Santo Domingo is the vibrant capital of the Dominican Republic with so many multifaceted things-to-do. Culture, nature, nightlife, local experiences, unique adventures – Santo Domingo has it all. However, the city also can be overwhelming with its 3 million inhabitants and omnipresent traffic jam. That’s why a list of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo definitely can help you to get your vacation organized. With 4 years living in the city, I know all the places you should visit – and also those you should stay away from.
- Quick overview: the best places to visit in Santo Domingo
- Quick overview: the best-guided activities in Santo Domingo
- Quick overview: best day trips and tours from Santo Domingo
- Things-to-do in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo
- Stroll through the Colonial Zone
- Visit the historic sights of the Colonial Zone
- Explore the world of chocolate in Santo Domingo
- Discover the flavor of rum and sugar cane
- Explore the hidden street art in the Colonial Zone
- Take a bicycle tour in Santo Domingo
- Have a unique dining experience in the Colonial Zone
- Eat like a local
- Enjoy the nightlife in the Colonial Zone
- Visit a Bonyé performance
- Book a historic hotel with colonial charm
- Things-to-do in Santo Domingo (outside of the Colonial Zone)
- Book a spectacular Airbnb
- Visit Los Tres Ojos National Park
- Faro a Colón (Columbus’ Lighthouse)
- Take a ride with the Teleférico (Santo Domingo cable car)
- Walk along the Malecón of Santo Domingo
- Visit the Botanical Garden of Santo Domingo
- Visit a baseball match in Santo Domingo
- Dine at Santo Domingos most unique restaurant
- Things to do with kids in Santo Domingo
- Best free things to do in Santo Domingo
- Day-trips from Santo Domingo (things-to-do outside of the city)
- Things NOT to do in Santo Domingo
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
This article is about the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo. If you are interested in the best things-to-do in Punta Cana, continue reading here.
If you’re particularly interested in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, continue reading here.
If you want to visit Santo Domingo from Punta Cana, have a look at how to get from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo. For the way back, check out the all the options in getting from Santo Domingo to Punta Cana here.
Completely UPDATED: May 2023
Quick overview: the best places to visit in Santo Domingo
I know this is a large article about the best things to do in Santo Domingo and you might not have time at the moment to read all of the recommendations (even though I recommend it). Therefore, I have put together the following summary of the best places to visit in Santo Domingo – those where you can go without a guide, where you just can stroll or which have unparalleled historic importance. In other words, those are the 5 most important tourist attractions in Santo Domingo you shouldn’t miss:
|Places to visit in Santo Domingo||Type of tourist attraction||Suggested time to visit||Cost / Entrance fee|
|Alcázar de Colón + Plaza España||Culture / Historical Sight (most emblematic square in Santo Domingo)||1-2 hours||2 USD (Plaza España for free)|
|Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor||Religion / Historical Sight (first church of the Americas)||30 minutes||2 USD|
|Bonyé (at Ruinas de San Francisco)||Music Event (every Sunday at 6pm)||2-3 hours||free|
|National Park Los Tres Ojos||Natural Attraction||1-1.5 hours (+ transfers)||4 USD|
|Zona Colonial (the entire area)||Culture, History and Daily Life||1 day||free|
Quick overview: the best-guided activities in Santo Domingo
If you neither have the time to read nor the time to explore the capital of the Dominican Republic at your own pace, guided tours are the best choice for you. With those excursions within Santo Domingo, you can follow an experienced guide, take advantage of their knowledge and don’t have to worry about the details of your day. The best of it is, that some guided activities in Santo Domingo just as the chocolate tour or a guided walk are super affordable as well.
|Guided activity in Santo Domingo||Duration||Price|
|Bicycle Tour in Santo Domingo*||2 hours|
|Chocolate Workshop*||30 minutes|
|Food Tour Santo Domingo*||3 hours|
|Free Walking Tour Santo Domingo*||2 hours|
|Guided City Walk Colonial Zone*||2 hours|
Quick overview: best day trips and tours from Santo Domingo
Are you staying in Santo Domingo for a few more nights and want to get out of the city? In this case, Santo Domingo has the perfect location as you’re just a 2-3 hour drive away from most of the major attractions in the Dominican Republic. It doesn’t matter if you head north, east or west, when going on tour from Santo Domingo you can explore all the beautiful areas the country has to offer. Here are the best day trips from Santo Domingo:
|Day-Trip from Santo Domingo||Description||Duration||Price|
|Bahía de las Águilas by plane*||Visit the most spectacular beach in the Dominican Republic by airplane||full-day|
|Isla Catalina by catamaran*||The best snorkeling opportunity in the south of the Dominican Republic||full-day|
|Isla Saona by speed boat and catamaran*||Beautiful beaches and great party vibe on the Dominican Republic’s most paradisiacal island||full-day|
|Monte Plata Eco-Tour*||Explore this rural area north of Santo Domingo and see gorgeous waterfalls and rich plantations||full-day|
|Unique Waterfall Adventure from Santo Domingo*||Explore one of the most hidden gems in the country with professional adventure guides||full-day|
Please note that I have not mentioned the day trip tours from Santo Domingo to Los Haitises National Park, the Samaná Peninsula or Cayo Arena, as those are too far in my opinion. It is better to plan 2 or 3 days from Santo Domingo for these destinations.
