When you think of the Dominican Republic, you probably picture white sand beaches and package-holiday resorts. And plenty of them there are too, providing palm-fringed luxury and hassle-free ‘holidays of a lifetime’ for those on a sun-filled stress break. For many, the pampering is escape enough. If you’re more of a culture junkie, though Santo Domingo (‘La Capital’) and the rural villages won’t let you down.
Chaotic Santo Domingo is the center of absolutely everything in the Dominican Republic, from sweaty clubs to some of oldest surviving buildings in the Caribbean. The Zona Colonial and its cobbled backstreets date back half a millennia, full of ornate pillars and sturdy ramparts. Just down the road locals twin passions can be found side by side: the ever-busy national baseball stadium, and a host of nightclubs where elegant dancers show off their enviable merengue and salsa skills. Then there’s the beach, of course.
You won’t want to miss Santo Domingo, but it would be a mistake to never leave. If you time it right, you can watch splashing humpback whales gather off the Peninsula de Samana at mating season. If you’re sick of the package tour crowds, there are deserted beaches up for grabs along Playa Limon, while you can track down some seriously aged art in the form of the cave paintings at El Pomier.
For some serious action, a brisk climb up Pico Durante – the Caribbean’s heftiest peak – gives picture-postcard ocean views, or you can tire yourself out with a host of sail sports off Cabarete, one of the world’s foremost kite surfing destinations. Surprisingly, there are even some chilly mountain retreats, like popular Jaracaboa, where shaky wooden walkways take you over forested canyons, the waterfalls are cold enough to draw only the brave, and the lodge-side swimming pools have to be heated.
You can easily make your Dominican holiday about coconuts, palm trees, clear waters and resort-heavy luxury. And you’ll have a great time doing it. If you’re all rested up already – or you’re the type who just can’t keep still – the colorful culture, range of adventure sports and heartfelt history are equally compelling.
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