Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Dominican Republic Dec 2017/Jan 2018

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

We had been through Santo Domingo a couple of times in the past, but just in transit to one of the beach resorts in Puerto Plata, and had never stopped in Santo Domingo to explore it. This time, since we were catching a flight back to the US from Santo Domingo, we decided to spend a few days checking out Santo Domingo.

Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic (DR), which is on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, share by DR on the eastern half, and by Haiti, on the western half. What we discovered about Santo Domingo when researching it really opened our eyes; here are some eye-opening facts about Santo Domingo.

Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon in Spanish) first landed in Bahama’s when he “discovered” the new world, and with his brother, Bartholomew, liked Santo Domingo (SD) so much, that they built their capital here (1492-1498) to explore the new world from this headquarters. As such, SD is the oldest city in the Americas and lays claim to many “firsts” in the new world; like the first paved street, the first cathedral, the first hospital, the first school, the first university, the first library etc. It was from SD that the Spaniards launched expeditions to North, South & Central America to claim colonies for Spain. The old walled and cobblestoned street is a UNESCO World Heritage site, now called the Zona Colonial; and has many well preserved & restored buildings for the 15th century

Today, SD is a large metropolitan city of over 3 million inhabitants; and is well developed with good infrastructure from what we could tell. We were staying in the newer part of SD, and the Zona Colonial was in the older part.

Santo Domingo Skyline and the Caribbean Sea
Santo Domingo Skyline and the Caribbean Sea
Busy and populous city
Busy and populous city
Busy and populous city
Modern highrises

Since we had arrived in SD in the late aftermnoon, we drove that night to Zona Colonial to check it out; below are some images from Zona Colonial, the original walled city.

Calle El Conde is supposed to be the first paved street in the new world
Calle El Conde is supposed to be the first paved street in the new world
This is the first cathedral of the new world, Cathedral Primada de America
This is the first cathedral of the new world, Cathedral Primada de America
The charm of the old city at night
The charm of the old city at night
Old City fortification
Old City fortification
Dinner was at an open air “Food” court; of very delicious Arepas’s prepared by a Venezuelan chef
Dinner was at an open air “Food” court; of very delicious Arepas’s prepared by a Venezuelan chef

The next day, we went back to the Zona Colonial to check it out properly in the daytime

Parque Colon, outside the Cathedral Primada de America; the first cathedral in the Americas
Parque Colon, outside the Cathedral Primada de America; the first cathedral in the Americas
Busy old city, continuation of Calle El Conde
Busy old city, continuation of Calle El Conde; the statue is that of Bartolomew Colon, Columbus’s brother
Lots of café lined squares in Zona Colonial
Lots of café lined squares in Zona Colonial

We visited the Cathedral Primada, which was the original cathedral, with vaulted ceilings as seen in the picture. It was very well kept and preserved, and was in daily use.

Inside the beautiful Cathedral Primada, in daily use
Inside the beautiful Cathedral Primada, in daily use

Next, we visited the Museum of the Royal Houses (Museo de las Casa Reales). This were original palaces, that now house 2 museums; one is the history of how Santo Domingo came to be, starting from the original Taino Indian inhabitants and how they were overcome by the Spaniards. On the other side, is the Judicial Museum which depicts the original judicial system that was in place during the early days of the Spanish Colonial rule. This is a very nice museum, located close to the Plaza Espana, not to be missed. This plaza is a wide open area bordered on one side by Diego Colon’s house (Diego was the son of Christopher Columbus), and the house is now a museum showing the clothing, fashion, furniture and housing of that era. The Plaza Espana has multiple touristy restaurants bordering it, but the plaza itself is good, with usually many people in the evening milling around and enjoying the evening air, and free music concerts are held here every weekend.

Museum of the Royal Houses
Museum of the Royal Houses
Original manuscripts of Colombus
Original manuscripts of Colombus
Receiving room of the Royals
Receiving room of the Royals
Plaza Espana, with Diego Colon’s residence in the back, is a popular place to take pictures for special events
Plaza Espana, with Diego Colon’s residence in the back, is a popular place to take pictures for special events; notice the happy bride to be 🙂
Diego Colon’s residence
Diego Colon’s residence, with lots of tourists

After the Zona Colonial, we went to the Mercado Modelo, which turned out to be mostly arts and crafts market, but on its outskirts, we did find a small fruit & vegetable market and had the sweetest coconut water here.

