|The most complete directory of the country with maps, weather, history, photos.|
The Dominican Republic (in tourism now called Dominicana) occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, sharing this large, lush Caribbean island with its neighbor, Haiti. Columbus called hispaniola “The fairest land eyes have ever seen.” For many years, this was an important post for gold and forest exploitation by the Spaniards, but its importance diminished as colonization extended to the richer areas of the Americas. Hispaniola has been dominated at different times by the Spanish, French, Dutch, Haitian and occupied Twice by the United States.
It is the second largest island of the Greater Antilles, covering an area of 75,000 square kilometers. Most of the coastline its pristine, undeveloped beach. Its topography goes from the highest elevation, Pico Duarte, 3175 meters above sea level, to the lowest point, Lago Enriquillo, 44 meters below sea level.
CLIMATE. Warm year around, with balmy tropical breezes. Average temperature is 78 degrees.
COMMUTING. Seven airports serve the country. Las Americas International in Santo Domingo, Cajuiles in La Romana, Punta Cana International, Herrera also in Santo Domingo, Barahona International, La Union in Puerto Plata and Santiago airport in Santiago.
Most tourist centers are served by good two lane highways. There are several lines that crisscross the country, the most important ones being METRO and CARIBE. There are also “guaguas” which travel at high speed and pack passengers like sardines. These have no bus stations, and can be waved down along the roads.
Rental cars available at the airports, hotels or by calling in the offices listed in the telephone directory. Motorbikes are commonly used and can be rented around the tourists resorts. You may drive in Dominicana for up to thee months with a valid drivers license from your country of origin. Driving is done on the right side of the road, and the internationally recognized signals are posted at regular intervals.
CURRENCY. National currency is the peso currently exchanged at a ratio of 16.70 pesos per U.S. dollar. Most establishments will accept payment in dollars, buts you may change into local currency at the exchange bank posted in the hotels or in any local bank. At present there is no black market.
ELECTRICITY. Electricity is 110 volts and 60 cycles. There are sporadic blackouts. But most hotels have their own generators. Having a flashlight handy is a good idea.
POPULATION. Population stands close to the 12 million mark, though final official results of the recent census have not been made public, the city of Santo Domingo is claiming there million inhabitants.
INDUSTRIES. Many FREEZONES Operate in the country. The products there manufactured are only for export many important international firms operate here. Tourism is the country’s greatest revenue producer followed by the sugar industry tobacco, coffee, salt, fruits and vegetables. Textiles, cotton and crafts are becoming important for the national economy.
POLITICS. The Dominican Republic is a democracy with presidential elections every four years. There are three legislative bodies: the Presidency; the Congress, composed of Senators ad the Judicial Department. There is political freedom as can be attested by the many parties contending for supremacy in the forthcoming elections in May 1994.
FRUITS AND FOOD. The Dominican Republic produces many fruits. In addition to the traditional tropical varieties of bananas, oranges, grapefruits, pineapples, limes and lemons, there are sapotes, passion fruit, crab apples, sweet lemons, grapes, watermelons, many species of mangos, avocados, nisperos, olives, melons and a hundred others. The best place to see this array of fruits is the Mercado Modelo in Santo Domingo or the open market of the town where you are staying.
The traditional Dominican meal at noon is what is locally known as the bandera (the flag), which consist of rice, beans and meat. Dominicans also like to eat platanos (a type of male banana which must be cooked) in its many presentations, boiled, fried, baked, mashed or chipped. Yucca, from which casabe (Indian bread) is made, is also very popular. The favorite meat of Dominicans is roast pig or goat and fried chicken flavored whit herbs and soaked in rum.
SPORTS. Dominicans are keen on sports and have contributed in a significant manner to major leagues over the years. Basketball, windsurfing, tennis, volleyball and golf are actively practiced.
Cockfighting is a sport that has placed the country among the world’s top three.
RELIGION. There is complete religious freedom. The are churches of many dominations as well as many synagogues. Check with your tour operator or in the telephone directory for listings.
MUSIC. The national dance is the merengue, a rhythm that spawned from the Native American, Spanish and African music culture. It was considered a barn dance not accepted by society until the mid-fifties, when Dictator Trujillo brought it to ball room status. It took the world by storm in the eighties when Juan Luis Guerra revived the pambiche version of what is dance and melody.
GAMBLING. Is a way of life. Dominicans test their luck in a dozen ways Lottery vendors set up shop in the parks and streets of the towns. With the fracatan, one can become an instant winner by scratching the surface of the carton.
This is fast becoming the Number One gambling scheme in the country. Many hotels have elegant casinos, slot machines and other traditional forms of betting.
TIPPING. Meal tickets include a ten percent service fee, but it’s customary to leave an additional tip if your feel you were well served.
