Yes, it is true that he Dominican Republic is one of the poorest nations in the Caribbean. My wife and I went to Santo Domingo, capital of the island, however, and we enjoyed getting a factory tour of a Larimar mine - a semi-precious stone found only in the D.R.
We bought a nice piece and my wife has a beautiful bracelet made from it.
We also found the local church to be very interesting since it was one of the first cities in the new world. Many people who probably kmew Columbus personally are buried in there.
I think you are referring to La Semana. That is an entirely different place, known as a resort area it is very isolated peninsula on the island and very poor. I agree, we got off there and had abosolutely nothing to see or do onshore. We couldn't wait to get back to the ship.
I suspect there must be something there worthwhile for people to see, but I do not know what it may be. Let me do some research.