The Dominican Republic is one of the most stunning islands in the Caribbean. Home to deserts, rainforests, waterfalls, and open water caves, it also has one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.
And let’s not forget that it has some of the most spectacular beaches in the Caribbean. If that wasn’t enough, the Dominican culture and history are also incredibly rich. Really there aren’t many reasons why you shouldn’t visit this incredible place.
But there’s much more to the Dominican Republic than just pretty beaches and golf courses in Punta Cana. Stick around to discover some awesome Dominican Republic facts you might not have known about.
Dominicans love baseball! So much so that it was declared the country’s national sport back in 1937. Outside of the United States, the Dominican Republic produces the highest number of baseball players.
There are about 100 major league baseball players from the Dominican Republic across US professional leagues. Some of the most famous include David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez, and Juan Marichal, the only Dominican player in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Baseball is integral to Dominican society, so you’ll see games played all over the island.
Consider yourself a coffee lover? Then the Dominican Republic is the place to be. Along with tobacco, sugar, cocoa, and tropical fruits, coffee is one of the island’s most significant exports.
Coffee was first grown on the island in 1735 and soon spread to neighboring regions in Latin America.
Dominican coffee is famous for being quite robust, with mild acidity, earthy tones, and a rich aroma. Arabica beans account for 90% of the production on the island. Dominican coffee beans are highly esteemed among connoisseurs around the world.
Coffee is the pride and joy of Dominicans, and most locals like to enjoy their black with lots of sugar.
A lot of people are not aware of the fact that the Dominican Republic is the first permanent European settlement in the Americas. Christopher Columbus first discovered the island in 1492, and it became his first landing point of “the New World.”
His influence is seen throughout the island, and in 1992 the Faro a Colon, also called the Columbus Lighthouse, was dedicated to commemorate the 500th anniversary of his arrival in the Dominican Republic.
For centuries Dominican Republic was under Spanish and Haitian rule (when the island of Hispaniola, also known as La Española in Spanish, was united as one island nation), but it wasn’t until February 27, 1844, that the Dominican Republic gained independence from Haiti, in part thanks to La Trinitaria, a secret society that eventually led to the Dominican War of Independence.
La Trinitaria was organized and promoted by Juan Pablo Duarte y Díez, a Dominican military leader, activist, writer, and nationalist politician who was the foremost of the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic and now bears the title of Father of the Nation.
4. Santo Domingo is the Oldest Capital City in the Western Hemisphere
Founded by Christopher Columbus, Santo Domingo is the oldest colonial city in the Americas and the capital city of the Dominican Republic. Santo Domingo is so important to Latin American history that it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1990.
In 2010, the Colonial City of Santo Domingo was also awarded the prestigious title “The Cultural Capital of the Americas.” Santo Domingo holds the title of many firsts in the Caribbean and Latin America.
The city boasts the first Catholic cathedral and hospital in the region. It was also the first seat of Spanish rule in America.
Santo Domingo also has the first university in the Western Hemisphere. It is the University of Santo Domingo, established in 1538.
The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo is the first and oldest cathedral in the Americas. It began construction in 1504, but it wasn’t completed until 1550.
Because of its location in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic has one of the richest ecosystems in the world. A quarter of the island’s coastal shores and forests are preserved as national parks, sanctuaries, and reserves.
The Dominican Republics’ forests are rich in wildlife and are home to over 300 types of birds and rare species. The country’s largest salt lake – Lake Enriquillo, is home to over 400 freshwater crocodiles.
Like most Latin American countries, Dominicans love to dance. The energetic and fun Merengue dance originates from this fun-loving island. The dance gets its name from “meringue,” a light and frothy dessert made from egg whites and sugar.
The Dominican Republic is also credited as the home of the fast-paced Merengue music style accompanying the dance.
Dominican people are exceptionally proud of Merengue, and you’ll find people blasting the music and dancing to it all over the island, from Santo Domingo to Puerto Plata.
One of the Dominican Republic facts that many people are unaware of is that it’s home to the tallest peak in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte. The peak stands at a staggering height of 10,174 feet (3,101 meters).
Apart from being the highest peak in the Caribbean, it’s also one of the most prominent peaks in the world. What’s more, it’s one of the most challenging hikes in the world, only undertaken by the bravest of adventure seekers.
8. Lowest point in the Caribbean
It’s crazy to think that the same country with the tallest peak in the Caribbean can also have the lowest point in the Caribbean. Lake Enriquillo, a hypersaline lake, sits at -151 feet (-46 meters) below sea level.
If that’s not impressive enough, it is also the largest lake in the Caribbean, covering 145 square miles (375 square kilometers).
