In 2016, the Dominican Republic was voted the most popular get-away by a variety of media sources, and it's easy to understand why. As Caribbean destinations go, this verdant country comprising the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola - which it shares with Haiti to the west - has the #2 busiest airport, Punta Cana International (PUJ), in the region. Second only to San Juan's Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Puerto Rico, PUJ accommodates a copious number of flights from primary and secondary airports throughout North America and elsewhere; and the airfares to the Dominican Republic are among the lowest to the Caribbean.
For many years, tourism to the Dominican Republic has been centered around the all-inclusive resorts along the Bávaro coast of Punta Cana (eastern section of the country) and the world-renowned, affluent golf resort in La Romana, Casa de Campo, which also boasts one of the largest marinas in the Caribbean. More recently, a sizable portion of Punta Cana was developed and named Puntacana Resort + Club. Another exclusive section soon followed and became Cap Cana. Puntacana Resort + Club and Cap Cana, which are gated communities with high security, are where many of our luxury villas and villa/ condominium resorts are located.
For a third consecutive year, in 2016 the World Golf Organization chose the Dominican Republic as
the “Best Golf Destination of the Caribbean”. The island is home to some of the most notable golf courses across the globe, designed by such legends as Pete Dye, P.B. Dye,
Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones, Sr., Gary Player and Tom Fazio.
Cap Cana enjoys the reputation of having one of the finest golf
courses in the world, most notably, Punta Espada, designed by the
legendary 'Golden Bear', Jack Nicklaus. It should come as no
surprise that the land in the proximity of this challenging par-72
course - which has been ranked by Golfweek Magazine as the
number one golf course in the Caribbean and Mexico for eight
successive years - has become prime real estate for luxury resorts
While the Dominican Republic's 26 golf courses are no doubt a major draw, the island's massive spans of farmland, magnificent waterfalls, verdant mountains, and tropical forests only serve to complement its nearly 1,000 miles of pristine golden and white sand beaches and warm,
gracious, and welcoming local residents. The Dominican Republic
considers itself an "adventure mecca" with about 25% of its land and
shoreline preserved as national parks. This is a destination with something
for everyone, whether you're an avid golfer, kiteboarding enthusiast,
ziplining zealot, history buff, spelunking fan, shopping connoisseur,
gourmand, ecotourism adventurer, river explorer, music aficionado ...
or just someone who savors a rich and diverse Caribbean culture. The
Dominican Republic offers up the pulse-pounding thrill of the meringue
(said to have originated here), casino gambling, entertaining nightclubs
with live music, art galleries, and festivals, plus distinctive Dominican
specialties such as cigars, rum, chocolate, coffee, amber, and larimar.
A little history ...
The recorded history of the Dominican Republic began when the
Italian navigator, Christopher Columbus, came upon a large island in the
region of the western Atlantic Ocean whose southern shore bordered on
what later became known as the Caribbean Sea. It was inhabited by the
Taíno Indians, an Arawakan people originating from South America, who
variously called their island Ayiti, Bohio or Quisqueya (Kiskeya). At the
time of Columbus' arrival in 1492, the island's territory consisted of five
chiefdoms: Marién, Maguá, Maguana, Jaragua, and Higüey. These were
ruled respectively by tribal chiefs Guacanagarix, Guarionex, Caonabo,
Bohechío, and Cayacoa.
Columbus declared the island for the Spanish Crown, naming
it La Isla Española ("the Spanish Island"), later Latinized to
Hispaniola. Except for brief periods when the island became a
French colony (1794 to 1809), a combined Hispaniola with Haiti
(1821 to 1844), a short Spanish occupation (1862 to 1865) and
(1916 to 1924) and intervention by the United States 1965 to
1966) fearing another 'Cuba incident', Dominican independence
was proclaimed in 1844 and the republic, which was referred to
as Santo Domingo until the arly 20th century, has maintained
its independence ever since. The city of Santo Domingo, which
was built and became the capital in 1496, remains the oldest
continuously inhabited European city in the Americas.
