Though known for its dazzling landscape and historic appeal, the Dominican Republic's lavish resorts and upscale hotels are raising the bar for its Caribbean neighbors. Grabbing the number 9 spot on Condé Nast Traveler's 2007 It List, the Dominican Republic is quickly becoming one of the Caribbean's most sought-after destinations for tourists and business travelers alike. Easily accessible, the country's eight major international airports provide convenient gateways to the island's top cities. Las Americas International, the largest airport, offers flights to destinations throughout the United States, Caribbean, Europe and South America.
Once in the Dominican Republic, guests are immediately transported into the lap of luxury. Expansive resorts and fashionable hotels are popping up across the island at a rapid rate. In fact, more than 20 hotels and resorts have been built over the past two years. Today, over 20,000 upscale rooms make for an excellent range of lodging options throughout the Dominican Republic.
Aside from providing luxurious lodging, many of these establishments are ideal for events and meetings. The Dominican Fiesta Hotel and Casino offers nearly 2,000 square meters of meeting and event space, or room for up to 2,800 people. Often regarded as the capital city's most prestigious meetings locale, the 21-story, 228-room Hilton Santo Domingo has a total of 1,579 square meters of meeting space. Two boardrooms, five flexible meeting rooms, a 669-square-meter ballroom and a 225-square-meter foyer are available for events ranging in function and size.
The Barcelo Bavaro Beach resort features one of the largest and most modern meeting facilities in the Caribbean. Its Barceló Bávaro Convention Center can accommodate up to 5,000 guests within 24 meeting rooms. The center's largest room, the 1,600-square-meter Grand Bávaro Hall, is a stunning venue for black-tie galas and posh affairs of up to 3,000 people.
From casinos to award-winning golf courses, these meeting and convention hotels have much more to offer than boardrooms and ballrooms. Host a casual buffet lunch at Viva Wyndham Tangerine's La Bahia restaurant, or plan an elegant cocktail reception at its Loft Bar. Aside from its two newly-remodeled conference centers, the Casa de Campo resort offers numerous convenient settings for events so that attendees need not venture off resort grounds. The tennis center gardens are an elegant backdrop for dinners and receptions, while the resort's private Minitas Beach can host up to 600 people. Casa de Campo's Altos de Chavon, the resort's own 16th century replica of a Mediterranean village, has several beautiful venues, including the Chavon Terrace, La Piazzetta Restaurant and Chavon Plaza.
Unique venues are certainly not limited to those within resort grounds. La Plaza de la Cultura in Santo Domingo is home to a host of popular attractions that impart a traditional Dominican feel to any event. Add punch to a presentation by holding it in one of three theaters at the historic National Theater. Take the bored out of boardroom with a meeting in the conference room of the Museum of the Dominican Man, home of the world's largest collection of Taino artifacts. With wild orchids and tropical palms as a background, the Santo Domingo National Botanical Gardens are a colorful and elegant setting for cocktails and post-event receptions.
The Dominican Republic's economic mainstay is tourism, followed closely by agriculture. The country serves as headquarters for TRICOM, a major telecommunications corporation, and for cigar manufacturer General Cigar Dominicana.
Located on the landmass known as Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic occupies two-thirds of the 76,192 square kilometers of land it shares with neighboring Republic of Haiti. Originally named La Isla Española, the Dominican Republic was discovered by Christopher Columbus during his first trip to the New World in 1492. Capital city Santo Domingo served as the administrative capital of the New World Spanish Empire and center for Spanish exploration and settlement. An ever-popular locale, the nation was invaded by Spain, France, England, Colombia, Haiti and the United States before gaining independence in 1844.
Despite the repeated changing of hands, much of the country's terrain exists as it did at Columbus' first visit. In fact, more than 20 percent of the island has been set aside for preservation, resulting in 19 national parks, six scientific reserves, 15 nature reserves and two marine sanctuaries. Guests can get an in-depth look at the past of the "First City of the New World" with a visit to the Alcázar de Colón. This 1510 palace served as the center of the Spanish court and the only known home of the Columbus family. One of the city's most popular historic sites, Museo de las Casas Reales traces the history of Santo Domingo through artifacts, art, and re-creations of royal halls.
Many exciting attractions await visitors beyond the capital city as well. At the laidback Bayahibe village on the east coast, the new Casino Dominicus dazzles guests with its gaming tables, slot machines, high-end shopping and Vegas-style entertainment. In the north, Puerto Plata is home to the popular Amber Museum. Here, visitors can explore an extensive collection of Dominican amber, reputed to be the most transparent in the world. Or, for a relaxing day, stroll El Malecón, a 15-kilometer strip along the northern shore. Full of restaurants, beer stands and ice cream parlors, the strip comes alive at night with some of the hottest bars and discos.
