|Capital City||Santo Domingo|
|Carbon Footprint||7.87 CO2|
|Currency||Dominican Republic Peso|
The Dominican Republic boasts an astonishingly varied landscape that makes it a compelling destination for family holidays, from alpine wilderness to tropical rainforest, from mangrove swamps to cultivated savannahs, from vast desert expanses to the world's oldest city. And then there's the exquisite, palm-fringed, white Caribbean beaches.
This is a growing eco-tourist destination but also has an intriguing culture and history embracing the early cave-dwelling Tainos, La Isabela, Columbus’s colony, and Spain’s first new world city, Santo Domingo.
The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with less-desirable Haiti but is worlds apart, with a stable government and successful tourist industry.
Head for the southeastern part of the Dominican Republic, where the best beaches and tourist facilities make it ideal for family holidays. The best resorts are Bavaro and Punta Cana, although Playa Dorada is the largest and hence often the one where you'll find the best deals. In Punta Cana, make sure to go exploring in an adventure buggy – drivers must be 18+, but any age can be a passenger.
Seek out more great beaches on the less-built-up Samana peninsula, where you can view migrating humpback whales. Colonial Santo Domingo is full of old Spanish buildings to admire. At Cabarete, a dynamic watersports centre, laugh at the teenagers trying to look cool kiteboarding or try to windsurf with your own.
Visit Monkey Jungle between Sosua and Cabarete, 9km up El Choco. This 280-acre farm has a zipline with a freefall fan descender dropping about 18m into an ancient cave. You can also tour its botanical garden in an old grotto, where 25 squirrel monkeys live tame and a large enclosure houses rescued capuchins.
Take the kids on an unforgettable boat ride through mangrove swamps and prehistoric caves in the island’s remote southeast, where they can pretend to be some of the Dominican Republic's famous pirates.
In the centre of the country, around Jarabacoa, take an adrenaline-boosting white-water rafting trip with children 12 and up.
Heavily influenced by Spanish cuisine, local cuisine has lots of garlicky tomato sauces, served over fresh fish and meat (mainly chicken or goat), rice and beans. Jerk cooking – marinated meat cooked in a pit, smoker or BBQ - is also common.
Fruits here are fabulous: think bananas, grapefruit, soursop, carambola, guava and coconuts. Some are used to flavour foods – family holidays here aren't complete without sampling banana bread, guava jelly and coconut meat.
Rum is the tipple of choice, while – unusually for the Caribbean – you can drink wonderful freshly roasted coffee.
Temperatures in the Dominican Republic range from 18 to 25°C between December and May, and 24 and 35°C between June and November, with July and August the hottest months.
June to November, the official hurricane season, sees the heaviest rainfall and occasional tropical storms. (If you do depart during hurricane season, book late to avoid turbulent weather and get a cheaper deal.)
The peak season is Dec–Feb, so a great time to schedule family holidays is March–May, when there are fewer visitors but the weather is still gorgeous.
Flights from the UK to the Dominican Republic – Puerto Plata, Punta Cana International/Higuey Airport or Santo Domingo Airport (SDQ) – take around 10 hours and the time difference is GMT-4 or -5, so be prepared for jetlag.
Package family holiday deals tend to be the best means of experiencing the Dominican Republic with kids, with prices starting at around £300 for seven days at an all-inclusive resort, rising to around £900 for two weeks in peak season. Otherwise, expect to pay from £30 to £100 a night for a hotel room.
Flights also vary quite dramatically, from about £250 to £450+.By Rhonda Carrier
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