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Tourist Islands of
the West Indies
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Things To Do
In 1492 Christopher Columbus proclaimed this to be "the most beautiful island man has ever seen." Along the over one thousand miles of beaches this beauty is apparent. The North Coast east of Puerto Plata, called the Amber Coast because of rich amber deposits, offers watersports, diving and great snorkeling. Going east, you'll find Sosua, a small town with a spectaclular beach, and Cabarete with some of the best windsurfing in the world. Samaná Bay is part of a 20,000-sq-km marine sanctuary. It is one of the world's best spots for whalewatching from December to March.
The most easterly coast has the Caribbean's longest beach at Punta Cana/Bávaro - a 20-mile stretch of white sand. In the south just 14 miles east of Santo Domingo, is La Caleta Submarine National Park, four square miles with three terraces paralleling the coast, home to numerous multicolored fish.
Also east of Santo Domingo, Altos de Chavón is a recreation of a 16th-century Italian village. It's situated on a spectacular bluff high above the Río Chavón. Altos de Chavón is home to the Museo Arqueológico Regional, with its exhibits of the Taínos, the island's indigenous people, and an amphitheater for open-air concerts starring top Dominican and international performers.
In Santo Domingo visit the Jardín Botánico, featuring horsedrawn carriages, a train that tours the grounds and a beautiful Japanese garden, and the Parque Zoológico Nacional, one of the largest in Latin American.
A day strolling through the Zona Colonial will be a highlight of your visit. Start at the Alcázar de Colón built by Columbus' son Diego in 1510. It is now beautifully restored with a 16th-century tiled kitchen and Spanish furnishings. Nearby is La Atarazana, 16th- century warehouses converted to shops and restaurants. Go down Las Damas to see Las Casas Reales, formerly the Palace of Governors, now an excellent colonial museum.
The first cathedral in the New World was Catedral Basílica Menor de Santa María, "Primada de América", fully restored in 1992 with sculptures at the gates showing indigenous people. From here stroll along Calle El Conde, a bustling pedestrian walkway lined with shops.
Also in the Zona Colonial is the Mercado Modelo, a busy market where you'll find Dominican coffee, local produce, straw products, wood carvings and an amazing array of other interesting crafts. Be prepared to bargain!