Your Ultimate Santo Domingo Travel Guide 2023
Welcome to Santo Domingo, the vibrant capital city of the Dominican Republic. A culturally rich city with a unique history, Santo Domingo is full of energy and life. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or an adventure, this city has something for everyone. In this ultimate travel guide, we’ll uncover all of the things to see and do in Santo Domingo, from the best restaurants and bars to the must-see attractions and activities. Read on to start unraveling the beauty and culture of this spectacular destination. You may also want to check out our Port-au-Prince travel guide!
Top 5 Things To See And Do In Santo Domingo
- Visit The Colonial Zone: The heart of Santo Domingo, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to historic buildings and monuments, such as the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor and Alcazar de Colón, the former residence of Christopher Columbus’ son. The cobblestone streets and vibrant colors make it a great spot for photos.
- Explore Parque Nacional Los Tres Ojos: A natural wonder, this park features three interconnected underground lakes that are a stunning shade of blue-green. Visitors can explore the caves and take a boat ride on the lakes.
- Take In The Views At The Faro A Colón: This lighthouse-shaped monument stands at over 680 feet tall and is dedicated to the memory of Christopher Columbus. The top offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding area.
- Relax At Playa Boca Chica: Located just a short drive from the city, this beach is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. With crystal clear water and soft sand, it’s perfect for swimming and sunbathing.
- Immerse Yourself In Culture At The Museum Of The Dominican Man: This museum explores the history and culture of the Dominican Republic, with exhibits on pre-Columbian indigenous tribes, African influences, and the island’s unique music and art. It’s a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the country’s rich heritage.
Where To Stay In Santo Domingo
- Zona Colonial: If you want to be in the heart of Santo Domingo’s history and culture, Zona Colonial is the place for you. This UNESCO World Heritage Site features cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and charming plazas. There are also plenty of museums, art galleries, restaurants, and bars to keep you entertained.
- Gazcue: Gazcue is a residential neighborhood located just south of Zona Colonial. It offers a quieter atmosphere while still being close to many of the city’s attractions. This neighborhood is known for its colonial-style homes, tree-lined streets, and parks. You’ll also find a variety of restaurants, cafes, and bars here.
- Piantini: Piantini is one of Santo Domingo’s most upscale neighborhoods. It’s known for its luxury shopping malls, high-end restaurants, and luxurious hotels. If you want to stay in a neighborhood that caters to the finer things in life, Piantini is the place for you.
- Miraflores: Miraflores is a quieter neighborhood that’s great for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s located on a hill overlooking Santo Domingo, offering stunning views of the city. Miraflores is also home to several parks and gardens, making it a great place for a peaceful stroll.
- Bella Vista: Bella Vista is a popular neighborhood among locals and tourists alike. It’s known for its nightlife, with plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants to choose from. During the day, you can explore the neighborhood’s many shops, cafes, and galleries. Bella Vista is also close to many of the city’s museums and attractions.
Top Santo Domingo Hotels
- Billini Hotel: Located in the heart of the colonial district, the Billini Hotel is a luxurious hotel with 24 elegantly designed rooms. The hotel features a rooftop pool and terrace that overlooks the city, an outdoor Jacuzzi, a gym, and a spa. Guests can indulge in the on-site restaurant and bar, or enjoy a cocktail while taking in the stunning views of the city.
- Embassy Suites By Hilton Santo Domingo: The Embassy Suites by Hilton Santo Domingo is a stylish and contemporary hotel that boasts modern amenities such as an outdoor pool, fitness center, and 24-hour business center. The spacious rooms come with a living area, kitchenette, and separate bedroom. Guests can enjoy a complimentary breakfast each morning and unwind in the on-site restaurant and bar.
- JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo: The JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo is a luxurious hotel that offers stunning panoramic views of the city. The hotel features an outdoor infinity pool, a fitness center, and a rooftop bar and lounge. Guests can indulge in the on-site restaurant that serves international cuisine, or relax with a spa treatment.
- Catalonia Santo Domingo: The Catalonia Santo Domingo is a contemporary hotel with 228 rooms that are equipped with modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs and minibars. The hotel features a rooftop pool and terrace, a spa, and a fitness center. Guests can indulge in the on-site restaurant and bar or explore the local area, which is known for its shopping and dining options.
- Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel & Casino: The Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel & Casino is a historic hotel that dates back to the 1940s. The hotel features a casino, an outdoor pool, and a fitness center. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant that serves international cuisine or relax in the bar and lounge. The hotel is located near local attractions such as the Malecon, the National Palace, and the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor.
