- For other places with the same name, see Santo Domingo (disambiguation).
Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic, the oldest European city in the Americas, and the most developed city on the island of Hispaniola. The old city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Elsewhere in the Dominican Republic, which is named after Santo Domingo, it's more common to just call this city "the capital" than to call it by its name.
Santo Domingo is the capital city of the Dominican Republic, and it prides itself in being the first European city in the New World. Founded by Christopher Columbus's brother Bartolome Colombus in 1496, it is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas and was the first seat of the Spanish colonial empire in the New World. For this reason, the city of Santo Domingo has a really rich historic and cultural heritage that makes any visit extremely worthwhile. Santo Domingo remains one of the most populous cities in the Central America-Caribbean area, and the main economic and commercial center of this region. The country suffered 31 years of a brutal dictatorship by Trujillo, during which time the city was called "Ciudad Trujillo".
The city is divided into two parts by the Ozama River. The western side is very developed economically, while the eastern part, known as "Santo Domingo Este," has lagged behind.
The most important tourist destination of the city is the Zona Colonial or Colonial Zone, on the western bank of the river and facing the Caribbean Sea. To the west of the Zona Colonial lies Gazcue, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, filled with old Victorian houses and tree-lined streets. The city's waterfront George Washington Avenue, known as "El Malecon," borders the Caribbean Sea and attracts many tourists because of its hotels, casinos, palm-lined boulevards and monuments. Surrounding the Gazcue area you will find the Palacio Nacional (seat of the Dominican government), the National Theater, the museums in the Plaza de la Cultura, and the Palace of Fine Arts.
In the central part of western Santo Domingo lies the economic and commercial heart of the city, in an area known as the "Poligono Central" and delimited by the 27 de Febrero, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill and Maximo Gomez avenues. This high-income area remains rather unexplored by tourists, despite offering most of the best dining and shopping available in the city. Many of the city's most affluent neighborhoods surround the city's two main parks, the Parque Mirador Sur in the South and the Jardin Botanico in the North.
In the more populated but less developed East Santo Domingo you will find other major monuments and tourist spots, such as Columbus's Lighthouse, where the explorer's remains are buried, the open caves of the Parque Nacional Los Tres Ojos, and the National Aquarium.
This all makes of Santo Domingo a cosmopolitan, vibrant and bustling city with very distinct neighborhoods and ambiances, all worth a visit, and providing the most diverse cultural experiences.
What's nice about Santo Domingo is that it receives significantly fewer tourists than other cities in the Dominican Republic such as Punta Cana and La Romana. As a result, travelers to Santo Domingo are rewarded by being able to experience a completely true and authentic Dominican experience that is hard to come across in major tourist hubs.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Santo Domingo enjoys a tropical climate. Temperature averages from 23°C (73.4°F) in the morning to 31.7°C (89.1°F) by the afternoon. Generally, January and February are the coldest months, and August is the hottest month of the year. The island is prone to hurricanes especially during June 1 to November 30, but warnings beforehand prepare residents and tourists for any harm. Santo Domingo is a great city to visit during any season, because the city's ideal tropical weather runs all year long!
Santo Domingo is the headquarter of economic activity in Dominican Republic. The city catches the attention of many international firms. Many of these firms have their headquarters in the city due to its great location and prosperous economy. The city is also home to over 26 colleges and universities including the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, which is the largest and the first university of the Americas.
Power outages have been one of the downfalls of placing a major headquarter in the city, but the infrastructure is a great advantage to many of these international firms. Since Santo Domingo has privatize and integrated with the US telecommunication system, they have been fortunate to have the benefit of a contemporary telecommunication system.
Incomes in Santo Domingo can vary from extremely rich to extremely poor. Many of the prominent families live in neighborhoods surrounding Avenida John F. Kennedy ("Avenida" = "Avenue") to the north, Avenida 27 de Febrero to the south, Avenida Winston Churchill to the west and Avenida Máximo Gómez to the east. Some other areas that are always expanding and developing are Naco, Arroyo Hondo, Piantini, Paraíso, Bella Vista, Sarasota. Most of the city's less fortunate live outside the center of Santo Domingo, which can be seen by various slums that emphasizes the huge issue poverty is for the city.
Avenida Winston Churchill and 27 de Febrero Avenue are two of the commercial centers of the city. Many malls and shops are found in these two avenues, such as Acropolis Center, Scotiabank, Citibank, Banco BHD, Banco del Progreso, Banreservas, Plaza Central and Plaza Naco. However, some of the most popular malls are Acropolis Center, Bella Vista Mall, Blue Mall, Novo-Centro, Agora Mall and Galería 360 because it contains more contemporary shops and are popular within the high income families.
Government and politics
The national government of the Dominican Republic is located in Santo Domingo. The National Palace houses the President of Dominican Republic and the National Congress.
- 1 Las Américas International Airport (SDQ IATA) (approximately 15 minutes from the greater metropolitan area and around 30 minutes from the city center). The airport offers several transportation options, including all major American car rental firms.
Direct flights from: Atlanta, Boston, New York, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Philadelphia, Panama City, San Jose Costa Rica, San Juan Puerto Rico, Havana, Port-au-Prince, Caracas, Paris, Madrid Barajas, Frankfurt Airport, Munich Airport and Düsseldorf and surrounding Caribbean islands.
Airfare to Santo Domingo may vary widely depending on season and demand. A round trip ticket from Boston or New York ranges anywhere from US$300 to US$700, with fares from Miami or San Juan only slightly lower.
Airfare from most cities in Latin America cost between US$400 and US$1,000 and require layovers in Panamá City, Panamá (Copa Airlines) or San José, Costa Rica (Avianca).
Taxis charge anywhere US$25-40 for the drive from the airport into Santo Domingo. Or, go up to the second floor at the Arrivals (at the very end), where a minivan will accommodate up to 8 passengers for a ride for RD$70 (pesos) for 1/2 hour to the Zona Colonial (only). For further distances to the center (i.e. to the Caribe Tours Terminal), you will need to negotiate just like you would have with the usual un-metered taxis. To return, the cheapest option is to go to the corner of Av. Sabena Larga with Av. Las Americas (walkable in 15 minutes from Zona Colonial), where this same van may be there, or if not take the bus going to Boca Chica (RD$40, about 1 hr); ask the driver to stop before the express route to the airport, from where you can walk (about 20 minutes, some 2 km). Do not return during night time. Hardly anyone speaks English in the bus, around the terminals etc. However getting to the city center seems more viable, that van was recommended at the Tourist Desk in the airport, and some sort of authority (with a badge) was entertaining the driver while waiting for the car to be filled.
