Things to do

Explore Santo Domingo

La Zona Colonial -The Old Colonial Zone: It might take you a full day to walk this area but very much worth it.  The colonial zone features the New World’s first street (Calle Las Damas), fortress (Ozama Fortress), Sundial and Cathedral (Catedral Primada de América), among others, as well as many old churches, el Alcázar de Colón (Diego Columbus’ house), el Museo de las Casas Reales (Museum of the Royal Houses), the Amber Museum, etc. Parts of the Old Town that aren’t as known as these ones feature Ruinas del Monasterio de San Francisco (San Francisco Monastery ruins), the New World’s first hospital (Ruinas de San Nicolás de Bari), Santa Barbara church and Fuerte de San José, among others. The Old Town is quite easy to walk around on by yourself as long as you have a good map so that you get to know what you’re walking past by.

At ADAM’s we offer valuable guided tours. Having a guide can be of advantage because they can get you ahead of lines, if there are any, they narrate and explain the events and history of each visited site and eventually they’ll save you time as well. While on the tour, recharge your batteries by grabbing a cup of coffee in one of the cafés or bistros in front of the Spanish Square which has a fantastic view or just buy some water, juice, soda or even a beer and a light snack at the local convenience store (colmados) and sit on the steps by the Square. People watching is also a nice way to learn about this city and its people.

Catedral Primada de América – The Cathedral: This is the first church built in the New World. It is approx. 500 years old and it’s called La Primada de America. It’s still in great condition and preserved very well.

Catedral Santa María de la Encarnación was built between 1521 and 1540, this was intended by the Vatican to the religous center of the West Indies. The church structure is a mixture of Gothic and Romanesque styles. It was severely damaged during the attack by the British pirate Drake (who used it as barracks). The cathedral has one surprising omission, and that is a bell tower. it never got built, simply because they ran out of funds!  The main façade was built out of coral rock. The chapels were built later than the main temple, and until 1992 one chapel housed the remains of Christopher Columbus, which are now in the Columbus Lighthouse. Entrance is free.

Museo de las Casas Reales – Royal Houses Museum: This is a nice and small museum dedicated to the history of the Spanish discovery and is located right beside the Alcazar de Colon in the main historical square.

This building completed in 1520, was the office of the Governor General of the West Indies and office of the Royal Audiences. This museum exhibits Dominican history from 1492 to 1821. Built by order of the Spanish monarchy, it was meant to be the seat of the Royal Court (Real Audiencia), General Accountant’s Office (Contaduría General) and Palace of the Governors and General Captains (Palacio de los Gobernadores y Capitanes Generales) – institutions to run the country and newest Spanish acquisition. The building is the same the Spaniards built and some of the rooms in there are exactly the way they were, with the furniture, decor that the Spaniards used. Some artifacts from those times are also being displayed including a map showing Christopher Columbus’ 4 trips to the New World. Each trip has a light of a different color.

The complex has been a museum since 1976. It houses Santo Domingo’s artifacts in the Hispanic period. In addition to pre-Columbian art you can see the main artifacts of two galleons sunk in 1724 on their way from Spain to Mexico. Opening hours: 9am to 5pm (Mondays closed).Admission fee: RD10 pesos for children and RD 50 pesos for adults.

In their courtyard wedding ceremonies can be performed as it is quite a beautiful and romantic place. In front of the museum there is the “Reloj del Sol”, a sundial dating back to 1753 and built in order that the officers could watch time from the windows of the Royal Houses. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 9am-5pm.

Faro a Colón – Columbus Lighthouse: This is where the rests of Christopher Columbus lay. It is also filled with paintings, just like a museum. The Columbus’ Lighthouse was built to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the discovering of America. It’s shaped into a big cross with the smaller parts in front and on the sides, and the longest part on the back. It houses the remains of Columbus. The beautiful Baroque interior of this monument can’t hide the controversy surrounding the monument and its construction. The design of this massive cross was chosen in 1929 and is from the Englishman Gleave. The monument, however, wasn’t completed until 1992 (the 500th anniversary of the discovery). Even if you’re not a fan of Columbus or the western view of the discoveries, visit this monument just for its notoriety.

Parque de los “Tres Ojos”- The 3 Eyes National Park: Los Tres Ojos is an impressive 50-foot deep cave with three lagoons surrounded by stalagmites and lush vegetation. The large cave has three separate lakes (sinkhole) with 3 lagoons (the 3 eyes) in it. The most impressive of which is the Azul Ojo, the “blue eye”, which is a lagoon with crystal clear blue water. The last of the “eyes” offers a spectacular natural landscape of tropical vegetation, sheer rock faces, and green-tinged water. In the caves you follow walkways and a pulley-powered vessel to get through the underground system. This was once a sacred place for the Taíno, one of the native peoples of Hispaniola and in modern times, it has been used as the setting for Tarzan movies. Once paying the RD 50 pesos admission fee, restrooms and a small snack bar are farther back in the forest, so, bring your own. Tour time is 30-40 minutes. Close by is the Columbus Lighthouse and the National Aquarium.