Where To Eat In Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is a haven for food lovers, with countless restaurants and cafes scattered throughout the city. From upscale fine dining to charming street-side restaurants, there is something for everyone in Santo Domingo. Here are the top 5 places to eat in Santo Domingo:
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- Pat’e Palo: This trendy restaurant is located in the heart of the colonial zone and is known for its contemporary twist on traditional Dominican dishes. Try the “Barriga Llena” (a stuffed pork chop) or the “Gallina Frita” (fried chicken).
- La Dolcerie: This charming café offers a mix of French and Dominican cuisine, and is especially famous for its pastries and cakes. It’s the perfect spot for breakfast or brunch, or for a mid-afternoon snack.
- El Conuco: This family-owned restaurant is a local favorite, and serves up classic Dominican dishes such as mofongo, chicharrones, and sancocho. The outdoor seating area is a great spot to enjoy a meal in the shade.
- Mesón De Bari: This restaurant has been around for over 40 years, and is one of the most famous spots for traditional Dominican cuisine in the city. Try the “Locrio de Mariscos” (seafood rice) or the “Chivo Guisado” (stewed goat).
- El Higuero: For a more upscale dining experience, head to El Higuero, which specializes in seafood and international cuisine. The “Lobster Thermidor” is a standout dish, but there are plenty of other options to choose from as well. The elegant setting and attentive service make it a great choice for a special occasion.
How To Get Around Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is a sprawling city, and the best way to explore it is by taking advantage of its many transportation options. Here are the different ways to get around the city:
- Public Transportation: Santo Domingo has an extensive public transportation system that includes buses, minibusses, and metro. The metro system, known as Santo Domingo Metro, is a great way to travel between different neighborhoods in the city, as it is fast, efficient, and affordable. Buses and minibusses are also widely available, but they can be crowded and uncomfortable.
- Taxis: Taxis are a convenient option for getting around Santo Domingo, but they can be expensive, especially for tourists. To avoid getting overcharged, it is recommended to negotiate the fare before getting into the taxi or using an app-based ride-sharing service.
- Uber: Uber is available in Santo Domingo, and it is a cheaper and more convenient alternative to traditional taxis. It is recommended to use Uber during off-peak hours, as surge pricing can make it more expensive during peak times.
- Car Rentals: If you prefer to drive around Santo Domingo, you can rent a car from one of the many rental car companies in the city. However, driving in Santo Domingo can be challenging due to heavy traffic and poorly maintained roads.
- Walking: Walking is a great way to explore Santo Domingo’s historic neighborhoods, such as the Colonial Zone, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, it is not recommended to walk around at night, especially in areas that are not well-lit.
Overall, there are plenty of transportation options available in Santo Domingo, and you can choose the one that suits your budget and travel needs. Just remember to stay safe and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Santo Domingo Weather
Santo Domingo enjoys a tropical climate with warm temperatures throughout the year. The average temperature ranges from 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a great place to visit all year round, but there are differences in weather conditions depending on the season. Here is a breakdown of the weather in Santo Domingo during each season.
- Spring (March – May): Springtime is a fantastic time to visit Santo Domingo because the temperatures are mild and there is very little rainfall. During this season, the average high temperature is around 86°F, and the average low temperature is around 72°F. The weather is perfect for exploring the city’s many outdoor attractions.
- Summer (June – August): Summers in Santo Domingo are hot and humid. The average high temperature during this season is around 90°F, and the average low temperature is around 76°F. There is more rainfall during the summer months, but most of it comes in the form of brief showers that clear up quickly.
- Fall (September – November): The fall season in Santo Domingo is similar to the spring in terms of temperature and rainfall. The average high temperature during this season is around 86°F, and the average low temperature is around 72°F. The humidity decreases, making the weather more comfortable for outdoor activities.
- Winter (December – February): The winter season in Santo Domingo is the driest and most comfortable time to visit. The average high temperature is around 80°F, and the average low temperature is around 68°F. This season experiences the least amount of rainfall, making it an excellent time to enjoy the city’s outdoor activities.
Best Time To Visit Santo Domingo
The best time to visit Santo Domingo is between December and April. During these months, the weather is dry and sunny with low humidity and mild temperatures, making it the perfect time to explore the city and its attractions. However, these months are also the busiest and most expensive times to visit, so expect larger crowds and higher prices.
If you’re looking for a quieter time to visit Santo Domingo, consider traveling during the shoulder seasons of May-June and September-October. The weather is still warm, but with slightly more rain and humidity. You’ll also find fewer crowds and better deals on accommodations.
