The second largest Caribbean nation, the Dominican Republic sits just off the southeast tip of Cuba and shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. It was settled by the Spanish in 1492 and the capital city Santo Domingo, established in 1496, is the oldest European city in the Americas. Santo Domingo boasts many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in its colonial zone with old churches, palaces, hospitals and forts to explore. The remains of legendary explorer Christopher Columbus are said to be in a lighthouse monument close to the cruise terminal. Don’t miss the Cathedral Santa Maria and the 16th century Alcazar de Colon Palace.
The Dominican Republic has a vibrant blend of history, culture, music, food and art. Locals love to celebrate in one of the national style of music and dance, the merengue or the bachata. Spanish is the official language, yet many local tourist guides are fluent in English and French.
Further afield, Punta Cana is the resort hub of the Dominican Republic with 32 kilometres of white sand beach fronting clear waters. The country has become a premier golf destination in the Caribbean with over 25 designer golf courses, many attached to equally luxurious hotels.
PLACES TO STAY
Hostal Nicolas de Ovado Santo is a luxury boutique hotel housed in three historic buildings dating back to 1502 that sit on Las Damas, the first cobblestone street in the New World. It has been beautifully restored and has a fantastic swimming pool in the sun-drenched courtyard. Punta Cana is full of huge, international, all-inclusive resorts like the Hard Rock Hotel or adults-only Secrets Royal Beach. Designer Oscar de la Renta opened his first resort here, the ultra luxe Tortuga Bay.
Who goes there: Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Costa Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line.
Best for: History buffs, singles, fans of live music and dance.
Getting around: The cruise port is close to the historic centre of Santo Domingo and easily walkable. Like most historic cities, it’s best seen on foot.