- 2 La Isabela International Airport (JBQ IATA). This is the secondary airport primarily used by domestic and regional flights
Since the DR is pretty small it is possible to fly into any of the other airports in the country and do a short (2-5 hours) overland trip from there.
There is ferry service to and from Mayaguez as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico. It costs around US$200 roundtrip and the overnight journey last 12 hours. For an additional fee, you can bring your car along for the ride. The former company, Ferries del Caribe is now out of business and the new provider is called America Cruise Ferries[dead link].
Sansouci is a state-of-the-art terminal that holds up to 3800 passengers and luggage. From there you can get a taxi or a tour, and there is also an ATM, gift shops, a call center, and internet service.
Santo Domingo is served by Expreso Bavaro and Caribe Tours from Punta Cana and by Caribe Tours from Sosua via Puerto Plata and Santiago de los Caballeros. Taxis from the bus terminals to the historic city center cost between RD$200 and RD$400, depending on bargaining skills.
Santo Domingo used to be a huge city (population nearly 4 million people) that was split into 5 independent municipalities: Distrito Nacional, Santo Domingo Este, Santo Domingo Oeste, Santo Domingo Norte and Boca Chica. Fortunately, nearly all tourist attractions and shopping, dining and entertainment venues are relatively close to each other in the Distrito Nacional, making it easy for you to get around and see the sights.
Santo Domingo is not entirely a tourist-friendly city. It's often hard to move around if you don't know the city, as many streets lack proper signage and addresses are often reliant on the neighborhood's name more than an actual street address. However, don't be afraid of asking the locals for orientation, as Dominicans are well known for their helpful nature and usually helpful to tourists. It's a good idea to get a street map (there are many city maps online but it's also possible to buy one at any gift shop or book store for no more than US$5).
Santo Domingo has two operating metro lines: one a north-south axis under the Maximo Gomez avenue, going from Villa Mella to the Centro de los Heroes and the Malecon, passing by the National Theater and the Santo Domingo Autonomous University (UASD), the second along Avenida John F. Kennedy. A single ride is RD$20 and there are ten ride packages for RD$185 and twenty ride packages for RD$360. Payment is by smartcard which costs RD$60 and has to be charged with a minimum of RD$20 when bought bringing the total minimum price to RD$80. Five more lines are planned. The metro is easily the fastest way to get to the places it serves and if your accommodation is close to a metro station, just remember the name of that metro station for orientation and reference. However, large parts of the city are not (yet) covered. The website has a bit more information.
Walking along major thoroughfares in Santo Domingo can prove quite challenging. First, drivers aren't very respectful of pedestrians, so you have to take extra care when trying to cross a street. Second, some sidewalks can be damaged or under construction, forcing you onto the street.
The Malecon and Colonial Zone are the most walkable parts of the city. They offer multiple pedestrian attractions and are relatively safe areas for tourists to explore. Although it is always wise to use common sense as everywhere.
While exploring the Colonial Zone try hiring a properly licensed tour guide. These talented yet underpaid, multilingual individuals will keep you entertained for hours with unprecedented historical insight and humor. You can usually find them at the Plaza Colon in front of the Cathedral. Most are worth every penny. On the other hand, some of them are known to take their customers to businesses that throw them a kickback, so it's up to you to decide whether you really like to act upon their advice on businesses or not.
Unlike most major metropolitan areas, there are very few roaming taxis in Santo Domingo. Even if you see one, it is best not to take a chance, it can be dangerous. In most cases you have to call a dispatcher to have a taxi sent to your location. This isn't a problem and most businesses will gladly call a cab for you. Relatively expensive, usually US$4-15 per average trip and possibly more if you use one of the friendly cabs waiting in front of your nice hotel lobby. Again, depending on circumstances, you may find that hiring a cab driver for the day is a good bargain.
Santo Domingo is served by Uber, which locally allows passengers to pay by credit card through the app or by cash to the driver. Uber rides around the city are considerably less expensive than regular taxis and usually involve both newer and cleaner vehicles.
- Also be sure to never get into stray cabs at night or cabs that aren't sent by a dispatcher, they are not the safest. Some cabs will put several passengers in at once, each paying a separate fare.
By rental car
All major US car rental firms are available at the airport, along with several local vendors offering everything from subcompacts to late model Hummers, Range Rovers and Land Cruisers. When renting from local vendors be sure to read the fine print regarding insurance coverage; you might think you're getting a great deal on a car, only to get into an accident and find out that your insurance coverage does not apply or that your deductible is as high as US$5,000.
Advice to potential renters: Gasoline costs RD$65/liter (Apr 2021) here and people drive fast and furious, breaking every imaginable rule. It might be safer and cheaper to develop a friendship with a cab driver who will gladly become your personal driver, tourguide and concierge for a day rate equal to a fraction of what it would cost you to rent, insure and gas up a rental.
Bus service in Santo Domingo is not very user-friendly and geared more towards locals getting to and from work. It is often impossible to know which bus goes where unless you ask the driver, as neither buses nor routes are clearly marked.
Bottom line: inexpensive (US$0.50-1.00 per ride) yet complicated. Avoid unless you are accompanied by a local.
By public car
You can identify a public car from a regular car because it will have a government seal on the windshield. Public cars usually go up and down a street. You can catch one by standing on the street and signaling if your going up the street or down. Public cars are also safe, except you will probably be riding along with at least 5 other people going the same way you are. Public cars are roughly RD$20-25.
By collective taxi
These collective taxis or “guaguas" as they are called by Dominicans, stick to a predetermined route (usually up and down a major avenue), picking up and dropping off passengers along the way - often cramming up to five passengers into a twenty year old Toyota Corolla. Very inexpensive, US$0.50 per trip, yet very uncomfortable. By the way, if you happen to be overweight don't be surprised if the driver charges you for two seats instead of one. Safety can sometimes be a concern, so it is best to take guaguas when traveling with locals.