Things-to-do in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo
Stroll through the Colonial Zone
It is definitely THE biggest attraction of Santo Domingo: the Colonial Zone. Awarded as a UNESCO world heritage it awaits you with its ancient cobblestone streets, centuries-old buildings and creative art scene. It is the oldest continuously-inhabited European-established settlement in the Americas.
When you stroll through the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, you can admire all the historical houses with their colorful fronts and explore the stories each building has to tell. If you are lucky and the doors are open, you can also explore the wonderful patios and courtyards most colonial houses have, which feels like traveling back in time to the 17th and 18th centuries.
But it’s not only about the history and architecture why the Colonial Zone is the No. 1 thing-to-do in Santo Domingo. If you need a break, you can relax in one of the several coffee shops, most of them operated by the owner, all of them with their individual style worth discovering. If you love to find one-of-a-kind souvenirs and hidden gems to take home, the Colonial Zone awaits you with plenty of unique stores as well. For history lovers, a lot of museums are home to the Colonial Zone either.
With all those offerings, you can easily spend days in the historic city center of Santo Domingo, which is why I even would rate it the top thing-to-do in the entire Dominican Republic when it comes to culture. Make sure to bring plenty of time when visiting the Colonial Zone. But also if you just have a few hours in Santo Domingo, don’t miss the Colonial Zone – you will love it.
How to get there: When staying in Santo Domingo, chances are that your accommodation is right in the Colonial Zone*. If not, simply take a cab or an Uber to reach “La Zona Colonial”, as the Dominicans call it.
Cost: Access to the Colonial Zone is free, but you can book a guided tour here* or alternatively join one of the free walking tours*.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: The Colonial Zone is one of the attractions not to miss in Santo Domingo and the entire Dominican Republic.
Further information: 10 reasons why you should visit the Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo
Visit the historic sights of the Colonial Zone
For me, just wandering around the Colonial Zone and discovering the many hidden gems the historic streets have to offer is one of the most rewarding things in this area. However, I know that for many visitors, the historical sights are not less important when it comes to the things-to-do in Santo Domingo. Therefore, you shall have a look at the following attractions when walking around in “La Zona Colonial”:
- Alcázar de Colón (or “Casa Colón” or the “House of Columbus”), the first castle residence in the Americas, which nowadays features one of the most popular museums in Santo Domingo
- Altar of the Nation at Parque Independencia, where you can see the tombs of the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic
- Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor, the most important religious building in Santo Domingo and the First Cathedral of the Americas
- Calle Las Damas, a historic cobblestone road and the oldest street of the Americas
- Church and Convent of the Dominican Order next to Parque Duarte, the oldest church in the New World
- Fortaleza Ozama with views on the Ozama River, the oldest fortress in America
- Monasterio de San Francisco, original burial place of Alonso de Ojeda and Bartholomew Columbus
- Museo de las Casas Reales, a very beautiful building and extensive museum on the colonial history of the Dominican Republic (and Haiti)
- Parque Colón, the Columbus Park with the Columbus statue
- Plaza de España, with magnificent views on the surrounding colonial buildings and the Alcázar de Colón
All of these sights are within walking distance from each other, most of them within a radius of 15 minutes.
If you prefer a certified and professional guide, you can book a professional local guide here* or also check out one of the following tours, where you get a lot of historical explanations and background information about the local life.
How to get there: When staying in Santo Domingo, chances are that your accommodation is right in the Colonial Zone*. If not, simply take a cab or an Uber to reach “La Zona Colonial”, as the Dominicans call it. Most of the tourist attractions mentioned are located in the eastern part of the Colonial Zone.
Cost: Some of those places to visit in Santo Domingo are charging an entrance fee, but usually not more than 2-3 USD.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: Those historical sights with importance for the entire country should not be missed.
Further information: 10 reasons why you should visit the Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo
Explore the world of chocolate in Santo Domingo
Did you know that the Dominican Republic is the No. 1 export nation worldwide for organic cacao?
That’s just one of the reasons why you should explore the world of chocolate in the Dominican Republic. The other is the super delicious taste of organic bean-to-bar chocolate or a fresh cup of hot chocolate …
Santo Domingo offers you various options when it comes to chocolatey things-to-do in the city. Right in the Colonial Zone, you have two possibilities: you can either visit the KahKow Experience or the Choco Museo. Both are offering a tour around their premises and a “create your own chocolate bar” workshop*. While you can also create your own soap made out of cacao butter at KahKow Experience, ChocoMuseo lets you taste different kinds of chocolates.
If you want to head out and see where the cacao gets harvested before being dried and processed to chocolate, you can do a day-trip from Santo Domingo. There is a tour called “El Sendero del Cacao” which takes you to the cocoa plantations* around San Francisco de Macorís, which is kind of the capital when it comes to cacao cultivation in the Dominican Republic.