July and August are the peak of the rainy season, with the possibility of tropical storms and hurricanes. This can affect travel plans, but the rain also cools things down and can make for some beautiful lush scenery. Overall, the best time to visit Santo Domingo is subjective based on your preferences. Consider the weather, crowds, and prices when planning your trip to this vibrant and culturally-rich city.
How To Stay Safe In Santo Domingo
Like in any other destination, it’s important to take precautions to stay safe while in Santo Domingo. Here are some tips to ensure your safety:
- Avoid Flashing Your Valuables In Public: This means keeping your phone, wallet, camera and other expensive items out of sight as much as possible.
- Know Your Surroundings: Be mindful of your surroundings, especially at night. Stay in well-lit areas and avoid alleys and dimly lit streets.
- Don’t Wander Aimlessly: Don’t wander into unknown neighborhoods or places without a local guide or reliable transportation.
- Keep Your Belongings Close: Be cautious when taking public transportation, as pickpockets and thefts can happen in crowded buses and taxis. Always keep your belongings close and be aware of any suspicious behavior around you. You may need a money belt to store your valuables close to you.
- Stay In Well-Known Areas: Stick to busy and tourist-friendly areas, especially when exploring the city on your own. If you plan on going off the beaten path, make sure you do it during the day and with a companion.
- Know Emergency Numbers: Familiarize yourself with the emergency numbers and locations of hospitals and police stations in Santo Domingo.
- Always Trust Your Instincts: If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, leave the situation or place immediately.
By following these safety tips, you can fully enjoy your Santo Domingo adventure without worrying about your safety. However, always remember to be aware and cautious, as crime can happen anywhere, even in the safest cities.
Santo Domingo Customs and Etiquette
As with any destination, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the local customs and etiquette before visiting Santo Domingo. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Dress Code: While the dress code in Santo Domingo is generally casual, it’s important to dress modestly when visiting churches or other religious sites. This means covering your shoulders and knees.
- Greetings: It’s customary to greet people with a handshake or a kiss on the cheek, depending on the level of familiarity.
- Punctuality: Dominicans tend to have a relaxed approach to timekeeping, so don’t be surprised if people are a few minutes late to meetings or appointments.
- Gift-Giving: If you’re invited to someone’s home for dinner, it’s a nice gesture to bring a small gift, such as flowers or chocolates.
- Tipping: Tipping is not always expected in Santo Domingo, but it’s appreciated for good service. A tip of 10-15% is customary in restaurants and for taxi rides.
By familiarizing yourself with these customs and etiquette, you’ll be able to navigate Santo Domingo with ease and respect for the local culture.
Other Things To Know About Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is the capital city of the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean country that shares an island with Haiti. The official language is Spanish and the currency is the Dominican peso (DOP). The country operates on Atlantic Standard Time, which is four hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC-4). It’s always a good idea to exchange your currency at a bank or currency exchange rather than in the street to avoid counterfeit bills. As with any foreign destination, it’s also recommended to familiarize yourself with local laws and customs before your trip to Santo Domingo.
Santo Domingo Travel Costs
Traveling to Santo Domingo can be quite affordable if you plan ahead and make smart choices during your trip. The cost of your trip will depend on various factors such as the time of year, the type of accommodations you choose, the activities you do, and your dining options. Here is a breakdown of some of the typical expenses you may encounter during your stay in Santo Domingo:
- Accommodation: Santo Domingo offers a wide range of accommodations, from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious resorts. Prices can vary significantly, but expect to pay around $50-$100 per night for a decent mid-range hotel. However, if you’re looking for something more luxurious, you can expect to pay upwards of $150-$200 per night.
- Food And Drinks: Food in Santo Domingo is relatively cheap, especially if you stick to local eateries and street vendors. A typical meal at a local restaurant can cost around $5-$10 per person, while a fancy dinner at a high-end restaurant can cost upwards of $50-$100 per person. Alcohol is also quite cheap, with a local beer costing around $1-$2 and cocktails costing around $5-$8.
- Transportation: Public transportation in Santo Domingo is relatively cheap, with a single bus ride costing around $0.50. Taxis and Ubers are also available, but prices can vary depending on the distance you travel and the time of day. A taxi ride within the city can cost around $10-$20, while an Uber ride can cost around $5-$15.
- Activities: Santo Domingo offers a wide range of activities, from historical tours to beach activities. Prices can vary, but expect to pay around $20-$50 for most activities. Admission to museums and historical sites typically costs around $5-$10.