CREDIT CARDS. Mont hotels and restaurant accept all major credit cards.
DEPARTURE TAX. There is AE US$10.00 departure tax. For non-residents.
LANGUAJE. The official language of the Dominicans Republic is Spanish, though English, French, German and Italian are spoken in most hotels, restaurant and by tour guides.
THE PEOPLE. Dominicans are happy-go-lucky people who look at life through rose-colored glasses. They are friendly and hospitable with a bubbly sense of humor. The roster of famous persons who have left their indelible mark in the fields of science. Music, politic, sports and the arts increases every year. We can mention designer Oscar de la Renta, playboy Porfirio Rubirosa, the Alou Brothers Marichal and George Bell in sports, Carlos Piantini, composer and director of the National Symphony Orchestra, Miguel Marcano Santana, an entomologist of world renown with more than a hundred discoveries to his credit, Maria Montez of the movies, and Juan Luis Guerra, undisputed king of the merengue, just to name few.
SANTO DOMINGO-CRADLE OF THE AMERICAS. The Island of Hispaniola with Santo Domingo as its capital was the site of the first European settlement in the New World. It was the cradle of America from where all future expeditions of conquest set out. It claims the first university, the firsts stone house, the first mint, the first palace, the first cathedral, the and a myriad other first buildings and enterprise, many of which can still be visited restored to its original splendor as hostals, restaurants and museums.
NIGHT LIFE IN SANTO DOMINGO COLONIAL. La Plaza Maria de Toledo in front of the Alcazar, Columbus` son’s Castle from where he ruled as Viceroy of the New World, is a grand outdoor esplanade where several restaurants shows, recitals and other nighttime entertainment promise a good time. Live and recorded music.
The Avenida de Puerto, an avenue that runs along the banks of the Ozama river in the Colonial zone, is the meeting place for Dominicans who want to take in the cool evening air and dance outdoors to the beat of merengue. At night, the El Conde street restaurants pull out their tables and chairs for romantic soirées.
A walking tour of Colonial us to the XVI century, as shadows of 500 year old edifices recall the intrigues and vicissitudes of an expanding world.
During a the day, Santo Domingo Colonial is a beehive of activity specially in El Conde and Duarte streets, where stores compete to present the best offers. Art galleries and museums abound. The Mercado Modelo is the place to see and buy what the nation produce. Here you will find a plentiful variety of fruits and vegetables while the second floor and adjacent houses have the most complete selection of Dominican arts and crafts. Have fun bargaining. The asking price is never the final price.
SANTO DOMINGO COSMOPOLITAN. Santo Domingo has grown to over three million people and expanded several kilometers beyond the Colonial Zone. Among the interesting places to visit outside the Colonial Zone is the Plaza de la Cultura, where we find a grouping of museums, including the Museum Del Hombre with its pictorial history of the island from the time of the aborigines to the present. The Art Museum has a vast collection of works by masters and contemporary artists. The public library building contains many books; paintings and data pertaining to the country and literature in general History Natural and the museum of Anthropology are interesting places to visit. The Teatro Nacional (national theater) holds center stage at Plaza de la Cultura. It is an imposing marble and glass edifice where there are nightly performances.
The seaquarium in the outskirts of the city is designed so that the visitor can walk under and around the marine life captured there. It contains many Caribbean water inhabitants including white sharks. The Zoo houses animals from many countries in natural surroundings.
The Botanical Garden flaunts the beauty of the tropics. It also has an exquisite Japanese garden with a tea house and an orchid pavilion reputed to vie favorably with the best.
Those who like to “shop `til they drop” may find exactly what they are looking for in the city’s many shopping centers which sell locally made clothing and wares and imported goods from all parts of the world.
Los Tres Ojos, a natural cave formation with four separate bodies of water is a wonder of stalactite and stalagmite formations surrounded by splendorous tropical foliage.
The Columbus Light House, where the remains of the Great Admiral are encased in an imposing mausoleum of marble and onyx, is a grandiose edification, which also contains interesting memorabilia from the period of conquest.
SANTO DOMINGO COSMOPOLITAN AT NIGHT. There seems to be as many discos and night entertainment centers as there are people, each catering to a different type of clientele. The Water and Light House, which can be visited by day, can best be appreciated at night when a million lights blaze the sky in the form of a cross.
Among the most interesting places for kicking up dust are two underground caves now turned restaurant –discos, the Guacara Taina and very good food.
The Malecon, called by some the largest disco in the world, is really the boulevard by the sea in Santo Domingo where dozens of dance halls, restaurants and discos offer food and entertainment. This is where most residents of Santo Domingo welcome the new Year. Not be overlooked are the excellent restaurants to be found in the city specializing in food from various parts of the world. Check with your director or look them up in the WEB MAP DIRECT.
