Santo DomingoWhy choose Santo Domingo?
Santo Domingo is the oldest city in the New World, where the settlement of all the Americas began. See the first cathedral, the first hospital. Wander down cobble stone streets among the Spanish colonial architecture and imagine how things were back in the 1600s.
No other city in the Caribbean has a greater variety of restaurants and night life. There are so many restaurants in this city that it is practically impossible even for those who live here to have visited them all. And it's a city that never sleeps. A great place to meet people. A lot of young single executives who come here to work end up leaving (if they leave) married to a Dominican.
Santo Domingo has great shopping. Major chains from all around the world have opened branches here and more will be opening soon. Discount stores offer great prices on designer brands, the leading shops offer clearance sales several times a year and there are many designer shops for more exclusive wear.
Santo Domingo is the most bustling and diverse city in the Caribbean. It has a population of over three million inhabitants within the city and the Province of Santo Domingo and sprawls out over 250 square kilometers.
What else is nearby
Santo Domingo is located on the south coast of the Dominican Republic, about mid way between the western border with Haiti and the eastern coastline. The furthest western border, the north coast and east coast are all four hour drive away. Go east and the first major town you come to is the resort town of Boca Chica. Go west and you will arrive at the Palenque and Nizao beach areas, also the newly habilitated Pomier Caves (the largest in the Caribbean). Go north and you will pass the cities of Bonao and Jarabacoa as you work your way through the highest mountains in the Caribbean.
How to get to Santo Domingo
Las Americas International Airport is located to the east of Santo Domingo, about 30 minutes away from the heart of the city. It receives direct scheduled flights from: United States: American Airlines (New York, Miami, Boston), Delta (New York), Continental (Newark), Spirit (Fort Lauderdale), US Airways (Fort Lauderdale, Philadelphia). Caribbean: American Eagle and Iberia (San Juan, Puerto Rico), American Eagle and Liat (Antigua), American Eagle (Saint Martin), Aserca (Caracas), Bahamas Air (Nassau), Dutch Bird, Aeropostal (Curacao), Aeropostal (Aruba), Air Antillas (Pont-a-Pitre), Air Caraibes (Pont-a-Pitre, Fort de France, Port-au-Prince), Air Jamaica (Kingston), BWIA Airlines (Curacao, Trinidad), Cubana de Aviacion (Havana). Latin America: Copa (Panama City). Europe: Martinair (Amsterdam), Air France (Paris), Iberia, Air Europa, Air Plus Comet (Madrid), LTU (Frankfurt). There are charter flights to Toronto, Canada.
Inexpensive coach bus transport is available from North and East destinations.
Most tour groups will be bussed into the city in large chartered busses. If you are traveling individually, you will need to take a taxi from the airport to the city which will cost about RD$600. Prices are posted at the airport. Fix the price prior to leaving for your destination.
Another option is to rent a car. It is pretty straight forward driving into the city - take the Las Americas Expressway westbound until you pass over the Duarte Bridge and continue onto the 27 de Febrero overpass system.
The cheapest way to get from the airport to the city is to take a taxi or motoconcho (motorcycle taxi if you have no luggage) up to the highway about 1/2 mile. From there, you can take a public bus to Santo Domingo.
Within Santo Domingo there are excellent radio-taxi services. You can call a taxi that for RD$100 (with air-conditioner) will get you to most points. These taxis will usually arrive in around five minutes. Befriend a taxi driver and he can become your tour guide, assisting you with many of your needs.
Other forms of public transport are the "carros publicos" (multi-fare taxis), the Conatra and Fenatrano minibuses, the OMSA large buses and car rentals. For more information, see our Transport Page
Best ports of entry
Santo Domingo has two international airports. These are the Las Americas International Airport and the Herrera International Airport. The Santo Domingo Port receives some cruise ships but is set for major renovations in 2005.
The Colonial City is the perfect starting point for visitors to discover Santo Domingo. Here, between Independence Park and the Ozama River, you will find the first city built in the New World by European settlers, including Columbus's brother, Bartholomeo, and his son, Diego Columbus.
