Santo Domingo – Dominican Republic Visitor Guide Series Part 2 of 5

Santo Domingo - Beach 1Hi all, I am doing a little something different this month and doing a 5 part series on cities to visit in the Dominion Republic. This is part 2 of 5. Below are links to other cities in the country that we hope to visit.  I have been watching some of my favorite YouTube vloggers Delightful Travellers and they have been there for six months and are planning to be there for a few more months. They make it look so beautiful and inviting that we are seriously thinking about spending a week or so there over Christmas and New Years’ this year. We have never been out of the country over the New Year I don’t think, and have never been to the Dominion Republic so this will be an adventure! Not sure where we will end up if we do go to the DR, thus I wanted to do some research on many cities to decide where we would like to visit most. This post is about the capital city of the DR – Santo Domingo. In it, I am going to share some of the fun things I hope to do if we make it to Santo Domingo, as well as share a little history about the area.

Santo Domingo - ChurchMeaning Saint Dominic, Santo Domingo is not only the capital city but also the largest city in the DR, as well as the largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean bases on population. It was originally founded by the Spanish in 1496 and was located on the east bank of the Ozama River, but was moved to the west bank of the river in 1507 by Nicolás de Ovando. Santo Domingo is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas and was the first seat of the Spanish colonial rule in the New World.  Today Santo Domingo is the cultural, financial, political, commercial, and industrial center of the Dominican Republic, with the vast majority of the country’s most important industries being located within the city. It also serves as the chief seaport of the country. The city’s harbor at the mouth of the Ozama River accommodates the largest vessels, and the port handles both heavy passenger and freight traffic.

Santo Domingo - BuildingThe average temperature in Santo Domingo varies little because the tropical trade winds help mitigate the heat and humidity throughout the year. Thus temperatures are high year-round, with cooler breezes during wintertime.  December through March are the coolest months with warm days with less humidity and cool nights (temperatures of 17 to 19 °C (63 to 66 °F)). July through September are the hottest. Santo Domingo averages 1,445 millimeters (56.9 in) of rain annually. Its driest months are from December through April, however, due to the trade winds and mountains to the southwest, rain is seen even during these months. The lowest recorded temperature has been 11.0 °C (51.8 °F) on 5 February 1951 and 7 January 1957 and the highest is 39.5 °C (103.1 °F) on 29 May 2002.

Santo Domingo - City CenterSince this is a cultural city, I think I will start by sharing some of the great attractions that are on our to-do list if we make it to Santo Domingo. Looks like there are a lot of things to see and do if this is where we end up visiting this exciting capital city.

National Botanical Garden

This beautiful garden is full of flowers and plants native to the island, the gardens offer tram tours of the facilities. It was founded with the purpose of studying, conserving, and managing the diverse and rich flora of the Dominican Republic, created by Law 456 of 1976, and inaugurated on August 15 of the same year.

Parque Colón

One of Santo Domingo’s main gathering places, this plaza has a bronze statue of Columbus at its center. It looks like a very interesting little square to visit and take in the atmosphere that is the Dominican Republic.

Museo De Las Casas Reales

This museum contains artifacts and other historical exhibits on Santo Domingo from 1492 to 1821. Here you will find three different colonial houses which come together to form the Casa Reales. Originally built in 1508 it is now the home of a very informative museum explaining the rich history of this island and the country of the Dominican Republic. It also houses a collection of weapons once owned by the Dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina.

National Zoological Park

The National Zoological Park of the Dominican Republic emerged as an educational need for the country. Today visitors can view indigenous and exotic animals roaming freely in natural habitats.

Basilica Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor

The full name of this marvelous cathedral is the Basilica Catedral Metropolitana Santa María de la Encarnación. Originally when this church was built in 1514 it was a hut made of royal palms. It now takes up an entire block and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I read that the stained glass throughout the church is magnificent. I loved stained glass and hope to see this one day. I also heard that the mahogany alter, the carved animals, the statues, and the high hammered silver alter are also beautiful.

Panteon Nacional

If you are into history, this should be on your list. This 18th-century Jesuit church is the resting place for many of the greatest Dominican heroes. Constructed between 1715 and 1745 this Rococo-style building was originally home to the Jesuits until 1767 when they were expelled from the country.

Amber World Museum

In this Museum you will find the historical and scientific data on the time of the creation of amber, the animals and vegetation of that era that were fossilized in the amber, and everything concerning the formation and the characteristics of this gem. All the pieces on display in the cabinets, on the panels, in the large wide-field microscopes, dioramas, audio-visual and interactive technology have the purpose to transport you back to the origin of amber. You can also find fine pieces of jewelry to take back home in the jewelry shop we have mounted as a request of many visitors.

Alcázar de Colón

Built by Christopher Columbus’s son between 1510 and 1514, this restored building was one of the first structures built in the oldest remaining European city in the Americas.

Santo Domingo - Beach 2

Like I said in part one of this series, I shared the names of a lot of beaches, as there were many. While there are also quite a few in Santo Domingo, I thought I would share the three beaches that kept coming up while doing research. Here they are in no particular order.

Playa de Guibia

This beach is situated on the city’s main coastal street and is very popular with the locals. It gets really quite busy in the evenings once they get off work and come down to enjoy a party atmosphere. It is not as busy in the mornings or midday if you want to experience the area when it is less busy and chaotic.

 Playa Boca Chica

While not right in the city, this beach is only about a half-hour drive and seems worth it to experience a truly world-class beach. It is a HUGE beach with a lot of space to freely spread out and enjoy the sand and water.  Apparently Snorkeling, diving, swimming, sunbathing, beach games, and more can all be enjoyed at Playa Boca Chica, and there are a lot of good bars and restaurants to be found along the edge of the sand as well. One last note, this beach is accessible via public transportation.

Juan Dolio

This beach is actually about an hour away from Santo Domingo but helps it be way less crowded than the previous two listed. Many locals state that Juan Dolio is one of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic. Tall, towering coconut trees line the sand, offering nice little shady spots for people to cool off on the sunniest, warmest days, and there’s a lot of space here for people to really spread out and not feel crowded at all.

Dominican Republic

I hope we can make it to the Dominican Republic sometime this year or the year after. I know there are a lot of things to do in Santo Domingo so it might be hard to select just a few, especially if you only have a short amount of time. Whenever we go, I know I plan on going to a beach either early in the morning or late afternoon and exploring other aspects of the area during the day. Have you been to Santo Domingo? If so, please share some of your highlights in the comments below and add anything I may have missed while doing research.

Here is a link to my other posts on this series:

Punta Cana
Las Terrenas
Puerto Plata

Please come back on Tuesday for part four of this series.  Viajes felices!


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