Columbus discovered the island of Hispaniola (which he called La Espaniola) in 1492 and established it as his main base for the further exploration of the region. Today, the Dominican Republic shares the island with Haiti, a former French colony. Most tourists who come to the island are initially attracted by the magnificent golden sand beaches along its 1,400km (870-mile) coastline. The island's northern, Atlantic side contains the majority of tourist attractions, hotels and resorts, particularly in the 64km (40-mile) zone between Puerto Plata and Cabarete.Santo Domingo, in the south, features the very first monuments of the American continent: the first cathedral, the first hospital, the first chapel and the first university. In the centre of the country, the three main mountain ranges run roughly parallel to each other in an easterly/westerly direction. The Cordillera Central is the highest mountain range on the island. It includes Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the Caribbean at a height of 3,098m (over 10,000ft).