I have tried to make the following article both short and very informative. As you can see I have struggled with the short part. If you have any questions, please contact us and we will be happy to help you with your decision-making process for your trip to the Dominican Republic. Our contact information can be found to the right of this article. This is a compilation of restaurants, things to do, things to see, etc., that I as a foreigner (from the United States) have learned about and enjoyed over the last 4 years. It is also a collection of what our past clients have enjoyed as well.
Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, is located on the southern coast of the Dominican Republic along the Caribbean Ocean. The city of Santo Domingo is conveniently located close to the Las Americas Airport (Santo Domingo Airport), the largest airport in the country. From the Santo Domingo Airport to Santo Domingo takes about 35 minutes by car.
History Of Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is the oldest city in the New World and was founded by Christopher Columbus and his younger brother, Bartholomew Columbus, in 1496. Santo Domingo boasts of many firsts for the New World. The first paved street, university, cathedral, castle, monastery, hospital, and fortress – to name just a few. Most of these firsts, along with beautiful architecture, can be seen in the Colonial Zone (Zona Colonial) which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Colonial Zone is the # 1 tourist destination in Santo Domingo so we have written an article dedicated to what to see and do in the Colonial Zone.
Where To Stay In Santo Domingo
I have broken up Santo Domingo into 3 unofficial sections: the Malecon (seaside), the Colonial Zone, and business district (the rest of the city). Once you have researched these areas, you can then use www.Hotels.com or another website to reserve your room.
My preferred location is the Colonial Zone unless you are here for work and want to stay close to your meetings. In the Colonial Zone there are numerous hotels and most date back hundreds or years. Staying in historical areas typically means the rooms are a little smaller and you will have to deal with a few issues that all older buildings have. However, because this is a tourist area, most, if not all, hotels have English speakers at the front desk, the people working at the hotels are friendly, and rooms are clean. The reason why I like to stay in the Colonial Zone is because as soon as you walk out the door of your hotel, you are in area rich in history with plenty of sites to see, restaurants to enjoy, and bars/clubs to enjoy at night – all without having to get into a taxi.
On Avenue George Washington (the Malecon) there are several international chain hotels. You know what you will be getting with these chains, and many of the rooms, restaurants, and bars have great views of the Caribbean Ocean. Even though you are on the Malecon, you will end up taking a taxi to most locations you want to enjoy.
There are many fine hotels throughout the rest of the city with fantastic views of the Caribbean and the city. With a city that has just fewer than 3 million people, there is a lot of traffic in the capital. You will want to make sure you pick a hotel close to where you will be spending most of your time. There are also some streets, such as Avenue Maximo Gomez, that have a lot of car traffic leaving you stuck in the back of the cab for a while. Areas many business travelers like to stay in are Piantini and Narco – two high-end locations with many businesses, hotels and restaurants located close by.
Things To “See And Do” In Santo Domingo
The number one tourist destination in Santo Domingo is the Colonial Zone (Zona Colonial) that has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This area is rich in history and architecture and has many fine restaurants, shops, museums, and places of interest. I suggest you start here and when you have seen everything you want to see in the Colonial Zone, you can then visit some of the other sites in Santo Domingo. To learn more about the Colonial Zone, read our article on what the Colonial Zone has to offer.
While we have a zoo, botanical garden, and an aquarium in the city they are not of the caliber of zoos in San Diego, CA USA, and Singapore, or aquariums in Atlanta, Georgia and Okinawa, Japan.
The Park of the Three Eyes (Parque Los Tres Ojos)
Formed by an underground cave system that collapsed during an earthquake and created 3 natural lakes. The caves are now open-air and are made of limestone walls. You can take a boat ride on the second lake to see the cave system and all the surrounding foliage.
A Drive Around The Capital City
When too hot or you have been walking too much, let us drive you around to locations that are hard to see on foot such as The Presidential Palace, Avenue George Washington (Malecon), and Avenue Maximo Gomez with its governmental buildings.
There are much more things to do and see, but many of our clients want to spend most of their time in the Colonial Zone and then visit the sites listed above. Many of our clients who have only a day to spend exploring the first city of the New World often enjoy starting the day off by going to see the Faro Colon, the park of the three eyes, followed by a drive to see the important places of the city, have a quick lunch at a local Dominican restaurant, and then off to the Colonial Zone to walk around the first streets and buildings of the New World. When done exploring the Colonial Zone, many like to have a nice dinner in one of the wonderful restaurants in the Colonial Zone and then head back to their hotel.
