Dominican Republic is the second largest and most diverse Caribbean country, situated just two hours south of Miami, less than four hours from New York and eight hours from most European cities. Known for our friendly and hospitable people, Dominican Republic is a destination like no other, featuring astounding nature, intriguing history and rich culture.
Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the north and the Caribbean Sea on the south, our lush tropical island paradise boasts nearly 1,000 miles (1,609 km) of coastline, 250 miles (402 km) of the world’s top beaches, magnificent resorts and hotels and a variety of sports, recreation and entertainment options. Here you can dance to the pulse of merengue, relax in our luxurious and diverse accommodations, explore ancient relics of centuries past, delight in delicious Dominican gastronomy or enjoy ecotourism adventures in our magnificent national parks, mountain ranges, rivers and beaches.
Discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus, the country overflows with fascinating history, museums and exciting cultural experiences such as music, art and festivals, plus uniquely Dominican specialties - cigars, rum, chocolate, coffee, merengue, amber and larimar.
The #1 destination for golf in the Caribbean and Latin America, Dominican Republic delights visitors with 25 designer golf courses amid breathtaking coastlines with mountain backdrops and lush green fairways. With so many beautiful natural settings including romantic waterfalls, breathtaking coasts and idyllic accommodations, Dominican Republic is a top destination for weddings and honeymoons. Many world class resorts and hotels also cater to meetings and incentive groups who flock to Dominican Republic for excellent, friendly service and dynamic meeting venues.
Dominican Republic offers a fantastic combination of environments to capture your imagination and refresh the soul. And with eight international airports, paradise has never been easier to explore. We invite you to discover our breathtaking island sanctuary and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Facts & Figures
Capital: Santo Domingo
Total Area: 48,670 sq km. Slightly more than twice the size of New Hampshire
Climate: Maritime semitropical, with an average yearly temperature of 80 F
Currency: Dominican peso
Government Type: Democratic Republic
Independence: February 27, 1844 (from Haiti)
Phone Code: International access code - 809, 829, 849
Population: 10,349,741 (July 2014 est.)
Industries: tourism, sugar processing, ferronickel and gold mining, textiles, cement, tobacco.
Agriculture: sugarcane, coffee, cotton, cocoa, tobacco, rice, beans, potatoes, corn, bananas; cattle, pigs, dairy products, beef, eggs.
The Dominican Republic was discovered on December 5, 1492, by Christopher Columbus during his first voyage to the New World. At that time, the island of Hispaniola (as Columbus named it) was called "Quisqueya" by the Taino Indians who occupied the land. With a population estimated around 600,000, the Tainos (meaning "the good") were peaceful and hospitable to Columbus and his crew of Spaniards. Columbus himself grew a particular fondness for Hispaniola, describing it in his journal as "a beautiful island paradise with high forested mountains and large river valleys."
Columbus' admiration for Hispaniola coupled with his crew's discovery of gold deposits in the island's rivers led to the establishment of European settlements, the first of which was founded in 1493, in La Isabela. With the presence of new settlements, the Taino Indians were put into slavery and were eventually wiped out during the next 25 years. Simultaneously, the settlers began bringing African slaves to the island to ensure adequate labor for their plantations.
Columbus' brother, Bartholomew, was appointed governor of Hispaniola and in 1496, he founded the city of Santo Domingo. The capital city quickly became the representative seat of the Spanish royal court and therefore, a city of power and much influence. However, by 1515, the Spaniards realized the gold deposits of Hispaniola had significantly dwindled. Around this time, Herman Cortes discovered silver deposits in Mexico. Upon hearing this news, most Spanish residents of Santo Domingo departed for Mexico, leaving only a few thousand settlers behind. Because of the predominance of livestock initially introduced by Columbus, these settlers sustained themselves by providing food and leather to Spanish ships passing Hispaniola on their way to the richer colonies on the American mainland. It was during this period of time that the pirates of the Caribbean made history.
The island of Hispaniola remained under Spanish control until 1697, when the western third of the island became a French possession.
(In 1804, the western part of the island became the Republic of Haiti.) This area, which the French called "Saint Domingue", became the richest colony in the world thanks to large sugar plantations which were worked by hundreds of thousands of slaves brought from Africa. In 1791, a slave revolt broke out in Saint Domingue. For fear of losing their colony to the slaves, the French abolished slavery in 1794. With calm in Saint Domingue, the French were able to focus on overwhelming the Spanish on the island's eastern side, who later surrendered power.
In 1809, the eastern side of the island returned to Spanish rule. In 1821, the Spanish settlers declared an independent state, but just weeks later, Haitian forces invaded the eastern portion of the island and took Santo Domingo. For the next 22 years the entire island came under Haitian control. However, fueled by their loss of political and economic control, the former Spanish ruling class developed an underground resistance group led by Juan Pablo Duarte called "La Trinitaria." After several attacks by La Trinitaria on the Haitian army, the Haitians retreated. On February 27, 1844, the eastern side of the island declared independence and gave their land the name "Dominican Republic."
The 70 years that followed were characterized by political unrest and civil war, mainly due to fights for leadership of the government by Dominican strongmen. Disputes continued with Haiti and power returned to the Spanish for a short period of time (Restoration Day celebrates the day that a national war of "restoration" began, re-establishing the Dominican Republic's independence by 1865). Turmoil in the early 1900's led the United States to intervene. In 1916, U.S. troops occupied the country and stayed until 1924, when a democratically elected Dominican government was put into place. However, the head of the army that was put into place during the American occupation, Raphael Leonidas Trujillo, used his power to block government reform and shortly thereafter, took total control of power in the form of a repressive dictatorship. His rule lasted until 1961 when his motorcade was ambushed and he was killed. (The anniversary of his death is a public holiday in the Dominican Republic.)
Following Trujillo's death, political unrest again prevailed. The Dominican Republic went through a series of leaders until 1965, when Lyndon B. Johnson ordered the U.S. marines to again occupy the country. A heated election in 1966, put Dr. Joaquin Balaguer, a member of the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC), in power for a reign that lasted until 1978, when Dominicans elected Antonio Guzman, also of the PRD. Guzman died in 1982, at which time Dominicans elected another member of the D.R.P. In 1986, Balaguer was again elected, this time legitimately, and remained president until 1996 when President Leonel Fernandez (of the Party of the Dominican Liberation or PLD.) was elected. He served for four years and was replaced by Hipolito Mejia in 2000. Leonel Fernandez is again president. His earlier term began in 2004, he was re-elected in 2008, for another four years. Today’s president is Danilo Medina.