They fit 7 people total, the driver, two in front passenger seat, and four in the back seat.
Like other Latin American cities before it (most notably Medellín) Santo Domingo has an aerial tramway linking some of the poverty stricken outer neighborhoods in the hills to the town center. You're unlikely to have a reason to go where the Teleférico goes, but you might want to take a ride for the novelty value alone. The line has four stops and connects to Metro Line 2 at Eduardo Brito. Prices are the same as for the Metro.
Despite boasting a rich cultural, architectural and artistic heritage, Santo Domingo has not been exploited for all its tourist potential. You're pretty much on your own to discover this fascinating city. Make the most of your time there.
- Colonial Zone. Santo Domingo was the first major European settlement in the New World. Christopher Columbus walked these streets! Check out the many examples of 15th and 16th century architecture in the Colonial Zone. Don't miss the Ozama Fort (built within Columbus's lifetime), the Alcazar de Colon, and the Cathedral, all dating to the early 1500s. You can also check beautiful churches and convents, such as the Iglesia Regina Angelorum and the Convento de los Dominicos. Don't miss the Panteon Nacional, where the national heroes are buried, in the Calle Las Damas, the New World's first (European) street! Also, walk up the Calle del Conde, a very old pedestrian shop-lined street that used to be the commercial heart of the city. This street leads to the Puerta del Conde, where the Dominican Republic proclaimed its independence from Haiti, and the Parque Independencia, where the country's founding fathers' remains are kept at the Altar de la Patria. On Sunday evenings, check out the Ruinas de San Francisco for live bands playing Merengue, Bachata, Salsa and Son, in a wonderful weekly show where both locals and tourists dance, drink and enjoy themselves. This would be an unforgettable experience! Also check out La Atarazana street after dark for a variety of romantic outdoor cafes with a spectacular view of the Alcazar and bay area. One such brasserie, Pat E Palo, has operated uninterrupted since 1505. Check out the house where Ponce DeLeon lived before he embarked upon his quest for the fountain of youth and ended up discovering Florida.
- 1 Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor. An important landmark because it is the first cathedral of the Americas. Construction began in 1514, and was finished in 1540.
- 2 Fortaleza Ozama (Ozama Fortress), ☏ +1 809-686-0222. The oldest formal military construction still standing in the Americas. Cost of entrance is about RD$30 per person and about RD$200 for a guide to take you. The guide is recommended because he will explain much of the historical background. The fortress itself is not very large, but within the perimeter you will find a large open area with a park and an exhibition of military vehicles and weapons, most of them relatively modern.
- Malecon (George Washington Avenue). This waterfront boulevard is home to several huge hotel/casino complexes and dozens of small restaurants, clubs and cafes. Go there to people watch, take a romantic carriage ride or just have a few beers. Site of many festivals and concerts throughout the year. Parallel to the Malecon you will find Avenida Independencia, a tree-lined street full of shops, bed and breakfasts and affordable restaurants with a nice mix of locals and tourists. For a unique dining experience check out Adrian Tropical, a traditional Dominican restaurant literally built on the water, then visit San Gil, the ruins of a colonial fort. The Malecon Center, located on the far end of the Malecon, is a new and still under occupied high-end shopping center/hotel/condo complex with a Botero sculpture out front that reportedly cost US$1 million.
- Plaza de la Cultura (walk all the way down the Malecon to Avenida Maximo Gomez and take a left; walk past the McDonald's and Pizza Hut). This amazing complex is home to the National Theater and five museums, ranging from the dilapidated and mundane, to the crisp, modern Museo de Arte Moderno (Museum of Modern Art), the largest in the Caribbean and home to exhibits by artists from Jamaica, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and of course, the Dominican Republic. Other museums include the Museo de Historia Natural (Museum of Natural History), Museo del Hombre Dominicano (Museum of the Dominican Man) and Museo de Historia y Geografía (Museum of History and Geography). The entrance to the museums will cost RD$5-60 each (Sept 2017). If want a nice beautiful garden to read or talk this is your place also.
- Eco-tourism. Find your way to the Parque Mirador Sur, an impressive park overlooking the coast. It is closed for cars on weekdays between 05:00 and 08:00, and on Sundays, enabling it to be filled with families playing with their children and exercising. Bike rentals are at your disposal. Also, you can visit the Botanical Garden, a vast, beautiful and lush park situated near one of Santo Domingo's most exclusive neighborhoods. There you can experience different ecosystems from a rainforest to a Japanese garden.
- Eastern Santo Domingo. Referred to as Santo Domingo Oriental, this separate municipality is not very tourist-friendly. Fortunately, most of its attractions are very close to the Colonial Zone and easy to get to. Check out Los Tres Ojos, or Three Eyes, a series of open-roof caverns and underground lakes for the whole family to explore (with a local this part of Santo Domingo is the most poverty stricken and can be dangerous!). Check out the Santo Domingo Aquarium, a small but impressive showcase of the local aquatic life. If you're looking for some shopping, you can go to the Megacentro, Santo Domingo's largest shopping mall.
- 3 Faro a Colon (Columbus Lighthouse), Calle Luperón 2, ☏ +1 809-591-1492. Tu-Sa 09:00-17:00, Su 09:00-16:00. A huge lighthouse and monument inaugurated in 1992, in time for the 500th anniversary of Columbus' first voyage to the Americas. It doubles as a museum. Its chambers display indigenous artifacts from around the Americas. According to the Dominican authorities, remains of Christopher Columbus are sheltered at the lighthouse. However, Spanish authorities have proved through DNA tests that the remains in the Cathedral of Seville are the real remains of Columbus.
- Sundial (Reloj de Sol) (on Calle Las Damas). Most impressive and beautiful sight, built in 1753. It is one of the oldest sundials in the Americas.
