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Only In Dominican Republic: Best Times In The Caribbean

SANTO DOMINGO — This winter will go down in history as one of the coldest and snowiest in history for a majority of the United States.

With more than six weeks remaining until spring, many Americans are searching for a tropical getaway, that also offers unique attractions and experiences.

Whether you’re seeking sunshine and history, snorkeling rare marine life off the shores of unspoiled hidden beaches or looking for an adrenaline rush as you traverse the country’s unspoiled nature, Dominican Republic delivers a wide range of one-of-a-kind experiences.

“Dominican Republic’s rich history, diverse natural beauty and vibrant culture truly make it a destination unlike any other in the Caribbean or in the world,” said Magaly Toribio, Marketing Advisor for the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism. “In Dominican Republic, tourists can explore the history and many of the ‘firsts’ of the new world, enjoy an up-close encounter with humpback whales or climb to the highest point in the Caribbean – just a few of the first-class experiences specific to Dominican Republic.”

As travelers increasingly flock to destinations in pursuit of authentic and off-the-beaten-path adventures, Dominican Republic is attracting travelers who are craving culture and looking to cross off bucket-list experiences.

History in the Capital: A City of Firsts

For history buffs, no visit to Dominican Republic is complete without a trip to the capital of Santo Domingo to experience the Colonial City—the first European settlement of the Americas, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990.

The Colonial City’s narrow cobblestone streets harken back to the days of Christopher Columbus, and the oldest pieces of New World history can be explored here by foot or aboard the Chu Chu Colonial, which offers a 45-minute tour of the neighborhood by train. If you prefer to stretch your legs while you explore, book a trip with a local guide who will walk you down the first paved road of the Americas. Other highlights of the city’s colonial history include the first university, the first hospital and the first cathedral of the New World, and tree-lined plazas that are as full of history as they are charm.

La Capital—as it is affectionately called—epitomizes the pulse of Dominican culture, where the old and the new converge seamlessly from centuries-old architecture and history, to large shopping malls, art galleries, various meetings and events, an electric nightlife, and a booming gastronomy scene, perfect for locals and travelers alike.

Distinctive Dominican Goods

For a uniquely Dominican souvenir, look no further than larimar, a semi-precious, turquoise-colored stone found only in the heart of Bahoruco’s mountains. Workers spend up to nine hours a day underground to mine this rare blue stone from holes as deep as 150 meters. For the complete larimar experience, explore the mining area with local tour operators, or visit local artisans’ workshops along Bahoruco’s main highway where you can choose your own piece of larimar to be cut and polished.

Dominican Republic is also home to Ocoa Bay, one of the first major wineries in the Caribbean and the only winery in the country. Tucked into an idyllic oceanfront setting on the country’s south coast, Ocoa Bay serves delectable and sustainable wines with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding grounds. Limited vintages are paired with food sourced from the on-site gardens, and the winery’s organic restaurant offers a complete culinary experience.

To push the boundaries of your palate even further, try a shot of mamajuana, an herbal drink made from a cured tree barks and herbs steeped in red wine and rum. This potent drink is distinctly Dominican, and you can pick up a bottle just about anywhere, from souvenir shops to markets to the roadside. Be careful—the mixture is strong, and it’s said to be an aphrodisiac.

Unparalleled Nature by Land or Sea

Dominican Republic is replete with opportunities to explore diverse natural beauty by land, on water or even underwater.

In the northeast region of Samaná, Los Haitises National Park is home to hilly vistas and high rock formations jutting out of the waves. Venture into the park by boat to explore a series of caves throughout the mangroves. The caves are home to an impressive collection of petroglyphs and pictographs created centuries ago by the indigenous Taino Indians. The park is also popular among birdwatchers, and if the rainforest looks familiar, that may be because it was featured in the film “Jurassic Park.”

Back on land, Dominican Republic is famous for having the most diverse topography for a single nation in the Caribbean. That diversity is personified by two extremes: the Caribbean’s highest peak, Pico Duarte, sitting at 10,164 feet above sea level; and the region’s lowest point, Lago Enriquillo, a saltwater lake that sits 131 feet below sea level. A grueling hike up to Pico Duarte is rewarded by stunning views at the top of the mountain, and below sea level, Lago Enriquillo is a must-visit for animal lovers, where visitors can spot alligators, flamingos and a wide array of bird species.

The most adventurous can explore the country by air and take in the sites from above. In Puerto Plata, climb aboard The Teleférico, the Caribbean’s only cable car which offers an iconic view of Puerto Plata and beyond. In Bávaro, Dominican Balloons will have you soaring above Punta Cana in a hot-air balloon – the only place it is offered in the entire Caribbean.

For scuba divers, Dominican Republic is a treasure trove of incomparable dive destinations, from the soft corals of the Larimar I and Larimar II dive sites to Zingara, a popular destination for experienced divers to ascend to a 40-meter-long cargo ship that was intentionally sunk in 1992. Each corner of the coastline offers distinct scenery and a challenge for novice and expert divers alike.

To learn more about the top attractions that can only be found in Dominican Republic, visit

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 50 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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