Dominican Republic Travel Guide : Santo Domingo

Dominican Republic Travel Guide : Santo Domingo

Bienvenido! Welcome to my Santo Domingo travel guide. Recently, I ventured off to Dominican Republic with the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism to experience firsthand, the culture, fashion and cuisine of Santo Domingo. This would mark my very first trip to the Caribbean. Naturally, like most people when you think of Dominican Republic, you conjure up visions of beautiful sandy beaches and endless sunshine.

However, less talked about is the colonial city of Santo Domingo, the first European city of the New World. This basically means that it is the first location of European settlement in the American continent. It is a charming picturesque city with cobblestoned streets, colorful houses, baroque style chapels and historical monuments.

The Colonial City is the oldest and most important part of Santo Domingo. So important that it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in the year 1990. If you are love history and getting to really know the places you travel to, you might find Santo Domingo very interesting.

How many days should you spend in Santo Domingo?

We spent five days in the Capital city and took in the art, sites, sounds, fashion and cuisine. However, if you don’t have five days, you can certainly spend two or three days with ample amount of time to get to really explore the city.

Where to Stay

We stayed at Hodelpa Nicolas de Ovando, a charming colonial style hotel in the heart of Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo. The coolest part about this location is the fact that it is also considered to be a world heritage site by UNESCO. This is because it’s location is on the very first paved road on of the New World, Calle Las Damas. The hotel is in a very ideal location because it is in the heart of everything and an easy walk to restaurants, bars and the historical sites. Hodelpa Nicolas de Ovando, has a pool, a beautiful courtyard, lush gardens, a bar and it’s own restaurant. Guests also get a free breakfast which I absolutely loved, thanks to the plantains and eggs that reminded me of home.

Hodelpa Nicolas de Ovando in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Hodelpa Nicolas de Ovando in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Courtyard

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What to do

Explore Zona Colonial. Zona Colonial is the most important part of Santo Domingo and houses most of the historical sites. Personally, my favorite way to explore a new city is to get lost in the streets and see the locals in their elements. The cobblestoned streets of Zona Colonial are perfect for walking. It was delightful to see the colorful houses and the vendors selling equally colorful and animated paintings on the streets. Please note, I was accompanied by a local staff member of the Ministry of Tourism that guided my walk, I suggest exercising a reasonable amount of caution as you would when visiting a unfavorable place.

See the historical sights

  • Alcazar de Colon
  • Catedral de Santa Maria de la Encarnacion Cathedral (the first Cathedral in America).
  • Ozama Fortress
  • Museum of the Royal Houses
  • Museo de las Atarazanas Reales/ Museum of the Royal Shipyards
  • National Pantheon

Chu Chu Colonial Tourist Train. Another way to see the city and get to learn about the history from the locals is by taking the Chu Chu train which takes about 45 minutes but you learn about 500 years of history.

The Colonial Gate 4D Cinema. This is a fun little cinema where you can learn about the invasion of Santo Domingo in the 16th century by Sir Francis Drake via 10 minute movie. They are also other fun videos, mostly for entertainment but definitely worth experiencing for $10.

Kah Kaw Experience. This takes you on a holographic tour of the Kah Kaw chocolate making process. Kah Kaw chocolate has received several awards in the world as being one of the best; and since it’s made with Dominican cocoa, this experience is perfect for chocolate lovers.

Mercado Modelo. This is a traditional market place in Santo Domingo and also the ideal spot to collect some souvenirs in the city. Filled with everything from paintings to drums and even bags that make perfect gifts for friends and family.

Dominicana Moda. Depending on the time of the year, Santo Domingo hosts a variety of events from Meringue festivals to fashion shows. I was there to see the 14th Dominicana Moda, which is the official fashion show of Dominican Republic. The shows are amazing with Dominican designers like Jenny Polanco and internationally renowned designers like Naeem Khan.

Where to Eat

I am getting excited just thinking about it because this was one of the most memorable part of this trip to . I was quite surprised by the amazing gastronomy scene in Santo Domingo. Dish after dish, restaurant after restaurant, I was impressed by the mix of African, Spanish and Caribbean flavors in the cuisine. However, after I was informed that the city was known as the “Caribbean Gastronomic Capital”, it all made sense. We dined at the restaurants these and loved every single one of them.

Buche Perico was a tantalizing mix of indoor outdoor space with lush fern walls on each corner of the restaurant. Most importantly, the food was amazing and I had my very first traditional dominican beer, Presidente beer which was refreshing.

Restaurante 1502 at Hodelpa Nicolas de Ovando served a wonderful buffet style breakfast every morning. If you stay at the hotel, I recommend taking advantage of this. You can also customize your omelette which was great.

Lulu Tasting Bar is great for a night out with friends. Order a bunch of items off the menu so you can try a little of everything while listening to music.

Jalao Perfect location for some live music, dancing and great food.

Pat’e Palo overlooks Plaza de Espana which also houses Alcazar de Colon (Alcazar Columbus) where the museum is located. The ambiance is great especially with the option for outdoor sitting. The food is amazing, be sure to try the crispy apple.

Laurel : This is a modern chic restaurant with great food. The shrimp tacos and ceviche were delicious. Laurel is actually in the new part of town and has a beautiful aesthetic. You should check out the cool ladies room if you are ever there.

Boca Marina : This is a beachside restaurant in Boca Chica about 45 mins away from Santo Domingo. The ambiance was calm, posh and so pretty. The food was also really good, I suggest ordering some fresh seafood here.

Thanks so much to Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism for hosting this visit!