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Tourist Profile: Dominican Rep.

The Dominican Republic, is located on the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, bordering Haiti. It is a special place where nature's treasures remain unspoiled and the simple joys of easy living are still easy to find.

Here, in the heart of the Caribbean, you will discover more than 1,288 km of Coast line with the most beautiful beaches of the Caribbean in all different styles. Find white sandy beaches, clear, sparkling waters, diving attractions and unspoiled nature all around the island.

There are also impressive mountain ranges veined with spectacular rivers and waterfalls, and saltwater lakes teeming with exotic wildlife. It also has the claim as the oldest city in the New World, with its quaint cobble streets and stonework houses.The geography of the country is greatly diverse, ranging from arid semi-desert plains to verdant valleys of tropical rain forests. This endows the island with a wide variety of vegetation. Most of the tourists to the island come initially attracted by its magnificent golden sand beaches along its 870-mile coast line, but they are soon taken in by its impressive historical legacy. The population of the island (more than 7 million) is a mixture of black, white, and mestizo. The African and African-Cuban influence is deeply present in the song and dance of the island, with merengue the dominant beat, typically played by a three-person group. There are festivals throughout the year, and international merengue celebrations that attract music lovers from all over. This beautiful island is steeped in history and culture worthwhile exploring: abundant historical sites, museums, colonial architecture, the first hospital, first sugar mill, first Catholic church this side of the world. Visitors will soon discover that the Dominican Republic offers much more than the typical Caribbean attractions of sun, sand and sea. Whether you're looking to party, relax or explore, the Dominican Republic has a lot to offer.

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  • Where to go
  • When to go
  • Money & Costs
  • History
  • Culture

Santo Domingo: The colonial part has been carefully restored to retain its original charm, and is home to the first university, cathedral and hospital built in the New World. The modern city of Santo Domingo, by contrast, is a thriving port city, equipped with discos, gambling casinos, shops and the Cultural Plaza , which houses the Gallery of Modern Art and the National Theater. Just a few miles east of the city is a remarkable cave complex, Los Tres Ojos de Agua (The Three Eyes of Water), so-called because it contains three turquoise lagoons on three different levels, each fed by an underground river and surrounded by countless stalactites, stalagmites and lush tropical vegetation.

Southern Coast: To the west of Santo Domingo is San Cristóbal, where the first constitution was signed on 6 November 1844. It is probably the most visited city, particularly by those wishing to get a closer look at the historical sites linked to the life of Trujillo, the dictator who governed the country with an iron fist from 1930-61. In the church and Caves of Santa Maria, the patron saint’s day is celebrated with drums and dance rituals. One hour 45 minutes east of Santo Domingo is the city of La Romana, home to the understated elegance and graceful charm of the 7000-acre Casa de Campo resort, designed by Oscar de la Renta. Nestled within the resort is Altos de Chavón, a reconstructed 15th-century Mediterranean-style village of culture and art which is perched high on a cliff overlooking the tropical Chavón River and the Caribbean Sea. Altos de Chavón hosts major events in a 5000-seat Greek amphitheater, built in the traditional design of Epidaurus. Near Punta Cana, is Manatí Park, a theme park which includes a zoo, gardens, a recreated Taino village and a variety of exotic animals, visitors have the opportunity to swim with dolphins. The popular destination of Barahona is a humid area with beautiful beaches of white sand. Cabritos Island, a national park in the center of Lake Enriquillo, is the greatest preserve of the wild American Crocodile, large populations of flamingos and two species of iguana. Azúa de Compostela was founded in 1504 by Diego Velázquez, who later conquered Cuba. In particular, the ruins of the colonial city in Pueblo Viejo are well worth a visit.

Northern Coast: The Northern, or Amber Coast, is so-named because some of the most beautiful amber in the world is mined here. The Amber Museum houses a good display of amber pieces found in this area. Puerto Plata (the Silver Port) has some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean Islands. It was founded in 1504 and boasts colonial architecture. The Fort San Felipe was built in the 1600s by the Spanish to protect the settlement from pirates. The Atlantic coast of the country is renowned for its miles of unspoilt beaches that surround Puerto Plata, the most popular being Sosúa. Just 3km (2 miles) from the town is the Playa Dorada resort complex. Just outside, in Puerto Plata, is the Costambar Beach Resort, with 5km (3 miles) of beach. Mount Isabel de Torres features a cable car which climbs over 760m (2500ft) above sea level. The breathtaking view of the Atlantic and the port of Puerto Plata is well worth the seven-minute ride up to the top of the mountain. 10 sq km (4 sq miles) of botanical gardens can be explored here. Río San Juan is still an undeveloped area awaiting the adventurer to discover Playa Grande (with a few resorts under construction), the beautiful Playa El Caletón and the Gri-Gri lagoon. The Samaná Peninsula is located on the northern portion of the island, approximately two hours from Puerto Plata’s international airport. Samaná, with its transparent blue waters, miles of unspoilt beaches, and dozens of caves, is a romantic paradise. Other resorts include The Gran Bahía Beach Resort, Cayo Levantado and El Portillo Beach Club.

Except in the central mountains, temperatures don't vary much in the Dominican Republic, averaging a summery 28°C-31°C (81°F-87°F) in most places for most of the year. In the mountains, sunny days climb to 24°C (75°F) but can just as easily fall to single digits at night or on cloudy days. Tropical humidity can make the temperatures feel higher, though sea breezes help mitigate the effect.