Overall, the cost of a trip to Santo Domingo can vary significantly depending on your travel style and preferences. If you’re on a tight budget, consider staying at budget-friendly accommodations, eating at local eateries, and using public transportation. With proper planning, you can enjoy all that Santo Domingo has to offer without breaking the bank.
Finding Affordable Flights To Santo Domingo
If you’re looking to travel to Santo Domingo on a budget, then finding affordable flights is the first step to saving money. Here are some tips on how to find the cheapest flights to Santo Domingo:
- Book Your Flight In Advance: Booking your flight several months in advance can save you a significant amount of money. Last-minute bookings are usually more expensive, so it pays to plan ahead.
- Use Price Comparison Websites: Websites like Skyscanner, Kayak, and Expedia allow you to compare flight prices from different airlines, which can help you find the best deals.
- Be Flexible With Your Travel Dates: If you can be flexible with your travel dates, then you’re more likely to find cheaper flights. Consider traveling during the off-season when flights are generally less expensive.
- Fly During The Weekdays: Flights during the weekdays are usually cheaper than those on weekends. Consider flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday to save money.
- Sign Up For Airline Newsletters: Airlines often offer special deals and promotions to subscribers of their newsletters. Sign up to receive notifications about sales and discounted flights to Santo Domingo.
By following these tips, you can save money on your flight to Santo Domingo and enjoy all the amazing things the city has to offer.
Backpacking Santo Domingo Suggested Budgets
Santo Domingo can be a budget-friendly destination if you plan well. Here are some suggested budgets for backpackers visiting the city.
For those on a shoestring budget, you can get by with spending about $25-$30 per day. Hostels in Santo Domingo are quite affordable, with prices starting from around $5-$10 per night. Street food can be found throughout the city and can cost as little as $1-$2 per meal. You can also save money by walking around and using public transportation instead of taxis.
If you want to splurge a little bit more, you can budget around $40-$60 per day. This will give you more flexibility in terms of food and activities. You can stay in budget-friendly hotels and guesthouses, which can cost between $15-$30 per night. You can also enjoy meals at local restaurants and cafes, which typically cost around $10-$15 per meal.
If you’re looking for more luxurious accommodations and activities, you can budget around $100-$150 per day. This will allow you to stay in comfortable hotels and eat at higher-end restaurants. You can also participate in activities like city tours and cultural experiences, which can cost around $50-$75 per day.
Regardless of your budget, it’s important to plan ahead and keep an eye on your expenses while traveling in Santo Domingo. With a little bit of planning, you can have an enjoyable trip without breaking the bank.
Santo Domingo Money Saving Tips
If you’re traveling on a budget, don’t worry! Santo Domingo has plenty of money-saving opportunities for travelers. Here are some tips on how to save money in Santo Domingo:
- Eat Like A Local: Food in Santo Domingo can be quite expensive, especially if you stick to touristy areas. Instead, try the local street food or small eateries where the locals eat. You’ll find plenty of delicious food options at a much cheaper price.
- Use Public Transportation: Taxis in Santo Domingo can be quite pricey, but the public transportation system is affordable and efficient. Buses and metro systems are the cheapest options, and you’ll be able to reach many places in the city without spending too much.
- Look For Free Activities: Santo Domingo has plenty of free activities to offer. Take a walk around the Zona Colonial, visit a public park, or go to a beach where there’s no entrance fee. Many museums and art galleries also offer free admission on certain days of the week.
- Bargain At Markets: If you’re shopping at a local market, bargaining is a must. You’ll often find that vendors will start with a much higher price than what they’re willing to accept, so don’t be afraid to negotiate. However, always be polite and respectful while bargaining.
- Avoid Peak Tourist Seasons: Like most destinations, Santo Domingo has peak tourist seasons when prices tend to go up. If you’re flexible with your travel dates, consider visiting during the shoulder season, when prices tend to be lower.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to save money in Santo Domingo and make the most of your trip without breaking the bank.
What To Pack For Santo Domingo
Packing for Santo Domingo depends on the time of year you are visiting. If you are visiting during the summer months, be sure to pack light and breathable clothing as temperatures can reach up to 90°F (32°C) during the day. During the winter months, temperatures can dip down to the mid-60s°F (17-19°C), so be sure to pack some warmer clothing. Here are some essential items to pack for your trip to Santo Domingo:
- Sunscreen: the Dominican Republic is a tropical country, so it’s important to protect your skin from the sun’s harsh rays.
