The Dominican Republic, or Dom Rep, has been working hard to change its reputation as a mass-market, all-inclusive destination: it is pushing five-star hotels, classy excursions, beautiful countryside, fantastic golf courses and stunning beaches.
Dominican Republic Tourist Board director Sabrina Cambiaso says: “The Dominican Republic offers something for everyone, and can fulfil the holiday dreams of those seeking sophisticated luxury, eco-adventure, arts and culture, or simple lazy days on white sandy beaches.
“Year-round sports, effervescent nightlife, shopping, relaxing resorts, designer golf courses and magnificent national parks make for a fun-filled holiday to-do list.”
The Dom Rep’s main draw is its beaches: super-fine white sand along the east coast; golden sand along the north coast; and grey sand around the resorts of Barahona in the west.
Some of the finest beaches include Isla Catalina, which has the best coral reef in the area, and Isla Saona, one of the Dominican Republic’s most romantic destinations.
There is also Punta Cana, often referred to as the coconut coast because of the hundreds of palms scattered along the 30 miles of super-fine white sand, and Playa Dominicus, was the first beach in the Caribbean to have Blue Flag status, popular with scuba divers.
There are numerous golf courses, including Dye Fore, Links, and Teeth of the Dog, all designed by Pete Dye, and a new, 18-hole course at the new five-star Majestic Colonial Punta Cana Beach Resort.
Many attractions centre around sealife, including the Marinarium, Punta Cana, where clients can have a close encounter with a stingray or nurse shark at Reef Explorer, or with a dolphin at Dolphin Island. Between mid-January and the end of March, boat trips operate to see the thousands of humpback whales that migrate to Samana Bay.
Away from the coast, trips include safaris, ziplining, helicopter flights, white-water rafting and kayaking.Bavaro Runners operates a one-day tour exploring coffee and cocoa plantations, visiting a typical Dominican Republic home, followed by horse riding.
At the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve, it is possible to take a refreshing dip in on one of the 12 lagoons the Taino Indians called ‘eyes’. Many believe they hold medicinal properties.
Santo Domingo has the first Cathedral of the Americas, Alcazar de Colon, the Columbus Lighthouse, and lots of shopping in El Conde Street.
Dominicans know how to have fun, guaranteeing evenings in the Dom Rep are never boring.
Most Dominicans spend their evenings at the ‘car wash’ – the local name for a disco/bar. Apparently, the name comes from Dominicans who had been living in the US and moved home with plans to open a car wash, but settled for a bar instead.
Locals also love to dance the merengue and salsa, both powerful and sensual dances that found their way onto the island from Latin America, and also bachata. Bachata music originated in rural Dominican Republic, and was long regarded as a symbol of cultural backwardness, but is now very popular.
The larger towns also have clubs and dance shows, the latter geared towards tourists, and often linked to a restaurant to provide a complete evening’s entertainment. Try Coco Bongo in Puerto Plata on a Thursday, or Guacara Taina, an underground nightclub in Santo Domingo.
Casinos are also a big draw. There are six in Punta Cana, three in Puerto Plata, and a smaller selection in other resorts.
Where to stay
The Golden Bear Lodge and Spa of Cap Cana has been refurbished and is scheduled to reopen on November 1, under the new name Zoetry Agua Punta Cana.
The boutique resort has 53 cane-thatched suites, with butler service and a personal golf concierge. It is set between two golf courses, Punta Espada and Las Iguanas. It has a spa, fitness centre, tennis courts and a restaurant.
The 141-room Holiday Inn, in the Piantini neighborhood of Santo Domingo, opened in September, with a Mediterranean restaurant and bar lounge, business centre with four meeting rooms, spa, fitness centre and a rooftop swimming pool.
The redesigned and refurbished 7,000-acre sports resort Casa de Campo will reopen in December, with an extra 80 elite rooms and suites.
The five-star all-inclusive Natura Park Beach Eco Resort and Spa is a good family option, located in Bavaro Beach, Punta Cana. The 510-room property has standard rooms for three and suites for four. Guests can learn salsa dancing, there is a kids’ club and spa, four restaurants and six bars.
Getting there: British Airways will become the UK’s only scheduled carrier to operate a regular service to the Dominican Republic when it launches a twice-weekly service from Gatwick-Punta Cana (via Antigua) on October 26.
Prices start from £559. Air Europa launched a Gatwick-Madrid service in spring 2009, allowing passengers to change at Madrid to Punta Cana and Santo Domingo. Air France flies three times a week via Paris. Connections with other airlines are available via other Caribbean gateways.
- Flight time: Nine hours.
- Currency: The Dominican peso is the official currency, but US dollars are widely accepted.
- Time difference: GMT -4 hours.
- Weather: UK winter months (November-February) are the best times to visit, when temperatures average 28C-30C. UK summer months are slightly hotter, although rain is more likely during June-October, the Caribbean’s hurricane season.
Seven nights’ all-inclusive at the four-star Barcelo Puerto Plata in Playa Dorada with Cosmos Distant Dreams costs from £731 per person, including Monarch flights from Gatwick and Manchester, in November. cosmos-holidays.co.uk, 0871 423 8518
Tropical Sky has seven nights at the all-inclusive Zoetry Agua Punta Cana Wellness Resort and Spa from £1,399 per person in November, including flights with British Airways from Gatwick. tropicalsky.co.uk, 0870 907 9600