Reviewed on Nov. 21, 2021
Reviewed on Nov. 28, 2021
Reviewed on Nov. 22, 2021
Santo Domingo is many things — urban center, tropical paradise and deeply historical capital city — but the overwhelming passion of its residents is what makes this destination truly shine. Stand in the middle of town, and you’ll be surrounded by a zeal for life: men throwing dominos on a park table, families strolling the cobblestone streets and merengue beats wafting from every car and storefront in sight. This city is the Dominican Republic’s pulse, and Santo Domingo vacations are all about getting into the swing of local life.
There’s no better place to start than the city’s Colonial Zone. Fanning across 12 downtown blocks, this area is known for its position as Europe’s first New World settlement, and many tourists book Santo Domingo all inclusive packages specifically to soak up the district’s 15th-century sights. Spend some time visiting important landmarks like the Parque Independencia and Alcázar de Colón, but don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the Colonial Zone’s vibrant social scene. On weekend nights, the medieval Ruinas de San Francisco plays host to a variety of bachata and salsa bands, and La Atarazana features several 16th-century buildings that house galleries, shops and candlelit cafes. These experiences are just as important to Santo Domingo’s culture as the historical sights that surround them.
From the Colonial Zone, walk to the museum-laden Gazcue district to get your first glimpse of the city’s Malecón. This beachfront boulevard snakes along the coast for more than four miles, and you’ll find breezy cafes, innovative boutiques and authentic restaurants perched along the way. This is also where the best Santo Domingo all inclusive beach resorts are located, but head to the parallel Avenida Independencia for a more off-the-beaten-path place to stay. In this tree-lined area, an inexpensive mix of boutique inns and hushed hotels cater to tourists, and browsing its adjacent shops and restaurants is the perfect way to add a little residential charm to your Santo Domingo vacation.
Of course, outdoor enthusiasts also have plenty of options. Many Santo Domingo vacation packages focus on rustic adventures, and you’ll discover an array of biking, backpacking and camping spots just beyond the city’s central districts. Make your way to the Parque Mirado del Este to hike and bike through the woodlands, and stop by the park’s Los Tres Ojos caves to boat around the freshwater lagoons. The Jardín Botánico is an equally beautiful place to spend an afternoon, and locals and tourists alike come to this network of gardens to escape the city's bustling center. In Santo Domingo, an unforgettable experience is right around every corner.