Between Florida and South America, a string of island nations rim the Caribbean Sea. Beachy beauties, they offer romantic getaways and winter retreats. Recent reports out of the Dominican Republic, though, have travelers rethinking that country's appeal.

Trouble began before Red Sox great and former Minnesota Twin David Ortiz was shot there. The State Department has confirmed the mysterious deaths of four Americans at DR resorts. A 41-year-old Pennsylvania woman died in May, shortly after arriving at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville in La Romana and having a drink from the minibar. Five days later at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana, a Maryland couple were found dead in their room. A California man died at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana. A woman was violently assaulted at the Majestic Elegance Punta Cana Hotel. The list of incidents is growing as other travelers report their own vacation illnesses or rethink the cause of death of a loved one in the DR.

The country's tourism minister said in a video shared by Time, "In the last five years, we have received more than 30 million tourists visiting the country, and it is the first time that the attention of the international press echoes a situation that could be qualified as worrisome."

The hotel industry is asking potential visitors to await more information before jumping to conclusions. That is a sentiment worth considering, but no one wants worry to cloud a sunny vacation.

A look at the State Department's advisory levels for the region, though, provides perspective; read about each country at Like the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Cuba, the Dominican Republic is at level 2 (exercise increased caution). Countries south of the DR, including St. Kitts and Nevis, Barbados and St. Lucia, are at level 1 (normal precautions). Haiti is the outlier, at level 3.

Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.