Dominican Republic Vacations
The white-sand beaches, impressive mountain ranges veined with spectacular rivers and waterfalls, and saltwater lakes teeming with exotic wildlife are just part of the Dominican Republic's appeal. Whether you're looking to party, relax or explore, the Dominican Republic has a lot to offer.
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What To See
Museo Alcázar de Colón
Designed in the Gothic-Mudéjar transitional style, this was once the residence of Columbus’ son, Diego, and his wife, Doña María de Toledo, during the early 16th century. Recalled to Spain in 1523, the couple left the home to relatives who occupied the handsome building for the next hundred years. It was subsequently allowed to deteriorate, then was used as a prison and a warehouse, before it was finally abandoned. The magnificent building we see today is the result of three restorations: one in 1957, another in 1971 and a third in 1992. Great pains were taken to adhere to the historical authenticity during its reconstruction and decor. Today it houses many household pieces said to have belonged to the Columbus family. The building itself - if not the objects inside - is definitely worth a look.
Museo de las Casas Reales
Built in the Renaissance style during the 16th century, this building was the longtime seat of Spanish authority for the entire Caribbean region, housing the Governor’s office and the powerful Audiencia Real (Royal Court), among others. It showcases colonial-period objects, including many treasures recovered from Spanish galleons that foundered in nearby waters. Several walls are covered with excellent maps of various voyages of European explorers and conquistadors. Each room has been restored according to its original style, and displays range from Taíno artifacts to dozens of hand-blown wine bottles and period furnishings. Also on display is an impressive antique weaponry collection acquired by dictator/president Trujillo from a Mexican general (ironically, during a 1955 world peace event); you’ll see samurai swords, medieval armor, ivory-inlaid crossbows and even a pistol/sword combo. One of the more interesting museums, partly because of its history and the high quality of its exhibits.
Cascada El Limón
Tucked away in surprisingly rough landscape, surrounded by peaks covered in lush greenery, is the 52m-high El Limón waterfall. A beautiful swimming hole is at the bottom, though it’s often too deep, cold and rough for a dip; other times it’s an absolutely perfect place to wash off the sweat and mud from the trip there. The departure point is the small town of El Limón, only a half-hour from Las Terrenas.
Carnival, the pre-Lent celebration, which is echoed throughout the country, is celebrated every Sunday in February, throughout the country, but especially Santo Domingo, Santiago, and La Vega. It's a monster party combining Catholic decompression with African spirituality, not to mention great costumes, spectacular floats and all the rum you can drink. The big blowout is in Santo Domingo on the last weekend of the month or the first weekend in March, often coinciding with another important holiday, Independence Day, on February 27.
The DR throws another wild party during the last week of July and first week of August, a merengue festival that is the epicentre of the art form, attracting the world's top talent to Santo Domingo for a festival that engulfs the city and surrounding suburbs in music and dance. Another merengue festival goes off in Puerto Plata during the first week of October. If you'd like a little variety while you dance, however, don't miss the three-day Latin Music Festival in the capital every June, when everyone from Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin get down with Tito Rojas and Fernando Villalona.
Other can't-miss festivities worth crossing the Caribbean for include Puerto Plata's week-long Cultural Festival in June, with jazz, blues, merengue and folk concerts throughout town.
Of course, the best time to hit the restaurant- and bar-packed town of Sosúa is during the few days before Easter Sunday, Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Dominicans from all over the country flock to the bayside city to compete in volleyball contests, drink themselves silly, soak up the sun and dance the night away.