By Ben KilbeyThe Dominican Republic is steeped in a rich and vibrant history. A once dictator driven society that is now a representative democracy, flourishing on a strong and highly dependable tourism model. From the party beaches of Punta Cana, to the more refined and elegant northeastern shores of Samana, the Dominican Republic has masses to offer the vying tourist crowds. The Dominican Republic is not just a beach destination. The fabulous Spanish speaking Caribbean island offers a cultural melting pot of interest and intrigue. Forming the larger part of Hispaniola, shared with Haiti, the Dominican Republic sits in the Eastern Caribbean and is the second largest island in the Antilles.The Caribbean boasts a million beaches. Many picture postcard perfect. Azure waters lapping at powder white shores. You could sit on a hundred beaches across the island network and lookout to sea and not be to certain to which island you are on? It probably doesn’t matter at that point. Maybe your taste buds are so defined that you can note the brand of rum in your rum punch? Still, who is to say it isn’t on import?
The beaches in the Dominican Republic are world class. In Samana some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean can be found, lined with dense vegetation of coconut palms. Great if you want to laze on a hammock with gentle trade winds wafting across your body, or perhaps take a romantic stroll along the waters edge. However, what happens when this becomes too much?
Lusting for culture and heritage, a would-be culture vulture could easily transcend from beach to world-renowned historic site and engulf the best of both worlds. This is one of the options to make the best out of a trip to the Dominican Republic. Santo Domingo is the first city of the Americas and located on the south coast of Hispaniola. It prides itself on its old world charm and place in the history books as the oldest city in the New World.
Cobbled Streets meander through a well-preserved colonial city lined with amber shops and odd-looking drinking vessels crafted from animals legs. (Hey, it’s a tradition!) The city’s hub is the magnificent cathedral. Here locals avidly debate in the Columbus Square in the shadow of a statue of the world famous pioneering explorer.
Being in Santo Domingo’s colonial zone is like being whisked back to a bygone era - which appears at times to be untouched by the mucky fingers of globalisation. The cracks in the walls seem to let the historic ambience float across the cityscape allowing for a magic carpet ride through the past.
The colonial zone prides itself on its entertainment and fine dining. There is such a vast variety of restaurants that even the locals would find it difficult to eat in them all!
One local ‘delicacy’ that is hugely touted to the tourists is the local herbal brew of Mamajuana. A special blend of herbs and spices that when mixed with the correct amount of red wine, rum and honey and allowed to brew for long enough equates to the Dominicans version of Viagra, well so the story goes! The cry of many a street trader ‘mamajuana, give you special power ha ha’ can be heard resonating through the streets. The truth behind the brew is scantily written but the origins are surer to be that of a traditional flu remedy. But what tourist would want to buy a flu remedy?!
Two site holidays are being avidly promoted by the Dominican Republic’s Tourist Board. Earlier this year secretary of tourism Felix Jimenez indicated that there would be a cash injection for tour operators to increase promotional aid in order to sell the city. The incentive program will hope to encourage travel to the city. From a UK perspective the Dominican Republic is keen to increase its market share.
Lisette Fernandez, marketing director of ASONAHORES is clear on the importance of the UK market;
“The UK market is a key objective for the Dominican Republic and the government and the private sector are working together in order to promote the region to the UK.”
With regards to two-centre holidays Hans Dannenberg, the deputy minister of tourism commented;
“We are working directly with the tourism promotion office in London in order to interest tour operators to prepare a package consisting of two days in the city and perhaps four or five days at the beach. This must be packaged correctly in order for people to enjoy the two facets of our country (Dominican Republic), our beach and our city.”
The deputy minister is keen to see scheduled airlift arrive from the UK.
The only issue still playing on people’s minds is the quality of food in the Dominican Republic. Historically there have been outbreaks of food borne diseases and infections. The country has set up many initiatives to counteract this occurrence and the track record is becoming better with time and learning.
The Dominican Republic has much to offer the discerning traveller as well as the budget conscious. With beaches that rival any others to be found across the Caribbean and a culture that is truly mind blowing - the colonial zone should certainly be on everyone’s list of ‘must do’s’ before they die.
The DR plays host to one of the worlds largest reserves of amber, so bargains are plentiful - just shop and barter. The largest piece of amber ever recorded in the DR weighed in at a massive 21lbs or 9.5kg!
The Dominican Republic has the largest all-inclusive tourism trade in the world.
Baseball is the national sport. When Sammy Sosa arrived back from a successful season with the Chicago Cubs in ‘98, cheering crowds lined the 25 mile route from the airport to his home!
For more information on the DR visit: www.dr1.com