Warning: it is crime in the Dominican Republic to have, bury or sell drugs. Anyone suspected, accused or guilty of this crime risks meeting the hard arm of the law.
LA ROMANA –BAVARO – PUNTA CANA. A popular axiom says that when god closes a door, he leaves a window open, and important sugar plantation and processing center developed by the Gulf and Western company. When sugar prices plummeted in the seventies, La Romana took refuge in tourism and developed what is perhaps the ultimate tourist destination.
The contracted Pete Dye to design what many considered the best 18 hole golf course anywhere, the also buil a replica of a colonial village, now an artist hub, where among other interesting things, we find the famous school of design Altos de Chavon. The Amphitheater of this village, with seating for 5,000 spectators, was inaugurated by Frank Sinatra Millionaires from many parts of the world have buit majestic villas here. Hotels with every imaginable comfort art to be found, as are marinas, yacht club, equestrian centers, all amid exuberant tropical gardens and Punta Cana, two magnificent resort areas in the easternmost part of the island have miles of paradisiac beaches and modern hotels that cater to the visitor’s every desire. It has an entertainment center and all water sports. Of the country by good roads, and to the word by a modern international airport. It is the place to go for endless sun and fun.
BARAHONA: Barahona is noted for its diversification of climate and 100 kilometers of Technicolor beaches. This list also home of the reverse gravity point. It is an important agricultural center and the only place in the world where the semi-precious stone larimar is found.
CIBAO. The Cibao is the country’s most important agricultural region. Among the many cities here is Santiago, a teeming industrial center and a diversified shopping arena. In the Cibao, we find the highest mountain in the Caribbean, and pine forests of inestimable beauty.
PUERTO PLATA –PLAYA DORADA. Puerto Plata is a small seaside tow on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic dotted with gingerbread homes, a central park with its turn of the century kiosk from where the town’s people are entertained on Sunday afternoons by Municipal Band. It is fringed on the North by the mighty Atlantic and on the south by its landmark Isabel de Torres Mountain. Little remains of XVI century edifications, except the Saón Felipe Fort, now a museum open to visitors.
This Was a refuge for pirates and corsairs and site of many historical events, like the writing of the national anthem and the signing of the U.S. troop withdrawal after the 1916 intervention. It is an important port serving not only the province but the entire Cibao region province but the entire Cibao region and where cruiseships also make regular calls. Puerto Plata is the home of Brugal rum, the chocolate manufacturing plant, the match factory and an important arts and craft center amber mine of Jurassic Park fame, supply the country and the world with this coveted semi-precious stone. Playa Dorada is the golden beach and golf resort where a dozen hotels cater to the ever increasing number of visitors who flock to the North Coast looking for sun and sand, casinos, shops and good times for which Playa Dorada is an endless reservoir. Many restaurants tease the palate of the most demanding gourmet, while a variety of stores offer such diverse items as fur coats, locally made clothing, perfume, liquor. Works of art, and trifles. All this engulfed in verdant extravaganza.
Costambar is a residential community of rolling hills specked with beautiful stucco and red title roof homes five kilometers from Puerto Plata. It has a shallow water snow white beach, a nine hole golf course, a five star hotel, aparthotels, equestrian facilities and breathtaking ocean view. Il also has a few restaurants and shops.
Cofresi, two kilometers from Costambar, is a thriving community of lush vegetation and a one-kilometer beach, where one can find star hotels and attractive guesthouses, excellent restaurants while still retaining its enchanted forest charm.
LAS TERRENAS –SAMANA. A popular saying upholds that when God thought of creating the Garden of Eden, he had Samana in mind. The exhuberance of its coconut forest that extend for miles and line to meet the sea presents a soul-stirring panorama. More than thirty kilometers of soft white sand line its shores.
One of the many Samana beaches bursting with bursting with Caribbean flair is Las Terrenas, an idyllic setting for a perfect vaction. Its charm has lured many to settle there and it is fast becoming a small European Community where food and pastimes of the Old World prevail.
The island of Cayo Levantado stands a few kilometers away from the mainland surround by peaceful turquoise waters and sundreched pristine beaches. It is reached by boasts that make the traverse every few minutes. This is a paradisiac enclave served by a four star hotel that provides all creature comforts and amenities.
Samana holds the distinction of hosting the humpback whales’ yearly pilgrimage to these waters where they mate and reproduce during the months from December to March. They can be seen spouting away from the shore or for a better look there are excursions that bring you within touching distance of the whales.
The peninsula of Samana is a safe harbor for pleasure boats. Also reached by boat from Samana is Los Haitises National park, an awe inspiring chain of caverns that extend for miles, many of them decorated with pictographies that date back centuries before the European involvement. Here you find impressive mangrove forests and much tropical marine life including star fish and sea horses.