The Dominican Republic’s characteristic Caribbean lure includes alluring white beaches, vibrant music and dance, and exotic food. Its stunning mountain scenery, picturesque villages, and striking colonial architecture makes studying abroad in the Dominican Republic a true learning experience amid some of Latin America’s wildest natural beauty.
Geography & Demographics
Most people in Dominican Republic are descended from the Spanish, Africans, and the indigenous Taino. Today, the Dominican Republic is a mix of African, Caucasian and multiracial ethnicities. A class system continues to characterize Dominican Republic today, as does residual tension with neighboring Haiti. When studying abroad in the Dominican Republic, you’ll win favor with the locals by trying to speak as much Spanish as you can.
The nation’s capital city, Santo Domingo, is the oldest permanent settlement in the Western Hemisphere. Dominican Republic is a rather small country, its geographical area is only a little more than twice the size of the U.S. state of New Hampshire.
Being in the Dominican Republic is like experiencing non-stop summer, with a temperature that remains fairly consistent (averaging at 81-87º Fahrenheit). The summer months in Dominican Republic fall between May and October, the hottest time of the year, with the most rainfall occurring during May. The busiest tourist season is from December to April, when most travellers from the north are trying to escape the cold weather in their countries.
Food & Culture
Dominican cuisine offers a heady mix of Taino, Spanish, and African influences, with a twist that is distinctively Dominican. Meals here are usually high in starch and carbohydrates. Most dishes are simple and are made of locally grown ingredients readily available from trees, gardens, and in nearby stores, with fresh fish or locally grown meat.
A popular breakfast option in the Dominican Republic is the mangúl (mashed plantains topped with onions). They also commonly serve mazamorra (mashed squash served with onions). Another favorite breakfast meal includes fried salami, eggs, and fried cheese.
A typical Dominican lunch is la bandera Dominica (the Dominican flag), a meal that includes rice, beef stew and meat. A Dominican dinner is light, usually a variation of the breakfast meals, or sometimes just a sandwich.
Baseball is the greatest passion of the Dominicans. There are more than 500 native Dominican ballplayers in the U.S. major leagues.
Things to Do
Studying abroad in the Dominican Republic will absolutely take you out of the classroom, and what you choose to do when you’re out and about is up to you. You can go horseback riding, scuba diving, and riverboat fishing in Casa de Ocampo, a beach resort in La Romana. Or, join the national obsession and catch (or play in) some baseball games.
Visit the Columbus Lighthouse, a world museum that’s a colossal monument to the explorer Christopher Columbus. Get to know the Dominican Republic’s original inhabitants, the Taino people, by visiting Santo Domingo’s renowned museum, the Museo del Hombre Dominicano. Take in the great architecture and history of colonial Old Town at Puerto Plata. Drop by Fort San Felipe, the old Spanish fortress, or check out important historical buildings at the Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo.
Join in the Dominican nightlife by dancing merengue in Santo Domingo, or partying at the nightclubs along Avenida Venezuela or on the boardwalk, the Malecon. Blend in with the natives and order the local favorite, Cuba libre servicio (iced rum and cola). You will find the drink in one of the country’s many colmadons (grocery stores that double as bars).
Carnival in the Dominican Republic is always a spectacle. If you are studying abroad in the Dominican Republic during February, do not miss Carnival in La Vega, said to be the best Carnival celebration in the Caribbean. It’s held each Sunday in February, attracting hundreds of thousands of people per year.
The salt-water lake Lago Enriquillo has an astonishing population of tropical birds and crocodiles. Mount Isabela de Torres offers a splendid view of the ocean and surrounding landscapes. Many mountain bikers come from all over the world to tackle the Cordillera Septentrional (the country’s northern mountain range). Offshore game fishing draws international tourists who catch dorado, sailfish, and marlin. Some of the best windsurfing in the Americas is found at the Cabarate on the north coast. Between mid-January and mid-March is whale watching season; at the Samana headlands, you can see thousands of humpback whales making their annual visit.