The Dominican Republic – or simply 'the D.R.' as it is affectionately known – has been a favoured tropical escape for the past 20 years. Offering crystal clear waters and some of the best beaches in the Caribbean; those in search of some sun-drenched rest and relaxation will find it here in spades. But the D.R. offers so much more beyond its pristine sandy shores; the further inland you go, more opportunities present themselves. There is lush vegetation, cascading rivers and waterfalls, and a rich colonial history and vibrant culture that together work to make this eastern half of the island of Hispaniola a truly unique place.
In popular Punta Cana, on the country's south shore, you will find the famed Bavaro Beach – a wide expanse of talc-soft sand that is protected by law ensuring that no man-made structure will distract from its natural charms. The tranquil waters are ideal for diving and snorkeling, and the golfing here is amazing. In neighbouring La Romana, you get much of the same – gorgeous beach, great golf – but at a slightly slower and, if possible, even more relaxed pace. It is close to La Romana where you'll also find the acclaimed area known as Casa de Campo, a beach destination with a heavy focus on golf - there are 90 holes to play here, all created by celebrated course designer Pete Dye.
Looking north, you'll find beautiful Puerto Plata and its windswept shores, including lively Cabarete, a little town with a world-class reputation when it comes to wind sports - windsurfing & kitesurfing in particular. The town of Cabrera is another great option; located at the eastern end of the north coast, it offers beautiful landscapes and untouched beaches. Samana, on the east coast, is the wilder cousin, a great choice for any eco-adventurer.
Located near La Romana, this Mediterranean village was constructed in the late '70s and now enjoys the honour of being the best attraction of the area. Created by Italian designer Roberto Cappa and movie studio chief Charles Bludhorn, this village exudes charm at every turn with its many hand-crafted stone pathways, intricate ironwork and enchanting architecture.
Sail to La Romana's nearby island gem of Catalina for the day. Enjoy a quiet beach and observe the beautiful wildlife. The island hosts several species of tropical birds and interesting marine life. Bring your snorkel gear to enjoy the abundant coral reef just offshore.
The Dominican Republic is no stranger to hosting large, international events. The irresistibly romantic setting of a beachfront wedding is always in high demand in areas like Punta Cana, Cabrera and La Romana. Santo Domingo is a great city to get married in as well, especially if a charming historic chapel seems like the perfect setting to say "I do".
There are many highly esteemed Italian and Mediterranean restaurants in Punta Cana. It's kind of strange that a Caribbean country with a strong Spanish influence does Italian food so well, but they do.
Most of the larger nightclubs are located in Punta Cana and Puerto Plata, though the people of the Dominican Republic have a deep love for their live merengue and bachata music, and are more than happy to show you the steps. So grab one of their signature delicious rum soaked fruity drinks and a dance partner and hit the dance floor!
Take a day and venture out to discover the wonderfully vibrant capital city of Santo Domingo and particularly its beautiful “Zona Colonial," the historic central neighborhood and oldest permanent European settlement of the New World, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Always bustling and full of life, Santo Domingo is home wonderfully preserved colonial buildings, including one of the oldest churches in the region, and winding cobblestone streets. It is also home to hot clubs, great galleries and a slew of elegant restaurants. It's a quaint and compact area, so exploring it all can be easily done within a day.
If hitting the links is on your vacation 'to do' list, then you're in luck. Some of the Caribbean's finest golf courses are found here and specifically on its south shore, namely in the Punta Cana and La Romana areas. Check out Pete Dye's world-class 'Teeth of the Dog' and 'Dye Fore' courses, among others.
Just outside of Puerto Plata, you can take the invigorating tour of 17 waterfalls in Damajagua. Swimming and climbing through the cascading water pools and narrow canyons in the enchanting forest is truly a memorable experience not to be missed.
Every winter, thousands of humpback whales appear off the coast of Samana as part of their annual migration. It's a breathtaking site to observe and experience as these magnificent creatures play with their calves along the water's surface. You can even take advantage of whale watching snorkeling tours out of Puerto Plata that cater to ambitious swimmers who want to get up close for even better views and a breath taking experience.