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DOMINICAN REPUBLIC IS GROWING DESTINATION

It was spotted by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and today the Dominican Republic is a fast-growing vacation destination, with miles of beaches, tropical forests and the tallest mountain in the Caribbean.

Try out kiteboarding at the beach city of Cabarete (www.activecabarete.com) which the "Activities" page proclaims as the Adventure Capital of the Caribbean. Kiteboarding, also known as kite surfing, involves riding a surfboard being towed by an airfoil-shaped "kite."

If you like the kite idea but not getting wet, the Dominican Republic also has paragliding (www.caribbeanfreeflying.com) like hang gliding under a flexible wing. Dominican Adventures (www.drpure.com) has suggestions for other high-energy pursuits ranging from rock climbing and "canyoning" top scuba diving and cave exploring.

East from Cabarete along the popular north coast, the Samana Peninsula (www.samana.net/sn-english.html) offers a little of everything from coral reefs to rainforest-covered mountains. Click on "Attractions" for links to outfits that advertise whale-watching boat tours. And if you have time, browse through their extensive photo gallery.

Learn about the other major beaches, resort centers and inland cities by clicking on "Destination Guide" at the Dominican Republic Travel Guide (www.hispaniola.com) and playing with their interactive map.

And be sure to explore "Things to Do" for tips on festivals, activities from fishing to whale-watching, and ideas for keeping your kids entertained.

Get acquainted with the nation's history, culture and widely diverse geography by visiting Dominican Republic Information (www.dominicanrepublic.com) and then click on "Baseball, National Passion" to see what the residents care about. This is also one of the many sites on the Web that provide a basic directory of hotels and resorts.

Get a brief introduction to the island's cuisine at Dominican Republic Index (www.drindex.com) and learn about public transportation, including the "gua-gua" or "voladora" minibus.

Then take a minute to listen to short clips of the local "bachata" music. While you're there, check out their maps of the country.

If you need a break from the beach, the historic capitol city of Santo Domingo (http://dominicanbreeze.com/santodomingo) has picturesque colonial architecture, museums and the Columbus Lighthouse, believed to house the remains of Christopher Columbus.

Roger Petterson, Associated Press

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