From central mountain ranges to sub-tropical forests to sandy beaches, the Dominican Republic's diverse terrain is ideal for getting back to nature as well. Those looking for a true Dominican adventure frequent Punta Cana's day-long Fun-Fun Cave excursion. After rappelling 20 meters into the mouth of the cave, visitors can explore its underground rivers and Indian cave paintings. For a less intense experience in the outdoors, guests can swim with the dolphins at Ocean World Adventure Park or mingle with iguanas and crocodiles at the Parque Zoológico Nacional.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular ways to enjoy the country's pristine setting is through a day on the links. An unparalleled golf destination, the Dominican Republic has over 22 professional golf courses, designed by greats such as Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio. Golfers can spend a day at Punta Espada course in Cap Cana, named one of the Best 10 Golf Courses in the Caribbean by Forbes Traveler. Or, test your skills at the challenging Teeth of the Dog course at Casa de Campo. Designed by Peter Dye, it features eight ocean holes and signature touches such as elevated greens and trick of the eye trees. Whether spending a day on the green, at the beach, or in the city, golfers and non-golfers alike will certainly find that their visit to the Dominican Republic is up to par.
All average costs based on U.S. Government Per Diem rates as published by the U.S. General Services Administration.
The Dominican Republic boasts an "endless summer" moderate tropical climate, with a year-round average temperature of 25°C. The winter months, which span November to April, bring low humidity, average highs of 28°C and average lows of 20°C. The summer season, which runs from May to October, brings an average high of 30°C and average low of 22°C. Summer humidity, however, can make temperatures feel much higher.
The northern region of the island sees the greatest amount of rainfall between October and April, while the southern coast experiences the greatest amount of rainfall between May and November. While torrential downpours can occur, most rainfall in the Dominican Republic is short and closely followed by bursting sunlight and blue skies. The country averages about 140 centimeters of rain per year.
The Dominican Republic is also prone to Caribbean hurricanes, the season for which runs June to November. Most hurricane activity in the Dominican Republic has taken place in August and September. The best time to visit the island is during the winter months, as humidity is low but temperatures are still pleasantly warm.
Barcelo Bavaro Beach (Adults Only) & Convention Center
Opened in 2001, the modern Barceló Bávaro Convention Center is located in the all-inclusive Bávaro Beach resort complex in Punta Cana. Only 20 kilometers from the Punta Cana International Airport, the resort is known for its spectacular beachfront location and extensive range of activity options. The complex features five hotels, 2,000 guest rooms, 16 restaurants and two discotheques, all connected by an open-air shuttle that runs 24/7.
The on-site Barceló Bávaro Convention Center features 24 modern conference and meeting rooms ranging in size from 30 square meters to 1,600 square meters. Among the center's largest rooms, the 1,600-square-meter Grand Bávaro Hall has space for 3,000 people, the 480-square-meter Punta Cana Hall has space for 520 people, and the 300-square-meter Santo Domingo Hall has space for 250 people. Divisible in multiple configurations, each hall also features a stage for entertainment or business functions.
The convention center also has four divisible conference rooms. At 60 square meters in size, each room offers space for up to 60 people. An additional six 30-square-meter meeting rooms have space for up to 25 people each. The Barceló Bávaro Convention Center offers extensive business amenities, including in-house catering, audio-visual equipment rental and a full-service business center.
Casa de Campo
The upscale Casa de Campo Resort spans an incredible 7,000 acres of lush grounds in La Romana along the southern coast of the Dominican Republic. Its simple, yet striking décor features dark woods, vaulted ceilings and lush indoor tropical plants. Just 10 minutes away from the La Romana International Airport and 90 minutes away from the Las Américas International and Punta Cana International airports, the resort is accessible from numerous island entry points.
An ideal location for both business and play, Casa de Campo offers more than 1,390 square meters of meeting space within two conference centers. El Flamboyan Conference Center features an 11-square-meter courtyard with space for 300 people, five salons ranging from 38 square meters to 162 square meters, a 464-square-meter ballroom with space for 500 people, and a 260-square-meter foyer. Meanwhile, El Cacique Conference Center has four meeting rooms ranging in size from 116 square meters to 154 square meters as well as a 116-square-meter foyer.
Casa de Campo features several amenities sure to entice meeting guests. In addition the renowned golf course Teeth of the Dog Golf Course, the resort also boasts 13 tennis courts, a private beach, three pools, 10 restaurants and bars, and a fitness center. Many such spaces provide additional meeting options, such as banquet and reception areas at Minitas Beach, the tennis center pool deck and tennis center gardens. The on-site Altos de Chavon, a re-creation of a 16th century Mediterranean village, has a 5,000-seat amphitheater available for private events.
