Santo Domingo Travel Guide


Santo Domingo (population 2.9 million), often called 'La Capital' by locals, is at once the oldest and newest city in the New World. Founded by Christopher Columbus's brother Bartolomeo in 1496, the architecture of Zona Colonial (the Colonial Zone) is enchanting: peppered with ruins as well as centuries-old buildings and churches still standing in their full colonial glory.

Visiting one of the Caribbean's most vibrant cities means following the footsteps of Diego de Velázquez, Cuba's founder, Cortés, who colonized Mexico, Ponce de León, the founder of Puerto Rico and Florida, and even Columbus himself. But Santo Domingo is also thoroughly modern city, the first in the Americas to lay a paved road and be served by a sewer system. Today it offers both sophistication and simple pleasures, from trendy clubs packed with 20-somethings and elegant hotels and restaurants to casual museums and unpretentious street food. Every bit as frenetic as New York City, the rules of the road are loose, generally bent and often broken (what red light?). And good meals are usually cheap and easy to come by.

A place of contradictions, in Santo Domingo polar opposites are the norm:  From the luxury shops of Blue Mall in Piantini, where shoppers browse the latest designer offerings, to the poorest barrios (slums), where Chinese-made knock-offs are sold. The city's streets buzz with activity, as vendors peddle everything imaginable, including handmade cigars, fresh fruit and flowers, craft items, tour guide services, and even tires and windshield wipers (which they will promptly change for you at any stop light or street corner).

What truly makes this city is the vibrant, energetic and generally happy people who give it an incredibly social culture where community and family is all-powerful. During their stays, many tourists find themselves adopting the local way of life, focusing on spending time with family, friends and new acquaintances—whether at a swanky restaurant, a hip new alternative club, the colmado (neighborhood bar) or as a guest at a lively Dominican home.

Where to Go in Santo Domingo


Don Juan Hotel

Boca Chica, Dominican Republic

Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo

Calle Ingeniero Huáscar Tejada

La Vecindad

Ave. Tiradentes esq. Cub Scout. Plaza Damaso

Great Mexican restaurant in the heart of Naco. Excellent food, ambiance and the service staff is incredibly personable and friendly.

Ocean Club Bar & Lounge

Calle Palo Hincado No. 51

Bar and Lounge

Santo Domingo Blog Posts


Guns, Germs and Steel: Santo Domingo's Colonial Past
Visitors will often find mention of Santo Domingo’s status as the ‘oldest’ settlement in the New World, which simply means it is the longest continually inhabited colonized area created in the Americas. Christopher Columbus’s brother Bartolome Columbus founded Santo Domingo in the late fifteenth... Read more

Pirate Dining in the Colonial Zone
While during the day the Colonial Zone is teeming with tourists, locals take over the area in the evening. Outdoor cafes and restaurants advertise their happy hours beginning at around 5 pm every evening, making it popular for locals who have just finished work. The most popular place in the Colonial... Read more

All That Glitters Is Not Gold
The Dominican Republic may not be well known for its gems but is one of the world’s largest producers of two precious stones, larimar and amber.  Read more

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