Top Things to do in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Here are top things to do in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and the best Santo Domingo points of interest. The capital city vibrates with the rhythms of the Caribbean. Historic, cultural, colorful and charming, it offers a host of fabulous adventures. Explore the ancient center, A World Heritage Site, filled with reminders of Christopher Columbus who had such a huge impact on the New World. Visit a modern day light house with a massive beam that can be seen for miles. Outdoor lovers can enjoy water sports like snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking. For an adrenaline rush, climb down into a stunning underground cavern filled with enormous lagoons and then picnic in a beautiful landscaped park.The whole family will be thrilled at an indoor aquarium and party animals can eat, drink and dance the night way before setting off for a traditional breakfast in a quaint local eatery. Read on to learn about Santo Domingo's points of interest.
Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo
Hidden amongst the vibrant and colorful ambiance of the Dominican Republic is a small enclave that is totally European, charming and quaint! Exploring this region is a cool thing to do in Santo Domingo.
The Colonial Zone is the most popular point of interest in Santo Domingo, that takes you back in time to Christopher Columbus and the first structures of western civilization. It is filled with narrow cobblestone streets, quaint stores, small local restaurants and lovely parks. Take pictures of the huge statue of Columbus, cast in bronze and walk along Calle Las Damas, the oldest paved street in the New World.
Be awed at the beautiful architecture as you stroll around. See the Palace, built by the son of Columbus and then visit the oldest Cathedral in the Western world, the Catedral Primada de America. Stop at the National Pantheon, a Jesuit church, now used as a burial ground for well-to-do local citizens. End your day with delicious traditional meal of fresh seafood.
National Botanical Garden in Santo Domingo
After some breathtaking ziplining and kayaking, relaxing in a magnificent landscaped garden is the next thing to in Santo Domingo.
The National Botanical Garden was established in 1976 in honour of a Dominican botanist. Stroll along the paved pathways and admire the beautiful flowering plants. The atmosphere is calm and restful and you will rejuvenate your mind and spirit. If you prefer not to walk, a quaint tram winds its way around the Park and you will get to see all the displays in comfort. The Japanese Garden is a delight and cannot be missed! When you want to rest, set up on a blanket on the lush green lawns and enjoy a picnic basket.
Alcázar de Colón (Columbus Palace) in Santo Domingo
Everyone knows the story of Christopher Columbus, but you may not know that the family lived on this Island. Exploring this historic site is an amazing thing to do in Santo Domingo.
The venue, called Alcázar de Colón, is a protected Unesco World Heritage Site and is situated in the Colonial Zone. Today it is a Museum offering a stunning insight into the culture and history of the Dominican Republic. See the tapestries, artifacts, original furniture and old documents that are displayed. The original venue, built in 1515, was an ornate Palace of over fifty rooms with stone courtyards and landscaped gardens.
Calle de las Damas in Santo Domingo
Going back in time to a Colonial era is a fascinating thing to do in Santo Domingo and one of the top Santo Domingo points of interest. Take a trip to Calle de las Damas in the Colonial Zone. It offers one of the first ever paved streets, the first hospital and the first customs house in the New World.
Stroll down the quaint narrow cobblestone streets and admire the beautiful Spanish-style homes. Stop in at an ancient Church and see the Hoeyl Sofitel, the first solar clock built on the continent. The quaint shops, delightful traditional eateries and old-world charm will enchant. This picture-perfect setting calls for photos and a few souvenirs to take home.
Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor (Catedral Primada de América) in Santo Domingo
If you love visiting old churches, a trip to the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor is the next thing to do in Santo Domingo.
It is the most well known religious venue in the Dominican Republic, and is acclaimed to be one of the oldest Cathedrals in the New World. Find it located in the protected Colonial Zone, a Unesco World Heritage Site. The church was constructed in the 1500's and offers a stunning example of classic Baroque and Gothic architecture. The towering stone walls will inspire and as you enter you will feel a sense of calm and peace. See the magnificent wood carvings and ancient religious Catholic artifacts that will thrill historians.
Los Tres Ojos in Santo Domingo
For those who love exploring underground caves, a visit to Los Tres Ojos is another fabulous thing to do in Santo Domingo. This awe-inspiring natural venue has been formed over millions of years by water washing away the soft limestone, creating caverns filled with stunning stalagmites and stalactites. The unique open-air cavern offers three tranquil lakes fed from an underground river. Lagoons are locally called Eyes, giving rise to the name, The Three Eyes.