All of the 3 spots – the 2 museums in the Colonial Zone and the plantation tour from Santo Domingo to San Francisco de Macorís – are perfect places to visit when you are interested in chocolate. It is also a perfect Santo Domingo activity for kids as you can read further below when we’re talking about the family-friendly tours in Santo Domingo.
How to get there: Choco Museo is located right in the pedestrian zone “Calle El Conde”, KahKow Experience in the oldest street of the Americas, Calle Las Damas. Both are walkable from every accommodation within the Colonial Zone*. The chocolate tour to San Francisco de Macoris can be booked online* and usually starts at the KahKow Experience as well.
Cost: Basic entry to Choco Museo is free, the chocolate workshop has an extra cost. KahKow Experience charges around 7-25 USD depending on the package you choose. The tour to San Francisco usually is around 60-70 USD per person.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: Chocolate is one of the most export products in the Dominican Republic – and so delicious.
Discover the flavor of rum and sugar cane
Ok, cacao and chocolate are not yours? How about the sugar cane and rum, does this sound better?
If there is a chocolate experience, a rum museum can’t be far, right? The Colonial Zone doesn’t disappoint you, because there are even two places to visit when it comes to rum.
First, there is the “El Museo del Ron”, which focuses on the history of rum and showcases some traditional exhibits. It gives you a good introduction to the importance of rum for the Dominican Republic, but it is more of a typical museum. However, it is a free thing to do in Santo Domingo, so that is a plus if you are traveling on a budget. (discover more free places to visit in Santo Domingo further below in this article)
If you prefer the entertaining way of learning about a topic, you shall visit “La Casa del Ron – The Rum Experience” right at Parque Colón. This is an interactive tour through the world of rum including a tasting at the end. They also have a rooftop terrace with a fantastic view over the basilica, the oldest church in the Americas.
How to get there: Both places to visit are walkable within the Colonial Zone. The “Museo del Ron” is located right behind Plaza Espana, the “Casa del Ron” can be found at Parque Colón.
Cost: Entry to the rum museum is for free. The Rum Experience costs 14 USD + taxes, so approx. 18 USD for the tour.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: The Dominican rum has a leading reputation in the world, so it is worth having a closer look.
Further information: rum tours in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic
Explore the hidden street art in the Colonial Zone
Once you are at the rum museum, you can quickly pop around to discover a true hidden gem the Colonial Zone has to offer: street art.
While many people know about the plenty of art shops or inviting handicraft stores as they are located at the main pedestrian areas, street art in Santo Domingo is one of that things-to-do which often gets overlooked. The reason: it is located in a few streets on the edge of the Colonial Zone where most people don’t walk to (but don’t worry, it is perfectly safe and not dangerous if you go during the day).
From the rum museum (or from Plaza España), just walk three blocks north until you reach Calle Colón and the square respectively the statue “Ceiba de Colón”. There are 2 or 3 blocks, including Calle General Cabral, where you can find some interesting street art.
How to get there: Just walk within the Zona Colonial until the “Calle Colón” and the “Ceiba de Colón”. It is further north than most of the other things-to-do in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo.
Cost: Street art in Santo Domingo is for free.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: It is a low-key attraction in Santo Domingo and very less-known, but street art is always a creative way to get to know a city.
Take a bicycle tour in Santo Domingo
If exploring all those walking things-to-do in Santo Domingo are not your cup of tea, you should consider discovering the Zona Colonial on a bicycle. There are several rental shops in the Colonial Zone with the most famous one being Zona Bici. It is a fun way to get around and explore the historic sights.
You can rent those bikes – usually the kind of city bicycle – on your own or take part in a tour. If going in your own just watch out for the traffic in the Zona Colonial. When deciding for a tour, you just have to follow your knowledgable guide who explains you more about the life and history of Santo Domingo.
How to get there: The tour starts right in the Colonial Zone. Make sure to book the tour online* to save your spot!
Cost: The bicycle rental without a tour is 10 USD per hour, the guided tour incl. rental around 35 USD per person for around 1.5-2 hours.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: It is the most entertaining way to explore the Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo.
Have a unique dining experience in the Colonial Zone
Once you had an amazing day in the Colonial Zone, it’s time to think about dinner. Thanks to the plentiful and creative options, you can make this dinner an attraction in Santo Domingo itself. Here is a selection of some of the most unique dining experiences you can find in the Colonial Zone:
- Dine at Plaza España: Plaza España is the No. 1 spot for dining if you are looking for a romantic night out. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from. All of them reward you with a marvelous view of the illuminated House of Columbus as well as a prime spot to sit at Plaza España. Usually, local musicians are emphasizing the romantic atmosphere.
- Jalao: Jalao is a vibrant place to dine if you are looking for authentic, but upscale Dominican cuisine, combined with traditional shows, dances or live music. Usually – when we are not in a pandemic – Jalao tends to be packed as even Dominicans love the food and the entertainment.
- Time Creative Vegetarian Kitchen: The name says it all. Time Creative Vegetarian Kitchen is the No. 1 upscale vegetarian option in the Colonial Zone, with super-creative menus and an elegant setting in one of the area’s most romantic parks, Parque Billini.