Negotiations under way at the market
Negotiations under way at the market
Fresh fruits & vegetables
Fresh fruits & vegetables

We wandered around, and found a small beauty salon inside a home nearby in the Market Modelo area, where madam had to get her hair done.

Street scene outside hair salon, by Mercado Modelo
Street scene outside hair salon, by Mercado Modelo

Bu this time, it was getting evening, so we asked the hair salon lady and her family where we could go to eat typical DR food; where they would go to eat. They all agreed on El Conuco restaurant. So off we went to find El Conuco, which happened to be near the Malecon of SD.

El Conuco turned out to be a nice restaurant, decorated like a Dominican typical street with houses on both sides, was busy with local patrons and had good fresh food, fresh natural juices, and yucca with hot sauce 🙂

El Conuco restaurant, with DR food
El Conuco restaurant, with DR food

The next day, we went to check out the Tres Ojos (3 Eyes) National Park, which is truly an oasis found in the middle of Santo Domingo’s urban sprawl. Open-air caves formed centuries ago, lie at the heart of this small patch of green – the real experience lies down the craggy steps of the sunken cenotes, where visitors can explore this network of arches and freshwater pools surrounded by lush vegetation which clings to atmospheric stalagmites. A true natural wonder, definitely worth visiting, and a huge respite from the busy streets above.

Going down the steps to the natural caverns and fresh water cenotes
Descending the steps of the natural caverns down to the freshwater cenotes
The blue is the fresh water cenote at the bottom of this open air cavern
The blue is the fresh water cenote at the bottom of this open air cavern
Clear blue fresh water of Lago Azul
Clear blue fresh water of Lago Azul
To get to the 4th “lake” of Tres Ojos, you have to take this barge
To get to the 4th “lake” of Tres Ojos, you have to take this barge

To get to the 4th “lake” of Tres Ojos, you have to take this barge, that is pulled by hand from the 3rd lake, so as to preserve the sanctity of this fragile environment

The 4th lake emerging from the cave
The 4th lake emerging from the cave

After this visit, we checked flights from SD back to the US, and discovered that flights from SD had become full, and that flights from Punta Cana to the US were looking better that day :). So we said goodbye to SD, and drove back to Punta Cana once again, returned the rental car, and caught our flight back to reality 🙂

SD IMHO, is definitely worth visiting and spending a few days to take in the culture, the history, architecture, and friendly locals. Food was great and inexpensive. There are other parts of SD we did not have time to explore unfortunately, like the Botanical gardens, the Malecon etc etc. Definitely worth visiting.

This entry was posted in Caribbean, Dominican Republic Dec 2017/Jan 2018, North America, Santo Domingo

7 thoughts on “Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

  • Mansoor Ladha May 4, 2018 at 5:32 pm Reply

    Hello Karim,

    I see you and your wife – world travellers – are having a marvellous time in Santo Domingo. Makes me jealous!

    I am quite impressed with your website. I wanted to ask you who designed your web site as I am in the process of revising mine or do a new one.
    Would appreciate receiving a contact or suggestions.

    Thanks.
    Keep on travelling.
    Cheers,
    Mansoor.

    • Ali Karim May 23, 2018 at 5:34 pm Reply

      Hi Mansoor; thanks for the nice feedback; goal is to inspire everyone to travel to these places; and not make people jealous.
      I have PM’d you the info you requested about my website. Let me know if you need more info

  • mahamud jinnah May 7, 2018 at 5:34 pm Reply

    Very interesting place.I should go there.It had modern buildings, the old town, the beautiful cathedral and original manuscripts from Columbus and a cenote.What more can you ask for.

    • Ali Karim May 23, 2018 at 5:36 pm Reply

      everyone needs to go visit here; great place

  • Gulnar Jiwa May 15, 2018 at 5:36 pm Reply

    Hi Ali Karim,

    I have not had time to read your blog on Santo Domingo, but in general I really like the way you add maps, how you have coloured parts of the world that you have already travelled, and if I am not wrong I think I read how much you have covered % wise. You have also itemised your travels by the continents, countries and even by the year you travelled. Actually, I do not think that I have come across such a well managed travel blogspot.

    My colleagues at work always tell me to map my travels….I will have to learn that from you.

    I have been referring to your travels to Israel. Do you mind telling me which hotel you used in Jerusalem. I have a hard time finding a place to stay. I think I will look into private home rentals?

    • Ali Karim May 23, 2018 at 5:38 pm Reply

      Hi Gulnar, I have PM’d you the info you were looking for. Hope it is useful. Let me know if you need more.

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