Take the long staircase down into the hole and then explore the banks of these massive lakes to discover tropical fauna and flora. They are home to a myriad of indigenous species. You can walk or take a boat trip while your knowledgeable guide updates you on the history and culture of the area, a must-visit Santo Domingo point of interest.
National Palace in Santo Domingo
After enjoying the Colonial style buildings, discovering a more modern structure is a different thing to do in Santo Domingo. The National Palace has an ominous history. It was built in 1940's, a brutal period ruled by the dictator Rafael Trujillo, who was eventually assassinated in 1961. This massive structure will amaze as you walk up the long path surrounded by magnificent landscaped gardens and approach the building, dominated by pillars, flags and a huge dome.
The building today is the seat of the Government of the Dominican Republic and as such is not open to visitors. You can however, stroll around the gardens and admire this important and striking venue.
Ozama Fort (Fortaleza Ozama)in Santo Domingo
Protection of the Dominican Republic against sea-faring invaders was a huge concern. Massive fortresses were constructed and visiting one of them is a fabulous thing to do in Santo Domingo.The Ozama Fort is found in the Colonial Zone and offers an awe-inspiring stone structure filled with lookout towers and hidden corridors.
Take a tour of this Unesco World Heritage Site and learn how it was built by the Spanish in a medieval style to guard the Port. If you are fit, climb up the tower in the center, known as the Torre del Homenaje and see panoramic views of the Ozama River and the Port. Then visit the powder-house nearby and see the imposing line of cannons that stand on guard.
Columbus Park in Santo Domingo
Taking photos of a massive towering statue of Christopher Columbus is the next thing to do in Santo Domingo. Visit Columbus Park, also known as Parque Colon, and mix and mingle with locals and tourists who relax here and soak up the sun. This busy square in the Colonial Zone, the most amazing Santo Domingo point of interest is filled with history and culture. Famous monuments border the square, visit the Catedral de Santa Maria la Menor and the Palacio Borgella. Then see the Catedral Primada de America, known to be the oldest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere. The Park is used to host numerous cultural events and is a good starting point to explore the Colonial Zone.
Gazcue in Santo Domingo
Stroll around a laid-back ancient suburb, it is a relaxing thing to do in Santo Domingo. The old Gazcue sector offers fabulous historical Spanish-colonial type architecture, quaint local restaurants tucked away on tiled walkways and boutique shops. This region is home to the upper-middle class and offers a change from the wild Caribbean vibe found elsewhere on the Island. Walk around and admire the stately buildings in the tree-lined streets, stop for a traditional meal and buy a souvenir to take home.
Cueva de las Maravillas Excursion from Santo Domingo
Want to explore a fabulous cave? This is another exciting thing to do in Santo Domingo. Although the Cueva de las Maravillas was only discovered in 1926, it is over 100,000 years old. Take a day trip and go deep underground to explore these magnificent caverns.
The cave tour is suitable for all ages and levels of fitness, a concrete walkway that is well lit allows you to explore easily. Be awed by the stalactites and stalagmites that form huge rock pillars resembling icicles. The walls are covered with over 400 drawings done by the Tainos Indians thousands of years ago. Your guide will give you a fascinating talk on the history of the cave.
Aquamundo Sambil in Santo Domingo
Ending your Dominican Republic vacation with a family adventure is the perfect thing to do in Santo Domingo with kids. Set off to the Aquamundo Sambil, an indoor aquarium experience that will thrill all ages. You don't need to get wet! Discover massive eels and barracudas. Walk through a scary tunnel with clear walls that allows you to see sharks circling all around.
Kids can take part in feeding and even touch the stingrays and other marine creatures. Then see the Insect and Reptile Room where all types of creepy creatures will delight the young ones. A special interactive room for kids, built like a submarine, offers buttons and knobs to push that offer educational info about the creatures in the Aquarium.
Columbus Lighthouse (Faro a Colón) in Santo Domingo
Visit when there
Discovering where the remains of Christopher Columbus lies is an awe-inspiring thing to do in Santo Domingo and a mind-blowing Santo Domingo point of interest. According to the locals, they lie at the site of Faro a Colón, the Columbus Lighthouse.
This imposing concrete structure does not resemble your typical lighthouse. At first glance it appears more like a modern-day office block, shaped in a stepped pyramid style. But, you will discover that it has a huge, powerful light that shines out at night in a cross-shape and is so powerful that it can be seen as far away as Puerto Rico. Explore the museum inside the building, it offers a fabulous display of jewelry and an age-old Cuban sailing boat.