It is home to very diverse wildlife of more than 400 species, including stunning pink flamingos! It is also home to the largest population of American crocodiles (Cocodrylus acutus) in the wild.
9. The Dominican Flag Has a Dual Meaning
The Dominican Republic’s national flag is one of the most exciting flags in the world. Why’s that? Because it’s a lot more than just a flag.
Firstly it’s the only national flag in the world with the image of a white cross and Bible, highlighting how important Christianity is to the island.
But the Dominican flag also has another meaning. The national dish of the Dominican Republic – La Bandera, takes its name from the flag. This dish has three staple ingredients, white rice, red beans, and meat.
The rice represents the color white in the flag, the beans represent the red in the flag, and the meat represents the blue element. It’s not your average flag or meal, but it’s one thing that makes the Dominican Republic unique.
10. The Only Country in the World that Produces Larimar Stone
Here’s a fact that will blow your mind. The Larimar stone is only found in the Dominican Republic. This gorgeous blue stone is a rare form of silicate pectolite. The stone was first found in 1916, and a local priest requested permission to mine the stone.
Unfortunately for him, his request was rejected. Later in 1974, the stone was rediscovered on a beach near the Bahrouco Mountain Range in the Bahoruco Province. The stone is believed to have come from the sea, so the finder Miguel Mendez initially called it “The Blue Stone.”
He later combined his daughter’s name, Larissa, and “Mar,” meaning sea, in Spanish, and changed the stone’s name to what we know today – Larimar.
This stunning blue and white stone is classified as a semi-precious gemstone, and you can find it in parts or beautiful jewelry in shops around the Dominican Republic. Because of its blue color representing the sea, it’s believed to have calming and healing properties.
11. The Dominican Republic Has Some Rich Amber Deposits
The Larimar stone isn’t the only precious stone for which the Dominican Republic is famous. Many people are unaware of this, but the island also has some of the richest deposits of Amber in the world.
The island’s north coast is actually called the “Amber Coast.” Dominican Amber differentiates itself from other forms of Amber in that it’s a lot more transparent and often has a lot more inclusions of fossils.
One example of this can be seen at the Amber Museum in Puerto Plata, which has an Amber stone with a prehistoric mosquito inside it.
12. Punctuality Is Not Common
One thing that you’ll often see in the Dominican Republic is that time and punctuality are not a priority. Timekeeping is primarily not very important in Dominican culture.
In fact, appointment and meeting times are more of a suggestion than a confirmed arrangement. To non-Dominicans, this might be extremely frustrating, but it does not concern locals at all.
Locals work on “island time,” so it’s not uncommon for guests to arrive an hour or more later for social gatherings and other events. At the end of the day, most people are just happy to be together, and time is relative.
And hey, if you spend some time at Margaritaville Cap Cana or at any bar in Punta Cana, you’ll truly understand the meaning of “island time.”
13. Dominicans are Multicultural
Like many island nations surrounding them, the Dominican Republic is highly diverse and multicultural. Many islanders can trace their roots back to the original inhabitants of the land, the Taino people.
But, over time, due to colonial rule, most Dominicans are a mixture of African, Spanish, and even Indian descendants. This all results in the island’s rich heritage and culture.
Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic thanks to centuries of Spanish rule.
14. One of the Best Rum Producers in the World
Rum is another one of the Dominican Republic’s most significant exports. The island boasts world-renowned brands such as Siboney, Brugal, Barcelo, and Bermudez.
Dominican rum is widely credited for its smoothness and rich taste due to its special distilling and aging process.
Distillery tours and tastings are popular tourist activities for many people who enjoy rum once they visit the island.
15. It’s the Perfect Place for Whale Watching
If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing humpback whales up close and personal, the Dominican Republic is the perfect place to be.
Each year from mid-December to March, around 3000-5000 humpback whales return to Samana Bay from the North Atlantic Ocean to give birth to their calves.
The best months to visit are February and March; a whale-watching tour can easily be arranged.
16. You can defy gravity! (sort of)
Head to the town of Polo, in the southwest of the country, to defy gravity at the “Magnetic Pole” (Polo Magnetico). If you stop your car in neutral gear facing downhill instead of going down, it will roll up!
As exciting as this anti-gravity sounds, the reality is that it is an optical illusion created by the shape of the road and its landscape.
17. Where is the Dominican Republic?
The Dominican Republic occupies two-thirds of Hispaniola, the second-largest island in the Greater Antilles island chain and the first island to have a permanent European settlement after it was discovered by Columbus.
It covers an area of about 18,652 square miles (48,310 square kilometers), roughly the size of the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.
The Atlantic Ocean borders it to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south. The Dominican Republic shares a land border with Haiti, and its nearest neighbors include the island of Puerto Rico and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
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