- Upscale Santo Domingo. If you want to see the cosmopolitan, upscale side of Santo Domingo, head to the Piantini and Naco neighborhoods. Streets like Gustavo Mejía Ricart and major avenues like Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill are lined with high end boutiques, shopping plazas, expensive cafes and restaurants offering a huge variety of international cuisines and just about anything money can buy, from cigar shops to Ferrari and Bentley dealerships. The Holiday Inn Hotel has opened in this area, which is very likely to bring much more tourism into what is the actual "downtown" of Santo Domingo. Don't miss Acropolis Center, an ultra-modern shopping center/office building where you will find everything from TGI Friday's to Prada. Just opened is Blue Mall, which has the most expensive shops in the city from Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, Cartier, Tous & L'Occitane to more casuals like Zara and Adidas. Also just opened is Novo-centro which opened in a glass tower which was going to be a bank, but turned into a 2-story shopping center featuring a Fine Arts Cinema and some high end restaurants and gelaterias. Further away you can find Bella Vista Mall and Diamond Mall, two other big shopping malls in Santo Domingo. If you're looking for more open-air plazas lined with smaller boutiques, you should check out Plaza Andalucia. For bowling, you can go to the Plaza Bolera, which has had a face-lift. If you're in this area in the early afternoon, you should check out trendy cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars.
- 4 Presidencia de la República Dominicana, Av México. Head of state location for the Dominican Republic. No entry, but the structure is very grandiose and warm-feeling with its orange hue.
In the Colonial Zone:
- 5 Alcázar de Colón (Museo Alcázar de Colón), Plaza España, Zona Colonial, ☏ +1 809-682-4750. Tu-Su 09:00-17:00; closed M. Visit this stunning villa, built in 1510 and retaining period furnishings and other items owned by Governor Diego Colón, first-born son of Christopher Columbus.
- 6 (Museo Naval de las Atarazanas), Calle La Atarazana, Zona Colonial, ☏ +1 809-541-5652. Daily 09:00-17:00. Located across the plaza from the Alcazar de Colon on Calle Atarazana, the oldest street in the Western Hemisphere.
- 7 Museum of the Casas Reales (Museo de las Casas Reales), Calle Las Damas, Zona Colonial, ☏ +1 809-682-4202. Daily 09:00-17:00. Another great museum featuring collections depicting life in 16th-century Santo Domingo. It is walking distance from the Alcazar de Colon and the Naval Museum.
- World of Ambar Museum. An impressive collection of amber stones.
- Museum of Dominican Rum (Museo del Ron Dominicano), Isabel la Catolica #261, Zona Colonial, ☏ +1 809-685-5111. M-Sa 09:00-17:00 (bar is open during the museum hours with limited service). This museum holds all the history of rum making in Dominican Republic. In the front of the museum you will find all the Dominican rum for sale at reasonable prices. There is also a very nice bar inside where you can enjoy a nice drink of rum or any other drink you like. In the after hours it turns into a bar (read below). Free.
- 8 Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana, Calle Arzobispo Nouel #210, Zona Colonial, ☏ +1 809-688-4440, firstname.lastname@example.org. Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana (Memorial Museum of the Dominican Resistance) presents an ample presentation of 20th-century history of the country, and the ordeals endured under the Trujillo regime. RD$150.
- 9 Wax Museum Juan Pablo Duarte, Calle Isabel La Católica # 304, ☏ +1 809-687-1436. Tu-Su 09:00-17:00, closed M. Might be kind of cheesy, but it's almost like a living history museum of the DR's past. A collection of artifacts and writings regarding the Dominican Republic's founding father, Juan Pablo Duarte.
In Plaza de la Cultura:
- Museum of Natural History
- 10 Museum of Dominican Man (Museo del Hombre Dominicano), Avenida Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Plaza de la Cultura, Gazcue ( 1 ), ☏ +1 809-687-3622. Tu-Su 10:00-17:00.
- 11 Modern Art Museum (Museo de Arte Moderno), Avenida Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Plaza de la Cultura, Gazcue ( 1 ), ☏ +1 809-685-2154, email@example.com. Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Adults: RD$50, students/children: RD$20, children age 5 and under: Free.
- 12 National Museum of History and Geography (Museo Nacional de Historia y Geografia), Avenida Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Plaza de la Cultura, Gazcue ( 1 ), ☏ +1 809-686-6668. Tu-Su 09:30-17:00.
There are many parks around the city of Santo Domingo. One of the most popular parks are called Los Miradores, which are located on various sections of the city. These parks are very cozy for a picnic, to bike ride, a quick jog, or a long walk to enjoy nature and relax with friends. They’re a quite huge and can be a bit unsafe if wandered during the night, because it lacks street lights. Although Santo Domingo is surrounded by beautiful parks it does lack recreational facilities accessible to the public. Some of the parks that can be found:
- 1 Mirador Sur Park (Parque Mirador Sur), Av. Anacaona (in the southwest section of the city).
- 2 Enriquillo Park (Parque Enriquillo), Av. Duarte and Calle Ravelo, Villa Francisca.
- 3 Columbus Park (Parque Colón) (in the center of the colonial zone). This park is most popular among locals and visitors alike. It is a beautiful plaza which surrounds a monument of Columbus to which the park is named after. It is visited by people who would like to relax, families who come to enjoy the park with the kids and couples who enjoy the scenery and its wonderful restaurants. Because the park is very popular you will find plenty of vendors selling CDs of local music, hand made trinkets, rosaries and food. You will also find many tour guides hanging around ready to give anyone who wishes a guided tour of the cathedral and the colonial zone at a price. Taxis ready to take you anywhere will also be hanging around the park. A typical taxi fare within the city will rarely exceed RD$200, as of January 2012.
- 4 Independencia Park (Parque Independencia).
- The Malecón. A cityfront coastal park running along the sea side of the busy street of Ave. George Washington. It is a nice and relaxing place for a walk. Along the road you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Caribbean sea, people hanging, and if you are by the Colonial Zone small kiosks selling goods and restaurants. There are many benches where you can sit and admire the view, from San Gil Fort to Plaza Juan Baron and Plaza Güibia.
- 5 Dominican Republic National Zoo (Parque Zoológico Nacional Arq. Manuel Valverde Podestá), Av. La Vega Real, Arroyo Hondo, ☏ +1 809-378-2149, fax: +1 809-378-2070, firstname.lastname@example.org. A cityfront coastal park running along the sea side of the busy street of Ave. George Washington. It is a nice and relaxing place for a walk. Along the road you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Caribbean sea, people hanging, and if you are by the Colonial Zone small kiosks selling goods and restaurants. There are many benches where you can sit and admire the view.
