The Dominican Republic is the most visited destination in the Caribbean and it’s not hard to see why. Its capital city of Santo Domingo is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the New World.
In this guide, we’ve detailed the best attractions, activities, and accommodations along with the best way to travel to this beautiful city. From 16th century architecture to lush beaches, Santo Domingo Dominican Republic is guaranteed to enchant.
Santo Domingo Travel Guide
As one of the fastest-growing economies in the Americas, Dominican Republic has continued to improve the conditions of the country to better serve its people and the visiting tourists. Tourism is one of the primary factors that influenced the country’s economic growth and it only proves one thing.
The country has managed to entice travelers over the years with its scenic destinations and exciting attractions. That being said, here is a quick travel guide for you just in case you want to join the bandwagon and experience the beauty of the Dominican Republic in its capital city.
1. Main Attractions in Santo Domingo Dominican Republic
1.1 The History-Packed Colonial Zone
Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Colonial Zone or Zona Colonial holds the city’s most significant landmarks. As you stroll the cobblestone streets you will discover:
Catedral Primada de America, the oldest cathedral in the Americas; it is also known as Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor because it was dedicated to St. Mary of the Incarnation.
The Ozama Fortress, the first castle built in the New World; La Fortaleza is a UNESCO world heritage site named after the Ozama River. Built in 1502 during the Spanish Colonial era, the fortress was initially built to guard and defend the city.
Alcazar de Colón, a fortress built by Christopher Columbus’ son. Alcazar de Colón is the oldest Viceregal residence in the Americas and a reflection of the early 16th-century architecture in the country. It served as the residence of the Columbus family for three generations and is now a beautiful reminder of Dominican Republic’s colonial history.
National Pantheon, the resting place of the country’s historical figures and honored citizens. Located along the Calle Las Damas, the oldest street in the New World. The building was once a Jesuit church that was later on used as a tobacco warehouse, and lastly, became the first Dominican theater.
1.2 The Three Eyes National Park
One of the Dominican Republic’s most spectacular natural landmarks is located in the heart of Santo Domingo. Three Eyes National Park is a network of caves housing pristine underground lakes. Here, you’ll find a calm oasis when you need a break from the lively city above. You can take the walking tour on your own, but a guide can explain the full significance of this unique attraction.
1.3 The Modern Art Museum
If you’d like to get in touch with Santo Domingo’s art scene, there’s no better place than the Modern Art Museum. Its brutalist architecture is the perfect backdrop to the local pieces it houses, ranging from traditional sculptures to fantastically modern light installations.
The top floor is home to a permanent exhibition displaying the winners of the Dominican Republic’s Biennial Art Contest, highlighting world-class artwork and providing a window into the nation’s cultural vanguard.
2. Other Things to Do in Santo Domingo Dominican Republic
2.1 Shop at the Mercado Modelo
To find authentic handmade goods, we recommend the Mercado Modelo. With prices lower than the beachfront shops, you’ll get great bargains on whatever your heart desires.
This enormous indoor market offers a wide variety of products. Maybe you’re looking for traditional Dominican paintings and wood carvings, or perhaps Dominican-sourced amber jewelry. You can even take home the flavors of the city by purchasing fragrant spices and baked goods.
2.2 See Wildlife at the National Zoological Park
If you’re looking for an activity for travelers of all ages, the National Zoological Park is the answer. Home to animals from around the world, you’ll see white tigers, vibrant parrots, and chimpanzees in safari-style enclosures. Many local endangered species also call this zoo home. If your feet get tired, the zoo offers a train ride with a clear view of the exhibits.
2.3 Hit the Beach at Boca Chica
Boca Chica is a municipality in Santo Domingo and is the most accessible place to view the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Just a short cab ride from Santo Domingo, you’ll lounge on picturesque beaches and take a refreshing dip.
Moreover, beachside restaurants offer tantalizing fresh lobster and crispy fried fish. You can even enjoy oceanside hookah if you want. All in all, you’ll be energized by this relaxing experience in Boca Chica.
2.4 Stroll in the Malecon
The Malecon is Santo Domingo’s seafront promenade that is also known as Avenida George Washington. It starts at the mouth of Ozama river and stretches out into the open waters of the Caribbean Sea. To better enjoy your visit, be there on a Sunday when the boardwalk is open exclusively for the pedestrians and therefore, no motorized vehicles are allowed in the vicinity.
2.5 Marvel at the view in Los Tres Ojos
Los Tres Ojos is an open-air limestone cave that features a series of three lakes. The trio were once underground caves that collapsed. Over time, the sinkholes were filled with fresh water and is continuously fed by an underground river. The area is now home to different species of animals like fishes, turtles, and bats. This natural wonder is one of the top destinations in the country. So, you better not miss it.
2.6 Visit Convento De Los Dominicos
The Convent of the Dominican Order is an architectural landmark in Santo Domingo that is worth paying a visit. This 16th-century building was once home to 15 friars who were sent to the country from Spain. Its well-preserved structure and rich history have fascinated many tourists traveling in the city. You can even go on a self-guided tour of the church, so you can take as much time as you need to fully enjoy the experience.
3. Amazing Places While Visiting Santo Domingo Dominican Republic
3.1 Casas del XVI
For the traveler who wants the best of everything, we suggest the Casas del XVI. Located in the heart of Zona Colonial with prices starting at $337 per night, you’ll get a gorgeous 16th-century colonial-style house complete with courtyard, pool, and a personal staff. This setting is ideal for couples looking for a decadent getaway.
3.2 Hodelpa Nicolas de Ovando
One budget-friendly option with historical flair is the Hodelpa Nicolas de Ovando. The three stone houses at the heart of the property were constructed in 1502. Moreover, the hotel has 97 rooms starting at $135 per night. The architecture and amenities are luxurious, perfect for anyone looking to stay in the Zona Colonial without going bankrupt.
3.3 Island Life Backpackers Hostel
If you’re traveling on a dime, the Island Life Backpackers Hostel in the Colonial Zone is recommended. Starting at $34 per night, this hostel offers dormitory accommodations and private rooms. Moreover, with high arches and terracotta roofing surrounding a lush courtyard, you won’t feel like you’re pinching pennies. Lastly, solo travelers looking to socialize with fellow nomads recommend this hostel.
4. How to Get to Santo Domingo Dominican Republic in Style
The simplest way to travel to Santo Domingo is by plane. From your local airport, you can fly into John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and take a connecting flight to Las Américas International Airport (SDQ) just outside of Santo Domingo. Many major airlines, like Delta and JetBlue, offer this route. You can easily take a taxi to your accommodations.
Carnival also offers a cruise to Santo Domingo. If you’d like to spend time in San Juan as well, a ferry service operates between the two cities.
If your first stop in the country is not in Santo Domingo, here’s what you can do. From Punta Cana, another major destination in the country, you can travel by bus for approximately two and a half hours to get to the city. The Expreso Bavaro is your best choice of transportation.
If you’re coming from Puerto Plata, the travel time is a little longer. The bus ride may last three and a half to four hours. You have two choices: the Metro and Caribe Tours.
Santo Domingo Dominican Republic is the perfect one-stop vacation. Nowhere else can you experience the fusion of past and future with this intensity as a modern city buzzes around the oldest buildings in the Americas.
Furthermore, add in the natural beauty and there’s nothing more a person could ask for. Whether you stay at Casas del XVI, Hodelpa Nicolas de Ovando, or Island Backpackers Hostel, you’ll feel the magic for yourself and understand why so many people treasure this city.
Images source: depositphotos.com