- Mercado Colón: if you can’t decide where to go or if you are a group of friends looking for a fun place to dine, Mercado Colón could be your No. 1 spot in Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial. The market-style concept of this cozy courtyard offers something for everyone and takes away the difficulty to decide on a certain culinary focus.
This is just a selection of some recommendable places to visit in Santo Domingo for dinner, there are plenty of further options in the Colonial Zone.
How to get there: All of the places mentioned are located right in the Colonial Zone, so they are walkable from your accommodation in the same area*.
Cost: Count with 20-25 USD and up for a good dinner with a starter and drink.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: There is some world-class dining in Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial, so make sure to try out some of these restaurants.
Eat like a local
If you are traveling to Santo Domingo on a budget or just looking for a quick bite to eat, there are also plenty of local eateries in Santo Domingo, especially in the Colonial Zone. Therefore, if you don’t want to visit an ordinary restaurant and prefer to have some Dominican street food (as far as street food goes in the Dominican Republic), those are your must places to visit:
- MIX Empanadas: this is my to-go place every time I am in Santo Domingo. When you are visiting the city, you shouldn’t leave without stopping by at this hole in the wall which serves some of the best empanadas with the most creative fillings in the entire Dominican Republic. They recently moved to the pedestrian zone Calle Conde with more seating options, hence it is even more comfortable now.
- Navarricos: while this is actually more a restaurant than an eatery, it only has a few tables and is nearly exclusively frequented by locals, thanks to its cheap local tapas and the very affordable wine. Come early to reserve your spot.
- Omeroliza D’Comer: this is a typical Dominican “Comedor” and probably the best and cleanest in the entire Colonial Zone. A Comedor is a typical place where Dominicans have a cheap lunch for 150 Pesos. Choose something from the buffet or ask for the “Plato del día”, the dish of the day.
There is hardly a better place than Santo Domingo to eat true Dominican food like a local, so make sure to tick off this item from your list of things-to-do while you are in the city.
How to get there: All of the places mentioned are located right in the Colonial Zone, so they are walkable from your accommodation in the same area*.
Cost: A local meal usually sets you back at around 3 to 4 USD.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: Eating where the locals are is the best way to get authentic Dominican food
Enjoy the nightlife in the Colonial Zone
Once your belly is full, it is time to head out to enjoy the vibrant nightlife of the Colonial Zone. The unique thing about the nightlife in the Zona Colonial is that it is perfectly safe, but it still isn’t touristy and you usually will meet exclusively locals, as they love to go out in this area. Check out the following bars and nightlife spots in Santo Domingo:
- La Alpagateria: La Alpagateria is a super cool bar (and a shoe store!) that is very representative of the Colonial Zone: a cozy vibe, a historic courtyard, individual décor and furniture as well as a very special atmosphere. They have good cocktails and it’s a perfect place to sit and enjoy some time with friends for a couple of hours.
- Casa de Teatro, La Espiral or MicroTeatro: those bars are your places to visit in Santo Domingos Colonial Zone when you are looking for live music or cultural performances. The best is to check out their Facebook pages or call before to check the event schedule, as the days of performance might vary.
- Parque Duarte: this is one of the most local places you can find in the Colonial Zone and Santo Domingo. Each evening and night, locals come here, buy a Jumbo beer in the local store (a 1-liter bottle to share with friends) and hang out on one of the several benches of the park. It is a very open-minded and sometimes international crowd, so it’s easy to get in contact with the people.
- Parada 77: this is THE place to visit in Santo Domingo when you want to dance the night away. It is a small bar-style club, which is always packed with friendly locals (who are always in the majority but are used to tourists and expats), who love to dance to Salsa, Bachata and Merengue. Entry is usually free as long as you have a drink.
There are other areas for nightlife in Santo Domingo as well, but I’d recommend sticking to the Colonial Zone first as it is the safest place to be. Don’t get too drunk and leave your valuables at home so that you don’t become a target.
How to get there: All of the places mentioned are located right in the Colonial Zone, so they are walkable from your accommodation in the same area*.
Cost: Entrance to all those places mentioned is for free, except for some live music events or cultural performances.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: Dominicans love to drink, mingle and dance, so it is the perfect way to experience this part of the Dominican life.
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Visit a Bonyé performance
There is one special nightlife thing to do in Santo Domingo you shouldn’t miss: Bonyé. This is the name of a traditional and extremely popular Dominican music group, which is playing typical Dominican music: Bachata, Salsa and Merengue. They are performing each Sunday at the historical ruins of San Francisco in the Zona Colonial, which gives it a very special atmosphere that is hard to describe. Seeing the local crowds dancing like crazy is an experience that you shouldn’t miss. As it is an outdoor event, you can also decide how much you’d like to get involved: just watching from the edge or getting close and dancing as well. Thanks to its performance time from 6 pm to 10 pm it is even (partly) family-friendly as long as you find some chairs to sit in (come early to secure your spot!). And the best: it is a completely free thing to do in Santo Domingo, as there is no cover fee.
