Dominican Republic Cultural Sites and Monuments

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The Dominican Republic (DR) has a rich and storied history that traces back over thousands of years to the times of the Taino Indians. Following the island’s discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1492, the Republic had epic interaction with the Spanish, French, Haitians and Africans. Because of this blending of diverse cultures, today the DR boasts an impressive collection of historic sites and cultural relics from centuries past. The country has done a magnificent job of maintaining and preserving these artifacts as well as the historical structures in which they’re housed. Visiting the DR’s major cities, especially Santo Domingo, tourists can easily become engrossed in the historical legends that accompany some of the oldest museums and archaeological sites in the New World.

The DR also has a unique collection of natural rocks and gems that can only be found on the island. Near Barahona, a turquoise-blue pectolite stone known as larimar has been cultivated from the volcanic rock that once formed the island. The country’s most popular gem, amber, is the result of tree sap that hardened millions of years ago, sometimes capturing small plants, animals and insects inside. These two geological imprints are used in jewelry, sometimes together and other times in single pieces. The country’s museums and archeological sites intrigue adults and provide a historical lesson for children. From rare jewelry to historic relics and Taino Indian Drawings in ancient caves, each venue showcases a vastly different aspect of the island’s colorful heritage.

Historical Museums, North Coast

Amber Museum

61 Duarte Street, Playa Dorada, Puerto Plata
Phone: 809-320-2215
Hours: Open 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday
This two-story Victorian museum contains a collection of the world’s most transparent amber. Well-preserved plants, insects and animals that were captured in prehistoric tree sap are on display.

Insider’s tip – The Puerto Plata Amber Museum contains the famous amber mosquito scepter seen in the box-office hit, “Jurassic Park.”

Jewish Museum

Phone: (809) 571-1386
Hours: Open 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.; 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. daily
This museum is a tribute to the 700 Jewish refugees taken in by former president Rafael Trujillo in 1938 during the Nazi occupation of Germany. Exhibits

Fort San Felipe

Puerto Plata
Phone: (809) 261-6043
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Constructed in the 16th century to ward off pirates, Fort San Felipe stands as an important remaining historical site on the North Coast of the DR.

East Coast

Altos de Chavon Regional Museum of Archaeology
La Romana
Hours: Open 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. daily
Located on the Chavon River, this museum boasts a collection of more than 3,000 artifacts from the native Taino Indians who once inhabited the region.

The Punta Cana Ecological Foundation

Punta Cana on the East Coast
Phone: (809) 959-9221
Hours: Open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
With 1,500 acres of protected, biodiverse environmental regions, the Punta Cana Egological Foundation is a pillar in sustainable tourism and environmental education in the East. The property includes etymology exhibits with butterflies, moths and beetles and its own vegetable garden.

Casa Ponce de León

South of Higuey in San Rafael de Yuma
Phone: (809) 551-0118
Hours: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday
This palace and museum in San Rafael de Yuma houses artifacts from the famous Spanish Conquistador, Juan Ponce de León

Basilica de Higuey Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia

37 miles west of Punta Cana in Higuey
Phone: (809) 554-4541
Hours: 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
Higuey’s basilica, built in 1972, contains beautiful stained glass, candle lighting altars and a statue of the DR’s patron saint, the Virgen de la Altagracia.

Museo Vivo del Tabaco

Higuey in Punta Cana
Phone: (809) 551-1128
Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
The tobacco museum in Higuey educates guests on the local methods of growing and harvesting tobacco and rolling it into cigars, which are also available for purchase outside the structure.

South Central Coast

Museo de las Casas Reales (Museum of the Royal Houses)
Calle Las Damas, Santo Domingo
Phone: (809) 682-4202Hours: Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily
Once the 16th century governor’s Supreme Court, this museum documents Santo Domingo’s rich history with tapestries, maps and other artifacts from 1492 to 1821.

Alcázar de Colón (Castle of Columbus)

Santo Domingo
Phone: (809) 686-8657
Hours: Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Sunday
This palace, including artifacts from the Columbus family, was built in the 1500’s by Christopher’s son, Diego, and his wife.

