This laid-back island in the Caribbean (technically, half an island: it shares Hispaniola with the nation of Haiti) is best known for the three Bâ€™s: Beer, Beaches and Baseball. Although the baseball players â€“ among them such names as Sammy Sosa and Pedro Martinez â€“ have put this tiny republic on the map, it is the beaches that bring people in (and the beer that keeps them happy once theyâ€™ve arrived!).
Most of the millions of tourists who come to the Dominican Republic every year stay in the swank all-inclusive resorts in towns such as Punta Cana, where they swill piÃ±a coladas, play golf, lounge on white-sand beaches and shop for overpriced souvenirs. The economy of the Dominican Republic has adapted to this influx of tourism by improving services: the tiny island has four major airports which are kept going day and night to cycle these visitors through.
It is possible to see the Dominican Republic without staying at a golf resort or spa. There are backpacker-ready hostels in the capital, Santo Domingo, and many of the attractions are not expensive in and of themselves. Baseball games, for example, are quite affordable and may feature many current and future major-league players.
The DR, as most travelers like to call it, is also a great place to soak up some history and culture. Santo Domingo is the oldest European city in the Americas, founded by Christopher Columbus' brother Bartholomew. Here, youâ€™ll find old colonial buildings and churches as well as the remains of the great explorer himself (although the Cathedral of Seville claims to have his bones as well).
There is good food and drink to be had in the Dominican Republic, as well as great shopping and some first-rate hotels and restaurants. Gambling is legal, and there are casinos in some of the larger hotels.