Beaches, tropical weather, all-night music, and hundreds of years of fascinating history make the Dominican Republic's capital an intoxicating destination.
You can laze around on tropical beaches in Boca Chica, tour some of the oldest churches in the Americas in the Zona Colonial, or shop for luxury clothing or jewelry on the Avenida Winston Churchill. Buy gorgeous Larimar jewels, dance and down cocktails at Sabina Bar, or just savor delicious Dominican food at local restaurants like Mesón de Bari.
Whether you need to soak up some sunshine, satisfy your hunger for historical knowledge, or just want to dive into an energetic, exciting Latin American metropolis, Santo Domingo is a great place to visit.
When the Spanish arrived in the New World, Santo Domingo was one of the first cities they founded, and the core of the modern city still has the feel of the 16th century about it. Visitors can head to the Catedral Primada de América, which dates back to 1514, or the Fortaleza Ozama, which is even older, but just wandering around the Zona Colonial is rewarding for history fans.
Temperatures in Santo Domingo hardly ever drop below 70 degrees, and are rarely uncomfortably high either. With dependable mid 80s sunshine and beaches galore, you can count on finding ideal vacation conditions (if you visit outside hurricane season).
Santo Domingo is also an underrated gourmet destination. At leading restaurants like Mesón de Bari you'll find local delicacies like Pollo Guisado, mashed plantain, seven meat stews, and traditional cakes to die for.
Only found on a single peak in the Dominican Republic, Larimar is an incredibly rare, bright blue gemstone that can be fashioned into pendants, necklaces, rings, and bracelets. Don't miss the Larimar Museum in Santo Domingo, which is a great place to find masterpieces by local artisans.
When you stay in Santo Domingo, you'll be a few miles from idyllic Caribbean beach resorts like Boca Chica. Rent a car and you can cruise the coast, see all of the beaches, dive to pristine corals, and dine at seafront restaurants as you go.
At the heart of America's First City, the time-worn Catedral Primada de America sets the tone for Zona Colonial. From Parque Colon, tourists hop aboard the Chu Chu Colonial train to reach the greatest sights. Don't miss Fort Ozama, the oldest military construction in the area and a quintessential 16th-century castle. Another must-see is the Alcazar de Colon - this lavish palace can be explored from tip to toe. The National Pantheon is also a fascinating stop on the way.
This national park is sure to blow your mind. It is one of the most visited attractions in the Dominican Republic, and an oasis found in the middle of Santo Domingo's urban sprawl. Open-air caves formed centuries ago, lie at the heart of this small patch of green - the real experience lies down the craggy steps of the sunken cenotes. Visitors can explore this network of arches and freshwater pools until their heart's content, surrounded by lush vegetation which clings to atmospheric stalagmites.
Santo Domingo's waterside stretch along the Caribbean Sea is always teeming with both locals and tourists. The pier begins at the mouth of the Ozama River and stretches out into the open water; waves sparkling blue as far as the eye can see. People from all walks of life come together to stroll this relaxing promenade both day and night, but sunsets are particularly epic.
The largest and most celebrated botanical gardens in the Caribbean are found in Santo Domingo, and they are a must-see on a visit to the capital city. Native plants steal the show here, offering excellent insight into the natural flora of this lush island, and introducing visitors to species they may have never encountered before. There are also hundreds of different kinds of orchids, and an authentic Japanese garden that is sure to dazzle. Take a break from the city to walk these serene paths.
Local crafts, specialties, and treats can all be found in this one spectacular place on the outskirts of Zona Colonial. Whether you are looking for Caribbean artwork, Dominican and Cuban cigars, unique liquors or high-quality amber jewelry, this is the Motherland for shopping. You will walk away not only with souvenirs you can treasure for life but also with the memories of this experience at Santo Domingo's historic marketplace.
Santo Domingo has warm weather pretty much all year round, but visitors should note that hurricane season lasts from June to November. That doesn't mean it's a bad time to visit. Hurricane warnings are excellent, and storms are few and far between, but it can be rainier in summer. A visit in January or February or late November would be ideal.