- 6 Dr. Rafael Ma. Moscoso National Botanical Garden (Jardín Botánico Dr. Rafael Ma. Moscoso), Av. Republica de Colombia, ☏ +1 809-385-2611, jardinbotanicoO@jbn.gob.do. Daily 09:00-18:00. Adults: RD$70, children: RD$50.
- 7 Parque Ambiental Núñez de Cáceres, Av. Núñez de Cáceres.
- 8 Iberoamérica Park, Calle César Nicolás Penson. 05ː00-22ː00 daily. Has some little idiosyncrasies like miniature houses and karst type scenery, but mostly just an urban greenspace.
Santo Domingo is an excellent place to study Spanish off the beaten track and get immersed in the language.
- 9 Kahkow Experience, Calle Las Damas 102, ☏ +1-809-547-2166. 10ː00-19ː00 daily. If you want to try making chocolate or bar soap, this is a place for that, in addition to tours of a confectionary and buying sweet stuff.
- 10 AquaMundo, Av. John F. Kennedy (inside Sambil Santo Domingo), ☏ +1 829 547 4014. 09ː00-19ː00 M-F, 09ː00-17ː00 Sa-Su. Another aquarium, but all within the confines of a shopping mall (more gimmicky perhaps than the other one listed).
- 11 Playa Boca Chica/Playa San Andres (38 km east of Santo Domingo). These beaches are in the community of Boca Chica, the city's premier beach destination and also quite a party zone. Also has a casino that used to be a famous hotel (the Hotel Hamaca) set up by Rafael Trujillo.
Two of the top festivities of the year occur in Santo Domingo. The annual Merengue Festival in the summer and Carnival in the spring.
Each of these is held on the city's main seaside main road, El Malecon, but tend to spill over into hotel ballrooms, beaches, patios and parking lots. This is a great way to immerse yourself in Dominican culture, and meet new interesting people from the city.
The Merengue Festival takes place between July 26 to 31. The festival is a celebration of Dominican Republic’s main dance, merengue. They invite the top merengue bands to perform free concerts to the crowd. The festival begins with a parade, but later becomes a concert.
There are art exhibitions, food fairs, and games that occur at the same time. The main activity that is done during the festival is dancing merengue, so be prepared to be spun uncontrollable when you decide to dance with a local.
The other amazing festival is the Carnival, which takes place during the entire month of February, but reaches its peak on February 27, the Dominican Independence Day. The Carnival also takes place in El Malecon, where masks, which symbolizes spiritual spirits;elaborate costumes,and intriguing dances parade down the streets while entertaining and sometimes scaring the crowd.
Most transactions in the Dominican Republic can be paid in cash and credit cards. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in most stores and restaurants.
The official currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican peso. However most merchants will accept dollars or euros. If you do choose to purchase goods or services in dollars or euros, be wary of the exchange rate. The official exchange rate in the Dominican Republic is set by the Banco Central de la Republica Dominicana and is updated daily.
Foreign currency exchange services are prominently available at major ports of entry or are nearby. Some of the most prominent foreign exchange dealers are:
Agente de Cambio Caribe Express and Agente de Cambio La Nacional Caribe Express offices[dead link] and major banks which include: Banco de Reservas, Scotiabank, Banco Leon, and Banco Popular Dominicano.
- Gruen Projects -- Art Gallery, Bella Vista (by appointment), ☏ +1 809-707-1967. Gruen Projects exhibits and promotes the work of Dominican artists, such as Hector Ledesma, Miguel Pineda, Leonardo Sanz, Joaquin Rosario, and Joel Gonell.
The Colonial Zone offers plenty of shopping opportunities, especially if you are looking for Ambar and Larimar, the traditional stones of the DR. Don't forget to haggle, as all the shop owners adjust their prices for this purpose. You will also find a ton of Haitian art for sale everywhere at great prices. If that's your thing, great, just remember its not Dominican. The main boulevard in the Colonial Zone is El Conde, a pedestrian boulevard lined with all kinds of shops and eateries mostly aimed at the locals. Have fun shopping and people watching here.
If you are feeling adventurous, have a cab take you to the Mercado Modelo nearby. This indoor labyrinth of shops can be overwhelming for a new tourist but, don't worry, it is safe. Then again, you might feel safer asking the cab driver to escort you through the maze of shops and kiosks offering every imaginable kind of souvenir, jewelry, stone, artwork, etc.
If you want to experience American-style shopping there are plenty of options but here are the three most popular:
- 1 Acropolis Center (Condominio Centro Comercial Acropolis), Av. Winston Churchill and Calle Rafael Augusto Sánchez, ☏ +1 809-955-2020. M-Sa 10:00-20:00, Su 11:00-18:00.
- 2 Agora Mall, Av. John F. Kennedy and Av. Abraham Lincoln (Estación Pedro Mir 2 ), ☏ +1 809-363-2323, email@example.com.
- 3 Bella Vista Mall, Av. Sarasota #62 Esq. Arrayanes, Bella Vista, ☏ +1 809-255-0664.
- 4 Blue Mall, Av. Winston Churchill #93, ☏ +1 809-955-3000. M-Sa 10:00-21:00, Su 11:00-20:00.
- 5 Galeria 360, Av. John F. Kennedy and Bienvenido Garcia Gautier (Estación Pedro Mir 2 ), ☏ +1 829-995-7360, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 6 Plaza Central, Av. 27 de Febrero and Av. Winston Churchill, ☏ +1 809-541-5929.
- 7 Sambil Santo Domingo, Avenida John F. Kennedy, ☏ +1 809-234-5678. 10ː00-21ː00 daily. Large mall with cinema, kid's amusement park, trampoline park, and indoor aquarium.
No haggling at the malls. This is an island where practically everything being sold is imported and taxed at 18% (ITBIS or Value Added Tax).
Santo Domingo offers a variety of cuisines from around the world from Chinese, Italian and Mediterranean to Brazilian. You can also find the main fast food franchises like McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell.
Mid-grade and high-end restaurants can be quite costly for Third World standards, a dinner with an entrée, main course, drink and dessert can range from US$15-75 per person, plus 10% mandatory tip plus 16% ITBIS tax. Be careful and ask around as price doesn't always equal quality, especially in tourist areas.
Unless the contrary is specified menu prices don’t include the 10% service charge and 16% sales tax, so real prices are 26% higher than indicated in the menu.
