What To Do in Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo Dominican Republic lies on the south coast of the Caribbean nation.

Americas, Beaches, City Breaks, Culture & History

Santo Domingo Dominican Republic lies on the south coast of the Caribbean nation. The greater metropolitan area is home to 3.8 million people, making it the largest city in the Caribbean by quite a stretch. It is full of history, including the first cathedral in the Americas and a reasonably preserved Zona Colonial, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Tropical Santo Domingo also has fantastic energy and a fascinating culture.

A Little History of Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

The Spanish claimed the island in 1493 making Santo Domingo Dominican Republic the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in the Americas. One of the first governors was Diego Columbus, eldest son of Christopher, who expanded African slavery and created the conditions for the first recorded uprising in 1521. Santo Domingo successfully routed Oliver Cromwell’s attack in 1655. During the 19th century it was much fought over by the Spanish, Haiti and the growing independence movement.


The Catedral Primada de America (The First Cathedral of the Americas) is on the south side of Parque Colon (Columbus Park), and the tourist trolley, offering 45-minute tours, leaves from here too.

Catedral Castrense de Santa Bárbara Zona Colonial 1
Catedral Castrense de Santa Bárbara Zona Colonial

The whole of the Zona Colonial is a very pleasant place to walk around and safe, with a low key police presence. The main street in this area, El Conde, is pedestrianised and has pleasant cafés for pauses from the heat. The walls are the oldest military constructions of European origin in the Americas, but sadly incomplete. Two of the best places to appreciate them are at the Ozama Fortress and Independence Park.

North of the Agora Mall, the botanical garden also has pleasant walks. To the north and east of here is the zoo.

For colonial and indigenous history visit the Museo de las Casas Reales, or the ChocoMuseo for the history of cacao in the DR, both in the Zona Colonial. If you remember the opening sequences of the film Jurassic Park, you may appreciate The Amber World Museum. The aquarium on the east side of the river is great for families.

Getting Around the City

Santo Domingo Metro
Santo Domingo Metro

If you do not mind the heat, many parts of the city can be explored on foot, but watch out for the condition of the pavement. They are often much deteriorated when compared to the road beside them. Also beware low-hanging power cables, which are abundant around the city, and can ruin an otherwise memorable photograph.

There is a cheap, safe and fast metro system around the city; however, the stations are at quite a distance from the Zona Colonial. The local buses are called guaguas, but it is not always easy to figure out the routes. You’ll see some venerable taxis on the streets, but the drivers can charge what they want; downloadable taxi aps work out more convenient, more comfortable and cheaper.

Nearby Beaches

Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

There is the tiny beach called Montasinos, immediately to the south of the Zona Colonial, which, by chance, depending on your time of visit, can be pleasant or strewn with litter. Further west along the Malecon is Guibia Beach, and further still Gringo Beach.

To the east of the city is the resort town of Boca Chica and then Playa Caribe.


Though a relatively small country, The Dominican Republic is a superpower of musical creativity. Juan Luis Guerra has had a long career in merengue and bachata, whilst a star of modern bachata is Romeo Santos and of Reggaeton, Natti Natasha. The rapper Cardi B also has Dominican roots.

With such talent, it is worth considering taking in some Latin music whilst in Santo Domingo. A laid back bar for listening is Sabina in the Zona Colonial, whereas Onno’s, in the same area, is more for dancing. The Jubilee Club in the Jaragua Hotel and Casino, on the Malecon, has live merengue on the weekends, but go from 11pm onwards.

There are many more places. Check the listings to match your specific tastes.

Flights to Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

From London British Airways fly via Madrid and Miami to Santo Domingo Dominican Republic airport, whilst JetBlue change planes in JFK, New York. From the USA there are direct flights Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Atlanta, New York, Houston, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas and Washington DC, amongst others.

You are unlikely to need a visa, but remember to fill in the electronic travel form for both entry and exit.

Weather Dominican Republic Santo Domingo

From November to April, the weather in Santo Domingo Dominican Republic is drier and though you may still occasionally need to shelter from the rain, May to June is good too, but wetter. August to October is the hurricane season and so it is better to avoid travel at this time.

Hotels in Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

If you are looking for hotels in Santo Domingo Dominican Republic, click here.

Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Time

The time in  Dominican Republic Santo Domingo is -4 hours GMT, making it the same as New York.

Further Information 

For the capital, go to https://www.godominicanrepublic.com/destinations/santo-domingo/ and for the Dominican Republic in general: https://www.godominicanrepublic.com/

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Mike East

Mike East

Mike began his career in travel writing by writing his own guide on his holidays. He sent this manuscript off to a range of travel guide companies and got a range of rejection letters — all except one. Getting a contract to write for Roger Lascelles Publications on Trinidad and Tobago, and The Bahamas was how his career began. With this opportunity came other pieces for British magazines, The Sunday Telegraph and now Travel Begins at 40.

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