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The Dominican Republic is the most popular holiday country in the entire Caribbean. And, from the diverse provinces and magnificent landscape to ancient cities and endless beaches, it’s easy to see why.
There are direct flights to Punta Cana from London, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol with a journey time of just under nine hours.
The Dominican Republic sits between the Atlantic and the Caribbean. The climate’s tropical and temperatures range from 19˚C in December to 34˚C in August.
It’s the second largest Caribbean country after Cuba and one of only two on a divided island – the Dominican Republic’s neighbour to the north is Haiti. Spanish is the official language but English is widely spoken.
Santo Domingo is the oldest city in the New World and home to 3 million people. The historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Dominican Republic has 14 national parks including the Cave of Miracles and La Caleta Underwater Park.
The Domincan Republic’s beach resorts are fabulous for family holidays. But tear yourself away from the water sports, glittering sea and gorgeous sands to spend at least one day in mesmerising Santo Domingo. The entire colonial heart of this graceful capital is a World Heritage site and dates back to the 16th century. Often compared to Havana, Santo Domingo is older than the Cuban legend and much better cared for, less hectic, far easier to explore and just as captivating. Walk around the historic quarter’s neat, symmetrical streets and pretty cobbled alleys and you’re surrounded by marvellous little museums, delightful shops, restaurants and architectural intrigue. Or, if kids are still young enough not to cringe at tourist trains, catch the Chu-Chu Colonial for a 45-minute snapshot tour before delving into the city by yourself.
On the far south tip of the country, Punta Cana is one of the main reasons for the Dominican Republic’s popularity. A paradise resort, washed by the Caribbean and the Atlantic, where the country keeps all its loveliest hotels draped round flawless beaches on the sunniest coast. Punta Cana even has its own airport and no fewer than 11 golf courses.
On the green and cosseted east coast, Samaná is the province for national parks, a laid-back beachy atmosphere, calm seas, whale watching and wonderful walking trails. It’s more independent and less touristy than Punta Cana and the landscape is, arguably, the country’s most breathtaking.
Santo Domingo’s northern sister is another colonial beauty dating back to the late 16th century. Sheltered by the soaring drama of enormous Mount Isabel de Torres and gazing out over the Atlantic, Puerto Plata is famous for stately Victorian villas, ancient fortresses and tropical gardens.
On the sheltered west coast just over an hour’s drive from Punta Cana, La Romana is the area where vast sugar cane fields fight for attention with long, sparkling beaches and pretty islands. The family resorts here are some of the best in the country and the province is also home to Del Este National Park.
Dolphin Island, Punta Cana
Kids can choose to swim with dolphins, frolic with sea lions or any number of other fun experiences at this famous Punta Cana park.
Monkey Jungle, Puerto Plata
A jungle filled with capuchin and squirrel monkeys where kids can soar around the treetops on over seven long zip-lines.
Humpback Whale Watching, Samaná
From January to March every year the protected coastline off Samaná becomes one of the best spots in the Caribbean to see breaching humpback whales.
Ocean World Adventure Park, Puerto Plata
Thrilling waterpark, aquarium, dolphinarium and much, much more on the spectacular Puerto Plata coast.
Bavaro Adventure Park, Punta Cana
One of the country’s biggest and most exciting parks with its own animatronic dinosaur world, zorbing, bungee trampolines, skydiving, sky-walking and pirate ship cruising.
Marinarium, Punta Cana
Sea cruises for safe swimming with sharks and stingrays, snorkelling and coral reef diving off the coast of Punta Cana.
Museo Bellapart, Santo Domingo
The world’s finest collection of 19th and 20th century Dominican art and sculpture.
Manati Park, Punta Cana
Heritage park with an adventurous side where kids can explore an authentic Taino Village and swim with dolphins.
Sirenis Aquagames, Punta Cana
An 11,000m² waterpark with tube towers, chutes, rafting, tobogganing, four land-speed slides and an enormous pool.
Rancho Baiguate, Jarabacoa
Award-winning mountain ranch and camp with everything from white water rafting on the country’s longest river to the Jarabacoa Butterfly House. Families can stay or visit for the day.
Family resorts have good private transport to major sites and cities. But this is a big Caribbean country and if you want to explore in your own time and go beyond the beaches, tour national parks and visit several provinces, hire a car. Most historic centres are compact enough to walk around and taxis are an inexpensive alternative for longer distances.