Dominican Republic Travel Guide: Santo Domingo

dominican republic travel guide

So excited to share the first part of our trip to the Dominican Republic with the Ministry of Tourism! We spent the first two days in Santo Domingo. I think it became my favorite part of the Caribbean

If you’re heading to the Dominican Republic, I highly recommend making a visit to this charming city for a couple days. It’s only a 2 hour drive from Punta Cana (the most popular destination on the island). It’s full of culture and beautiful backdrops! It was our favorite part! If you have been considering a trip to a tropical destination, we liked it better than Cuba (read here and here) and Puerto Rico!

santo domingo dominican republic travel guide

Where to stay in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

I’d definitely recommend staying in old town which is also known as the Colonial Zone. There are a bunch of boutique hotels, Airbnbs, and housing options. You can get to anything in old town within a 15 minute walk so you don’t necessarily need a car while you’re there unless you want to go into the modern part of the city.

hodelpa nicolas de ovando colonial hotel
15th century courtyard in the dominican republic

We stayed at Hodepha Nicholás de Ovando and it was incredibly charming – not to mention centrally located. It’s a 16th century property that has been slightly modified to be a modern day hotel. All of the buildings in the Colonial Zone are heavily regulated by the government to preserve history while making them 100% comfortable for you to stay. It was by far one of the coolest hotel rooms we stayed in if you saw it on Instagram!

pool in the courtyard of hodelpa nicolas de ovando
where to stay in santo domingo dominican republic

The hotel also had a pool, a bar called Taberna 1502 with the best mojitos that you can sip on the patio, and a stunning restaurant called Dos Mundos. The nightly rates are incredibly affordable too! You could easily pay $500+ a night for the same quality in the US. Plus, breakfast is included and if you book an Imperial room, they will bring you breakfast in this stunning sitting room.

where to stay in the dominican republic
colonial zone in santo domingo

During our stay, we also had a chance to tour  the Billini Hotel. With several restaurants on the property, a rooftop pool, and a chic sitting room, it was another great option. It is a quick walk from Hodelpha Nicolás de Ovando so both hotels are great options and are centrally located. You can’t go wrong with either. We also got to see the event space at Billini Hotel which had me asking Matt if I could plan our vow renewal there!

best place to visit in the caribbean
best boutique hotel in the dominican republic

Right down the street from Billini Hotel is Casas del XVI which is a luxury boutique hotel with an outdoor pool. It’s one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the world! Across the street, there are several casas which would be great for families or a group trip! They were so beautiful from the bit we saw!

colonial homes in old town santo domingo

Where to eat in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

We had some amazing meals in Santo Domingo. I mean truly amazing meals. I’d argue they were even better than meals I’ve had back in the US. Our host took us to some of the best places and here’s what they were!

where to eat in santo domingo

best food in the caribbean

Pat’e Palo.

This spot was our first meal in the Dominican Republic and it was the perfect spot. It overlooks a park called Plaza de España which is home to a colonial castle as well as Alcázar de Don Diego Colón. It’s just so scenic. Everything we had tasted delicious and Matt tried his first Presidente beer!

best place to eat in dominican republic
where to eat in santo domingo colonial zone

Buche Perico.

This restaurant was stunning during the daylight and at night. It was like a giant greenhouse with plants growing everywhere and the highest ceilings strung with market lights. The food again did not disappoint, literally everything we had was delicious. This is definitely the spot to go for a romantic dinner! See above for some photos in the daylight!

Dos Mundos.

Dos Mundos is located in Hodelpha Nicolás de Ovando. The concept is a fusion restaurant that combines both worlds (if you couldn’t tell by the name). They have several meal options – we opted for the 5 course meal – and they can accommodate all different dietary restrictions. The decor is beautiful and they have an indoor part of the restaurant should it get too hot as well as a patio which overlooks a gorgeous courtyard.

La Cassina.

This restaurant is located in the modern part of the city so you’ll need a car or an uber to get there. The modern part of the city has malls, corporate offices, and homes like a traditional metropolitan area. The restaurant was absolutely stunning. It was so luxurious and had so many options in addition to some of the most delicious and beautifully crafted desserts. The ceiling over part of the restaurant opens up and they have a patio dining option as well. It is truly a treat if you find yourself in the city for an afternoon!

what to do in the dominican republic

What to do in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Walk. 

One of my favorite parts of any city with history is to just walk. There are so many landmarks and sites to see in Santo Domingo that you could spend an entire day doing this. The buildings are simply stunning from the ruins to the adorable colonial homes.

church in dominican republic

Take a tour on a motorized tricycle. 

We took a tour of the city with Trikke República Dominicana. It was really easy to learn how to operate the Trikke (it took us 30 seconds). It was safe for children too as we toured with a big family from Las Vegas! Our tour guide had the perfect mix of facts about the city: both historical in nature and pop culture. The tour took about an hour in total and we learned so much plus it was fun to ride the Trikke!

Go to the 4D Cinema.

The Colonial Gate 4D Cinema was right next door to the Trikke and they feature mini movies (about 10 minutes long). You can buy a movie package to watch a couple back to back and put their 4D facilities to the test. We watched 2 movies and it was so fun to see how they made you feel like you were actually in the movie. The technology was amazing! Definitely a place you must stop by for a change of pace!

See the historical sites. 

There are several sites around the city that feature ruins from the 15th or 16th century that have been ruined by the hurricanes in the Caribbean. They’re very well maintained because the government has led an urban development program to restore historic buildings, install new water and sewage systems, etc. to make Santo Domingo one of the most popular tourist destinations. We were so impressed. By far one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean. We’ve been to Puerto Rico and Cuba in the last year and would definitely recommend Santo Domingo (and the Dominican Republic) over both! Here were our favorite places:

catholic church in the caribbean

painting in a cathedral in santo domingo

courtyard of hodelpa hotel

castle of don diego

best historical ruins

sitting room in colonial hotel

best blue striped dress

 

Those were the highlights of Santo Domingo for us but I’m sure there’s something I’m forgetting! I’ll be sharing my Punta Cana travel guide next week so check back!

Have you ever been to the Dominican Republic? Have you ever been to Santo Domingo or do you want to go?

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