Three-eyes cave in los Tres Ojos National Park, Santo Domingo

Things to do in  Santo Domingo

Caribbean flair, historical heart

Boasting the accolade of one of the Caribbean’s oldest cities, Santo Domingo is where island flair and historical charm collide. The capital of the Dominican Republic radiates from the Ciudad Colonial (Zona Colonial), where history buffs will find a wealth of things to do: Highlights include the UNESCO-listed Ozama Fort (Fortaleza Ozama) and the early 16th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor (Catedral Primada de América), the oldest church in the New World. But clear waters and white sands are also within easy reach of this convenient base—Saona Island and Punta Cana are both just a quick drive away.

Top 15 attractions in Santo Domingo

Los Tres Ojos National Park

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Los Tres Ojos National Park—one of Santo Domingo’s most unique natural attractions—is an open-air limestone cave that’s home to three beautiful lakes (hence the name “The Three Eyes”. An impressive network of stalagmites and stalactites surround the lakes and make a visit to Los Tres Ojos feel like stepping into another world.More

Columbus Lighthouse (Faro a Colón)

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Located in the San Souci district of eastern Santo Domingo, the Columbus Lighthouse (Faro a Colón) is a massive concrete memorial to the famous explorer. Built in the shape of a cross and capable of projecting a bright cross-shaped beam that can be seen for miles, it also houses a mausoleum and museum.More

Ciudad Colonial (Zona Colonial)

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The lively streets of Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial—one of the city’s most historic neighborhoods—are ripe with the sights, smells, and sounds of Latin America. This tiny enclave is filled with traditional European-style architecture, well-kept parks, cobblestone streets, and artistic nods to adventurers past.More

Amber Museum (Museo Del Ámbar)

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Dominican amber is considered to be some of the finest and clearest in the world. Housed in a Victorian-era mansion that once belonged to a wealthy local family, Puerto Plata’s Amber Museum (Museo Del Ámbar) has an extensive collection of the semi-precious gemstone.More

Alcázar de Colón (Columbus Palace)

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Overlooking the Plaza de España and the Ozama River, the Alcázar de Colón (Columbus Palace) was built in the early 1500s as the governor’s residence for Diego Columbus, Christopher’s son. Today, it’s one of the Colonial Zone’s most popular museums, and houses period furniture, artworks, and artifacts from the 16th century.More

Calle Las Damas

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Calle Las Damas is one of the most picturesque destinations in Santo Domingo’s historic neighborhood, known as the Colonial Zone. The cobblestone street—said to be the first ever in the New World—is lined with classic Spanish-style houses and beautiful European churches that are a nod to the city’s ancient past. It’s named for the ladies—including local dignitaries—who took evening strolls along the street each night.More

National Palace

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Considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the Dominican Republic, the National Palace was designed in the Neoclassical style. Built in the 1940s under the brutal reign of dictator Rafael Trujillo, the ornate and expansive building houses the offices of the President and Vice President and is a functioning seat of government.More

Columbus Park (Parque Colon)

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Located in the heart of Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone, near the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor (Catedral Primada de América), Columbus Park (Parque Colón) is one of the most popular squares in the city. It’s best known for its large central statue of Christopher Columbus.More

Museum of the Royal Houses (Museo de las Casas Reales)

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Discover the Dominican Republic’s deep roots at the Museum of the Royal Houses (Museo de las Casas Reales) in Santo Domingo. These two 16th-century structures—the South and North buildings—were designed to house the Spanish-appointed governor’s royal court, offices for the justice tribunal and treasury, and living quarters for military captains.More

Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor (Catedral Primada de América)

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Built in the early 16th century, the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor (Catedral Primada de América) is the oldest Catholic cathedral in the New World. Located in the Colonial Zone, the cathedral is one of Santo Domingo’s most famous religious sites, and contains a large collection of woodcarving and religious artifacts.More

Ozama Fort (Fortaleza Ozama)

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Located in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, this 16th-century Spanish fortress is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. History buffs can explore Ozama Fort (Fortaleza Ozama)—which is the oldest European-style military building in the Americas—to learn about how the old-school castle once guarded the entrance to the Dominican Republic’s capital city.More

Plaza de España (Plaza de Armas)

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Plaza de Espana was once a vast open field cultivated by the Taino Indian prior to the arrival of Spanish colonizers. It later became the starting point for soldiers as they paraded in regal fashion around the nearby palace of Diego Colon.Today, this open square in the heart of Santo Domingo is a popular gathering spot for locals and travelers who want to revel in the sunshine while they take in the surrounding culture and street entertainment. Numerous restaurants and cafes offer an opportunity to relax with a cup of coffee, a traditional Dominican meal or a glass of wine, while the open space provides room for concerts and other performances.The square is most often visited as part of a city tour—whether its on foot, Segway or bike. The nearby Bateria del Almirante is a perfect spot to check out stunning views of the Ozama River during daylight hours and visitors can also walk to the oldest commercial road in the city from Plaza de Espana.More
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Boca Chica

