Residents of the Dominican Republic (or ., for short) will extend a gracious welcome, saying, "This is your home!" and indeed are happy to share what they have, which is a physically beautiful island bathed by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south. Among its most precious assets are 1,000 miles of gorgeous beaches studded with coconut palms and sands ranging from pearl white to golden brown to volcanic black. The vibrant lifestyle of this sun-drenched, Latin-Caribbean country, where Spanish is the national language and where the people are hospitable and good-natured, makes the Dominican Republic a different cultural experience. If you pick up the rhythm of life here, as freewheeling as the island's trademark merengue, this can be a beguiling tourist destination.