The first street in the Americas is Calle de Las Damas, the site of numerous historic buildings including the Ozama Fortress, the oldest fortress in the Americas. There is also the house of Nicolás de Ovando, governor of Santo Domingo in the early 1500's and a ruthless warrior against the Taino Indians.
Of great historical interest is the Museo de las Casas Reales (Museum of the Royal Houses), the restored 16th century palace of the Spanish Court, which features a wonderful glimpse of the past. Nearby is the Alcázar de Colón (Castle of Columbus) built by Diego Columbus and his wife Maria de Toledo, niece of the Spanish King Ferdinand.
A few streets over in the center of the walled city, visitors will find the Cathedral Basilica Santa Maria la Menor, pronounced the first cathedral in the New World by Pope Paul III in 1542. While touring the colonial city, visitors can learn all about amber, the stone made even more famous by Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park film. The Amber Museum on Calle Arz. Merińo features exceptional educational exhibits of this semi-precious jewel.
Plaza de la Cultura
From the old to the new, Santo Domingo takes visitors on a trip through time with its dozens of national museums celebrating all aspects of Dominican life, past and present. Many of these museums are located in the Plaza de la Cultura, a large park area where visitors can stroll easily from one museum to another.
They include The Museum of Dominican Man, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum of History and Geography, and the National Museum of Natural History. Visitors to the Museum of Dominican Man will enjoy the fascinating look into the history of the Dominican people including original Taino artifacts, the Spanish conquerors and the African slaves. The Museum of Modern Art has an impressive collection although small by developed world standards.
Located on the John F. Kennedy Expressway in the Naco part of town, this privately-owned museum features one of the best collections anyway of Dominican contemporary art.
Another site not to be missed is the Faro a Colón (Columbus Lighthouse) an impressive structure in the shape of a cross which was constructed to mark the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas in 1492. It houses his remains in an impressive tomb and features numerous exhibits. After exploring it by day, it is exciting to view the Lighthouse at night from the Colonial City, when the powerful lights are reflected into the sky in the shape of a cross. The lighthouse is located in the Mirador del Este Park.
Los Tres Ojos & National Aquarium
When visiting the Columbus Lighthouse, make a stop at Los Tres Ojos and then the National Aquarium. Los Tres Ojos is an impressive 50-foot deep cave with three lagoons surrounded by stalagmites and lush vegetation, five minutes from the Lighthouse. The National Aquarium, also five minutes away, is a medium-sized aquarium where the main attraction is the huge fish tank with a Plexiglas tunnel passing through it. Tamaury, a giant manatee, is the star of the park.
Botanical Gardens & Parks
With about 2 million square meters, the Santo Domingo Botanical Gardens is the largest in the Caribbean. The park is viewable by small train. Within are exhibits of the natural flora of the island and areas dedicated to palm trees, orchids and exotic plants. Also on the grounds is what was once the largest floral clock in the world.
Those who have visited Japan will agree that the Japanese Garden here is one of the most lovely in the world.
The well-kept Santo Domingo Botanical Gardens is well worth the visit if you love nature.
Other city parks worth a visit are the Mirador del Sur Park and the Mirador del Norte Park (for bicycling, skating, jogging and kite-flying).
After celebrating the 2003 Panamerican Sports Games, Santo Domingo boasts the Caribbean's best sports facilities. These are located at the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center and the Mirador del Este Sports Park. International competitions are booked at these venues year round.
Tourists in Santo Domingo in December and January are in for a treat as many Dominican Major League Baseball greats join their local teams in the closing of the regular season in December and the finals in January. Action in Santo Domingo is at the Quisqueya Ball Park. The regular season opens at the end of October and runs through the first week of February, when the winner of the Winter Professional Baseball Championship gets to represent the country in the Caribbean Series that is rotated in the DR, Puerto Rico, Mexico or Venezuela each year.
Horse, Auto & Go Kart Racing
The city's Las Americas International Speed Racing Course is where competitions are held several times a year attracting regional racers. In March 2005, the Miller Grand-AM Cup circuit race was held there.
