Santo Domingo — The Dominican Republic has caught a lot of tourist attention lately, as they have realized that its sand beaches are eternally white, and as new luxury resorts are constructed. But beyond luxury hotels and the best beaches in the region, the Dominican Republic is one of the most diverse countries in the Caribbean. It is a country which really has something for everyone.

You can be like the archetypal tourist, lazing on the beach under swaying palm trees and sipping rum cocktails while catching up on your reading. Or, you can don a wet suit and go white-water rafting, leap off waterfalls, hike up the highest mountain in the Caribbean, cycle the country paths and tracks, and do any number of action-packed activities to pump up the adrenaline. However, the Dominican Republic is more than just a playground. It has a culture that goes back for centuries long before Columbus discovered the island. Indigenous Amerindians lived here and a number of Taino archaeological sites and cave drawings can still be seen.

The Dominican Republic is recognized by the UN, and millions of tourists, as having some of the best beaches in the world. After the beaches, you can go to the Parque Nacional Los Haitises to see the Taino cave drawings, mangroves, if you like, and ride a horse to the El Limon waterfall and bathe in the cool pool at the bottom.

Up in the cooler climate of the mountains is the town of Jarabacoa, the center of most adventure sports, which has three rivers, with waterfalls, rapids and ravines. White water rafting, tubing, kayaking, and canyoning are available choices. But even for the less active, there are lovely walks to accessible waterfalls, or horse riding to interesting views and some homegrown flavor at the local coffee factory. You can spend a few days trekking up Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the Caribbean and the delight of botanists and bird watchers. Temperatures can drop below freezing at night. You trek through tropical rainforest and experience several micro climates on your way to the top.

Cycling is a big activity in the Dominican Republic, which is the best place in the Caribbean for mountain biking. Bike tours range from an easy half day downhill cruise for anyone who can ride a bicycle, to strenuous expeditions lasting a week when you camp out and leave hotel comforts behind.

The far southwest of the country around Barahona is much drier, has more wildlife, and much fewer tourists. The Lago Enriquillo, part of the Cabritos National Park, is 30 meters below sea level, exceptionally salty, and is home to crocodiles, iguanas, and flamingos. In these parts, they mine larimar, a pale blue semi-precious stone found only in the Dominican Republic, and it is possible to visit the mines.

When to Go

The Dominican Republic has 50,000 hotel rooms and millions of tourists. The height of the tourist season is mid-December to mid-April, when the weather is colder and drier than at other times of the year. Hotel prices will be higher at this time of the year. May and June can be rainy and humidity starts rising. The official hurricane season is June to November, although it has been more of August-November in recent years. In between hurricanes, there can be some lovely weather, albeit interspersed with some rain. But this is the cheapest time to visit and many places will be very quiet. If you come between mid-January and mid-March, you may catch the height of whale-watching season, as whales linger for a while on their way to the North Atlantic.

Planning Your Trip

The capital, Santo Domingo, and nearby towns are full of hotels. Most of these are all-inclusive, designed to offer everything you could need for a beach holiday. Jarabacoa and Baharona, and other towns, specialize in small hotels and guest houses catering to the independent traveler. Make sure you bring plenty of good, high factor sunscreen, because the tropical sun can burn you even if the winds are cool or the sky cloudy. Mosquito repellent is a must (to avoid malaria or dengue), and just to be sure, when the sun goes down cover up with shoes, socks, long sleeves and trousers.

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Valerie G, editor at CANW
Valerie G has been an editor with California Newswire for several years, is a gifted theremin player, can quote copious lines from 'Red Dwarf' and also knows where her towel is. Oddly, she does not drive, nor does she take the bus. She identifies as both human and democrat.