How to get there: Just walk from your accommodation in the Colonial Zone* to the ruins of San Francisco.
Cost: Bonyé is for free.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: Bonyé is an absolutely unique thing-to-do in Santo Domingo and if you haven’t experienced it, you won’t understand the fascination of it.
Book a historic hotel with colonial charm
You see in most of the descriptions above that everything is walkable in the Colonial Zone, especially when you have your accommodation in the Colonial Zone. That’s why it is so much recommendable to book a place to stay in the Zona Colonial.
And once you do this I highly recommend you to book one of those accommodations with a colonial charm, so that you can feel the full historical vibe of the area.
In terms of a hotel you can check out the following options, which have their very own colonial atmosphere:
- Casa Naemie ($$ – check prices*): one of the best budget places to stay in the Colonial Zone in a typical colonial house with intertwined hallways and different patios
- Colonial 154 H Boutique ($$$ – check prices*): a stylish but affordable boutique hotel with the full charm of colonial accommodation
- Casa Sanchez ($$$$ – check prices*): colonial architecture meets contemporary design. This comfortable hotel combines history and modern times
- Billini Hotel ($$$$$ – check prices*): using structures and walls from the 17th century and being located right next to a 300+ years old church, you can’t be closer to the feeling of living back in these old times
If a hotel is nothing for you and you prefer a more individual accommodation, you can also check out this list of the best Airbnbs in Santo Domingo, where you can find plenty of colonial accommodation in the Colonial Zone as well.
How to get there: All accommodation options mentioned are located within the limits of the Zona Colonial.
Cost: Accommodation in the Colonial Zone can reach from 30 to 300 USD per night.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: When visiting the Zona Colonial, there is no reason to stop experiencing the colonial charm once you enter your accommodation.
Things-to-do in Santo Domingo (outside of the Colonial Zone)
Book a spectacular Airbnb
If you don’t want to stay in the Colonial Zone for whatever reason but prefer an apartment in the city, you have plenty of options in all the different neighborhoods of Santo Domingo. And if you want to have something special, a unique place to stay in Santo Domingo, I can highly recommend you this list of the most spectacular Airbnb in Santo Domingo. Among them are:
- Luxury apartment with the best pool and rooftop view of Santo Domingo
- Spectacular top floor apartment with 360° panorama view
- Cozy ocean view studio close to the Colonial Zone
- Art Deco Apartment in the heart of Santo Domingo
This is just a tiny selection of beautiful apartments in Santo Domingo, check out the full list of Airbnbs in Santo Domingo with more than 25 hand-selected recommendations, which will make your stay in Santo Domingo unique.
How to get there: Depending on the accommodation you choose, most Airbnbs are easily accessible by Uber, taxi or (to a lesser extent) public transport.
Cost: Accommodation in Santo Domingo can reach from 30 to 300 USD per night.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: Not only the tourist attractions in Santo Domingo can be spectacular, also your accommodation can be truly unique and memorable.
Further information: The 27 best Airbnbs in Santo Domingo (hand-picked and recommended)
Visit Los Tres Ojos National Park
Los Tres Ojos might be the coolest (tourist) attraction in Santo Domingo. Can you imagine that there is a national park with lagoons and caves right in the city, surrounded by densely populated neighborhoods with hardly any trees growing? Exactly that’s Los Tres Ojos National Park, one of the most unique things-to-do in Santo Domingo.
Los Tres Ojos (in English “The Three Eyes”) consists of three lagoons (hence the name), which are fed by a subterranean river system. The three lagoons can be explored walking (with or without a guide), but you can’t swim in them. One of the lagoons can be accessed with a kind of a wooden barge fixed on a rope.
The national park is a perfect change of scenery for an hour or two, especially when spending the whole day in the hustle and bustle of Santo Domingo.
How to get there: Even there is public transport available to reach Los Tres Ojos, it is much easier and quicker to get there by Uber or a local taxi.
Cost: The entrance fee to Los Tres Ojos should be around 4 USD per person.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: Los Tres Ojos is a unique place to visit in Santo Domingo, as it is a national park within the (inner) city limits.
Faro a Colón (Columbus’ Lighthouse)
When visiting the attraction of Los Tres Ojos, you can also have a quick stop at Faro a Colón on the way back, as this place to visit is located in the same area of Santo Domingo. Faro Colón is also known as Columbus’ Lighthouse.
While it is question-worthy why a pretty poor country has to build a 70 million US-Dollar mausoleum for a man who conquered your own country and killed your native people, the building is still impressive (and ugly) to see as it is a 700×200 feet colossus made out of concrete.
It is definitely not a beauty, but this place to see in Santo Domingo is still worth visiting – first to think about colonialism and second to see the interesting exhibition in the interior.
It is also being said that some remnants of Christopher Columbus’ are sheltered at Faro a Colón, but there is no proof as a DNA test was never allowed by the Dominican government.
How to get there: Faro a Colón can be easily combined with a visit to Los Tres Ojos. Both tourist attractions can be best reached by taxi or Uber.