Following Cuban leader Fidel Castro's establishment of the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere after leading an overthrow of the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, many wealthy Cubans fled the island, leaving everything behind, and relocated to neighboring, Spanish-
speaking Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The Bacardí Family, who operated a hugely-successful, family-run rum distillery in the eastern port of Santiago de Cuba in 1862 and supported Castro, were among the people whose businesses were nationalized under the new regime (in spite of their alliance). Fortunately, they had an outpost nearby and were able to establish a new rum business in Puerto Rico.
While tobacco is native to the Dominican Republic and has always been a staple of the island's
economy, the Cuban revolution drove many of the Cuban tobacco families to its nearby neighbor, an
island with similar, ideal growing conditions for tobacco. This -
combined with the American embargo on Cuban products -
gave rise to a market for Dominican cigars. With a perfect climate,
Dominican cigar production grew tremendously in the following
decades. Today, more than fifty percent of the American market
is held by Dominican cigars. Dominican cigars have a growing
international presence as well. The Dominican Republic is now
the largest producer of cigars in the world. Many believe the
nationalization of the Cuban cigar industry has negatively
affected the quality of the Cuban product so many smokers are
turning to the less-pricey Dominican cigars instead. Dominican cigars have become recognized by aficionados for a greater variety flavors, aromas, and colors than their Cuban cousins as well.
Visitors to the Dominican Republic will find a wealth of wonderfully maintained and cherished
historical sites, a wide variety of beautiful beaches with access to all manner of watersports above and below the sea; a noteworthy selection of world-class golf courses that are on every serious golfer's bucket list; fine dining and delicious island cuisine using fresh fish, meat and produced sourced locally; cave dwelling, ziplining, and hiking adventures; fun and educational waterparks; and grand duty-free shopping.
The International Airports:
Santo Domingo Las Américas International Airport (SDQ): the second most visited airport in the DR, Las Américas is 30 minutes from the capital and very close to the tourist areas of Boca Chica and Juan Dolio. Joaquín Balaguer International Airport (JBQ), also located in Santo Domingo and sometimes referred to as La Isabela, handles mostly domestic flights.
Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ): the country’s largest and most popular airport, serves the Punta Cana and Bávaro regions with flights from 26 countries. Many U.S. airlines offer nonstop service from gateway cities with morning flights that put you on the beach by lunchtime. Most of the villas we represent are a 10 – 20 minutes drive from the airport.
La Romana International Airport (LRM): located just 10 minutes from the town of La Romana and 20 minutes from Bayahibe, consists of a single terminal with four modern gates in the style of an old sugar mill.
Puerto Plata Gregorio Luperón International Airport (POP): this airport is only 20 minutes from the north coast city of Puerto Plata. Nearby tourist destinations include Playa Dorada, Sosúa, Cabarete, Playa Grande, and Cofresí.
Samaná El Catey International Airport (AZS): 20 minutes from the city of Samaná and 30 minutes to the destinations of Las Terrenas and El Portillo on the northeast coast.
Santiago El Cibao International Airport (STI): located 15 minutes from Santiago in the central region, offering easy access to nearby La Vega, Jarabacoa, Constanza, San Francisco de Macorís and Moca.
Barahona María Montez (BRX): located on the southwest coast. At the moment no international flights are scheduled.
The Dominican Republic also has four national airports.
The key to getting the most out of your vacation in the Dominican Republic is choosing the region that best suits your needs and interests, as each area has its own distinct personality.
Punta Cana ("Cape of the Sugar Cane") is a little confusing because it's a "municipal district" within the larger Municipality of Higuey in La Altagracia Province - the eastern-most point on the island of Hispaniola where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea. The area boasts 100 glorious miles of soft white sandy beaches fringed by beautiful, clear, turquoise water and live coral reefs. Punta Cana includes (from north to south): Macao, Bávaro, Verón, and the resort-residential communities of Puntacana Resort + Club and Cap Cana. It's popular for ziplining, windsurfing, kayaking, and sailing.
A major portion of our Punta Cana villas are centered in and around the southern part of the municipality - away from the all-inclusive resort strip of Bávaro - in exclusive, very secure, gated communities known as Puntacana Resort + Club and the ultra-exclusive Cap Cana.
