking for a place to eat after strolling around the Colonial Zone would enjoy a meal at Adrian Tropical, where plates of yucca and plantain mofongo emerge out of the kitchen doors and go straight to the table. For a classier, more elegant restaurant with a picturesque view of the promenade, visitors might consider D’Luis Parillada where the menu also features traditional Dominican dishes. Those interested in feasting on a different cuisine, whether it be Italian, German, or even Scandinavian, will certainly find a spot that satisfies their appetite somewhere along the Malecón.
The charm of the colonial-styled architecture enhances the nightlife in Santo Domingo, where crowds of people swarm the streets looking for the best club to go to. The musical landscape of the Dominican Republic features merengue, salsa, and bachata among other genres. Most of the popular nightclubs in Santo Domingo, which often are open-air terraces, can be found on Avenida Venezuela, Rómulo Bentacourt, and some streets of the Colonial Zone. Some hotels also have their own venue for dance clubs, such as L’Azotea at the Dominican Fiestas and the Merengue Bar at the Jaragua. At the Teatro Nacional and Bella Artes, tourists can enjoy classical symphonies performed by acclaimed orchestras. Throughout the week, various musical shows are hosted at different venues including Ruinas de San Francisco and Plaza de España.
Photo courtesy | Joe deSousa
Cities outside the capital are sprawling with award winning resorts featuring rejuvenating spas and scenic golf courses. Punta Cana, a region known for its relaxing beaches and clear waters, is filled with popular all-inclusive resorts. The Sanctuary Cap Cana Spa & Golf Resort is a large estate that encompasses sparkling sandy beaches, cool waters, soaring cliffs, and lush forests. The all-inclusive retreat is designed to provide a peaceful escape for all guests and beginning in December 2015, Sanctuary will only be open for adults, ages 18 and older. Guests have access to four swimming pools, a 2,000 square foot wellness center, 24-hour room service, and gourmet cuisines from any of the five restaurants. After spending a day hiking through forests and diving into deep waters, guests can return to their rooms and soak in the beauty of their surroundings from their balconies. Only a short 15-minute car ride from the Punta Cana International Airport, Sanctuary also offers guests exclusive access to the Punta Espada Golf Club, which hails as the top-ranked golf course in the Caribbean and Mexico.
The Dominican Republic is truly a destination that will meet the needs of all types of travelers, as it offers the soothing tranquility of a vacation and the exciting rush of an adventure. With its vibrant and lively culture, the Dominican Republic is a country to add to your growing bucket list.