Dominican Republic: best of the Caribbean

If you are looking for an exotic location to enjoy a late summer getaway, or perhaps an autumn break, then you could do a lot worse than go to the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean.

The all-inclusive packages in particular have been a massive hit for families who know they have to stick to a budget as everything is paid for upfront, but the destination also offers so much more for the British holidaymaker.

Not only are there fantastic beaches and watersports on offer, but if you want to get away from the crowds, there is breathtaking scenery in the form of rainforests, mountains and waterfalls. The cities also offer a vibrant culture that has a Spanish colonial past.

The Dominican Republic is the second largest island in the Caribbean. It has the highest point in the West Indies, the Pick Duarte standing tall at 10,414ft, and also the lowest point in the West Indies, Lake Enriquillo which is 148 ft below sea level.

Christopher Columbus first stepped ashore the island, which he called Hispaniola, in 1492. Consequently, the south side of the island boasts the oldest city of the New World, including the first hospital, first sugar mill, and first cathedral.

The capital city, Santo Domingo has Columbus’ Palace, the Alcazar de Colon, the 22-room home of Don Diego Columbus and his family. It was built in 1510, and then underwent restoration in 1955, a wonderful mix of Gothic and Moorish architecture.

The capital also has a buzzing street life, which is quite unique. The streets are awash with colour and music, the finest example of which occurs during the Domincan Carnival that takes place between February and March.

The second largest city on the island is found on the cliffs above the Yaque River, called Santiago de los Caballeros or simply Santiago, but it is the island’s next largest city, Puerto Plata, located on the north shore of the island which has become the most popular tourist destination. Nearby Sosua, La Romana and Punta Cana to the east of the island also have a growing resort population.

The Dominican Republic also has some stunning landscapes, with much of the island covered in mountainous terrain. There is plenty for nature lovers to explore, from semi-desert plains to green valleys and tropical rain forests.

There is also the Cordillera Septentrional mountain range, which runs between the Atlantic coast and the Cibao valley. It was here that Spaniards used to search for gold. The Cibao Valley is also famous for growing, harvesting and marketing tobacco, and its cigars are an important income for the island. It is easy to arrange trips to soak up this nature from most of the island’s tourist centres.

But for many, the number one thing to do on holiday is hit the beach, top up the tan and relax. You will have no problem doing that in the Dominican Republic. With its characteristic laid-back Caribbean style, the island has approximately 400km of beaches to enjoy.

With first class All Inclusive hotels such as the Bahia Principe and the Riu Bachata it’s the ideal place for an All Inclusive holiday.

Package deals can be found for most of the white sandy beaches along the country’s northern shores, with the between Puerto Plata and Cabarete proving to long-standing popular places with sunseekers.

Unsurprisingly, the watersports are excellent as well. Snorkelling, sailing and scuba-diving can be enjoyed in the unspoilt water along the coast, or you could indulge in deep-sea fishing or championship golf along the north coast of Playa Grande.

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