The Dominican Republic’s capital city, Santo Domingo is also the most modern and dynamic metropolis in the Caribbean. La Capital—as it is affectionately called—epitomizes the pulse of Dominican culture, where the old and the new converge seamlessly from centuries old architecture and history, to large shopping malls, art galleries, an electric nightlife, and a booming gastronomy scene.
Exploring the Colonial City—the first European settlement of the Americas and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990—is a recommended experience for all travelers. This historic neighborhood consists of a pedestrian-friendly maze of narrow streets brimming with 16th to early 20th century architectural wonders. They lead toward colonial buildings turned museums, shops, hotels, restaurants, and sidewalk cafés. Hop on the Chu Chu Colonial train for a 45-minute tour of the area, hire a guide who will walk you down the first paved road of the Americas while sharing tales, or rent a bike and meander on your own. For a nature break, picnic on the lawns of the National Botanical Garden, the largest in the Caribbean, or stroll down the Malecón at sunset for sea views, roadside snacks, and people watching.
Beyond the sights, a cultural experience is never far in Santo Domingo’s eclectic neighborhoods. Shop at one of the exclusive malls or at an artisan gallery in the Colonial City—get a linen chacabana shirt, a leather handbag, or a ceramic faceless doll. Dine in style at brand hotels citywide where renowned chefs create twists on Dominican and international cuisine. Relax with a Dominican puro at one of the open terrace-bistros overlooking Plaza de España, or mingle at rooftop lounges on Gustavo Mejía Ricart Avenue. And when you’re ready for the beach, a forty-minute ride lands you onto Boca Chica’s soft, white sands facing a crystal clear Caribbean Sea, where seafood restaurants and entertainment await. Whichever your preferred beat, Santo Domingo has it.
Las Americas International Airport (SDQ) is the main port of entry, half an hour east of the city center, while the cruise ship port sits just 10 minutes from the Colonial City.