There are two rainy seasons, October to May along the northern coast and May to October in the south; bring an umbrella if you plan to travel the entire country. Dominican rain isn't your garden-variety 'just-enough-to-cool-things-off' precipitation native to Hawaii or Central America - this stuff drenches waterfall-style and could easily last half a day.

Average Room Prices
  • Low: US$20-70
  • Mid: US$70-150
  • High: US$150-300
  • Deluxe: US$300+
Average Meal Prices
  • Low: US$5-8
  • Mid: US$8-20
  • High: US$20-35

The Official Currency of the Dominican Republic is the Peso, which fluctuates freely against the US Dollar and other foreign currencies. The exchange rate current since early 2001 has been approximately in the order of 16.70 to 16.90 pesos per US $1 range. Paper currency is printed in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 2000 Peso notes. Coins are circulated in 1 and 5 Peso denominations (currently both coins and paper are circulated to represent 5 pesos). Coins of lesser denominations are currently minted and in circulation, but are generally not welcomed by businesses or informal vendors due to their low value. Most supermarkets and other business establishments either price their goods at an even number or round off the bill at the cash register.

Although some tourist establishments or street vendors accept US Dollars or other currencies, these are not legal tender in the country. Shops, supermarkets and other types of retail establishments do not accept any other currency than the Peso.

The Dominican Republic was explored by Columbus on his first voyage in 1492. He named it La Española, and his son, Diego, was its first viceroy. The capital, Santo Domingo, founded in 1496, is the oldest European settlement in the Western Hemisphere.

Spain ceded the colony to France in 1795, and Haitian blacks under Toussaint L'Ouverture conquered it in 1801. In 1808 the people revolted and captured Santo Domingo the next year, setting up the first republic. Spain regained title to the colony in 1814. In 1821 Spanish rule was overthrown, but in 1822 the colony was reconquered by the Haitians. In 1844 the Haitians were thrown out, and the Dominican Republic was established, headed by Pedro Santana. Uprisings and Haitian attacks led Santana to make the country a province of Spain from 1861 to 1865.

President Buenaventura Báez, faced with an economy in shambles, attempted to have the country annexed to the U.S. in 1870, but the U.S. Senate refused to ratify a treaty of annexation. Disorder continued until the dictatorship of Ulíses Heureaux; in 1916, when chaos broke out again, the U.S. sent in a contingent of marines, who remained until 1924.

A sergeant in the Dominican army trained by the marines, Rafaél Leonides Trujillo Molina, overthrew Horacio Vásquez in 1930 and established a dictatorship that lasted until his assassination in 1961, 31 years later. In 1962, Juan Bosch of the leftist Dominican Revolutionary Party, became the first democratically elected president in four decades.

In 1963, a military coup ousted Bosch and installed a civilian triumvirate. Leftists rebelled against the new regime in April 1965, and U.S. president Lyndon Johnson sent in marines and troops. After a cease-fire in May, a compromise installed Hector Garcia-Godoy as provisional president. In 1966, right-wing candidate Joaquin Balaguer won in free elections against Bosch, and U.S. and other foreign troops withdrew.

In 1978 the army suspended the counting of ballots when Balaguer trailed in a fourth-term bid. After a warning from President Jimmy Carter, however, Balaguer accepted the victory of Antonio Guzmán of the Dominican Revolutionary Party. In 1982 elections, Salvador Jorge Blanco of the Dominican Revolutionary Party defeated Balaguer and Bosch. Balaguer was again elected president in May 1986 and remained in office for the next ten years.

In 1996, U.S.-raised Leonel Fernández secured more than 51% of the vote through an alliance with Balaguer. The first item on the president's agenda was the partial sale of some state-owned enterprises. Fernández was praised for ending decades of isolationism and improving ties with other Caribbean countries, but he was criticized for not fighting corruption or alleviating the poverty that affects 60% of the population.

In Aug. 2000 the center-left Hipólito Mejía was elected president amid popular discontent over power outages in the recently privatized electric industry, but in May 2004 presidential elections he was defeated by former president Leonel Fernández (1996-2000). Fernández instituted austerity measures to rescue the country from its economic crisis, and in the first half of 2006, the economy grew 11.7%.

Dominicans have a great liking for dance. A French observer, Father Labat, who arrived in 1795 when Spain ceded the island to France by the Treaty of Basle, commented in this respect: "Dance is in Santo Domingo, the favorite passion, and I don’t believe that there is a anywhere in the world a people more attracted to dance".

Of all the rhythms that enrich their folklore, the merengue is the people’s expression; and, as a popular expression, it varies from generation to generation in the same measure our lifestyle changes.

In both rural and urban areas, our people’s collective artistic expression is usually manifested in the production of crafts. A variety of native crafts can be found scattered throughout the city’s business areas and shopping centers.

In art galleries, you can appreciate and discover authentic native art which is not the pseudo-primitive art that abounds in other Caribbean islands but more akin to Dominican’s innermost nature. The exportation of works of art is not prohibited.

The national sport and passion of Dominican Republic is baseball or "Beisbol" as the Dominicans call it. No matter where you go on the island you will find a baseball stadium/park, even in the poorest of towns. Today more than one in six players in the American league is from Latin America, the majority of them coming from the towns located on the southeastern coast Dominican Republic.