Las Américas International Airport (SDQ) is a major entry point for visitors to Santo Domingo. The cheapest route into town is to take Guagua buses for RD$70 (from the upper level of the terminal). Taxis are also available, but are much more expensive at around RD$1,000, so try to avoid them if possible. Many major hotels also offer free shuttles, which are ideal if available.
Many people base themselves in Punta Cana, to the east of Santo Domingo, and it's easy to reach the capital by road. Just take route 3 all the way along the southern coast. If you are driving from the airport (where rental outlets include Avis and Thrifty), take route 3 westbound into the city.
Buses also run along the southern highway from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo (Expreso Bávaro is the best option), as well as from cities in the north like Santiago. Expreso Bávaro buses terminate right next to Joaquín Balaguer subway station, so getting into town isn't hard.
Visitors to Santo Domingo have the chance to stay in stunning colonial hotels like the Hotel Villa Colonial, which mixes tropical gardens, luxury interiors, and a huge hotel pool. Acuarium is another hotel with huge grounds and a handy spa center, while the RoofTop Hostel is a cut-price central alternative. If you want to stay near the sea, try the Sheraton Santo Domingo or Don Juan Beach Resort in Boca Chica (which is a couple of miles from the airport).
The Zona Colonial - probably the oldest European neighborhood in the Americas, the Zona Colonial is Santo Domingo's tourist center. Don't miss the stunning cathedral, the Fortaleza, the Larimar jewelry museum, and most of the city's finest restaurants.
Boca Chica - technically outside the city proper, Boca Chica is right next to the airport and is where Dominicanos from the capital go to relax. Home to all-inclusive resorts, seafront restaurants, and a beautiful beach, Boca Chica is a conveniently located tropical paradise.
Los Praditos - the shopping center of Santo Domingo, Los Praditos is clustered around Avenida Winston Churchill, home to boutiques like Cartier, L'Occitane, and a Nike Store. It's also a dining hub and one of the city's most upscale neighborhoods.
The quickest way to get around is via the Santo Domingo Metro (subway), which costs RD$20 per journey (but has limited coverage at present). There are also buses all over the city, but surprisingly few in tourist areas. A single bus fare is just RD$1 in most cases, so if they can be a great way to save money.
Taxis in Santo Domingo tend to be pre-booked, and your hotel should be able to help out with this. Prices can be expensive by local standards and they are rarely metered, so check the fare before leaving. There are also "carros públicos", which are essentially minibuses that run scheduled inner-city routes and cost just RD$0.50 per journey.
Renting a car is a great way to see the coast and the Dominican interior and you'll find local branches of Thrifty, Hertz, Budget, and Avis at the airport. Rates are usually affordable as well, at RD$350 or less per day. Just keep your wits about you in the center of town, as driving can be chaotic.
Avenida Winston Churchill boasts a Cartier branch, while the Agora Mall on Avenida Abraham Lincoln has a huge range of apparel and luxury stores. If you are looking for Larimar jewelry, the Zona Colonial is the best place to head, thanks to the Larimar Museum. El Conde is another good place to visit, with street stalls selling Haitian art and plenty of craft stores.
If you want to save money during your stay in Santo Domingo, it shouldn't be hard to find supermarkets in your neighborhood. Local chains include Bravo and el Nacional, both of which will have plenty of familiar American brands. Prices are generally low, with a gallon of milk costing RD$220 and 12 eggs about RD$90.
Santo Domingo is the Dominican Republic's culinary center and gourmet food lovers won't leave disappointed. If you want to explore Dominican food, head to city center places like Mesón de Bari or El Conuco. For high-class Italian food it's hard to beat Vesuvio Malecon, El Agave is a great Mexican restaurant, and Don Pepe serves up excellent tapas. Cheap eats include a huge number of "Pica Pollo" restaurants that serve a hybrid of Caribbean and Chinese food, and the finest option is probably Pollos Victorina (which should deliver to your hotel). Expect high-end sit-down meals to cost around RD$250.