This is a guide to one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, which has much more to offer than its idyllic beaches. The site of the first European settlement in the Americas, the country has a long and often turbulent history, marked by dictators, foreign invasions and popular uprisings. For almost two centuries the country has shared the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, a proximity which had led to friction and occasional conflict. Despite efforts to abandon dependency on sugar and to modernize the economy, the Dominican Republic still faces considerable poverty and social tensions. Migration, legal and illegal, provides a lifeline to many poor communities. Yet this often difficult past and present have created one of the most distinctive and vibrant cultures in the Caribbean, where 16th-century colonial architecture contrasts with modern office blocks, and where Spanish, African and American influences are apparent in music, food and art.