Punta Cana's claim to fame is its preponderance of challenging world-class golf courses (there are currently 10) created by well-known architects/designers, e.g. Tom Fazio (Corales Golf Club), P.B. Dye (La Cana Golf Club), Nick Price (Punta Blanca Golf Course), and José "Pepe" Gancedo (Cocotal Golf Course). These are the caliber of golf courses that appear on the avid golfer's bucket list.
In addition to golf, Punta Cana is known for its beautiful white sand beaches bedecked with graceful palm trees. Some of the most popular ones are Bávaro, Arena Gorda, Uvero Alto and Macao. Punta Cana's beaches are ideal for kiteboarding, parasailing, SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding), windsurfing, and sailing. There are live reefs and shipwrecks teeming with colorful fish and marine life in shallow water within a short distance (swimmable, in many cases) from shore - perfect for snorkeling or diving. Horseback riding and buggy riding/four wheeling are available on Macao Beach. This beach, which has no hotels, is a local favorite among surfers.
Aside from its world-class beaches, glorious sunshine, excellent hotels, top-quality restaurants, an exciting nightlife and many recreational activities, Punta Cana is also home to some of the country’s largest shopping malls: Puntacana Village, Palm Real Village and San Juan Shopping Center - where you can find supermarkets (National has the best prices for coffee and spices - great to bring home!), national banks, telephone companies, restaurants and bars, art galleries, small shops (resort clothing, rum, jewelry, and cigars) and many other facilities. The Bibijagua market (Plaza Bibijagua, with over 100 stalls for items such as beach clothing, cigars, inexpensive jewelry, shells, rum, coffee, beach floats, snorkel masks, and the famously known aphrodisiac, “Mamajuana” - a local liquor made by the locals) on Bávaro Beach is the place to go for local handmade items and artwork, including Haitian paintings.
Punta Cana is a great base for day trips to explore other regions of the island. The new Autopista del Coral (Coral Highway) connects visitors to La Romana (to the south) in less than an hour and Santo Domingo (the capital) via the Coral Highway and DR-3 in about 2-1/2 hours.
Punta Cana comprises three distinct areas - Bávaro, Cap Cana and Puntacana Resort + Club:
Bávaro sits at on the northern coast of Punta Cana. This, from our perspective, is the "Miami Beach" of the Dominican Republic, with hotels and resorts lined up on and down the beach, one after another. This area is where you will find the greatest concentration of gambling, nightlife, restaurants, and shopping, including the largest casino on the island.
Bávaro is where a number of exciting adventures are found or originate. We've done Manatí Park and Dolphin Island. If dolphins are your thing, then do Dolphin Island because their program is preferable to the dolphin program at Manatí Park (they are owned and operated by the same company). If you love birds and reptiles, Manatí Park has the largest animal collection - with more than 150 species - in the country. They also have an interesting exhibition covering the history of the Taíno, the first settlers in the Dominican Republic. The same company that owns these two attractions also runs La Hacienda (horseback riding, ziplining, buggy rides).
Cap Cana is a master-planned, multi-use luxury resort and real estate community located only a short drive (about 15 minutes) from the Punta Cana International Airport. This exclusive gated community is a natural reserve where you will find a good representation of the region's native species of flora and fauna. Cap Cana was developed with a keen eye on the ecological aspects of the Dominican Republic that make this part of the island of Hispaniola a verdant treasure. From the hiking trails which provide children and adults with hours of discovery through the tropical rain forest and along the cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, you can enjoy bird watching, come upon lazy iguanas soaking up the sun, view of a wide variety of equatorial plants and trees, and explore caves. Cap Cana is noted for:
Three (3) miles of beautiful white sand beaches;
A large, active, protected harbor with a marina said to be only minutes away from one of the best fishing sites in the world;
The world-renowned Punta Espada Golf Course designed by Jack Nicklaus (recognized as the finest in the Caribbean);
First class spas; multiple five-star hotels; gourmet restaurants, including four diamond awarded AAA restaurants; a fitness center;
An amazing polo and equine center, Los Establos, Ciudad Ecuestre ("The high standard achieved in the construction of these fields is a result never obtained in any other field around the world”), built by the agricultural engineer, Alejandro Battro - considered the most prestigious designer and builder of polo fields - with three polo fields, special stables for up to 112 polo horses, a broad training track, stick and ball field for training of players and/or horses, and a Polo School for children and adults;
Scape Park, a natural adventure theme park with numerous attractions ranging from adventurous and adrenaline-pumping activities to cultural and highly entertaining experiences, located in the heart of Cap Cana.