Museo Del Hombre Dominicano (Museum of the Dominican Man)

Plaza de la Cultura, Santo Domingo
Phone: 809-686-2145
Hours: Open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday
Set in the Plaza de la Cultura, this museum is reputed to have the country’s best collection of pre-Columbian artifacts including jewelry, religious pieces and sculptures. A favorite exhibit explains the effects of African slavery with displays of voodoo artifacts and carnival costumes.

Museo Nacional de Historia y Geografia (Museum of History and Geography)

Plaza de la Cultura, Santo Domingo
Phone : 809-686-2145
Hours : Open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday
This museum contains a thorough collection of artifacts that contributed to the country’s historical timeline. Displays highlight the DR’s first inhabitants, American occupation and interaction with Haiti.

Museo de Larimar (Museum of Larimar)

54 Calle Isabel la Catolica, Santo Domingo
Phone: 809-689-6605
Hours: Open 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday; 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., Sunday
This new museum explains the island’s mining and jewelry industry. Exhibits demonstrate the extraction, shaping and jewelry-making processes of larimar.

Museo de la Familia Dominicana del Siglo XIX (Museum of the Dominican Family of the 19th Century)

Casa de Tostado, Calle Arzobispo Merino, Santo Domingo
Hours : Open 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday
Built in 1503, this colonial mansion exhibits artifacts and personal belongings of a 19th century well-to-do Santo Domingo family. While its contents are intriguing, the best part of the museum is the house itself, which has the only double Gothic window in North or South America

Taino Indian Sites

Caves played an important role in the lives of the Taino Indians. In fact, their creation myth is centered around a cave located on the island. Stories of the Taino interaction with various plants, animals, spirits and each other can be seen in the elaborate pictographs and stone carvings within the structures. Other Taino artifacts are housed at museums and even an excavated burial ground at a local beach.

North Coast

La Isabela National Park
This National Park is complete with a Taino museum that illustrates the way these natives lived, ate, prepared food and sustained themselves day-to-day. Visitors can examine a mock thatched hut and crops.

National Park Jaragua, Barahona

This park contains some of the oldest Taino Indian sites on the island. Cave the Poza and the Mongó Cave, within the park, display pictographs and petroglyphs of their time.

Southwest Coast

Museo Prehispanico
A Taino museum, located in Santo Domingo, this museum showcases objects from daily life such as jewelry, pottery and ritual items. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Las Caritas

Deep in the southwest corner of the country, on Lago Enriquillo, is Las Caritas. This cave is rumored to have hidden Taino leader Enriquillo from the Spanish during their conflict with the native people in the early 1500’s. The cave also contains dozens of small chiseled faces into the rock walls that seem to come alive to all who enter it.

East Coast

Jose Maria Cave
Located far into the Parque Nacional del Este near La Romana, this limestone cave holds 1,200 Taino paintings depicting mythological events and a peace offering for the Spaniards in 1503.

Penon Gordo, Bayahibe

Penon Gordo is one of 200 caves in the Parque Nacional del Este. This cave displays a chiseled guardian figure at the entrance of the cave and several Taino paintings.

El Pomier Caves

Located north of San Cristobal, visitors can view the Caribbean’s largest collection of Taino cave art. Scenes of spirits, rituals and objects of Taino belief are included in the drawings. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Cueva de las Maravillas

Located within San Pedro de Macoris, these caves contain nearly 500 Taino pictographs and petroglyphs. Open 9 a.m.
to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday

Parque Submarino La Caleta

This national park reveals an excavated Taino burial ground with several skeletons on display at the beach. Open 9 a.m.
to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Los Indios de Chacuey

Known as the Stonehenge of the Caribbean, a similar circular formation of rocks surrounding a stone slab indicates a possible Taino ceremonial center

Northeast Coast

Parque Nacional Los Haitises
Accessible only by an organized boat trip due to the swamps and rocky terrain that surround them, these caves display drawings of various animals and human faces. A standard boat trip, on the Ruta Litoral takes ourists on a two-and-a-half hour boat tour that visits three main caves within the park.

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