If you want to spend less than US$8 on a decent meal and drink:
- Visit a “comedor” or cafeteria.
Comedores offer a “Plato del Día” or predetermined meal of the day (usually rice, beans, salad and meat or chicken, and a soda) for US$3–8. Cafeterias and Comedores can be found everywhere around the city but specially around business areas and universities, this is where locals eat so is a great way of getting in touch with the culture. “Mimosa”, located on Padre Billini street in the Colonial Zone, offers a great variety of tasty local food during lunch hours. Another great option is Cafeteria "El Parque" which is in front of Eugenio Maria de Hostos Park attached to the "Clinica Abreu" one of the country's best and most prestigious clinic, close to the Colonial Zone and the Malecon, great place for breakfast, lunch and an early dinner.
- Best sandwiches, juice and shakes in the Caribbean
"Barra Payán", 30 de marzo street (five minutes from the Colonial Zone), is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. A sandwich cafeteria, the place has been a traditional eatery for more than a half century. Buy a sandwich and a delicious squeezed-to-order fruit juice or milkshake for less than US$5.
- Chinese and "Pica Pollo"
At some point in history Dominicans became quite fond of fried chicken and Chinese food, combining both cuisines into fast food establishments known as "pica pollos". These are usually take-out joints run by first or second generation Chinese immigrants, serving up heaping portions of fried rice, plantain slices and tasty (and greasy) fried chicken, along with the usual variety of Chinese comfort food. Very inexpensive. Visit Santo Domingo's China Town, near the Mercado Modelo and not far from the Colonial Zone (Duarte Avenue), a very busy zone where working-class people do a lot of their shopping. If you feel adventurous enough to enter this usually chaotic but very picturesque part of the town it would an experience to remember. Keep in mind, pick-pockets love the crowded streets, watch your belongings closely.
- Fast food
A McDonald's combo costs around US$5, Taco Bell, Wendy's and Pizza Hut around US$6. There are also several very good local franchises like Pizzarelli where you can have pasta, pizza or a salad for no more than RD$275 (Sept 2017), and others like Pollos Victorina. Also, don't miss some good Dominican "empanadas" at De Nosotros Empanadas. You can walk into a McDonald's in Santo Domingo and order a value meal with a Presidente beer instead of a Coke. How cool is that?
- Adrian Tropical Food, Avenida 27 de Febrero, ☏ +1 809-472-1763. A unique, quality and "affordable" dining experience. There are three restaurants in the city, the coolest one is literally built on the water in the Malecon. Best known for its "Mofongo" dish. This plate is made out of mashed plantains.
- El Conuco Very touristy and rather affordable restaurant in Gazcue, where you can enjoy live traditional Dominican dances.
- Lincoln Road On the Abraham Lincoln avenue.
- Yokomo The Dominican sushi franchise. Enjoy the most unique and inventive Dominican-fusion sushi, such as sushi with sweet plantains.
- Falafel In the colonial zone, a good and affordable Near Eastern restaurant specializing in, as the name suggests it, falafel.
- Atras and Cinnamon in Plaza Orleans, two contiguous open-air restaurants. In this plaza you can order from any restaurant while sitting in the courtyard.
- Buen Provecho Middle range restaurant serving different types of food, a good place to get the "Dominican Flag" of meat with rice and beans.
- Red Grill A very trendy grill with several locations in the city. One is located in Plaza Orleans, another one has its own bar on top. Pricier, but not a splurge.
- Chef Pepper Also very trendy, and it just opened a new branch in Bella Vista. If you're craving a hamburger or a steak and cheese sandwich, this is a good place to go.
- L'Osteria A mid-range but very high quality Italian restaurant, facing the national theater.
- Sapore d'Italia Another mid-range, very good Italian restaurant.
American and international midrange franchises include:
- 1 TGI Fridays, Av. Winston Churchill, Acropolis Center, ☏ +1 809-955-8443. M-Th 12:00-00:00; F-Su 12:00-01:00.
- 2 Tony Roma's, Av. Sarasota #29, Bella Vista, ☏ +1 809-535-5454. Su-Th 11:00-00:00; F Sa 11:00-01:00.
- 3 Outback Steak House, Av. Winston Churchill, Acropolis Center, ☏ +1 809-566-5550. Su-Th 12:00-23:00; F Sa 12:00-00:00.
- 4 Hard Rock Cafe, Av. Winston Churchill, Blue Mall, ☏ +1 809-686-7771. Su-Th 12:00-00:00; F Sa 12:00-01:00.
If you have to ask how much, you can't afford these places. The following are very tourist-friendly:
- Pat'e Palo Colonial Spanish/Mediterranean brasserie style restaurant, situated by the "Plaza de Espana" overlooking the "Alcazar de Colon" frequented by locals
- La Briciola Fancy Italian restaurant in a Colonial Garden
- Mesón de la Cava An expensive average restaurant whose chief gimmick is being located within a natural cave underground.
The following are not very touristy, mostly being frequented by locals. However, if you want to explore how the wealthier classes dine in Santo Domingo, these are the places to go:
- Pepperoni Grille Upscale, modern Italian.
- Sofia's Mediterranean cuisine.
- Any of the restaurants around Gustavo Mejia Ricart Avenue
- Mesón de Bari One of the classiest restaurants for Dominican cuisine
- Victoria by Porterhouse Steakhouse
- La Marrana Very trendy Spanish restaurant
- Jaleo a "Dominican fusion" bar/restaurants
- Don Pepe Fancy Spanish restaurant, very pricey
- Mitre Chic restaurant and wine bar
- Tabu Bambu Asian Fusion
Santo Domingo has an amazing variety of night life options. Most bars and clubs must close by law at midnight from Sunday to Thursday and at two in the morning on Friday and Saturday. Therefore, it is not uncommon for people to start partying at 20:00 on the weekends. Happily, the regulation is suspended on holidays and the last two weeks of December for Christmas partying. Usually the clubs located inside major hotels are exempt from this rule, although they aren't usually much fun.
The Malecon is home to several options as well, depending on what's in style at the time.
Check out Jet Set on Monday nights for live Merengue and Bachata shows from the most popular top bands.
