Many visitors head directly for beachfront resorts, and there’s much at these vacation retreats to admire. The southeastern part of the country probably has the loveliest all-inclusive resort zones, Bávaro and Punta Cana, both holding pristine coastline stretching for kilometres on end. Also dedicated to mass tourism is the mega-complex Playa Dorada on the north coast. Playa Dorada is set beside the city of Puerto Plata, a historic city worth examining for its wealth of Victorian architecture, and is also in easy proximity to wind- and kitesurfing capital Cabarete.
Of course, you don’t have to base yourself in a resort to visit the DR’s most popular sights, and there are plenty of opportunities for independent travellers to range further afield too. A quest for immaculate beaches may take you to the most remote corners of the southwest, where your efforts will be rewarded with the breathtaking sands of the Jaragua Peninsula. There are some beautiful, and far more accessible, beaches scattered about the Samaná Peninsula, however, poking out at the country’s extreme northeast. Its primary city, Samaná, serves as a base for checking out the humpback whales that migrate to the Bahía de Samaná each winter, while Las Terrenas is the peninsula’s liveliest town. Its long, sandy seafront is lined with expat-owned hotels, tour operators, and popular restaurants and bars, while secluded paradise isn’t far away at the beaches of playas Bonita and Rincón.
On the southern coast the capital city, Santo Domingo, offers the most fulfilling urban experience, and should be on everyone’s itinerary and not just because it has the country’s largest airport – historic forts, churches and the elegant homes of the Zona Colonial make it a fascinating destination in its own right.
If you’re seeking a bit more adventure and outdoor life, you needn’t look too hard. The Cordillera Central is the island’s largest mountain range and provides the stunning setting for multi-day treks through the wilderness to the top of Pico Duarte – the tallest peak in the Antilles – and trips to Jarabacoa, a resort town blessed with a cluster of four waterfalls in its immediate vicinity and featuring all manner of mountain sports.