From the beaches of Puerto Plata, to the ancient architecture of Santo Domingo, here are nine places that you should definitely visit in the Dominican Republic.
1. Santo Domingo and its Colonial Zone
The Colonial Zone is the historic heart of Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic. This square mile of beautiful streets and shady squares contains some of the oldest colonial buildings in the Western Hemisphere; including the cathedral.
To walk along the Calle de las Damas is to retrace the steps of the first Spanish conquistadors, who used Santo Domingo as the basis for the conquest of Latin America. However, this district is not a museum piece.
It is dotted with shops, restaurants and cafes, many of them located in buildings from the colonial era. It is also a real neighborhood, where families sit outside their houses enjoying the cool of the night.
Beyond the Colonial Zone is a fast-moving metropolis, with more than two million people, where luxury suburbs rub shoulders with shady-looking slums, and where quiet parks and museums provide respite from the frenetic traffic of the city.
The city radiates inland from the river and the coast, moving from the compact quarters of the 19th century to the extended commercial districts of the modern upper part.
The Spanish and Caribbean influences, expressed in wrought iron balconies and ornate gingerbread wood carvings, give way to functional blocks of offices and suburbs.
2. Costa del Coco
“Costa del Coco”, with its white beaches protected by reefs and placid waters, is an indisputable tourist mecca of the country.
About 64 km of uninterrupted beach extend to the extreme southeast of the country. The endless views of the sea, sand and coconut trees broken only by groups of low-rise hotels and villas.
Since the 1980s, a bonanza of construction has seen huge autonomous tourist cities emerge along the seashore; with its varied attractions and facilities isolated from the rest of the world.
It is possible, if you wish, to escape from the luxury of the hotel and explore the spectacular beaches, some quiet, others wild, which extend as far as the eye can see.
3. Constanza and “The Dominican Alps”
The fresh highlands of the interior of the country are barely 80 km from the tropical heat of Santo Domingo.
Dominated by the imposing Cordillera Central, the mountain range that forms the backbone of the island, the central region is a paradise for nature lovers, with protected national parks, streams and valleys.
The temperate climate encourages crops such as strawberries. The green meadows and pine forests are far from the usual image of the Caribbean. And Pico Duarte, with an altitude of 3,098 meters, the highest mountain in the Caribbean, dominates the scene.
Santiago de los Caballeros is the second largest city in the Dominican Republic. Since its founding in 1495 by the 30 Spanish nobles (knights), this busy metropolis has been considered richer and more hard-working than the capital.
Located in the fertile valley of the Cibao, Santiago de los Caballeros has historically been the center of the country’s agricultural wealth, and its millionaire families owe their fortune largely to sugar and tobacco grown nearby.
The city is quieter than Santo Domingo, but sufficiently animated on Calle del Sol and around the monument to the Heroes.
5. Puerto Plata
Puerto Plata is located between the resplendent Atlantic Ocean and the imposing mass of Isabel de Torres peak.
Its roots date back to 1495, but it was during the 1970s that this province was rejuvenated by the advent of mass tourism.
The nearby resorts of Playa Dorado and Sosua attract legions of visitors every year; but you should not miss a tour of the colorful center of Puerto Plata, with architecture, galleries and restaurants of the Victorian era.
A tight grid of central streets, dating from the brief tobacco boom in the nineteenth century. This is the best place to soak up the atmosphere of a past golden age.
6. La Isabela
Located between some of the most rugged landscapes in the country and surrounded by magnificent beaches, La Isabela breathes history, on the site of the first permanent colonial settlements in America.
The bay protects a placid expanse of the ocean, while a pristine white beach closely resembles how it was 1493; when Christopher Columbus decided to establish a city in this place: named in honor of the Spanish Queen.
The excavated ruins of La Isabela give a powerful impression of that decisive moment. An adventure in the remote terrain is rewarded by an unforgettable vision of how the course of history was modified.
7. Las Terrenas
A small and dilapidated fishing village, Las Terrenas has become just 30 years in one of the most coveted tourist centers of the Dominican Republic.
An influx of expats from North America and Europe has brought a wide range of guest houses and restaurants, tailored to the independent traveler.
But development has not ruined the relaxed atmosphere of this welcoming coastal community.
Located on the northern coast of the Samana Peninsula, a lush strip of land that empties into the Atlantic, the city is blessed by the proximity of some of the most beautiful beaches in the country and the spectacular countryside that surrounds it.
Extensive groves of coconut trees line extensions of white sand that gently and cozily bend towards warm, transparent waters.
8. La Romana
The Central Azucarera still reigns in the southern port city of La Romana, a place dedicated to cutting, grinding and exporting sugar since 1917.
The huge sugar mill, although damaged by Hurricane Georges in 1998, still dominates the city; and it is possible to see trains filled with canes, which run through the surrounding countryside.
Tourism, instead of sugar, is now the main source of life in the city. And his pride and joy is the nearby Casa de Campo complex. This tropical beach patio, sports facilities and exquisite gardens offer the most sophisticated options of recreational activities.