The Caribbean seems to be everyone’s go-to sunny getaway. With its white sands bounded by rows upon rows of palm trees, crystal-clear oceans, and warmer culture and environment, it’s no surprise it leads booking trends among North Americans.
Despite often being treated as a single entity, it is incredibly diverse, comprising at least thirteen sovereign countries and many other autonomous territories of larger states. There are so many islands, each one of them incredibly unique, that you may find it hard to pick a single destination.
Well, you’re in luck.
If you’re still undecided as to where you should jet off in the tropical sea for your long-awaited yearly break, this Caribbean destination in particular was named the best island to visit within the basin:
The DR Is Voted The Best Caribbean Island
The Dominican Republic has been proclaimed the Best Caribbean Island in the world at Global Traveler‘s reader-voted Leisure Lifestyle Awards.
In its 11th year, the prestigious award ranks the very best in the world in terms of both leisure and ‘lifestyle travel’, recognizing destinations, hotels, airlines, airports, cruises, and many more sectors of the travel industry for their excellence.
For the third year in a row, the small Hispanic nation brought home the coveted award, beating fierce competitors like Jamaica, the Dutch territories of Aruba and Curacao, Cuba, Barbados, and numerous other popular Caribbean hotspots to the number one spot.
In total, the Caribbean is made up of over 700 islands, though only 100 or so are permanently inhabited, making this a big win for the Dominican Republic, commonly shortened to just DR.
What Makes The DR So Special?
Though it is an island destination, the DR does not hold sovereignty over the whole of the territory of the island it (partially) occupies.
It is located on the Eastern half of the historic island of Hispaniola, settled by the Spanish upon their initial incursions across the Atlantic.
Conflicts between European powers, who were constantly at war to establish dominance in the Caribbean, resulted in Hispaniola being split between Spanish and French colonies, which upon their independence, became the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Haiti occupies the other half of Hispaniola, and it’s the only country to share a land border with the DR, though they couldn’t be further apart in terms of human development, social issues, and infrastructure.
While Haiti has been faced with a humanitarian crisis for over a decade now, which very few tourists would dare venture into, its more well-off neighbor has consistently kept its status as a major tourist destination in the Caribbean, as well as a rising global hub.
Home to one of the most popular resort towns in the region, the paradisaical Punta Cana, and some of the oldest European settlements in the New World, including the bustling capital of Santo Domingo, it is not only packed with swimming sites and unspoiled beaches: it brims with culture.
There is something for everybody here.
More Than Just Beaches: A Diverse Tourist Offer
If it’s beaches and utter relaxation you’re after, there is an extensive list of all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana, where your only concern will be ensuring you’ve applied enough sunscreen ahead of your sunbathing session at the property’s private sandy stretch.
From Melia to Iberostar and Marriot’s signature AC Hotel, the options are endless, and it can be hard to choose the perfect resort for your sunny break, but in this article, we give you 5 reasons why this marvelous, incredibly well-equipped luxury haven might be the right pick.
Puerto Plata is yet another popular resort area, celebrated for its turquoise waters and busy nightlife, while La Romana is a strong favorite among travelers looking to slow down and truly unwind without the jungle parties and busy club scene.
These are only some of the DR’s countless paradisaical hotspots, though.
With 1,288 km of coastline, there are both areas with a fast-developing resort zone, known for their lively social scene and wide availability of services, and completely pristine, remote coastal strips where the only sounds are that of exotic birds chirping in nature, the ruffling of the palms against the wind, and the crashing of the waves.
An Underrated Cultural Destination
Beyond the beaches, the DR is a country replete with Spanish-era landmarks that have stood the test of time and are scattered around the Western portion of the island it controls.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the capital of Santo Domingo has a beautiful colonial core where the colorful Spanish facades, Baroque churches, and Neo-Gothic monuments have been preserved.
The walls of Santo Domingo are not to be missed either; recognized by UNESCO as the oldest European fortification in the Americas, it was built in the early 16th century by Spanish colonizers.
The landmark Ozama Fortress, where Christopher Columbus himself was imprisoned once, is part of the complex and it’s open to visitors. Comprised of smaller turrets, a high tower, and defensive ramparts, it looks like any average European castle.
A majority of the 16th-century Spanish structures is concentrated in Santo Domingo, but other impressive Spanish structures can be found in Puerto Plata (Fortaleza de San Felipe), the Altos de Chavon, where tourists can explore the replica of a Mediterranean village, and Santiago de los Caballeros (Fortaleza San Luis).
Is the DR your dream destination?
You’re in luck, as this year, several new nonstop flight routes leaving from the U.S. have been announced, bringing you closer to the Old World charm of Santo Domingo and Punta Cana’s postcard-ready beach huts.
Learn more about them here.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com