Boca Chica

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With its powder-soft white sands and warm waters, Boca Chica is a classic beach resort and a popular escape from the Dominican capital. It’s fittingly referred to as the “largest swimming pool in the Dominican Republic” as the coral reefs just offshore keep the warm water here calm.More
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Gazcue

Gazcue

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Located just southwest of the Colonial Zone, the Gazcue neighborhood is one of the oldest in Santo Domingo. The residential area is home to fine examples of Spanish colonial architecture, plus the National Palace, the Plaza de la Cultura, the Palace of Fine Arts, and a stretch of the waterfront Malecon.More
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National Botanical Garden

National Botanical Garden

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Founded in 1976, the National Botanical Garden in Santo Domingo was named after a Dominican botanist who published a guide to the plant life of Hispaniola. The calming paths of this quiet and contemplative garden are ideal for escaping the city streets, and athletic travelers agree the garden’s five miles of well-kept tread are perfect for early morning runs, too.The botanical garden’s tram winds visitors through multiple ecosystems, tropical foliage and a broad range of displays that showcase Dominican Republic’s diverse flora. Travelers agree the impressive Japanese garden is an essential stop on any visit to the National Botanical Garden, and the lush lawns also prove ideal for afternoon picnics.More

Top activities in Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo to La Romana transfer

Santo Domingo to La Romana transfer

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All about Santo Domingo

When to visit

The Dominican Republic enjoys a Caribbean climate that’s at its best between December and March—visit then, and you’ll be almost guaranteed blue skies and low humidity. On the flip side, it’s the rainy season from May through November, and there’s the highest chance of hurricanes from August to October. To see the city erupt with life and color, visit during the Dominican Carnival, which typically takes place on the final Sunday in February.

Getting around

As the island’s capital, Santo Domingo is a transport hub. It's home to the Las Américas International Airport and a bus terminal with connections to Cibao, Santiago, and the Silver Coast. Renting a car will give you the freedom to explore at your own pace, but be aware that driving in the Dominican Republic can sometimes feel a little chaotic. If you’d prefer to sit back and soak up the scenery (and indulge in local rum), use rideshare apps such as Cabify or Uber, both of which are widely available in Santo Domingo.

Traveler tips

While it's easy to spend hours wandering Santo Domingo’s charming historic center, there’s plenty more to explore further afield. Swap the bustle for the breeze of Los Tres Ojos National Park (Three Eyes National Park), just a 10-minute drive from the city center. Here, you’ll find a stunning network of limestone stalactites and stalagmites surrounding three lakes (the “eyes”). Line your visit up with the middle of the day, when the sun shines on the water and creates brilliant patterns.

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People Also Ask

What are the top attractions in Santo Domingo?

The top attractions in Santo Domingo are the 16th-century Alcazar de Colon (Columbus Palace), built as a residence for Christopher Columbus’ son; the Columbus Lighthouse, which pays homage to the famous explorer; the colonial-style National Palace; and the cobbled Calle Las Damas, one of the Colonial Zone’s prettiest streets.

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What local dishes should I try in Santo Domingo?

During your Santo Domingo vacation, you should try popular Dominican dishes such as mangú (mashed plantain); sancocho (a beef stew made with corn, tomato, and spices); pollo guisado (slow-cooked chicken in a rich tomato sauce); and, of course, as much seafood as you can get your hands on.

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Does Santo Domingo have good nightlife?

Santo Domingo is known for having some of the best nightlife in the Caribbean. The Ciudad Colonial (Zona Colonial) has plenty of open-air bars playing Latin music and serving tropical cocktails. Along with the historical center, the Piantini district is a nightlife hub filled with clubs open until the early hours of the morning.

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What’s the currency in Santo Domingo and do most places accept credit cards?

The currency in the Dominican Republic is the Dominican peso (RD$). Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, but it's always a good idea to carry cash (especially small notes) for tipping, taking public transport, or buying refreshments from independent shops.

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What are the best day trips from Santo Domingo?

The best day trips from Santo Domingo are to Saona Island, where white sands, palm trees, and clear waters create the typical Caribbean image; Cayo Arena, which has some of the island’s best scuba diving; and Los Tres Ojos National Park (Three Eyes National Park), which often only takes half a day to visit.

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Are there any cultural events or festivals held in Santo Domingo?

The biggest and brightest cultural event held in the Dominican Republic is Carnival at the end of February—expect fabulous costumes, Latin music, and huge parades. Semana Santa in March or April is an important religious festival, as is Virgen de Altagracia in January, which celebrates the island’s patron saint.

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Frequently Asked Questions
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