The white-sand beaches, impressive mountain ranges veined with spectacular rivers and waterfalls, and saltwater lakes teeming with exotic wildlife are part of the Dominican Republic's appeal. Whether looking to party, relax or explore, the Dominican Republic has a lot to offer. Steer a small boat through endless mangrove forests in search of gentle manatees. Spy on lovesick humpback whales in the Bahía de Samaná. Get back to civilization and prepare to party. The locals throw festivals, parties and carnivals. Folks in the Americas' first European city, Santo Domingo, don't just spend their time admiring the fine colonial architecture gracing their home. This town has not one, but two complete Carnivals, complete with parades, elaborate floats, live music, and dancing in the streets. Pre-Lent Carnivals are celebrated in Santiago, Cabral, Monte Cristi and La Vega as well. Check out the country's two major merengue festivals, the annual Latin Music Festival and the national surfing and windsurfing championships.