If you were you a wealthy history buff who decided to take a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the Americas, a good place to start might be Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic. The city boasts a number of American firsts. The idyllic setting at the mouth of the Ozama River is reputed to be the location of the first Spanish colonial settlement in the New World, founded by no less than Bartholomew Columbus, brother of Christopher. Santo Domingo has the New World's first cathedral--the Catedral de Santa Maria la Menor. It is also a source of local pride that the first monastery, first university and first hospital in the New World are to be found in Santo Domingo.
The myriad historical attractions of the city--the museums, the historic buildings--have contributed immensely to the emergence of the Dominican Republic as a leading tourist destination in the Caribbean. One of the most popular tour stops is the Alcazar de Colon, the palace of the city's first governor, Diego Colon, which now houses colonial-era artifacts and art works.
Another charming old destination for visitors is Santo Domingo's Zona Colonial, situated on the Ozama River's west bank. Here cobblestone streets lead to several historical monuments and well-preserved buildings of Old World Spanish architecture. A popular hotel of colonial inspiration, Hotel Dona Elivra, can also be found here. Further acquaintance with the deep past of the Dominican Republic and its importance in the American history can be gained at the Museo del Hombre Dominicano.
Any trip to the island must include time spent at one of the many spectacular beaches. Another worthy outdoor activity is a trip to Los Tres Ojos, a cluster of large caves with freshwater that was a spot used by the Tainos, the area's first inhabitants, for religious rites. A good evening tour is a drive to Faro a Colon, whose lasers project a cross-shaped beam of light into the night sky that can be seen as far away as Puerto Rico. And baseball fans will definitely want to catch a few innings at Estadio Quisqueya, where a lot of Major League players started their careers.
For more contemporary sights, take a jaunt to the city's oceanfront district, called the Malecon. This boardwalk fronting the Caribbean features some of the best restaurants, nightspots and outdoor shops in the city. But save some spending money for the Plaza Central, where stacks of local crafts and merchandise vie for attention along with modern fashions and accessories. This is also where quaint local hotels compete with those of the many international chains that tap the Dominican Republic's tourist and travel trade. Located in the city center, any of these hotels makes an ideal base to explore the many fun things to do during a visit to Santo Domingo.