Dominican Fiesta Hotel & Casino
The upscale Dominican Fiesta Hotel and Casino sits on 40,000 square meters of scenic terrain in Santo Domingo. Along with 310 guest rooms, two restaurants and four bars, the hotel features nearly 2,000 square meters of meeting and event space. With room for up to 2,800 people, the hotel's convention space is divisible into six separate rooms. A 320-square-meter foyer, featuring bold red and gold colors and gleaming tiles, offers additional space for up to 550 people.
The hotel offers extensive technological services and equipment, including screens, white boards, computer rentals and both wireless and DSL Internet connections. Amenities at the sophisticated Dominican Fiesta Hotel and Casino include a fully-equipped gym with sauna, a luxurious casino with game tables and slot machines open nightly, an Olympic-size pool, and nightly music performances in the lobby.
Hilton Santo Domingo
The spectacular 21-story Hilton Santo Domingo is regarded as the capital city's most prestigious meeting and event space. With its bright murals, dark woods, sparkling chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling windows, the hotel's prime location on El Malecón gives it easy access to numerous dining and shopping hotspots. In addition to 228 guest rooms and a sprawling casino, it boasts 1,579 square meters of meeting space. Among its facilities, the hotel has two boardrooms, five flexible meeting rooms, a 669-square-meter ballroom with space for 700 people, a 215-square-meter junior ballroom, and a 225-square-meter foyer.
As the only Santo Domingo hotel with the AAA four diamond rating, the Hilton Santo Domingo also has extensive amenities. Two restaurants and three bars, a spacious health club, swimming pool and large sundeck populate the grounds. All its meeting facilities feature individual climate control, high-speed Internet access, black-out curtains and adjustable lighting, plus incredible views of the Caribbean Sea.
Paradisus Punta Cana Resort
Playa de Bávaro, Punta Cana
Total Meeting Space - 2,287 Sq. Ft.
Viva Wyndham Tangerine
Set on a 10,000-square-meter beachfront complex among lush palm groves, the Viva Wyndham Tangerine offers exceptional amenities and facilities for meetings and events. Located in northern Cabarete, Puerto Plata, just 23 kilometers from Puerto Plata International Airport, the Viva Wyndham Tangerine features 221 guest rooms and nearly 670 square meters of meeting space. Among its meeting facilities, the hotel has three meeting rooms at 185 square meters, 194 square meters and 288 square meters, offering a total capacity of up to 350 people.
Meeting amenities include standard sound equipment, cordless microphones and slide and video projectors. For break hours, the hotel boasts three restaurants, two bars, a beachfront pool, a beauty salon, a spacious spa and a fitness center, and a full-service business center. It also offers special daily activities for groups, including treasure hunts, bingo games, dance classes, sailing and windsurfing trips and cocktail preparation classes. Day excursions to other Dominican Republic locales, including the capital city of Santo Domingo, can be arranged through Viva Wyndham.
The Dominican Republic has eight international airports, servicing flights within the Caribbean and across the globe. La Romana International serves the Casa de Campo resort area; Punta Cana International serves the Punta Cana/Bavaro resort region; Gregorio Luperon International serves the Puerto Plata resort region; Santiago International serves Santiago; El Catey International serves the Samana Peninsula; and Maria Montez International serves Baharona. La Isabela Airport and Las Americas International airport are located in the capital city of Santo Domingo.
Las Americas International Airport (SDQ)
Approximate taxi fare: $974 DOP
Just 29 kilometers east of Santo Domingo, Las Americas International Airport is the Dominican Republic's largest airport with one terminal and seven gates. Serving more than three million passengers per year, Las Americas International offers flights to destinations throughout the United States, Caribbean, Europe and South America.
Airport amenities include duty free shops, a post office, bank and exchange facilities, restaurants and free wireless Internet access throughout public areas. The airport also offers parking space for up to 1,600 vehicles at both short-term and long-term lots. Parking rates run US$7 for the first day and US$3 for each additional day.
Airline carriers serving Las Américas International Airport
The Santo Domingo Metro, set to open in November 2008, will service 15 stations on one 10-mile line in the metropolitan Santo Domingo area. As the first light rail system in the Dominican Republic, the metro is expected to see 200,000 passengers per day. Discussions on expanding the metro system to include more than one line are currently underway.
Fares begin at US$1 for rides within town and increase depending on the distance of travel. Exact change is required.
Avis, Hertz, Europcar and Budget rental car agencies are represented at Las Américas International Airport. Agency counters are located throughout the terminal building.
All taxis in the Dominican Republic are fixed by destination and unmetered, so travelers should ask their taxi driver for the fare total before getting into the taxi. Travelers should expect to pay a minimum of US$4 for travel within Santo Domingo, while the average rate from the Las Américas International Airport to Santo Domingo is around US$25.
Photo Credit : The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism
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