The Dominican Republic (Republica Dominicana) is a country located on the island of Haiti. The island was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492. Haiti is washed by the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The Dominican economy is developing rapidly, but tourism is still one of the main sources of the country's revenue.
Diving business is quite developed and offers everything for diving at the highest professional level. However, the region itself boasts no rich and diverse marine life. The diver's ultimate treasures in the Dominican Republic are caves located in the regions of Santo-Domingo, Costa Norte, Bayahibe, La Altagracia and others. Besides, local diving regions are perfect for beginners and trainees.
If you are experienced enough, you may practice techno and cave diving in caves of Bayahibe. By the way, they are included in the top ten best dive sites in the world. Two nice wrecks, St. George and Atlantic Princess, are also located here. There are some good caves for cave divers in the Santo Domingo area. The famous Dudu cave is located on the Samaná Peninsula. Beginner divers will enjoy dive sites of La Caleta National Park, Saona and Catalina islands (Spanish: Isla Saona and Isla Catalina), as well as the Punta-Cana area.
You can find dive shops of main international systems in any tourist zone of the country: Bavaro/Punta-Cana, Puerto Plata and in Samana. The dive shops offer one-day fun trips, training services, insurance, equipment for rent and sale, comfortable ships and speedboats. High-profile cave diving is usually organized in advance; in some places, it is available exclusively upon request.
The hot and humid season starts in May when spring showers come. The air temperature then reaches up to +32°С, and the water warms up to about +27°С. Samaná Bay is unavailable for diving in March.
Summer is the low tourist season with heat and torrential rains. The air temperature is around +32 °С, and the water warms up to +28 °С. Diving is possible all year round, but visibility can be rather low in August-October due to a chance of hurricanes.
Autumn is the low season here, and there is a possibility of hurricanes in September. Rains practically stop in November; the air temperature slightly drops to about +31°С, and the water temperature remains between +27-29°С. Atlantic diving can be difficult in September and October.
Winter is the high tourist season here. The air temperature is about +30 °C and the water temperature reaches +27-28 °С. Rains are unlikely. Diving activity is booming, but the Samaná Bay (Spanish: Bahía de Samaná) is closed because of the whale mating season.
The best dive sites on the Caribbean coast are located near the islands of Saona and Catalina. St. George and Atlantic Princess wrecks, located in the Bayahibe area, are the most well-preserved shipwrecks here. The best caves in the country are La Sirena, La Roca, El Tildo, Dudu, El Chicho, Padre Nuestro, as well as El Cangrejo and La Negra cave systems.
In case of an emergency, you can receive qualified medical help in private clinics in the country's capital, Santo Domingo, as well as in the main tourist locations. Besides, there are many small medical practices, although their equipment and qualification of doctors may not be considered satisfactory. Travel health insurance is mandatory, and diving insurance can be provided on the spot. Vaccination is not necessary. The safety level is generally appropriate. It is rather safe to go outside in the capital, large cities and tourist areas. The most common are petty crimes and home thievery, as well as petty scams.
It is highly unlikely that you will meet sharks or other dangerous marine predators at Dominican dive sites. At best, you may face small reef sharks, but they don't normally concern themselves with humans. Sharp corals and sea urchins are the main dangers for beginner divers with poor buoyancy control. You will remember the moment you accidentally touched a sea urchin's spikes for the rest of your life.
The Dominican cuisine blends African, European and local traditions. Many recipes include bananas, beans and vegetables. Every tourist should try a local dish La Bandera, which is a chicken, pork or beef stew with fried bananas, rice and baked beans. Another popular recipe is a thick rice soup Asopao, cooked with chicken, vegetables, shrimp, lobsters and mussels. It is served with a glass of an orange sauce.
The country's signature drink is rum; there are 15 types of this alcoholic beverage in the Dominican Republic. Also, you can try Mamajuana, an alcoholic drink made by concocting bark and herbs that steep in red wine. Dominicans' favorite desserts are juicy fruits and nuts: mangoes, bananas, guavas, oranges, coconuts, chinolas (passionfruit) and pineapples. Since tap water here may be unsafe to drink, it is advisable to consume only bottled water.