Cabarete is known as the surfing capital of the Dominican Republic. The tempestuous Atlantic Ocean along the island's north coast is a magnet for serious surfing, kiteboarding and body surfing enthusiasts. Many of the beaches here are rated by experts, allowing beginners as well as the experienced surfer to locate the perfect spot to enjoy their sport.
La Romana (Bayahibe) boasts a fascinating combination of the past and present, making it an intriguing part of the Dominican Republic. Traces of the first settlers, the Taínos, can be found in local caves. The culture of the African slaves that were brought to the island after the Taínos were lead to relative extinction blends with the culture of the Europeans who helped build La Romana's economy.
La Romana is one of the most developed and economically productive cities in the Dominican Republic. The local economy relies heavily on the Central Romana Corporation which provides agro-industrial and tourism development services, and produces and markets sugar and meat products. Additionally, the company manufactures chemicals and construction materials, and also offers real estate, electrical, water supply, and security services. Central Romana Corporation's sugar mill on the coast employs more than 25,000 locals.
In 1971, the Central Romana Corporation jump-started tourism in the area with the opening of the PGA Teeth of the Dog golf course - designed by the legendary, and World Golf Hall of Fame member, Pete Dye and - located in the luxe resort, Casa de Campo, and recognized among the top golf courses in the Caribbean. Combined with Dye Fore and The Links that have been meticulously carved from the coral shores, craggy mountains, and rolling hills of the island's landscape, Casa de Campo offers three completely different experiences that are on every serious golfer's bucket list. Casa de Campo, with its luxury villas, PGA golf course (ranked #39 in the world by Golf Magazine in 2015 and #56 by Golf Digest in 2016), polo fields, and a Mediterranean-inspired marina with condominiums, massive docking facilities for yachts, shopping, restaurants and more.
From 1971 onward, La Romana earned a reputation of being the 'go-to' place among celebrities, well-known for the exclusive Casa de Campo resort with its luxury villas (Drake, Jennifer Lopez, and Alex Rodriguez were recent guests; Oscar de la Renta was an owner in the '70s and Marc Anthony currently owns a villa here); PGA golf course; world cup polo; and wide variety of restaurants, bars and lounges to suite the party set or those seeking a more intimate ambiance.
One of the main attractions at Casa de Campo is Altos de Chavón - a place like no other. This replica 16th-century Mediterranean village was scrupulously designed by Dominican architect, Jose Antonio Caro, and Italian master designer and cinematographer, Roberto Coppa, with every detail of Altos de Chavón handcrafted by local artisans. The village is a cultural center for residents, tourists, and working artists from all over the world. Active studios for artists of every medium from pottery to weaving, silk screening, and everything in between line the cobblestone streets alongside shops and boutiques showcasing their unique creations. The Art Gallery features works from noted Dominican artists, as well as artists from around the world, helping to foster a dialogue of creativity and cultural exchange. Altos de Chavón is also home to the renowned Altos de Chavón School of Design, which is affiliated with the Parsons School of Design in New York.
Other sites include an archaeological museum, offering a glimpse into the fascinating history of the area, the St. Stanislaus Church, 5,000-seat amphitheater, and sweeping views of the Chavón River and the Caribbean Sea.
Puerto Plata differs from the other two cities of Cabarete and Sosúa along the north coast of the Dominican Republic in that its attraction is more architecture and history than beach culture. The fire of 1863, which destroyed the original Spanish settlement, resulted in a lean towards the occupants' English architectural style of the day when the city was rebuilt. This is a walking city, with a typical Hispanic Malecón (oceanside promenade where people gather to socialize, dine or stroll along the water's edge), blessed with a wonderful sea breeze, and a wide selection of bars, restaurants, cafés, and nightclubs which, when combined, accounts for its popularity among ex-pats. It is a top choice for international snowbirds seeking more of a lifestyle than just beautiful beaches.