Restaurants / Bars / Lounges
With thousands to chose from in the city, we obviously can’t give you a complete list, but between the one ones we like, the ones our clients have liked, and the ones that are famous, we will pull a few out to highlight.
There are many restaurants, cafes, bars, and nightclubs in just this one area. I am sure there are more than 75, but we will touch on some of the more famous ones in the Colonial Zone article. The oldest restaurant in the New World is in the Colonial Zone and it was once owned by a wooden-legged pirate. Make sure you read about the Colonial Zone.
On The Malecon (Avenue George Washington)
D’ Luis Parrillada
Here you can try many of the local Dominican foods while looking over the Caribbean Ocean. This outside restaurant has a roof to protect you from the Caribbean sun and a great breeze coming off the water. Definitely a great place to sit back and have a beer. Casual dress.
This is another restaurant that serves local Dominican food and is very popular with both tourists and locals alike. Sometimes it can be hard to find seating at night. A good time to visit is just before sunset. Casual to upscale casual dress.
This is a cigar lounge well known by the people in the city of Santo Domingo. If you are a cigar aficionado, you should go here and enjoy a cigar and glass of our local rum -either Barcelo or Brugal. Located just outside the Colonial Zone on the Malecon (Ave. George Washington).
Throughout The City
This is a very elegant high-end restaurant/bar with an international menu. The chef really knows how to put a menu together, but this is not for the budget-minded. If you visit this restaurant on Paseo de los Locutores # 9, you will be dining with the who’s who of Santo Domingo. Upscale dress.
This is located on Avenue Venezuela and its name says it all. This is a local’s restaurant with Dominican cuisine. The prices are reasonable and the food is prepared quickly. It is located among some of the country’s most famous nightclubs, and, if you are planning on going out one night, this restaurant would be a good place to start off a casual night. Casual dress.
This restaurant was started by 3 brothers and has a great reputation among the locals. This restaurant has 3 parts: a more formal part with a casual restaurant where you sit down and order your food; another part that is similar to cafeteria-style food that is very fresh (less expensive); and a bakery in the back with incredible sweets. This is where I go when I need a little sugar. Casual dress.
This is located on Avenue Maximo Gomez and is a great place to start your day with a fantastic cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich or to go to for lunch or dinner. They have great Italian food with good prices, gelato, and a small bakery. Sometimes I go here in the afternoon for a cappuccino and a bowl of gelato. Bakery/ Café side – Casual dress; Restaurant side -casual to upscale casual dress.
This is located on 30 de Marzo (just outside the Colonial Zone) and is a fast food restaurant serving sandwiches and juices. The juices are either natural or a betida (smoothie). This is a famous late-night hangout for those who are hungry after enjoying a night out on the town. Casual dress and inexpensive.
This is a trendy lounge/bar located 101 feet above Winston Churchill Street that allows a spectacular city view as you enjoy a cocktail or something off their limited food menu.
El Meson De La Cava
This is located on Avenue Mirado Sur and is famous for being inside a cave. The walls, floors, and ceiling are made up of the cave’s walls, floors, and ceiling to create a unique experience. They have an international menu with medium to high prices. You walk down a circular staircase to enter the cave/restaurant and is a little damp due to it being a cave. Casual to upscale casual dress.
Nightlife / Clubs In Santo Domingo
Music and dancing are woven into the culture of Dominican people. Bachata and merengue are two types of dance and music that originated in the Dominican Republic. There is also Salsa, a type of dance and music that originated in Puerto Rico / Cuba. All of this music can be heard from almost every corner on weekends and on many corners during the week. Of course with the music and dance, you will see people enjoying the country’s beer (cerveza) Presidente or one of our local rums, either Brugal or Barceló.
While there are bars and nightclubs located throughout the city, on Avenue Venezuela there are a large group of nightclubs and bars. If you like the nightlife, music, and dance, then this street is a must to visit. Currently one of the trendiest nightclubs on Avenue Venezuela is Energy.
While Santo Domingo is on the Caribbean coast, it is on a bluff with very limited access to the water. The bluffs allow for great views if you are walking or if you are having dinner at sunset, but there is only one very small beach-access in the city and it is not well maintained. The two closest beaches to the city of Santo Domingo are Boca Chica and Juan Dolio. My personal preference, as an American living in the Dominican Republic, is Juan Dolio, but many of the locals enjoy Boca Chica. Read more about Juan Dolio, Boca Chica, the beaches, the restaurants at the beaches, etc
Stadium Quisqueya is located on Avenue Maximo Gomez and the games are held from October to January. Tickets can be bought from $10 to $30 USD – a little more during the championship games at the end of the season.