The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the West Indies in the Caribbean region. One third of the western part of the island is occupied by Haiti, thus two countries occupy La Hispaniola. Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with 48,442 km ² and an estimated 10 million people.
Inhabited by taínos since the seventh century, the territory of the Dominican Republic was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, namely Santo Domingo, the capital city and first capital Spain in the New World. In Santo Domingo stand, among other firsts in the Americas, the first cathedral and castle, the both in the Ciudad Colonial, declared as a World Heritage Site.
The Dominican Republic has become the Caribbean's largest tourist destination, and the country's year-round golf courses are among the main attractions. This mountainous country also has the highest peak in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte, and also Lake Enriquillo, the Caribbean's largest salted lake and with the lowest elevation.
Dominican Republic has a moderate average temperature (26 ° C) and is known for its great biological diversity .La music and sport are of the highest importance in Dominican culture, with merengue as the national dance and song and baseball the favorite sport.
The climate of the Dominican Republic is mostly tropical. The average annual temperature is 25 ° C (77 ° F). At higher elevations, the temperature averages 18 ° C (64 ° F) while near sea level the average temperature is 28 ° C (82 ° F). Low temperatures of 0 ° C (32 ° F) are possible in the mountains while high temperatures of 40 ° C (104 ° F) are possible in protected valleys. January and February are the coldest months of the year, while August is the hottest month. Some snowflakes can fall in rare occasions on the top of the Pico Duarte.
The rainy season along the northern coast lasts from November through January. Elsewhere, the wet season lasts from May to November; with May is the wettest month. The average annual rainfall is 1,500 millimeters (59 inches) across the country, with individual locations in the Valle de Neiba see averages only 350 millimeters (14 inches), while the average of the Eastern Cordillera 2740 millimeters (108 inches).
The driest part of the country lies in the west. Tropical hurricanes impact sporadically country, with 65 percent of the impacts along the southern coast. Hurricanes are most likely between August and October. The last time a category 5 hurricane struck the country was Hurricane David in 1979.
The Dominican Republic has the ninth largest economy in Latin America, and second largest in the Caribbean and Central American region. It is an upper middle-income developing country primarily dependent on agriculture, mining, trade, and services. Although the service sector has recently overtaken agriculture as the leading employer of Dominicans (due principally to growth in tourism and Free Trade Zones), agriculture remains the most important sector in terms of domestic consumption and is in second place (behind mining) in terms of export earnings. Tourism accounts for more than $1 billion in annual earnings. Free trade zone earnings and tourism are the fastest-growing export sectors. According to a 1999 International Monetary Fund report, remittances from Dominican Americans, are estimated to be about $1.5 billion per year. Most of these funds are used to cover basic household needs such as shelter, food, clothing, health care and education. Secondarily, remittances have financed small businesses and other productive activities.
The Dominican peso (DOP, or RD $) is the national currency, but U.S. Dollars (USD) and euros (EUR) are also accepted at most tourist sites.
The population of the Dominican Republic in 2007 was estimated by the United Nations at 9,760,000, which placed it number 82 in population among the 193 countries of the world. In that year, about 5% of the population was over 65 years old, while 35% of the population was under 15 years of age. There were 103 males for every 100 females in the country in 2007. According to the UN, the annual growth rate for 2006-2007 is 1.5%, with the projected population for the year 2015 to 10,121,000.
It has been estimated by the Dominican government that the population density in 2007 was 192 km ² (498 per km ²), and 63% of the population lived in urban areas. The southern coastal plains and the Cibao Valley are the most densely populated areas of the country.
The capital city, Santo Domingo, had a population of 3,014,000 in 2007. Other major cities include Santiago de los Caballeros (population 756.098), La Romana (population 250,000), San Pedro de Macoris, San Francisco de Macoris, Puerto Plata and La Vega. For the United Nations, the rate of urban population growth for 2000-2005 was of 2, 3%.