- Insect Repellent: the country is also known for mosquitoes, so it’s best to pack a good insect repellent.
- Comfortable Walking Shoes: you will be doing a lot of walking around the city, so it’s best to pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
- Bathing Suit: Santo Domingo is located on the coast, so be sure to pack a bathing suit if you plan on visiting the beach.
- Hat Or Sunglasses: to protect your face and eyes from the sun.
- Lightweight Clothing: as mentioned before, it’s best to pack lightweight and breathable clothing to combat the heat.
- A Light Jacket Or Sweater: for the cooler winter evenings.
- Power Adapter: Santo Domingo uses 110 volts, so be sure to pack a power adapter if you are coming from a country with a different voltage.
Overall, Santo Domingo is a tropical destination, so be sure to pack for the heat and humidity. Also, be sure to pack some cultural sensitivity and respect, as the Dominican Republic has its own unique customs and etiquette.
Can You Drink Tap Water In Santo Domingo?
The short answer is no, you should not drink tap water in Santo Domingo. The tap water in the Dominican Republic is not safe for consumption and can lead to serious health issues, such as traveler’s diarrhea, typhoid fever, and hepatitis A. To avoid getting sick, it is important to drink bottled water or boiled water. Bottled water is widely available in Santo Domingo and can be found at supermarkets, convenience stores, and street vendors. It is also a good idea to avoid drinks with ice, as the ice may have been made from tap water.
If you are staying in a hotel, make sure to ask if their tap water is safe for drinking or if they provide complimentary bottled water. Some hotels may offer filtered tap water, but it is always better to err on the side of caution.
It is also recommended to brush your teeth with bottled water and avoid swallowing any water while showering. You can never be too careful when it comes to your health.
In addition to drinking safe water, make sure to practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently and avoiding uncooked or undercooked food. By taking these precautions, you can enjoy your trip to Santo Domingo without any health concerns.
Other Things To See And Do In Santo Domingo
Beyond the popular tourist spots, there are plenty of other things to see and do in Santo Domingo that are worth checking out. Here are some recommendations:
- Explore The Colonial Zone: Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in history. The area is home to numerous well-preserved buildings dating back to the 16th century, including the Alcazar de Colón, the Catedral Primada de América, and the Monasterio de San Francisco.
- Visit The National Palace: Located in the heart of Santo Domingo, the National Palace is the official residence of the President of the Dominican Republic. Visitors can tour the palace and see the impressive artwork and architecture that decorate the interior.
- Discover The Local Art Scene: Santo Domingo is home to a thriving art scene, with numerous galleries and museums showcasing both contemporary and traditional art. Some of the must-visit art venues include the Museo de Arte Moderno, the Centro Cultural de España, and the Galería Nacional de Bellas Artes.
- Enjoy The Nightlife: Santo Domingo has a vibrant nightlife, with numerous bars, clubs, and lounges to choose from. Whether you’re in the mood for dancing, live music, or simply enjoying a cocktail with friends, there’s something for everyone in Santo Domingo’s bustling nightlife scene.
- Take A Day Trip to Punta Cana: Punta Cana boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. White sand, turquoise water, and swaying palm trees make for the perfect paradise getaway. Popular beaches include Bavaro Beach, Macao Beach, and Juanillo Beach.
- Take A Day Trip To Boca Chica: Just a short drive from Santo Domingo, Boca Chica is a picturesque beach town with crystal clear waters and soft white sands. It’s a great place to relax, soak up the sun, and enjoy some of the local seafood. You can also take a boat ride to the nearby islands for a day of snorkeling and exploring.
With so much to see and do in Santo Domingo, you’re sure to have a memorable and exciting trip. Don’t forget to take the time to explore the city’s unique culture, sample the local cuisine, and connect with the friendly locals for a truly authentic experience.
The Bottom Line
Santo Domingo is a vibrant and historic city with so much to offer for every traveler. From exploring the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Colonial Zone to indulging in the local cuisine and experiencing the lively nightlife, Santo Domingo truly has something for everyone. When it comes to planning your trip, make sure to take into consideration the weather and the best time to visit, as well as the costs and budget-friendly options available. Don’t forget to research the local customs and etiquette to ensure you have a respectful and enjoyable stay.
With affordable flights and accommodation options, Santo Domingo is a perfect destination for backpackers and budget-conscious travelers. Just make sure to pack appropriately for the climate and bring reusable water bottles to reduce plastic waste. Overall, Santo Domingo is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the rich culture and history of the Dominican Republic. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore this fascinating city and create unforgettable memories.