Brenna LaBine – A recent trip to the Dominican Republic left me appreciative of the cultural diversity, history, and fun you may expect to find here.
This island-nation was the first stop for Spanish conquistadors on their way to the Americas, so as you may imagine, the well-preserved structures and the colonial town are now laden with hints of European, Caribbean, and North American influences.
The Dominican Republic is a place of vibrant character: with fiestas in the park and residents embodying tranquility in their everyday lives. Suffice it to say, this is a hub of variety.
Here are the top 10 things you’ll love about the Dominican Republic:
1) Latin music: It is everywhere–in the streets, on the beach, the promenade…salsa, merengue, and bachata surround you, and you can expect to find groups of locals and foreigners dancing wherever the music is playing. This adds a certain liveliness and flare to the culture.
2) The white-sand beaches and bright blue waters: I have been a long time resident of the Caribbean and I can tell you these beaches are in another league. They are breathtaking, with colors you will only see in nature here on these pristine coasts.
3) The scenery: The Dominican Republic is a place of ecological and geographical diversity. And all of it equally beautiful. Their interior is made up of green, lush rolling hills and wide-open farmland. The communities nestled along the north coast are suspended in the hills of the jungle, overlooking the azure waters. The city of Santo Domingo has an interesting mixture of luxury living with colonial and Caribbean influence, which makes for an enjoyable, unique experience.
4) Affordable luxury living: Santo Domingo, Punta Cana, and Sosua offer luxury waterfront condos that may not be an absolute steal, but are affordable for what you get–and the buildings typically come equipped with first-rate amenities and cascading pools.
5) The history: The most intriguing aspect for me was the historical richness. The Zona Colonial is home to the first park, cemetery, and cathedral of the Americas. And the structures have been well-maintained, so you can get lost perusing the cobblestoned streets and touring Christopher Columbus’ first home.
6) Tranquility: As I was exploring the America’s oldest cemetery on a Monday afternoon, I came upon a group of locals who were sitting on gravestones, smoking locally hand rolled cigars–beautiful young ladies, older women and men, it was quite an eclectic group. I asked them: “What is your favorite part about living here?” A large older man flashed a big, toothless smile, and said “Todo tranquilo aqui chica…” (Everything is tranquil here…). And indeed everything is laid-back here. The locals are friendly and always more than happy to stop and talk to you and find out where you are from or help you in your travels. “Don’t worry, be happy” seems to be the resounding motto here.
7) El Malecon: The longest promenade in the Americas is right here in Santo Domingo. You may expect to stumble upon open-air concerts and parties as you walk along the Caribbean Sea and look at the beautiful colonial surroundings. This is also a place to go if you want to hit the slot machines or search for luxury real estate.
8) Sex-Tourism: While this may not be for everyone, you cannot travel through the Dominican Republic and not notice that this is a mecca for sex-tourism, for women and men alike. If that is what you seek, then the Dominican Republic should be on your radar–namely, Boca Chica and Puerto Plata. If paying for a woman’s or man’s company is not for you, you will find plenty of singles, in large groups or flying solo, at the many all-inclusive resorts speckling the coasts.
9) Mama Juana: This locally made alcohol is as popular as it is strong. This rum-based drinks has hints of honey, wine, nutmeg, tree bark, and cinnamon, and is very tasty. According to the locals, it is good for cleansing your kidneys as well (though, clearly, that is a debatable notion).
10) Cigars: One of the Dominican Republic’s biggest industries is tobacco. The Dominican Republic cigars are revered for their fine-quality and refined flavor. I suggest stopping into a local shop to purchase a hand rolled Dominican cigar if you have the chance.