Santo Domingo Overview
Mapping Out the Dominican Republic
La Romana is home to resort delights, like Casa de Campo’s world-renowned Teeth of the Dog golf course. In Puerto Plata, surf’s up where you can find all types of water sports on its Amber Coast. People flock to Punta Cana’s luxurious resorts on pristine beaches for snorkeling and fun in the clear-aqua water. Visit Samaná to see majestic humpback whales up close, migrating through the bay. Finally, UNESCO World Heritage site in Santo Domingo is the oldest city in the Americas and is the cultural and political capital of the Dominican Republic. Whatever you want to do, the Dominican Republic’s got you covered.
City and beach life is the way to go for a well-balanced vacation. In between the shops and history you'll find in the colonial zone of Santo Domingo, you'll also want to experience El Malecón.
The boardwalk runs along the Caribbean coast and winds around most of the city. Avenida George Washington, as the road is properly named, is lined with restaurants and hotels on some parts and gives you pretty views of the ocean and landscape.
During the day you'll hear the sounds of the waves and at night, the ocean sounds mix in with the fun, Latin music and dancing. It's the place to be if you want a true cultural experience.
Why It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Santo Domingo is home to a lot of firsts. The Santa Maria La Menor Cathedral, Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo and Hospital San Nicolás de Bari are all the first of their kind in the Americas. The cathedral, university and hospital symbolize the city's importance as a historical site, whose heritage is honored and protected.
Those three sites are only the beginning of cherished heritage in Santo Domingo. You'll find so many beautiful and historical bits of culture in the ancient city, and because it's so well preserved, you'll find yourself imagining what it must have been like to be at the brink of such a treasured place. Because of all this, and its significance in culture and heritage, UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site in 1990.
Art, Shops, Cafes and History: Parque Colon
Dedicated to Christopher Columbus, complete with a bronze statue in his honor, Parque Colon is a charming town square park that’s great for hanging out under the trees.
Cigar shops, art boutiques and cafes surround the area, and it’s the starting point of the historical district. The first cathedral in the New World is next to it, along with El Conde, the main shopping area.
It's a great place to stop and enjoy the scenery around you. You'll see both locals and tourists bustling around, enjoying the atmosphere. Take your pick from several of the restaurants to enjoy a drink or meal while experiencing colonial Santo Domingo.
First Cathedral in the New World
Stepping inside this building is like stepping back in time to 16th century Santo Domingo. Spiritualists, history buffs and tourists from all over the world visit the Santa Maria La Menor Cathedral to admire its beauty and appreciate its value as the first Christian structure in the New World.
The sacred architectural structure was consecrated in 1541 and is an impressive sight inside and out. The solid limestone, silver high alters and cross-vaulted ceilings are all part of the gothic and baroque design. It's only one of the seven treasures of cultural heritage in Santo Domingo, but its spiritual value makes it especially beloved by the Dominican people.
Best Restaurants in Santo Domingo
The capital has tons of food options to fit all tastes and budgets. For authentic Dominican cuisine, you’ll want to visit Adrian Tropical Food on El Malecón.
If you’ve had a late night dancing the night away, feed your midnight munchies at Barra Payan. It’s a 24-hour favorite for everyone, serving scrumptious sandwiches and juice. Just be ready to order your sammy in Spanish.
Foodies, head over to French/European bistro, La Boheme for fine dining and great service in a sweet setting. And, for a great start to your day, enjoy tasty breakfast treats at Elysee.
Santo Domingo Quick Facts
Currency: Peso (RD$)
Electricity: Same voltage as North America, but the sockets are two-pronged.
Passport/Immigration: All U.S. citizens must have a valid passport when traveling to and from the Dominican Republic.
Drinking Water: Drink only bottled water. Avoid tap water and drinking beverages with ice cubes.
Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time (UTC/GMT -4 hours)
Peak Season: December to February, July to August and Semana Santa (the week before Easter)
Tips & Transportation
Most Beautiful Stones: Larimar MuseumThe Larimar Museum showcases the beautiful natural aquamarine stone that can only be found in the Dominican Republic. The gorgeous gem is the color of the Caribbean Sea. Make sure to visit the free museum and stop at the gift shop to take a piece of the Caribbean home with you.
Best Seafood: El CantábricoFor a dinner just a little on the fancy side, check out El Cantábrico for yummy Spanish style seafood in Santo Domingo. They pair classic Spanish cuisine with a hint of Dominican Republic flair to make delicious entrees. Make sure to heighten your meal with one of their great wine selections and finish it off with something sweet.
Best History Lesson: El Conde
After hanging out in Parque Colon, make sure to wander onto Calle El Conde, where you'll learn the history of Dominican independence. It's both a historical sight and shopping area, so don't forget to browse the shops after your history lesson. You'll find everything from special Dominican gems like Amber and Larimar, to classic souvenirs like handmade accessories.
For Santo Domingo resorts, you'll fly into Las Américas International Airport (SDQ). It's located in Punta Caucedo, about a 20-minute drive east of Santo Domingo.
Immigration & Customs
At the immigration desk, you will have to purchase a 30-day tourist card instead of a visa. The DR requires a departure tax that’s usually included in your airfare. Your flight attendant will typically give you customs paperwork to fill out on the plane. After you’ve been through the immigration desk at the airport and you’ve picked up your luggage from baggage claim, you’ll go to customs, where officers will possibly check your bags.
Getting to Your Hotel
CheapCaribbean.com has partnered with Amstar as our premier transportation company in Santo Domingo. They’ll provide you with safe, comfortable and professional transportation from the airport to your hotel and back. They’ll also provide transportation to any excursions booked through our site that you’d like to take while you’re in your destination. All drivers are fluent in English, friendly and knowledgeable about the culture, history and things to do while you’re there. By the end of your ride, you’ll have made a new friend. Vehicles are all clean, modern and reliable.
Amstar is also the official transportation rep for CheapCaribbean.com excursions when you book vacations to Santo Domingo on our site. The majority of our partner hotels have an Amstar desk in or near the lobby, so they’re easy to find should you need them. For this reason, we suggest that our guests do not rent cars while in the Caribbean or Mexico as traffic laws and road quality and street signs are not the same as they are in the US.
Getting Around Santo Domingo
You can get around Santo Domingo by walking or using public transportation (buses) or taxis. However, if you plan on visiting outside of the resort areas, we recommend Amstar Tours. Excursions to activities include transportation to and from the hotel, so you can count on a convenient and dependable ride.