© Irène Alastruey / age fotostock
Dominican Republic in pictures - Bayahibe
In brief +
Contrary to popular belief, the Dominican Republic isn't completely taken over by all-inclusive resorts, which are actually confined to a very small fraction of the country on the east coast of the country in Punta Cana. The rest of the country has a strong authentic Dominican flavour and is abundant with cocoa, coffee, sugar cane, rice, palm, coconut and fruit tree plantations, birds, nature reserves and of course, is surrounded by the emblematic ribbon of fine turquoise waters and white sands.
The Dominican Republic shares an island, Hispaniola, with its less fortunate neighbour, Haiti and the two couldn't be further apart. The country's coast is bordered by the Atlantic to the north and the Caribbean to the east and south and the iridescent turquoise waters pictured on the front of postcards surround the entire country.
Santo Domingo, the capital, lies to the south of the country and is worth spending a day or two to meander the dilapidated yet charming streets of the Zone Colonial on the east bank of the Ozama River. The Natural History Museum is also worth visiting to get a grasp of the country's history as well as its contemporary culture. In 1492, the Spanish, led by Christopher Columbus, first arrived in the country, which marked a clear change - the capital on the other hand was founded in 1496 by Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher's younger brother. Calle Las Damas was the first modern street to be built in the Americas and its colonial charm prevails to this day.
The country is divided into several key areas - the first is the west, where Barahona and its surroundings are wild and far from the madding crowds of tourists. The northeast, Monte Cristi, is the driest part of the country but is ideal for travellers looking for sweeping beaches without the crowds - this area is the least touristic of the country. The most popular part of the country for those seeking cheap sun and beer is Punta Cana in the east, but devoid of any cultural value, this part of the country is to avoid if looking for an authentic experience. The centre of the country is mainly mountainous and is crowned by the beautiful green Cibao mountain range, which includes Pico Duarte, the highest peak in the Caribbean at 3,098m of altitude.
To the north of the country, Puerto Plata, is the former all-inclusive haven of the 90s. The province of Puerto Plata includes the picturesque homonymous capital with its quaint wooden creole Victorian houses as well as popular beach destinations for the local surf crowd and nightlife aficionados, Cabarete and Sosua.
For a truly spectacular beach experience, head to the Samana Peninsula in the northeast. The town of Samana is the main port of call for major excursions including the Limon waterfall, whale watching and Los Haitises National Park. Unless you are desperate to go on one of these excursions, give the town of Samana a miss as there is nothing much to see here and the town isn't among the most welcoming. Instead, head straight to Las Terrenas , where you can still find yourself alone on the beaches, which is ideal to get away from the frenetic tourist town's restaurants and expatriates proudly roaming around on large quads.Las Galeras, all the way east of the peninsula, is a small village with two main streets and beautiful beaches. The area includes some of the most beautiful beaches in the country: Playa Rincon, Madama and Fronton.
People: the Dominicans are very friendly and warm people and they really appreciate it when visitors make the effort to speak Spanish. Visitors looking for love or just lust, must be aware of cultral differences in the Dominican Republic. It is common for men to have a wife and several girlfriends. In most areas of the country, this is also practised by women. The best place to witness local life unravelling is at a colmado, a small snack bar that sells a bit of everything as well as being a place you can sit down and have something to drink.
Packing: bring lots of mosquito repellent as they are ruthless, as are what the locals call nia-nias, which are flies that bite at sunset. The bites usually come alive at night, which can be a real nightmare. A hat and sunglasses for children especially are essential. Do not be deceived by the breeze and clouds, the tropical ultraviolet radiation gets through them very easily. It is advisable to take your own toiletries (nappies for the children). Finally, a good torch can come in useful in case of a power cut, or in poorly lit public places.
Chicken fights: when in the country, you might have the opportunity to attend a chicken fight - these are completely legal, and although the energy at these events is worth going for, women are rarely seen here.
A legendary seaside resort, Punta Cana is arguably a world heritage site with its almost 30 miles of heavenly beaches. Waters deliciously warm, calm and turquoise, fine white sand and coconut trees as far as the eye can see...all the ingredients of an exotic cocktail are brought together for a holiday ...
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Travel is my driving force in life, and although I have had the privilege of visiting 30 countries so far, my heart will always remain in India...