This is not to say that Puerto Plata is devoid of lovely shores. Its main seafront is the town beach, Long Beach, located along the Malecón. For the most part, the beaches in and around Puerto Plata are bordered by coral reefs, which are good for diving and snorkeling. For beautiful swimming beaches, nearby Playa Dorada offers 15 miles of stunning white sand. Further down along the coast there are many other notable beaches, including Cabarete, Boca de Cangrejo, Cano Grande, Bergantin, Playa de Copello, and Playa Mariposa. To the west of Puerto Plata is the popular Guarapitao Beach, which offers protection (shade) from the strong Caribbean sun.
There are many points of interest to be found in the area or within a short drive, including but not limited to La Isabela (named for the Queen of Spain and found within the La Española National Park), the first European settlement to be built in the New World which, despite its short-lived existence, features the ruins of Christopher Columbus' home and an open tomb with the remains of one of the unfortunate settlers; El Castillo with its small museum displaying ceramic, stone, and iron artifacts, and the oceanside remains of what were once the walls of the settlement; the crystal-clear waters and massive mangroves of Gri Gri Lagoon; the Brugal Rum Distillery (tours with free admission); the famous statue, Christ a la Rio de Janiero atop Isabel de Torres mountain; and more. Be sure to check out the oldest military fortification in the Americas, Castillo de San Felipe, and take a tour of the amber museum - both found in the city.
Santiago is the tobacco capital of the Dominican Republic and in some respects the modern tobacco capital of the world. Many major producers have factories in Santiago like Davidoff, La Flor Dominicana, La Gloria Cubana, La Aurora, Leon Jimenes, Cojimar, Montecristo and Arturo Fuente. Cigars are made individually by craftsmen, who roll as many as 300 a day. The Dominican Republic exports nearly 60 million cigars annually. You can visit a cigar factory.
Santo Domingo is the island's capital and was the First City of the Americas, appealing to those whose ideal vacation includes a focus on cultural and historical exploration, including its Ciudad Colonial, a World Heritage Site. A tour of this city is a must and, if at all possible, should include dinner at La Meson de la Cave which is one of the most interesting and enjoyable experiences of a visit to the Dominican Republic.
Sosúa is located in the north coast province of Puerto Plata and is situated about 10 miles east of the Puerto Plata International Airport. The name comes from the Taíno Indians, the north coast's first residents, and meant "small river". Sosúa welcomed the Spanish, and in later years, embraced Jewish refugees fleeing from Germany and Austria. This influx of Europeans helped to develop Sosúa into a center of international commerce.
The north coast of the Dominican Republic is nirvana for watersports enthusiasts. The prevailing easterly wind and waves from the Atlantic Ocean present ideal conditions for surfing, windsurfing and, the increasingly popular, kiteboarding. Perhaps Sosúa is best known today for its spectacular golden sand bay (Playa Sosúa) that boasts calm waters and coral reefs, making it a top swimming and snorkeling attraction. Normally the conditions in the Atlantic would make scuba diving a challenge but the geography of the island has provided us with a perfect diving spot, Sosúa Bay. This beautiful sandy beach faces west and the surrounding hills have created a large sheltered area away from the wind and waves. The bay is fringed with shade trees and beach umbrellas, a multitude of beach bars (some with Internet), and local artisans selling their wares (including handmade amber and larimar jewelry, an island specialty), offering a comprehensive 'day at the beach experience' for everyone visiting the area. By night, the restaurant, nightclub and disco scene is lively and very popular. Also nearby is Playa Alicia, another lovely beach, much quieter with less commercial activity (but you can still get a cool drink) than Playa Sosúa.
In addition to the noteworthy watersports options, there are mountainous areas and waterfalls that offer the hiker and cyclist an alternative to activities above and below the sea. History buffs should
check out the Museum of Jewish Heritage. A walk along the beach at sunset is memorable, maybe the most amazing site to be seen on the North Coast of the island.
VHR, WORLDWIDE knows the Dominican Republic well, having visited
each region, and represents a variety of villas, condominiums and resort
apartments throughout the island. Our properties are located in gated
communities or secured resort areas, convenient to beaches, world-class
golf courses, activities such as tennis and horseback riding, all manner of
shopping, restaurants, sightseeing and more.
Where not included in the rental charge, special services such as airport
transfers, car rentals, nannies, massage, etc. can easily be arranged with
advance notice, at extra cost.