Santo Domingo is home to the V Centenario Horse Race Track, with capacity for up to 15,000 race enthusiasts. A perfect view of the Caribbean can be seen while watching the thoroughbreds speed around the one mile course.
West of the City, the Santo Domingo Go Kart facility is right on the Malecon (seafront drive) in front of the Feria Ganadera and it hosts several go kart competitions a year.
Those visiting Santo Domingo can book reservations at the 18-hole Las Lagunas Country Club at Km. 20 Duarte Highway, Tel. 809 372-7441. Or at Isabel Villas Country Club at Avenida Belice, Urb. Isabel Villas, Cuesta Hermosa III, Arroyo Hondo that allows night play at its 9 holes par 3 course. Tel. 809 549-3306.
Spas and Beauty Salons
This is a city for pampering yourself. Very attractively decorated spas and unisex beauty salons pamper all with reasonable prices. Come for a vacation and go back with a new look.
Santo Domingo’s hotels cater to the business executive that visits the city. They are primarily located along the sea-bordering Malecon, along the Maximo Gomez Avenue, the Naco area and near the Mirador del Sur Park. Several small hotels offer attractive rates for those on a budget or wanting to stay longer.
Choose your city accommodation depending on where your center of activity will be. If you are coming for leisure, there are many boutique hotels in the Colonial City. If you will be here for business, book your hotel accordingly to avoid delays in traffic. For more information on hotels, see our Hotel Directory
Santo Domingo's dining scene rivals any cosmopolitan city around the world. A truly international mix, visitors can find every type of cuisine as well as savory Dominican dishes at superb restaurants. Restaurants are clustered in the Colonial City, Gazcue, the Malecon and uptown on 27 de Febrero Avenue, between Winston Churchill and Ortega y Gasset streets.
People-watching at the cafes and bars, many of them open air. Dancing merengue, salsa, bachata and even rock until the early morning in discos and night clubs. Casino gambling until dawn in hotel casinos.
Santo Domingo has its fair share of casinos, international theatre, music and dance performances, the finest of them performing at the National Theater.
For what's happening, see our Calendar Page
A city for young people, every evening hundreds of young executives congregate for drinks at the many bars and cafes in the city, many located at the Avenida Abraham Lincoln, Gustavo Mejia Ricart and Roberto Pastoriza or on the Malecon.
The nightlife starts late, with people arriving at the discos after 11 pm and the
merengue, salsa and rock beats don’t stop until around 4 am at upscale dance clubs in town.
Newcomers to the city should visit the Guacara Taina, a famous multi-level dance club set in a massive underground cave in the Mirador del Sur Park. Or live orchestra music nights at Jet Set Disco at Av. Independencia in front of Presidente beer brewery.
City Tour. This will feature many of the top historical attractions mentioned above, plus time for shopping including a visit to the Mercado Modelo, a huge indoor crafts market in the Colonial City. Some city tours also include a visit to the National Aquarium and/or the Tres Ojos cave.
Note you can plan your own tour with the help of a friendly taxi driver or one of the freelance tour guides who hang out in the Colonial Zone.
Night Life. This tour is offered by various companies and may have different components, but all include a visit to the Guacara Taina cave disco and a city casino.
Colonial City Half-Day Tour. Visit the main monuments in the Colonial City, with time for lunch or dinner in the area.
Santo Domingo is a city for shoppers, with several large shopping centers offering a wide selection of almost everything. The Mercado Modelo at Avenida Mella, a farmer's market turned into giant gift shop, offers the largest selection of handicrafts. Several gift shops are located on Arzobispo Merino and Isabel la Catolica in the Colonial City. Shopping venues are located in the 27 de Febrero to Gustavo Mejia Ricart environs, including Plaza Central, Plaza Lama, Plaza Naco, Americana Departamentos, Hache, Acropolis, Plaza Bolera, Cuesta, Bella Vista, Diamond large stores. There is a sprinkling of small shops located all along Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln avenues. Or visit the Conde Street pedestrian mall and the lively Duarte Avenue, or the Luperon Avenue shopping district, among others.