Jardin Botanico – Botanical Garden – It houses one of the biggest flower clocks, a lovely Japanese garden, a section with native plants of the island of Hispaniola, aquatic plants, orchids, a museum with dissected exemplars of plants and a palm area. Don’t miss their Japanese garden with its soft grass and the loveliness of the trees. Here’s another place where you can bring your own lunch and picnic (like the Zoo).Because this garden is huge (2 million square meters), a good way to explore here is their guided tour by train. They feature herb gardens, a bamboo grove, small ponds and streams, desert flowers and a section with medicinal plants.

Long Weekend: Enjoy the best of town and country. Sightsee and shop in Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial and Plaza de la Cultura. Then head for the nearest major beach areas – Boca Chica and Juan Dolio – for resort activities aplenty.

One Week: Drive east from Santo Domingo, admiring the magnificent 16th-century Mediterranean village, Altos de Chavón, before splurging on a night at hedonistic Casa de Campo. Finish on the sunrise coast at one of Punta Cana’s posh, family-friendly, all-inclusive resorts.

Two Weeks: Dedicate 3-4 days for sunbathing/golfing in Punta Cana; 2-3 for whale-watching/fishing in Samaná; 4-5 days for shopping and visiting the historical sites on the Amber Coast. Take a scenic day trip through Cibao Valley and the “Dominican Alps.” Stop overnight at Barahona; finish with 2-3 days in Santo Domingo.

Airports: Most U.S. flights arrive at one of four international airports, Santo Domingo’s Las Américas (SDQ) and newer La Isabela aka Herrera (HEX), Puerto Plata’s La Únion (POP), or Punta Cana (PUJ).

Airlines: American Airlines/American Eagle, Continental, Delta, JetBlue, Spirit, and US Airways all fly from the U.S. (only East Coast takeoffs fly non-stop and direct). Aerodomca, Caribe Air, and Takeoff Destination Service serve the smaller airports scattered through the country.

Flight Times: 8 hours from the West Coast; 5-6 hours from the Midwest, 4 hours from the Northeast, 2-3 hours from the Southeast. Allow an extra 1 to 4 hours for flights involving a change of plane.

Cigars: Connoisseurs rate Dominican cigars as highly as Cubanos, particularly the Fuentes robustos, handmade in Santiago. Other leading brands include Montecristo, Cojimar (sugar-tipped in such flavors as vanilla and amaretto), Romeo y Julieta, and Léon Jimenes.

Rum: Though the silken Dominican rums aren’t well-publicized, aficionados appreciate such brands as Brugal (whose Puerto Plata distillery offers tours), Bermudez, and Barceló.

Local Attractions:

Places of Interest in the Dominican Republic:

Cabarete/Sosúa: Part of the Amber (North) Coast, Cabarete has windsurfing and a boho feel, while Sosúa sports gorgeous beaches and a thriving expat population (including many displaced Jews from the 1940s).

Samaná: This easily accessible eastern peninsula has exquisite beaches and typical fishing villages with brightly painted houses. It’s a mecca for humpback whale-watchers (in winter) and game fishermen year-round.

Santiago/Cibao Valley: The D.R.’s “second” city boasts Victorian architecture, cigar factories, and museums. The region encompasses the country’s breadbasket and the “Dominican Alps” (Cordillera Central), including the Caribbean’s highest peak.

Barahona: The mountains here in the “Dominican Garden of Eden” bubble with restorative hot thermal springs shrouded by bougainvillea and orchids. Lush rainforest meets golden sand to a backdrop of birdsong.

Boca Chica/Juan Dolio: Both resort areas, the former accesses La Caleta National Submarine Park’s wrecks and reefs; the latter is near San Pedro de Macorís, a town famous for producing an inordinate number of major league ballplayers

Juan Dolio: Located halfway between Santo Domingo y La Romana. This charming seaside town is relaxed and pleasant while great day trips can be found nearby including an excursion to La Romana or Santo Domingo. Other nearby activities to enjoy include diving and snorkeling the eco-rich coast, taking in a baseball game at San Pedro de Macorís’ Tetelo Vargas Stadium and exploring the many shops and restaurants.

Jarabacoa: is recognized as the birthplace of the country’s ecotourism industry. Situated in the mountains of the Central Cordillera, Jarabacoa is a great place for long horseback rides through beautiful pine trees. Although it can drop to 45 F (7 C) in winter, Jarabacoa nearly always has a pleasant temperature from 60 to 75 F (16-22 C). Locals call this steady climate the “city of eternal spring”, which is perfect for growing strawberries and flowers.