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The Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic hotels
White sand beaches and turquoise water come to mind when thinking of the Dominican Republic, the country that shares an island with Haiti in the Caribbean Sea. Dominican Republic hotels offer all that and much more. Visitors to this tropical paradise will discover a growing sense of pride in the island's natural environment. The country boasts 16 national parks and 67 protected areas that preserve landscapes of towering mountains, dense rain-forest and coasts teeming with marine life. For those whose vacation plans are all about the beach, Punta Cana is the place to be. Renowned Dominican Republic hotels lie along Bávaro Beach, which has been named the best in the Caribbean. Wide stretches of soft sand and breakers that roll gently up to shore offer relaxed swimming and sunbathing, perhaps with a glass of local rum in hand. With an abundance of natural beauty, Dominican Republic also has fascinating cities. Its capital, Santo Domingo, is a contrast of modern skyscrapers and historic buildings dating back the days of Christopher Columbus.
Punta Cana and its hotels
This spacious resort area at the island's eastern tip caters to visitors who want their days packed with fun at the beach and on the water. For a look under the waves, Seaquarium offers an unusual experience. Participants put on a helmet, attach an air hose, and go walking under the sea. Another fun tour features a glass-bottom catamaran sailing to the Marinarium where snorkelers get close to sting rays, nurse sharks, and hundreds of fish in 10 acres of crystal clear waters. For sheer variety, a boat trip across the bay to Samaná is hard to beat. Samaná is a peninsula that juts into the ocean and is washed by the Atlantic on its northeastern shore. It's a sparsely populated land where travelers take in lush forests, towering mountains, and a spectacular waterfall. Some tours go out to Bacardi Island with its sweeping views of undeveloped shoreline. For land-based excitement, there are zip-lining, ATV, and horseback tours. To find all the thrills in one place, head for Bávaro Adventure Park. Patrons create their own package from activities such as bungee-jumping, rope climbing on a pirate ship, simulated flying, and zorbing, which means rolling downhill inside a cushioned plastic ball.
More sedate pass-times include walking through the butterfly gardens of this 1,100-acre park. Anyone not tuckered out by the end of the day will enjoy the nightlife. Mangu Disco has music, dancing and variety shows. Imagine Punta Cana is a club inside a cave; Coco Bongo features breath-taking trapeze artists and gymnasts, plus recreations of famous movie scenes.
Visit Santo Domingo
The oldest European city in the Americas, Santo Domingo is the site of Catedral Primada de America, the New World's first cathedral and a must-see in Zona Colonial, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dominican Republic hotels in the city's up-to-date financial district serve business guests with amenities such as hotel-wide Wi-Fi and conference rooms; for relaxation, guests can stroll through the city's fascinating historic landmarks. Fortaleza Ozama, the first New World military structure, stands at the confluence of the Ozama River and the Caribbean. It's a reminder of the country's history of occupation and struggle for independence. The Museo Alcázar de Colón is the beautifully restored home of Columbus' son and houses the family's more fabulous belongings. Along Calle el Conde pedestrian street, shoppers find amber, wood carvings, ceramics and paintings in the traditional markets. Not to be missed is the Museo de las Casas Reales, with colonial treasures and artifacts from the Taino people, the original inhabitants of Hispaniola.