Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is renowned for its postcard beaches, but it could add more claims to fame to its list. It has a month-long Carnival, world-class baseball in Santo Domingo, whale-watching off Samaná, the peaks of Pico Duarte and Valle de Tétero. The Dominican has so much to offer, from the best whale-watching to the best white-water rafting and a whole lot in between. Find the most comfortable, coziest hotels, the tastiest mofongo and the premium local handcrafts.

Grasp the sunrise from the Caribbeans highest peak, salsa in Spanish colonial streets during Carnival, soar through mangrove forests in search of gentle manatees – or find that abandoned beach with pure white sand and clear blue seas. The impressive mountain ranges are veined with spectacular rivers, waterfalls and saltwater lakes over flowing with exotic wildlife this is just part of the Dominican Republics appeal. Whether youre looking to party, relax or explore, the Dominican Republic has a lot to offer.

Santo Domingos dining scene rivals any cosmopolitan city around the world. A truly international mix, visitors can find every type of cuisine as well as savory Dominican dishes at marvelous restaurants. Restaurants are clustered in the Colonial City, Gazcue, the Malecon and uptown on 27 de Febrero Avenue, between Winston Churchill and Ortega y Gasset streets. No other city in the Caribbean has a better variety of restaurants and night life. There are so many restaurants in this city that it is almost unattainable even for those who live here to have visited them all. Its a city that never sleeps. It is a great place to meet all kinds of different people. Many young single executives who come here to work end up leaving (if they leave) married to a Dominican.

Santo Domingo is the oldest city in the New World, where the settlement of all the Americas began. See the first cathedral, the first hospital. Wander down cobble stone streets among the Spanish colonial structural design and imagine how things were back in the 1600s.

The Colonial City is the ideal starting point for visitors to discover Santo Domingo. The first street in the Americas is Calle de Las Damas, the site of several historic buildings as well as the Ozama Fortress, the oldest fortification in the Americas. There is also the house of Nicolás de Ovando, governor of Santo Domingo in the early on 1500s and a callous warrior against the Taino Indians.

A few streets over in the centre of the walled city, visitors will find the Cathedral Basilica Santa Maria la Menor, pronounced the first cathedral in the New World by Pope Paul III in 1542.

From the old to the new, Santo Domingo takes visitors on a trip through time with its dozens of national museums celebrating all aspects of Dominican life, past and present. Many of these museums are located in the Plaza de la Cultura, a large park area where visitors can stroll easily from one museum to another. They incorporate The Museum of Dominican Man, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum of History and Geography, and the National Museum of Natural History. Visitors to the Museum of Dominican Man will enjoy the mesmerizing look into the history of the Dominican people including original Taino artifacts, the Spanish conquerors and the African slaves. The Museum of Modern Art has a remarkable collection although small by developed world standards. Museo Bellapart, this is located on the John F. Kennedy Expressway in the Naco part of town, this privately-owned museum features one of the best collections of Dominican contemporary art.

Another site not to be missed is the Faro a Colón (Columbus Lighthouse) an extraordinary structure in the shape of a cross which was constructed to mark the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus arrival in the Americas in 1492. It houses his remains in a remarkable tomb and features several exhibits. After exploring it by day, it is thrilling to view the Lighthouse at night from the Colonial City, when the powerful lights are reflected into the sky in the shape of a cross. The lighthouse is found in the Mirador del Este Park. When visiting the Columbus Lighthouse, stop at Los Tres Ojos and then the National Aquarium. Los Tres Ojos is a striking 50-foot deep cave with three lagoons enclosed by stalagmites and abundant vegetation, five minutes from the Lighthouse. The National Aquarium, also five minutes away, is a medium-sized aquarium where the main draw is the huge fish tank with a Plexiglas tunnel passing through it. Tamaury, a giant manatee, is the star of the park.

With about 2 million square meters, the Santo Domingo Botanical Gardens is the biggest in the Caribbean. The park is viewable by small train. Within are displays of the natural flora of the island and areas devoted to palm trees, orchids and out of the ordinary plants. Also on the grounds is what, was once the largest floral clock in the world. The well-kept Santo Domingo Botanical Gardens is well worth the visit if you love nature. Other city parks worth a visit are the Mirador del Sur Park and the Mirador del Norte Park (for cycling, skating, jogging and kite-flying).

The citys Las Americas International Speed Racing Course is where competitions are held more than a few times a year attracting regional racers. In March 2005, the Miller Grand-AM Cup circuit race was held there. Santo Domingo is home to the V Centenario Horse Race Track, with capacity for up to 15,000 race enthusiasts. A perfect view of the Caribbean can be seen while watching the thoroughbreds speed around the one mile course. West of the City, the Santo Domingo Go Kart facility is right on the Malecon (seafront drive) in front of the Feria Ganadera and it hosts several go kart competitions a year.

This is a city for pampering yourself. Very attractively decorated spas and unisex beauty salons pamper all with reasonable prices. Come for a vacation and go back with a new look.

Join in with the dancing, merengue, salsa, bachata and even rock until the early morning in discos and night clubs or gamble in the hotel casinos until dawn. Santo Domingo has its fair share of casinos, international theatre, dance performances and m, one of the finest of them performing at the National Theater. A city for young people, every evening hundreds of young executives gather together for drinks at the numerous bars and cafes in the city, many located at the Avenida Abraham Lincoln, Gustavo Mejia Ricart and Roberto Pastoriza or on the Malecon. The nightlife starts late, with people arriving at the discos after 11 pm and the merengue, salsa and rock beats don’t stop until around 4 am at upscale dance clubs in town. Newcomers to the city should visit the Guacara Taina, a famous multi-level dance club set in a massive underground cave in the Mirador del Sur Park. Or live orchestra music nights at Jet Set Disco at Av. Independencia in front of Presidente beer brewery.

Santo Domingo is the city for shopping, with a number of large shopping centers presenting a wide selection of almost everything. The Mercado Modelo at Avenida Mella, a farmers market turned into giant gift shop, offers the largest selection of handicrafts. Several gift shops are located on Arzobispo Merino and Isabel la Catolica in the Colonial City. Shopping venues are located in the 27 de Febrero to Gustavo Mejia Ricart environs, including Plaza Central, Plaza Lama, Plaza Naco, Americana Departamentos, Hache, Acropolis, Plaza Bolera, Cuesta, Bella Vista and Diamond large stores. There is a sprinkling of small shops located all along Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln avenues. Or visit the Conde Street pedestrian mall and the lively Duarte Avenue, or the Luperon Avenue shopping district, among others.


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