A beginner's guide to the Dominican Republic

If you've never had the pleasure of visiting the Dominican Republic, here’s a beginner’s guide to the country, with tips, facts, info and more.

The Dominican Republic is the second largest and most diverse Caribbean country. It teems with culture, natural wonders and some of the world's greatest beaches. In other words, it’s one of the world’s best vacation destinations. If you've never had the pleasure of visiting the Dominican Republic, here’s a beginner’s guide to the country, with tips, facts, info and more. And then, start planning your Dominican vacation at stay at the all inclusive Barceló Bávaro Grand Resort, comprised of the Barceló Bávaro Palace and the adults-only Barceló Bávaro Beach, or the all inclusive Occidental Caribe and Occidental Punta Cana.

Dominican Republic Fast Facts

Know before you go!

  • The Dominican Republic is a country located on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti.
  • It is the third-largest Caribbean nation in terms of total population, with more than 10 million people.
  • The capital city of the Dominican Republic is Santo Domingo. It’s also the country’s largest city, with close to a million residents.
  • Most of the Dominican Republic is Spanish-speaking, with many Dominicans also speaking English, French and Haitian Creole.
  • The Dominican Republic is the most-visited Caribbean destination, with more than six million tourists experiencing the country’s beaches, cities, historic attractions, golf courses, eco-adventures and more every year.

Dominican Republic History

The Dominican Republic is a place filled with “firsts.” Here, you’ll find the first cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress built in the Americas. But Dominican history stretches back much further into the past before Europeans arrived on Hispaniola. Historians believe that the indigenous Taíno people have lived on the island since about 650 AD. The Taíno were skilled farmers and hunters and thrived in their new home. Taíno culture is still a vital part of the Dominican landscape. During your trip, visit Manatí Park, a Bávaro eco-adventure attraction with a variety of exhibits devoted to the Taíno people.

Christopher Columbus’ arrival on December 5, 1492 set off several centuries of Spanish rule. You can take a trip back to the early days of “The New World” in Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone. The Alcazar de Colon here is one of one of the oldest buildings in America. Built in the early 1500s in the gothic-renaissance style, this was the residence of Columbus’ son, Diego, and his wife, Doña María de Toledo. Catedral Primada de America, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the oldest cathedral in the Americas, completed in 1540. The Dominican Republic’s first constitution was drafted in 1844, but Spanish rule didn’t come to an end until 1865.

Dominican Culture

Diversity is the name of the game in the Dominican Republic. The population brings together a rich mix of Caribbean, African, European and indigenous influences. As a result, Dominican Republic culture is like nowhere else in the world. Music is a huge part of Dominican life, with Merengue, Bachata and Dembow all providing the rhythms of everyday life. While you’re exploring the Dominican Republic, you’ll hear music wherever you go – don’t be afraid to dance to the island beat! Meanwhile, festivals and parades take place year-round, ranging from Carnival celebrations in February to Santo Domingo’s Festival Presidente every August. Dominican arts are characterized by a love of vibrant colors – be sure to visit a few Dominican art galleries to experience some of the country’s homegrown creativity.

Dominican Republic Food & Drink

Like its diverse population, the Dominican Republic’s cuisine is a wonderful blend, with Spanish, African and indigenous Taíno influences coming together to create flavors like nowhere else in the world. Here are just a few dishes to try during your visit.

  • Casabe – This crispy flatbread has been carried down over the centuries from the Taínos.
  • Chimichurri – The delicious street food known as the chimichurri (“chimi” for short) is Dominican-style burger with pork or beef, topped with cabbage and a sweet 1000 Islands-style dressing.
  • Pescado frito (“fried fish”) – This island favorite is fresh fish rubbed with salt and pepper and coated in flour. It’s as simple – and delicious – as seafood gets.
  • Tres Leches – Similar to the Italian tiramisu, Tres Leches is a rich and satisfying dessert available in Dominican bakeries and restaurants. Indulge and enjoy.

Good to know: At Barceló Bávaro Grand Resort’s Restaurante Buffet Bohio Dominicano, guests can sample classic Dominican flavors via an extensive buffet. It’s a sensational experience even beyond the delicious tastes: the restaurant is decorated in the vibrant, but intimate color scheme of the island's folklore.

And don’t forget rum. Rum isn't just a drink in the Dominican Republic — it's a way of life. The original Dominican Republic rum distillery, Bermudez, was founded in 1852, and it’s been going strong ever since with its high-quality offerings. Rum is a key ingredient in a variety of tropical cocktails, from the Mai Tai to the mojito. But for many Dominicans, you can’t beat it straight up and simple, perhaps with a splash of water or ice. For a real DR drinking experience, try Mamajuana, a powerful concoction made with rum, red wine, and honey, soaked in a bottle with tree bark and herbs.

Of course, this is just the beginning of your Dominican Republic experience. During your trip, you’ll learn all about this incredible Caribbean country – enjoy!