Cost: The entrance fee to Faro a Colón is approx. 2-3 USD, but you can see it for free from outside if you are not interested in the exhibition.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: It is a unique place to visit in Santo Domingo with an interesting (and question-worthy) part of history.
Take a ride with the Teleférico (Santo Domingo cable car)
This is a fairly new thing-to-do in Santo Domingo, as the cable car was just inaugurated in 2018. It is not a tourist attraction, as it was mainly built to connect the poor neighborhoods around Los Tres Brazos and Sabana Perdida with the metro network, but of course, the cable car can also be used to get a nice view of Santo Domingo from above. If possible, take your tour outside of the rush hours. The cable car is 5 kilometers long and has 4 stations. When riding the Teleférico, you can also seize the chance and get to know the Santo Domingo Metro, another modern and crucial transportation system of the city.
How to get there: Take the Metro until the station Eduard Brito, where you can connect directly with the cable car (“Teleférico”).
Cost: A ride with the cable car costs 20 DOP (approx. 0.35 USD).
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: It is the easiest and most economical way to see Santo Domingo from above.
Walk along the Malecón of Santo Domingo
One of the things I enjoyed most in Santo Domingo when leaving the Colonial Zone was walking along the so-called Malecón, the oceanfront promenade. There is no beach in Santo Domingo but the Malecon lets you at least breeze the ocean. Furthermore, there are plenty of bars, restaurants and little food stalls along the Malecón (at least in some parts, especially around the Plaza Juan Barón close to the Zona Colonial and in Santo Domingo Este), so it is a perfect opportunity to grab a local bite and do some people watching – an interesting thing-to-do in Santo Domingo, especially during the weekends.
How to get there: The Malecón is never far in Santo Domingo – just head to the ocean and you are there.
Cost: The Malecón in Santo Domingo is free.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: It is one of the best opportunities for people-watching in Santo Domingo.
Visit the Botanical Garden of Santo Domingo
The Botanical Garden is for sure not a top thing-to-do in Santo Domingo and therefore not a must-see if you are just in the city for a day or two. However, if you are in Santo Domingo for a business trip and need some fresh air and lush vegetation, if you are living in Santo Domingo for a longer time or if you a visitor and interested in birdwatching, the Botanical Garden might be an attractive place to visit in Santo Domingo. That’s particularly because it feels like another world walking along the several hiking paths and exploring the different species compared to all this chaos and traffic jam in the city. The Botanical Garden also hosts a butterfly garden and a scenic Japanese Garden with stunning photo opportunities, so it is worth visiting this Santo Domingo attraction.
How to get there: You can take an Uber or a local taxi right to the entrance or take the Santo Domingo Metro until the station Estación Francisco Gregorio Billini and walk around half a mile northbound until you reach the entrance.
Cost: The entrance fee for tourists is around 5 USD (250 DOP).
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: Together with Los Tres Ojos National Park, the Botanical Garden is one of the few green places in Santo Domingo.
Visit a baseball match in Santo Domingo
Not too far away from the Botanical Garden, you can find the Estadio Quisqueya which is home to two baseball teams in Santo Domingo, the “Leones del Escogido” and the “Tigres del Licey”. It is a very unique thing-to-do in Santo Domingo to watch a baseball game, as baseball is the national sport of the Dominican Republic. The national league is held each year between October and January, so seize your chance if you are visiting Santo Domingo during this time. For further impressions of baseball, you can see baseball fields all around the country, even in the smallest villages you see the locals playing. It is part of the culture.
How to get there: You can take an Uber or a local taxi right to the entrance or take the Santo Domingo Metro until the station Estación Freddy Beras Goico and walk around a third of a mile northbound until you reach the entrance.
Cost: Tickets are starting from 2 USD (100 DOP) per person.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: There is hardly a better thing-to-do in Santo Domingo to immerse into the local culture of the Dominicans.
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Dine at Santo Domingos most unique restaurant
Meson de la Cava is the name of Santo Domingo’s most unique restaurant. This elegant restaurant is located inside a cave, which is part of the natural rock formations at the recreational park “Parque Mirador del Sur”. I have to say that I wasn’t that much impressed with the food when I was there, but this was also already 7 years ago. However, the location is indeed unique and makes it one of the most special places to visit in Santo Domingo – especially if you would like to surprise your partner with a romantic dinner and a night out to remember
How to get there: The best is to take an Uber or a taxi to get to El Meson de la Cava, particularly when going there for dinner.
Cost: Calculate with 30 to 35 USD per person for a 2-course dinner with a glass of wine.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: This restaurant offers a unique location in Santo Domingo.
Things to do with kids in Santo Domingo
Alright, there have been a lot of very different places to visit in Santo Domingo. But you might ask now which one of these are particularly family-friendly, hence what are the best things to do with kids in Santo Domingo.
The Santo Domingo Chocolate Workshop was already mentioned above among the best Santo Domingo activities as it is a cool and easy way to learn about one of the Dominican Republic’s most important organic products, cocoa. Kids will love that they can create their own chocolate with different flavors, try different types and get to know everything about this favorite threat in a child-friendly environment – just a few reasons why this is a great thing to do with kids in Santo Domingo.
