WHY WE LOVE IT
- Sharing the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, the second-largest Caribbean country (after Cuba) is about much more than low-cost all-inclusives (though, yes, there are lots).
- About 1,000 miles of white-sand beaches, primo surfing and diving, mountains, rain forest, fast-flowing rivers.
- The large expat element helps keep the nightlife varied; restaurants are well above the Caribbean average.
- The capital, Santo Domingo, is truly historic, with many 16th-century buildings in the Zona Colonial.
- Good buys: Brugal, Barceló and Bermudez rum, merengue and bachata CDs, hand-rolled cigars, Cibao Altura coffee, jewelry with local larimar or amber, bottles of mamajuana elixir.
WHEN TO GO
There's not much of an off-season, even though the June through November rainy season really does get wet. Look for bargains in April and May, just before that starts.