Dominican Republic is the most visited Caribbean island
Getting There: Who doesn't fly here? The DR receives far more tourists than any other Caribbean country. It has 7 international airports. More than 60 chartered airlines (mostly from Europe and Canada ) fly into the Santo Domingo , Puerto Plata and Punta Cana airports. Carriers from the U.S. include American, Continental, Northwest and TWA.
Getting Around: Rental cars are readily available at all the international airports. In Santo Domingo , most cars more than 5 years old look they've been attacked with ball peen hammers; it's from all the collisions. Driving in the DR is like finding yourself in the midst of a video game with you as the target. Compounding the problem are the swarms of motorcycles that serve as taxis. Their owners, who may never have passed a driving test, are as pesky and annoying as a mosquito swarm.
If you spend too much time in the capital city, you may find yourself driving just as crazily as the residents. In the country, beware the tour buses. They hog the road and have no regard for automobiles. They do kill quite a few people each year, as I saw first-hand. Never take your eyes off the road in front because you never know what will suddenly confront you.
Taxis and public buses may be the best alternative if you're going to stay only in Santo Domingo .
Where to Stay: Where there are good beaches (and that's just about the entire coastline) there are all-inclusive resorts. The larger chains include Iberostar, Casa Marina, Amhsa and Allegro. However, the many small hotels throughout the country are a good bargain. A good resource is www.drhotels.com and our own Dominican hotels.
If you're going to climb Pico Duarte, you should spend a night or two at Rancho Baiguate in Jarabacoa in the Cordillera Central where it's wonderfully cool in the evening. www.rancho baiguate.com
Siesta: Very much part of the culture here. Many shops close from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. so people can take a long lunch, the main meal of the day.
Hiking & Walking Companies: Two outfitters make the trek up Pico Duarte and they're both good. Iguana Mama is located in the wind surfing capital of the Caribbean , at Cabarete on the DR's north coast. The owner is American and the staff (many from the States or Canada ) is fluent in English. Mountain biking is the real specialty but hiking is a close second. Fully guided trips up Pico Duarte, including transportation from Cabarete on the north coast (close to Puerto Plata), guides, food, mules and most equipment is $350 per person for 3 days, 2 nights; $425 per person for 4 days, 3 nights. Iguana Mama begins the climb at La Cienaga, the most popular route. For information: 800/849-4720 or 809/571-0908. Web site: www.iguanamama.com .