The Dominican Republic, or DR as it is also known, has an incredibly diverse landscape that ranges from tropical rainforest and mangrove swamp, to expanses of desert, savannah and mountain ranges. Explore Enriquillo Lake, a saltwater lake the size of Manhattan, which is home to crocodiles, rhinoceroses, iguanas and flocks of tropical birds. Enjoy thrills and spills in the town of Cabarete, which offers the best windsurfing and kitesurfing in the Caribbean. Discover colonial architecture in Santa Domingo and let your hair down at La Vega Carnival, a bacchanalia festival that is held every February.
Find out more about Dominican art at Centro Leon in Santiago, which also has an art house cinema and occasionally stages live music. The Museo de las Casas Reales in Santa Domingo is dedicated to the life, history and customs of the people of the DR, while the Museo del Hombre Dominicano in Santa Domingo has an outstanding exhibition of artefacts and exhibitions on the island's culture. The Dominican Republic hosts a multitude of festivals throughout the year, so the chances are, whenever you're thinking of going, there will be something going on. Highlights include the Carnival in February, an explosion of colour and entertainment, and the Merengue Festival in June - Merengue is the island's spicy Latin music. As well as live bands there are DJs on every corner and beer tents.
Ride a cable car to the top of Pico Isabel de Torres and enjoy spectacular views whilst taking a wander in the botanical gardens, but go early before the mountain clouds come to obscure the views. Get out and about in the East National Park, a peninsula jutting out into the Caribbean which is home to over 400 caves and a maze of forest, mangrove swamps, cliffs and huge numbers of birds. Pack your towels and costumes and head to DR's finest beach, Playa Rincon, where palm trees fringe turquoise waters, and where you can enjoy freshly caught grilled fish at a seaside shack. See historic attractions including the 16th-century Spanish Fort San Felipe and La Puerte de Conde, or Count's Gate in Santa Domingo, where independence was proclaimed in the 19th-century.
Dominican Republic cuisine is predominantly a mixture of Spanish, African and indigenous Taino influences, along with elements adopted from the Middle East. Top tips for dining out include La Terrasse in La Terrenas – sample the steak with pepper or red snapper in garlic – and try the rustic cliff-side El Cabito in Las Galeras, with unbeatable views. Alternatively, if you're just looking to sip a beer, or a long, cool drink and hang out, try the Lost Bar in Bayahibe, and Praia in Santa Domingo.
People in the Dominica Republic certainly know how to celebrate. For something cultural, seek out the Casa da Teatro, an arts complex in a renovated colonial building, which has a gallery, an open-air bar and a performance space that regularly stages dances and theatre productions. Watch a baseball game at the Estadio Quisquey stadium, or enjoy live Salsa and Merengue at the Jet Set, both in Santa Domingo.