Recent years have been kind to the Dominican Republic, which is now ensconced as the Caribbean’s most visited destination. It’s not hard to see why. A seemingly endless spread of white-sandy beaches and palm trees play host to a similarly sizable range of holiday resorts (some of them ultra-exclusive, some of them less so) and the country has developed a reputation for a good-quality break at a reasonable price. The region around Punta Cana on the east coast is particularly popular, offering golf courses, all-inclusives and the usual fun-in-the-sun trappings.
To see the country purely as a beach destination, however, would be to undersell it. Making up one half of the island of Hispaniola – which it shares with Haiti in the west – it’s one of the most geographically diverse parts of the Caribbean, showcasing everything from tropical rainforests and alpine ranges to mangrove swamps and semi-desert. Mountain-bikers, windsurfers, hikers, climbers and even whale-watchers are well catered for.
No less notably, however, the Dominican Republic is also somewhere heaving with life, blending the heady rhythms of merengue and bachata music with a fondness for rum and religion and a near-unrivalled passion for baseball.
The country has a long history. It was the first part of the region to be discovered by Christopher Columbus, and a visit to capital city Santo Domingo still makes the most natural starting point for cultural visitors (particularly those who like their music loud). Colonial-era churches and fortress still stand proud, and the city as a whole is a thrusting, energetic destination full of speaker-blaring corner stores and dance-til-you-drop nightclubs.
While it’s a large country by Caribbean standards, it remains relatively easy to combine different elements of the destination on one itinerary. And whether you’re here for the beaches, the music, the countryside or the culture, the DR in full swing is a force to be reckoned with.