Another favorite for kids in Santo Domingo is the Chu-Chu-Train in the Colonial Zone. Even though it is a more touristy Santo Domingo activity, it is a good way to combine sightseeing, especially for kids (as they will love the trolley train ride), with a brief introduction to the history of Santo Domingo. The Chu-Chu Train departs every hour from Parque Colon in the Colonial Zone and takes 45 minutes.
Santo Domingo Teleferico:
One of the newest Santo Domingo attractions is the cable car, the so-called Teleferico. Even though it is only built for the locals for easier commuting, tourists can use the cable car as well and see local barrios Gualey, Los Tres Brazos and Sabana Perdida from above. Kids will love the view and adults can get an insight into the not-so-nice places to visit in Santo Domingo. As the neighborhoods here might be a bit rough, it is recommended to arrive by Uber or taxi to the Teleferico Station at Eduard Brito.
The Colonial Zone:
Even though a historic area doesn’t sound like a too family-friendly thing to see in Santo Domingo, the Colonial Zone is also a great place for kids, particularly as there are plenty of local shops with handmade ice cream, different bicycle tours* and other places where kids and teens can get their favorite snack food, like at one the several french fries shops. Especially during the weekends, there are also plenty of show acts and street performers in the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo.
The Museo Infantil Trampolín is a children’s museum located in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic). The museum aims to promote learning through play and offers a variety of interactive exhibits and activities for children to explore. Visitors can participate in hands-on exhibits that cover topics such as science, technology, art, and culture. The museum is a great place to go for families in Santo Domingo with young children to spend a fun and educational day together, especially if it’s one of the few rainy days in the city.
For more family fun in the Dominican Republic, check out the best family activities in Punta Cana.
Best free things to do in Santo Domingo
If you’re traveling to Santo Domingo on a budget, I have some good news for you: it is a great destination for affordable holidays and offers a lot of different places to see which are completely free. Some of the best free things to do in Santo Domingo are the following:
- Free Walking Tour, the best way to explore the Colonial Zone with a cool group and an experienced guide – however, tips are expected (book your spot on the Free Walking Tour here*)
- Stroll through the Colonial Zone, the most important historical area in the entire Caribbean
- Admire the centuries-old buildings from the outside, such as Alcázar de Colón, Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor and the Museo de las Casas Reales.
- Stroll along the Malécon, Santo Domingos oceanfront promenade with different entertainment options
- Attend Bonyé, the famous weekly music event, happening each Sunday at the San Francisco ruins, where local Dominican music is played and hundreds of Dominicans are dancing wildly on the streets.
For more things to do in the Dominican Republic on a budget, you can check out the following posts:
– 16 free things to do in Punta Cana
– traveling to Punta Cana on a budget (backpacking Punta Cana)
Day-trips from Santo Domingo (things-to-do outside of the city)
Head for a beach day to Juan Dolio or Boca Chica
This is probably the most popular day-trip from Santo Domingo, especially when people are missing the beach in the city. And it is, frankly speaking, one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo if you would like to escape from the city for a day. Both places-to-visit are less than an hour away from the city and offer stunning beach scenery, plenty of beachfront restaurants and comfortable beach clubs. While Boca Chica is famous for its turquoise lagoon, Juan Dolio is worth visiting due to its wide and sandy beach. Both beach towns also offer some comfortable beach clubs to relax and chill out.
How to get there: You can either take a taxi, an Uber or public transport. Buses to Boca Chica and Juan Dolio are leaving one block north of Parque Enriquillo at Calle José Marti.
Cost: Visiting Boca Chica and Juan Dolio is for free.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: If you miss the beach while being in Santo Domingo, Boca Chica and Juan Dolio are the best places to visit.
Take a day-trip to other parts of the Dominican Republic
Usually, I am not a big fan of day-trips where you are spending the whole day either in the car or on the bus. That’s why I usually recommend visiting places like Samaná, Jarabacoa, Los Haitises or Punta Cana as a kind of road-trip, where you go one day, spend a couple of nights at your destination and head back after you have deeply explored the region.
However, I can understand that sometimes a day-trip is the only option to explore a region or a country. In this case, you definitely should take a day-trip from Santo Domingo. Possible destinations are the beautiful Samaná peninsula, the mountains in Jarabacoa & Constanza or the beaches of Punta Cana. You can also visit Los Haitises National Park or head to the dunes of Baní – even though all of these options are pretty far. It is better if you can extend your schedule a bit to enjoy these areas with more time.
Check out one of the following fully organized day-trips from Santo Domingo, which will show you the full beauty of the Dominican Republic.
How to get there: For a day-trip from Santo Domingo, the best thing-to-do is to book a guided excursion so that you don’t have to deal with any organizational stuff..
Cost: Prices for day-trips vary, depending on where you go and what’s included.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: If you don’t have another chance to get to know the country, a day-trip is a decent way to learn more about the Dominican Republic.
Visit the Pomier Caves (Las Cuevas del Pomier)
I have to admit that the Pomier Caves are on my to-do-list for a long long time and I haven’t managed it so far to realize it, even many friends have been there and say it is an amazing thing-to-do, especially when looking for a quick (half-) day-trip from Santo Domingo.