Head over to the upscale side of Santo Domingo (Naco, Piantini) if that is your scene. There are a ton of options there, including perennial favorites such as Trio Caffe, Praia and Montecristo. Those kind of places can have a rather strict admission policy, you usually have to look white enough and rich enough to be admitted.
In this upscale area of Santo Domingo, consider:
- Dock Very trendy bar at the Acropolis Center. Open air, electronic music.
- El Barcito Very nice ambiance, mostly rock music. The owner is always present and very friendly.
- Meringue Bar, Ave. Independencia & Abraham Lincoln (inside the hotel Hispanola), ☏ +1 809-476-7733. W-Sa. A nice club with House music, where some well known DJs are invited. Students love this spot because of its spacious dance floor and popularity. It may be a bit costly than the other bars/clubs, make sure to call for entrance fee ahead of time.
- Level 2 On the second flour of the Holiday Inn Hotel. Also check out the rooftop bar and pool!
- Maruja New, trendy open air bar, close to La Marrana and Margo
- Mix Right next to the Mix Restaurant, another popular bar.
- Praia The fanciest club, in the Holiday Inn Hotel.
- Shots Mostly rock music, very young crowd. Ave. Roberto Pastoriza.
- Plaza Uris on Ave. Roberto Pastoriza
This plaza has become one of the capital’s top weekend destinations with five very popular bar/clubs with Zambra- +1 809 683-7373, Shots +1 829-886-1208, and Taboo Bamboo +1 809-227-2727 all in the same plaza. This is a favorite spot for locals and especially visitors because it reminds them of the states. Because of its proximity you can bar hop until you find the one that fits you. Music ranging from rock, hip-hop and Latin. When in the plaza the drink to try is definitely Omega shot. Make sure you have a designated driver or number to a taxi.
If you are more into the bohemian scene check out the Colonial Zone for great bars and cafes, and for a vibrant gay nightlife scene. Here are some hints:
- Bio. Modern eclectic music from regueaton to Latin rock, very young clientele. Famous for serving drinks from buckets. Calle Sanchez and Padre Billini
- Bocanegra The trendiest place in the Colonial Zone
- Cacibajagua. Great rock music, nice decor, adult crowd. Sanchez #201.
- Casa de Teatro Enjoy live jazz and rock concerts, pretty bohemian.
- El Beduino New hookah bar on a rooftop in the Colonial Zone.
- El Sarten this is a vintage Latin bar frequented by a mature crowd of experienced dancers. Drop in if you want to see some serious merengue and salsa steps. Located on Calle Hostos #153, Zona Colonial +809-686-9621 – Open every night
- Encuentro Artesanal. The decor is definitely the best in the Colonial Zone highly selected electronic music, frequented by artists and publicists.
- Museo del Ron. The daytime museum turns into a very cozy bar, offering a wide range of Caribbean rums to taste, as well as some of the best rum based cocktails in the city. Nice lounge music, beautiful patio.
- Parada 77. Latin rock, Spanish songwriters some merengue and salsa, people in their mid thirties and forties.
- S Bar. Mostly rock music, can enjoy some falafels too, you would love the owner Isaac. Calle Sanchez and Padre Billini
- Segafredo. A franchise, lounge music, Italian food and good coffee.
- 1 Island Life Hostel, Calle Isabel La Católica 356, ☏ +1 849-362-5800. Hostel exists within 17th-century UNESCO-listed heritage building and has courtyard, garden, bathtub-size outdoor pool, billiard table, games, lockers, and free breakfast. Plus a bar on site to get jolly on some rum before you listen to other hostel guests creak in their bunks all night. RD$1580.
- 2 Mauad Hotel Boutique, Calle José Maria Heredia No. 6, ☏ +1 809-231-7790. Represents a chance to relive the experience of staying in a Spanish castle. Also has an outdoor pool and some nibbles for breakfast. RD$1580.
- 3 Jaguar Aparta Hotel, Calle Hermanos Deligne 59, ☏ +1 809-924-2400. Suites in an otherwise fairly basic but comfortable complex. Have a coffee on the rooftop terrace. RD$2629.
- 4 Hotel Conde De Peñalba, ☏ +1 809-688-7121. This one really evokes the Spanish colonial feel both inside and outside as it sits beside the cathedral and plaza. Nice wood furnishings and restaurant and charm. DOP 2808.
- 5 Hotel W&P, Sarasota #53 in Bella Vista area, ☏ +1 809-535-0800. Excellent for the business traveller. Located in the center of the city, it offers a business center and wifi connection. Restaurant with 24-hour room service. There is a very nice pool/bar on the rooftop which offers a 360-degree view of the city. RD$3042.
- 6 El Beaterio Guest Houseo, Calle Duarte nº8 Ciudad Colonial, ☏ +1 809-687-8657. Excellent accommodations in a former nunnery! Wrought iron beds, old world charm, and central to the colonial district. RD$3452.
- 7 Holiday Inn Santo Domingo, Av. Abraham Lincoln 856, ☏ +1 809-621-0000. Very chic and sleek, looks like a piece of slate. Has a rooftop pool and paid breakfast buffet option, plus restaurant and gym. RD$4149.
- 8 Hotel Luca, Calle 19 de Marzo #164. Stylish boutique hotel in the heart of Santo Domingo. It has an outdoor concept and combines rustic Dominican charm with modern touches. Amenities consist of an informal restaurant offering open-air dining, plus a low-key rooftop bar and terrace with sunloungers that provides stunning views of the city. There's also a rooftop hot tub. RD$4739.
- 9 Catalonia Santo Domingo, ☏ +1 809-685-0000. George Washington Avenue, #500 RD$4973.
- 10 Renaissance Jaragua Hotel & Casino, ☏ +1 809-221-2222. Located near El Conde (shopping district), historic colonial buildings, and restaurants. Also across the street from the malecon (which is long sidewalk and sitting area in front of ocean). RD$6143.
- 11 Courtyard by Marriott Santo Domingo Hotel, Avenida Maximo Gomez, ☏ +1 809-685-1010. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 13:00. Near the business district, conveniently located to the US Embassy and the US Consulate, ideal for business travellers. Comfortable rooms equipped with free wireless internet.
