Located right on the Caribbean Sea, Santo Domingo is commonly mistaken for a tropical resort town. However, Santo Domingo is not a destination for those who want to spend their vacation lounging on a quiet beach right next to their luxury resort. This Dominican Republic city is a destination for those who want to immerse themselves in the country’s colorful culture, explore its rich history and enjoy the flavor of the oldest town in the New World. When you walk through the streets of Santo Domingo, you will feel like you’re walking through an old European village rather than a laid-back beach town.
I have long wanted to experience the culture and history of Santo Domingo, and I finally got the opportunity last fall. My trip to Santo Domingo was rather spontaneous, though, so I relied on HotelTonight to book my last-minute hotel in Santo Domingo. With a hotel room waiting for me near the center of this old Caribbean city, I packed up a suitcase and got ready to depart for the Dominican Republic.
Since my hotel was conveniently located in the heart of Santo Domingo’s historic district, I was able to start exploring the city as soon as I dropped my bags off in my room. The Zona Colonial (or Colonial Zone) certainly has an important place in history, as it was the very first colonial city in the New World. Walking through the Zona Colonial will bring you past a number of historic sights, such as the Capilla de la Tercera Orden Dominicana, the only full intact colonial building remaining in the city, a 16th century convent and the majestic Catedral Primada de America, the first cathedral in the Americas. There’s so much to do and see in the Zona Colonial that you can easily spend an entire day strolling through the cobblestone streets and popping in and out of historic buildings. Even though it’s a major tourist destination, this historic area is still a must-see for anyone visiting Santo Domingo for the first time.
Located in the center of the historic district, Parque Colon is hard to miss. Parque Colon (also known as Columbus Park) is surrounded by beautifully preserved colonial buildings, and it’s an open, airy public square where you can find both locals and tourists mingling with one another. You can take a moment to rest on one of the benches or steps in Parque Colon, or you can pop into one of the cafes in the square and opt for a refreshing beverage – you’ll need it after walking so much in the Caribbean heat. I had lunch at one of the quaint cafes in the square, and I ended up chatting with a few locals, who were kind enough to give me a few recommendations for the rest of my trip.
The oceanfront promenade in Santo Domingo is called the Malecon, and it’s a great place for an afternoon walk. This promenade is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, and it’s offers great views of the sparkling Caribbean Sea. During your Santo Domingo vacation, be sure to bring your camera if you walk along the Malecon, because this scenic promenade offers plenty of great photo opportunities you won’t want to miss.
The next day, I headed out of the city to Los Tres Ojos, a park known for its three limestone caverns (hence its name – “The Three Eyes”). Los Tres Ojos is just about five miles outside the heart of the city, but it feels like a world away. This national park features dramatic limestone caverns, picturesque pools, and lush, tropical foliage. Everywhere you turn, there’s another majestic natural sight in Los Tres Ojos. Be aware, though, that there’s no swimming in the pools at Los Tres Ojos, so you can leave your swimsuit at home.
I couldn’t travel all the way to the Caribbean without enjoying some of the best beaches in the world, so I made my way to a nearby beach, Boca Chica. This palm-tree lined beach offers sugary white sand and calm, clear water, so it’s exactly what you imagine when you think of a Caribbean paradise. I spent the afternoon relaxing on this beautiful beach, and it was definitely the perfect way to wrap up my short weekend vacation in Santo Domingo.
There is a reason why Santo Domingo is one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean – it’s full of culture, history, beautiful architecture and gorgeous beaches. If you’re like me, lying on a beach day after day can get boring, which is why I loved visiting Santo Domingo. This Caribbean town offers a variety of sights and attractions, so you’ll definitely never be bored during your stay in Santo Domingo. And if you ever have a free weekend available to jet off to the Caribbean, make your planning process a breeze by booking your last-minute Santo Domingo hotel through HotelTonight.