Las Cuevas del Pomier are located in San Cristobal, a quick 30- or 45-minute drive (depending on the traffic) from Santo Domingo away. It is a massive cave system of which just a small part is accessible. Visiting this off-the-beaten-track tourist attraction in the Greater Santo Domingo area (you won’t find it in any guide book) is not for the faint-hearted, as you have narrow pathways, steep rappels and pitch-black passages.
Make sure to arrange your visit in advance as there are no official opening hours.
How to get there: From Santo Domingo, it is approximately 30-45 minutes to reach Las Cuevas del Pomier. If you don’t have a rental car, which is not necessarily recommendable in Santo Domingo, it is easiest to arrive by taxi or Uber.
Cost: Prices depend on the group size and the tour you choose, so make sure to ask in advance.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: A unique cave system close to Santo Domingo with many possibilities for adventure and adrenaline.
Further Information: You can call +1 809 629-3536 for details.
This is an absolutely off-the-beaten-track thing-to-do in Santo Domingo, but hiking is an exciting option when you are craving some activity and adventure. It is particularly interesting considering that the mountains around Santo Domingo reach around 5000 feet – just 30 minutes away from the city. This counts for some exciting opportunities.
However, you have to note that there are hardly any marked hiking trails in the Dominican Republic and especially not in the surrounding area of Santo Domingo. While I have written an extensive hiking guide for Punta Cana, it is a bit more difficult for Santo Domingo. The best areas to explore are around Villa Altagracia or Bonao, but I would highly recommend you to go with a local guide or a local hiking group.
How to get there: You need to arrange your hike beforehand as there aren’t any marked hiking trails around Santo Domingo.
Cost: Hiking is for free, you just have to pay the guide.
Why it is one of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo: Adventure and completely untouched nature is a combination hard to resist.
Further Information: Contact the amazing guys from ecoturismolynx* if you are looking for hikes close to Santo Domingo.
Things NOT to do in Santo Domingo
Flash jewelry or walk around with valuables
The Dominican Republic (and in particular Santo Domingo) is (still) a poor country. Crime is existing, primarily in the city and especially petty theft and robberies, but tourists are hardly targeted. However, don’t present an opportunity. That’s why it is recommendable to leave your valuables at home. Also take care of your phone, as they are often targeted. There is a flourishing second-hand market for phones in the Dominican Republic – you don’t want yours to be part of it.
Walk around at night
Most crime, especially robberies, is happening during the wee hours of the day. Therefore, before sunrise and after sunset, it is not recommendable to walk around, especially not alone and outside of the Colonial Zone.
However, in the historic center, the Zona Colonial, you can easily walk around in the evening and even at night as long as the streets are well-lit and located in the main area where everything is happening.
Visit barrios and poor neighborhoods
Some tourists find it interesting to see how the poorest of the poor people are living, but this is definitively a thing not to do in Santo Domingo. There are barrios, such as Gualey, Guandules or Ensanche Capotillo, where a foreigner simply shouldn’t be, because these neighborhoods have their very own law and order – something you don’t want to experience.
But don’t worry, there is hardly any chance that you visit those neighborhoods unintentionally. You will notice before that something is changing and your instinct will make you turn around immediately.
Go away with a stranger
Something a little bit more difficult to realize is the personal connection with the Dominican people. During your visit to Santo Domingo, especially if you are an open-minded person, you will be approached by a lot of people, most of them might even try to speak in English with you. Depending on your appearance and where exactly you are, some of these people are simply interested in connecting with you – and some of them are just interested in something else (money, valuables, visa relationship, etc.).
As a rule of thumb, you always can be open and talk with the locals, but if someone gets to the point too quickly or want you to come to a place you are unfamiliar with, better decline or go with another trusted person to avoid any inconveniences.
Feel unsafe in Santo Domingo
Another thing NOT to do in Santo Domingo is to feel unsafe – because this is absolutely not necessary. Even you might read a lot of stories about Santo Domingo, mentioning how dangerous Santo Domingo is, this is usually not true if you
– stick to the areas mentioned in this article of the best things-to-do in Santo Domingo,
– if you avoid the things explained in this section and
– if you don’t get involved in any shady business (usually the top 3 causing problems are alcohol, sex and drugs).
I have lived more than 4 years in Santo Domingo and except for once – when I made a mistake and walked outside of the Zona Colonial after dark – nothing ever has happened to me. Check out more information about safety in the Dominican Republic here.
Therefore, as long as you follow this advice, you’ll have a great time in Santo Domingo and can enjoy all those marvelous things-to-do presented in this comprehensive Santo Domingo travel guide.
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CHRISAuthor, Travel Coach & Punta Cana based digital nomad
Hey, I am Chris, a born and raised German, travel-addictive and Caribbean Soul. Since 2011 I have been living in the Caribbean, among them 5 years in the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana is my home-base here in the country and I’d love to tell you more about how to experience Punta Cana off-the-beaten-track and give you all the advice you want to know for your vacation in Punta Cana.
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