- 12 Sheraton Santo Domingo Hotel, Av. George Washington 365, ☏ +1 809-221-6666. Big concrete complex on the malecon, with a pool and lots of palm trees. Restaurant/bar/breakfast buffet (extra charge). RD$6067.
- 13 Hodelpa Nicolás de Ovando, Calle Las Damas, ☏ +1 809-685-9955. Here's a place to splurge if you want to feel like an integral part of the colonial zone. It gives off that vibe being as it is a restored 16th-century building right in the thick of things. Lobby bar, restaurant, breakfast (extra), outdoor pool, walking distance to Ozama Fort and such. RD$6369.
- 14 Embassy Suites by Hilton Santo Domingo, Silver Sun, Av. Tiradentes 32, ☏ +1 809-685-0001. Hilton brand brings out its big guns here with this glassy skyscraper punctuating the Santo Domingo cosmopolitan skyline area. It has a nice infinity pool about 1/3 of the way up, although the surroundings might make you wish you were looking at the hotel instead. Also features a free breakfast which is a plus. Has a gym too. RD$6369.
- 15 InterContinental Real Santo Domingo, Av. Winston Churchill, ☏ +1 809-683-6060. Nice formal-looking hotel tower here, interiors and individual rooms have a state of class as well. Has gym and upscale restaurant, and you can upgrade to have access to a club lounge with a breakfast. But the best part of the hotel is probably the elongated infinity pool. RD$5492.
- 16 JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo, Winston Churchill Avenue No. 93, ☏ +1 809-807-1717. This is like the golden goose in the Santo Domingo upscale commercial district. It is attached to the Blue Mall and has an infinity pool and rooftop restaurant/bar along with other Marriott-type luxuries. One of the glassiest places in town. RD$9758.
- Hotel Atarazana, Calle Vicente Celestino Duarte #19 (Zona Colonial), ☏ +1 809-688-3693. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Family-run boutique hotel. All rooms are equipped with color cable TV, en-suite, air conditioning or ceiling fan and wi-fi. All rooms have balconies. Breakfast is served in the hotel’s patio, surrounded by lush plants and a jacuzzi. English, Spanish, German, French and Italian spoken by staff. --Appears to be temporarily closed-- US$80-100.
In Boca Chica Area
- 17 Residencial Lucía III, Calle San Rafael B1 (3 blocks from beach), ☏ +1 829-561-2418. Like a micro-apartment with a garden and kitchenette. Bring earplugs to drown out the blaring music from the club next door.
- 18 Boca del Mar Residence, Calle José Francisco Peña Goméz, ☏ +1 809-814-7816. Highrise complex with 1-3 bedroom apartments with patios and a pool.
Poverty, though not as bad as next door Haiti, is still rampant and it is best you take precautions. Do not flash obvious wealth in poorer or middle class sections of the city (lots of jewelry, expensive camera, big watches, etc.) Keep your bag away from the street when walking as it can be snatched by kids on mopeds and keep a firm grip on it. Keep your passport at your accommodation and in a safe (some maids can steal). If you are Caucasian or Asian (no matter how you are dressed), expect to have a lot of insincerely friendly people on the streets follow you and strike up conversation with you. They are only talking to you in order to get money from you. They inevitably steer the conversation towards money and are looking for handouts or, worse, 'protection money' to protect you from the more undesirable elements of society. Do not engage in a conversation with them in the first place, as they are very persistent and could even follow you until you relent. When walking on the side walk do not stand too close to the street. There are robbers on mo-peds/motorcycles that will pass by and yank your purse from you. Some men and maybe even women carry a gun on them; do not let this alarm you. You will see men in civilian clothes relaxing on their patio or on the streets playing dominoes, with a gun they could be security guards.
Walk confidently. Don't dress like a tourist. Be yourself but if yourself is flashing Gucci and Prada where ever you go, maybe you need to dress down a bit. If you get lost at any time ask a local person walking by for directions. They are always more than happy to help foreigners at everything. Do NOT follow anyone that offers to take you to your destination. They will usually expect some payment for their effort. Even worse, they could be setting you up.
Be careful when trying to get an Uber in a touristic area (such as the Zona Colonial and the Los Tres Ojos entrance). Often you will have people in uniforms, taxi drivers or even the Tourist Police coming to you and forcing you to take local run-down taxi instead. They might even follow you if you refuse. Be aware of your surroundings, do not appear like you are waiting for an Uber (e.g. by standing on the side of the street while checking your phone the whole time), and find a safe place to get an Uber (such as inside a chain restaurant or a supermarket).
Do not drink the tap water. It is not processed to be ingested by people. You can get sick. Bottled water is really cheap and sold every where. Ice is okay.
The National Police (Policía Nacional) and the Tourist Police (Policía Turística) are in charge of implementing the city safety. The national police station is at Av. Leopoldo Navarro #402, you can also contact +1 809-682-2151 for the central line, but in case of an emergency dial 911.
Embassies & consulates
- Canada, Av. Winston Churchill 1099, Torre Citigroup en Acrópolis Center, piso 18, Ensanche Piantini, Santo Domingo,, ☏ +1 809-262-3100, toll-free: +1 613 996-8885, fax: +809-262-3108, SDMGO@international.gc.ca. M-Th 09:00-12:00 & 13:00-16:00; F 09:00-12:00 only.
- Greece (Grecia), Centro Otorrinolaringologia Especialidades, Avenida 27 de Febrero, Esq. Federico Henriquez Carvajal, ☏ +1 809-685-3372, fax: +1-809-685-0071.
- Romania, Ave. Max Henríquez Ureña No.72, Piantini, ☏ +1 8092248243, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Honorary Consulate (Does not provide consular services. Instead, Romanian citizens in need of assistance should contact the embassy in Bogota, Colombia or the embassy of another European Union member state.)
- Spain (Espana), Av. Independencia No. 1205, Zona Universitaria, 10103 Santo Domingo, ☏ +1 809-450-2222, +1 809 697-3035 (solo emergencias), fax: +1 809-535-1550, email@example.com. M-F 08:00-12:00.
- United Kingdom, Ave 27 de Febrero No 233, Edificio Corominas Pepin, ☏ +1 809-472-7111, fax: +1 809-472-7190, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 1 United States of America, Av. República de Colombia #57, ☏ +1 809-221-2171, fax: +1 809-567-7775. 08:00-16:45.