became a strong growth industry in the 1980s and is playing a major
role in the country's development. The number of tourist arrivals
is steadily increasing. The major development areas are in the north,
in Puerto Plata, and along the eastern coast at Punta Cana and Bávaro,
and in the south at Bayahibe. There are some 50,000 hotel beds, up
from 34,000 in 1996. After an absence of some years, Caribbean cruise
ships are again calling at ports in the Dominican Republic.
In 2002, more than 3 million tourists visited the country. Slightly
more than half were European – mainly German, Italian, and Spanish
–, while the rest came from Canada and the United States. More
than 200,000 British tourists visit the Dominican Republic each year.
Christopher Columbus's arrival on the island in 1492, Santo Domingo
became the site of the first cathedral, hospital, customs house and
university in the Americas. This colonial town, founded in 1498, was
laid out on a grid pattern that became the model for almost all town
planners in the New World. Bordering the Ozama River, the area boasts
cobblestone streets and an impressive group of buildings dating back
to the 16th century. The palaces have been converted into fascinating
museums, but many of the area's oldest structures are now quaint bars,
cafés, and small hotels and restaurants.
The Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo has been declared area of “cultural
heritage of the New World” by UNESCO (United Nations Educational,
Scientific & Cultural Organization).
Dominican Republic boasts 74 protected areas, including parks, reserves,
sanctuaries and natural monuments. These extend over 12,000 square
km, or 25% of the country’s territory.
There are 14 national parks, 3 of which are submarine. There are also
9 scientific reserves and a marine sanctuary.
Lake Enriquillo National Park:
Lake Enriquillo is 34 miles (89 km) long and 5 miles (13 km) wide.
It is extremely high in salinity, with a salt concentration of 40
to 90 parts per million. Very little vegetation can live at such high
salt levels, with the exception of green algae. Known as one of the
natural wonders of the West Indies, this wetland eco-region occurs
in and around Lake Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic and Lake Etang
Saumatre in Haiti. Since the last ice age, sea levels have fallen
and exposed the land that used to be a channel separating Haiti from
the Dominican Republic. Pieces of coral and seashell provide evidence
of its prior submergence under the sea.
In the summertime the area supports large flocks of magnificent, salmon-red
greater flamingos, which comb the shorelines for brine shrimp and
other crustaceans, molluscs, insects, and small fish.
The Dominican Republic is one of the
premier golf destinations in the Caribbean. Thanks to the tropical
climate golfers are able to play all year round. The Dominican Republic
offers plenty of choices, whether for pros or those interested in
learning. The majority of the golf courses are found along the coast
in the country's burgeoning resorts, each with its own distinct identity,
and carefully designed with the coastline and other natural elements
incorporated into the design. Golf is one of the Dominican Republic's
Merengue is the most popular dance and
the favourite type of music in the Dominican Republic. It is played
everywhere, and even young children know how to dance merengue steps.
The music is often performed by three-person, roaming bands called
perico ripiao using three instruments: a small drum called a tambora,
an accordion-like instrument called a melodeon, and a percussion instrument
originally used by the Tainos called a güira.
Modern merengue emerged after the First World War, when the music
was played by pianos, strings, clarinets and saxophones. In the 1970s,
Johnny Ventura and other musicians developed a new sound with electronic
instruments. Dance steps became faster and less formal. Nowadays,
merengue incorporates other musical forms such as salsa and jazz.
Juan Luis Guerra is the most internationally renowned merengue performer.
The Dominican Republic has a strong literary tradition. Early Spanish
colonizers brought with them the European romantic literary tradition.
In the 19th century, Dominicans strove to create a distinct form of
writing that was free of Spanish influences. During this period, Manuel
de Jesus Galvan (1834-1911) published the classic Dominican novel,
Enriquillo. The novel portrayed the last of the Indian chiefs to rebel
against the Spanish conquerors. It was translated into English as
The Cross and the Sword.
In the 20th century, Dominican writers continued to incorporate political
topics into their work. Many of them went into exile during Trujillo's
regime. Both Juan Bosch and Joaquin Balaguer were important writers.
Bosch wrote novels, essays and short stories. Balaguer was a poet
who also wrote a history of literature in the Dominican Republic.
Hand-crafted jewellery is made with amber and larimar. Many people
consider Dominican amber the most beautiful in the world. It may contain
flashes of green, red, orange, blue and purple. Larimar is a stone
indigenous the Dominican Republic. Its colours vary from deep sky
blue to blue-green.
Carnival is one of the most colorful traditions and happiest celebrations
of the Dominican Republic. Almost everyone participates in one way
or another in the festivities, dancing and celebrating on the streets.
The main celebrations occur at the end of February, especially the
last weekend of the month when Carnival celebrations coincide with
festivities to commemorate Dominican Independence day. However, different
regions celebrate their Carnival at different times which means the
Carnival is extended throughout the entire month and sometimes even
well into March.
One of the main Carnival traditions involves the attires and costumes
worn by those who celebrate it; a varied hybrid from region to region
that mixes elements of African tradition and European styled fabrics
The most popular costume, known as the diablo cojuelo, consists of
a brightly coloured layered suit covered with small mirrors and bells
and worn with a devil mask, usually with many horns and teeth. The
Dominican Carnival has had a great tradition since its beginnings
during colonial times, when the citizens of Santo Domingo would dress
up on the eve of Christian Lent in order to celebrate their religious
Although costumes and music were around since the 16th century, the
Carnival became even more popular after the patriotic victory of February
27, 1844 the day when the Dominican Republic gained its independence.