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Do you want to take a trip to the Caribbean and enjoy a full cultural experience that has it all? If so, Santo Domingo could be the best place to go. The bustling capital of the Dominican Republic attracts around 8.5 million tourists every year.
The city’s unique blend of modernity with a rich colonial history adds to its allure and allows for a diverse range of activities for holidaymakers. In this ultimate guide, we’ll take you through all the top travel tips you need to know to plan a trip to Santo Domingo.
From flights to food, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to go on the holiday of a lifetime.
Planning Your Trip
Any trip to a country that’s vastly different from what you’re used to takes a bit of planning. Santo Domingo attracts a lot of tourists, but it’s not as well-known as other major locations around the world. Therefore, there’s no harm in doing some research before you pack your bags and jet off.
The first thing you should do is search for the best flight deals – this way, you’ll have more money to spend on other things such as hotels and activities. You can discover cheap flights to Santo Domingo on many low-cost airlines, with some of the major carriers including United Airlines and American Airlines.
The former has direct flights from a range of US cities including Boston and Washington, while the latter flies straight here from Miami, New York, and Newark. Once you’ve picked some flights, it’s time to turn your attention to places to stay in the city.
You can find a wide variety of hotels in Santo Domingo, ranging from budget options to high-end hotels. That means there’s something to suit all types of travelers. For people who want to go for more of a backpacker experience, it’s better to stay in cheap accommodation where you have a chance of meeting similar, like-minded people.
There are countless options to choose from, with places like El Beaterio and Casa Naemie offering unique settings for people to stay in. There’s also the upbeat Be Live Experience Hamaca Beach, which is known for its budget-friendly beach experience.
There are also quite a few hotels to suit visitors who want to experience the other end of the scale. For instance, there’s the JW Marriot Hotel Santo Domingo, which has a range of great facilities and stunning views of the city. Another option is the InterContinental Real Santo Domingo for people looking for a sophisticated place to stay.
Historical Landmarks and Cultural Sites
One of the key draws of Santo Domingo is its rich array of historical landmarks and cultural sites. There are so many options for places to visit that it will take a few days to see them all. Certain locations are more essential to visit than others, though, so it’s worth doing some research and figuring out which ones you want to prioritize.
The Catedral Primada de América is one of the biggest cultural attractions in the city. This is the oldest cathedral in the Americas and dates back to 1504 when construction first began. However, it wasn’t completed until 1550, highlighting the painstaking process that was involved in making the stunning piece of architecture.
The cathedral can be enjoyed on so many levels. At first glance, it’s a breathtaking work of Gothic architecture. You can also appreciate the history behind it, and the fact that it reflects the cultural heritage of Santo Domingo.
The Museo de las Casas Reales is another must-visit cultural attraction in Santo Domingo. This venue is steeped in history, as it once acted as the administrative hub of the Spanish colonies in the Americas.
The building was constructed way back in 1511, on the order of King Ferdinand II of Aragon. This was the home of the Real Audiencia, otherwise known as the first court of the New World.
The interesting thing about this building is the various architectural changes it has been through during different periods of history. For instance, when the French ruled in the region, they added their own touches. So too did President Rafael Leónidas Trujillo during his time.
Since 1976, the site has been a museum, with most of it restored to its 16th-century appearance. When you visit, you can get an audio-guided tour with loads of rich detail about the Spanish colony’s inhabitants.
The Alcázar de Colón is one of the other top cultural landmarks that tourists should try to make time to see. It’s also known as the Columbus Alcazar and was the first fortified palace in the Americas. This spot was also built between 1510 and 1514, and combines Gothic and Renaissance styles.
The most notable thing about it is that it was the home of Christopher Columbus’s first-born son, Diego Columbus. The building was a planning site for expeditions during the Spanish colonial period, and it was later named a National Monument in 1870. Nowadays, it acts as a museum to showcase furniture and artwork related to the Columbus family’s legacy.
Several Beach Options To Choose From
The best thing about a holiday in Santo Domingo is the fact that it offers a varied travel experience. If you don’t feel like hitting up all the cultural sites, that’s totally fine. The city has many facets that suit other types of personality, with loads of opportunities for enjoying beaches and coastal walks.
There are a few main beaches to choose from, all overlooking the picturesque Caribbean Sea. There’s a range of atmospheres on offer, ranging from relaxing to upbeat. If you’re looking for a party beach, Playa de Guibia is the best option.
This is close to the city, and you can access it from George Washington Avenue. This beach is mainly used for hanging out, dancing, and exercising but be warned, it’s not recommended for swimming. It’s had some problems with contamination in the past, so it’s best to stay out of the water.
Prefer more scenic beaches with the chance to do traditional seaside activities like swimming and snorkeling? Playa Boca Chica could be the best option in the vicinity of Santo Domingo. It’s 30 kilometers away from the Dominican capital and well worth the short drive.
The spot is known for its calm waters and glistening white sands. You can also partake in various water sports and boat tours, there’s something for everyone.
If you don’t mind traveling a bit further out of the city, the Juan Dolio beach is highly recommended as well. This one is about an hour’s drive away, but it is easily worth the trip. It’s the most tranquil beach of all the options around Santo Domingo, and the waters there are unrivaled.
Food Unlike Anywhere Else
The final thing to consider when planning your trip is the food. No holiday would be complete without sampling the local delicacies, would it? Santo Domingo has an eclectic range of dishes, and there are certain meals that you must try while you are there.
Thanks to the various cultural influences that have impacted the region over the centuries, some fascinating offerings have become everyday staples. One of the most widespread culinary options in the capital is Sancocho, a stew made of meat and vegetables.
If you attend a family gathering or party while you’re there, you’re most likely going to encounter this one. Many consider it to be the national dish, and it’s almost always pulled out on special occasions.
One classic dish that’s great for an Instagram update is La Bandera, which translates to The Flag in English. It’s usually served at lunchtime and consists of rice, beans, and meat. The unique thing about this one is that it’s made to represent the colors of the Dominican flag. How about following up that social media post with a “guess where I am” caption?
For a breakfast item that’s unlike any you’ve ever had before, you have to try Mangú. It’s made out of mashed green plantains and usually comes with fried cheese, salami, and eggs.
It’s one of the dishes that best reflects the African influence in the country and serves as an amazing energy boost to start the day. Once you’ve tried it, you may want to say goodbye to pancakes and cereal for good.
There are plenty of other gastronomical delights to try while you’re in Santo Domingo, and they are so distinctive to this part of the world. Watch out for options like Tostones, Mofongo, and Pollo Guisado. Hopefully, you like plantain, as this is a key ingredient in the country’s cuisine.
If you’re looking for an amazing Caribbean experience with a wide array of things to do, there aren’t many places that are better than Santo Domingo. Hopefully, this guide has given you all the information you need to plan your trip to the stunning spot. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience