Lazy palm trees, reef-blotched waters and shining white sands tell you that you've arrived on the shores of the Dominican Republic's island paradise. Rolling golf courses unravel along pristine coastline, while caves plunge deep into forest-coated mountains, and fields of sugar cane wave in the sea breeze. With its beaches of unmistakable Caribbean beauty and culture-packed cities, La Romana opens up the Dominican Republic's charms and serves as a fantastic jumping-off point for the rainforest and islands of Cotubanamá National Park. Accessible only by boat, Palmilla, is an isolated and exquisite stretch of white sand beach, which peeks out from the jungle's clutches. Sleek reef sharks patrol the shallow waters of Isla Saona, a stunning island, waiting just offshore. Wade out on a soft shelf of sand into the knee-deep water, as you explore some of the most majestic beaches on the planet, or visit protected sites, where tiny turtles take their first cautious steps. An excursion west to Santo Domingo is always tempting, and you can pay a visit to the capital's Ciudad Colonial - the oldest permanent town built by Europeans in the new world, which was founded by Bartholomew Columbus.His older brother, Christopher Columbus, also has an eternal presence here. The great explorer's remains rest in Columbus Lighthouse, which fires shards of light high into the sky. Back in La Romana, the Altos De Chavón's massive bowl of an open-air amphitheatre is the perfect place to share a concert experience with 5,000 others, as the stars flash vividly overhead.