The Dominican Republic is a sovereign state occupying the eastern five-eighths of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region.
The western three-eighths of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti.
Both by area and population the Dominican Republic is the second-largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with 48,445 square kilometers (18,705 square miles) and 10,596,332 people in 2016.
The official language is Spanish.
Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic and one of the Caribbean’s oldest cities. Its walled, cobblestoned old core, the Zona Colonial, features buildings dating to the 1500s, including the cathedral, which was the first built in the New World. Yet Santo Domingo is vibrant and cosmopolitan, known for its nightlife, merengue and bachata music and fervent baseball culture.
The Dominican Republic has a rugged and mountainous terrain with fertile valleys in the central and eastern areas.
At 3,098 meters (10,164 feet) above sea level Pico Duarte is the highest peak in the Dominican Republic, and all the Caribbean islands.
The Dominican Republic has a total coastline of 1,288 kilometers (800 miles), some of it white-sand beaches shaded by rows of palm trees, other parts lined dramatically with rocky cliffs, wind-swept dunes or serene mangrove lagoons.
Playa Rincon is consistently mentioned as one of the best beaches — if not the best — beach in the Dominican Republic. Stretching uninterrupted for almost 3 kilometers (almost 2 miles) of nearly white, soft sand and multihued water good for swimming, the beach even has a small stream at its far western end, great for a quick freshwater dip at the end of a long, sunny day.
Over 25 percent of the country’s unique terrain and coastal areas have been protected in the form of national parks, reserves, monuments, and marine sanctuaries, granting unimaginable access to the land and seas.
The magnificent National Park of the East (Parque Nacional del Este) located at the heart of the La Romana – Bayahibe area is one of the Dominican Republic’s most popular tourist destinations. The park includes 400 or so caverns, some with pictographs and ceramic remains, eight emerged reef terraces and blue waters and white sandy beaches.
Los Haitises National Park is a national park located on the remote northeast coast of the Dominican Republic that was established in 1976. It consists of a limestone karst plateau with conical hills, sinkholes and caverns, and there is a large area of mangrove forest on the coast.
The Damajaqua Cascades, also called 27 Waterfalls is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island. A series of 27 waterfalls that snake down a mountain wilderness through a series of awe-inspiring crystal clear pools, etched out of limestone.
Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone, founded in 1498, was laid out on a grid pattern that became the model for almost all town planners in the New World. The city’s Colonial Zone was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990.
The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo is dedicated to St. Mary of the Incarnation. It is the oldest cathedral in the Americas, begun in 1512 and completed in 1540.
Altos de Chavón is a re-creation of a mediterranean style European village located atop the Chavón River in La Romana. It is the most popular attraction in the city and hosts a cultural center, an archeological museum, and an amphitheater.
Columbus Lighthouse is a monument located in Santo Domingo Este, in tribute to Christopher Columbus. Containing what are purported to be the remains of Columbus, the monument is both a mausoleum and a museum.The monument’s lighthouse-style features projecting beams of light, forming a cross shape, which are so powerful they can be seen from neighboring Puerto Rico.
The Dominican Republic was explored by Columbus on his first voyage in 1492. It was inhabited by the Taíno, an Arawakan people, who variously called their island Ayiti, Bohio, or Quisqueya (Kiskeya).
Columbus promptly claimed the island for the Spanish Crown, naming it La Isla Española (“the Spanish Island”), later Latinized to Hispaniola.
It was Spanish colony until 1821 except for a time as a French colony from 1795 to 1809. It was then part of a unified Hispaniola with Haiti from 1821 until 1844. In 1844, Dominican independence was proclaimed and the republic, which was often known as Santo Domingo until the early 20th century, maintained its independence except for a short Spanish occupation from 1861 to 1865 and occupation by the United States from 1916 to 1924.
Today it is a democracy, economically dependent on agriculture and tourism.
The Dominican Republic is the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean region, and ranks 6th overall in the Americas. The Dominican Republic received more than 5 million tourists in 2015.
Sugar, tobacco, cocoa and coffee are four of the DR’s main agricultural exports.
With distillation and aging processes perfected over the course of a few centuries, the DR is known for its excellent rum. Brugal, Bermúdez and Barceló are some of the world’s most well-known brands from the DR.
Dominican Republic cuisine is predominantly made up of a combination of Spanish, indigenous Taíno, and African influences. In the Dominican Republic, “sancocho” (soup often considered a stew) is considered one of the national dishes, along with “la bandera” (the flag), consisting of white rice, generally red beans and meat.
The Dominican flag is the only flag in the world that uses the image of a Bible.
The Dominican Republic is one of those countries in the world which still consider abortion illegal.
The Amber Museum in Puerto Plata houses the famous amber stone with a prehistoric mosquito preserved inside, which can be seen in the box office hit, Jurassic Park.
Director Francis Ford Coppola filmed scenes of the “The Godfather Part II” in the DR’s capital city, Santo Domingo.
Baseball is by far the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic.
The DR boasts over 25 breathtaking designer golf courses with several more expected to open in the next several years.
The Dominican Republic is credited with creating and developing the merengue style of music, which is a fast-paced, rhythmic dance music.