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Santo Domingo is the Capital of the Dominican Republic and it is a exuberant and friendly community. It’s not innately touristy compared to other neighboring hotspots, but there's a good amount of treasures to be unearthed here if visitors care to look. There are golf courses, a nice variety of aquatic sports, and also the world-class museums to establish its position as a top off beat cruise destination.
Christopher Columbus is usually celebrated and well-known in The United States. However, it's his brother, Bartolomé Columbus, who has attained fame within Santo Domingo. Bartolomé founded Columbus City, which rose up to become the initial European City in the " New World ". The historic traces for the Columbus family by means of architecture, statues, etc. are scattered throughout this quaint Spanish colonial city.
One of the best things about Santo Domingo is its sheer diversity. You can enjoy a variety of experiences here. The site to visit for that perfect blend of history and also the present may be the Zona Colonial. As it is probably the most ancient venue the main city has to offer, you'll find probably the most superbly maintained architecture here that goes back as long as the 15th century. The Zona Colonial hosts the numerous firsts from the New World . Study up in the first college, and worship within the earliest cathedral.
Boca Chica features a chic beach ambiance. Sit amongst the lanes of palms and submerge yourself in to the royal blue waters which are as blue as the spectacular jewelry on sale here. Whether it's the calm from the silver sands, the historic context, or even the club scene you're searching for, it may be found the following in Santo Domingo.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock at either the Sans Souci pier on the east side of the Ozama River across from the Zona Colonial or at the Don Diego quay, just south of the Zona Colonial. From Don Diego, you can cross the highway and walk up the steps into the historic heart of Santo Domingo. From Sans Souci, however, you'll need a taxi or other transportation to reach the Zona Colonial (it's almost an hour's walk).

The Sans Souci pier is now undergoing a major expansion, designed to dramatically increase cruise ship traffic to Santo Domingo. The reconstruction of two terminals has been completed; each can now dock three cruise ships at once. A third, larger terminal is planned that will be able to accommodate mega-ships of 5,000 passengers. A yacht club and sports marina, convention centre, shopping mall, hotels, apartment buildings, and a pedestrian crossway spanning the Ozama River are in the works as well. Target completion date is sometime in 2010. The Sans Souci terminals currently have an information booth, duty-free shopping outlets, and an Internet centre.

The Don Diego pier has two wings, one with information booth, Internet and calling centre, and a currency exchange, the other with duty-free shopping outlets.The modern Don Diego terminal offers direct access to the historic Colonial City and allows passengers to quickly and easy access the dozens of monuments there. The General Public Bus Product is more often than not on schedule, and is quite cheap. It travels on all the major roads, but make sure to carry a map along with you since the routes could get confusing if you're not acquainted with the region.
Carreras are the same public buses but they are a lot more like private cars. However, these aren't metered so make certain to negotiate a fare before embarking on the journey. Taxis are the easiest method to circumvent for that cost. They're metered, and also the average cost seldom surpasses $4 since the places are all located at close proximity to each other.
Getting Around
On Foot: It's possible to walk, but it's not recommended, particularly if you don't know where you're going and don't speak Spanish. There is a lot of crime in Santo Domingo, and it's much safer to take other means of transportation.
By Taxi: This is the most economical option if you're staying within a half hour of the port. Be warned, however, that local drivers might not speak English, and it's best to agree on a roundtrip price before going anywhere. If you happen to snag an English-speaking cabbie, he or she can be a great resource if you'd like a tour of the area, information about its history or recommendations for sights that are worth seeing. Be aware that some taxis, known as "carros publicos" carry multiple passengers, and they usually aren't air-conditioned.
By Motochoncho: Say what? Enterprising locals with motorbikes will offer rides to anyone in need of transportation for very reasonable prices. However, this can be exceedingly dangerous because of their tendency to weave among larger vehicles and the aggressive habits of other drivers. It's also not the best method in inclement weather, and it's likely that you won't be provided with a helmet.
Via Public Transportation: Bus transportation is available, but, although inexpensive, local buses are often overcrowded, hot (no air-conditioning) and slow. An underground Metro system is also in place, and it's easy to use for first-timers, but there's only one line at this point, and you should really know where you're headed before using this option.
Renting a Car: We strongly discourage this. Driving conditions in Santo Domingo are horrendous. Motorbikes dart between cars incessantly, and the few traffic signals are generally ignored. Street signs are not in English, and it's extremely easy to get lost in the wrong part of town, where gang members will attempt to sell you kites and windshield wiper blades. (No, we're not kidding.) If you know where you're going and how to drive defensively and still want to give it a go, you can take a cab to Avis (517 Avenida George Washington, 809-535-7191), National (Avenida Independencia Esq, 809-221-0805) or Budget (Avenida John F. Kennedy, 809-566-6666).
Watch Out For
Crime, violence and gang activity are prevalent in Santo Domingo. Always be aware of your surroundings, stay in groups, and don't venture to unfamiliar parts of the city when not on an organized tour or with a reputable guide. As a general rule, leave all jewelry and valuables onboard in your cabin safe, and carry only as much cash as you think you'll need. We recommend a money belt to keep valuables safe while you're ashore.
Also, be sure to pack bug spray; you won't have much of a problem outdoors, but you might use some restroom facilities that don't have air-conditioning, making them perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes -- and they're vicious.
With all of the things to do and see in a city, deciding how to spend your time can be quite an agonizing decision. 10 best has narrowed all of the available attractions in Santo Domingo to a list of the most appealing and reputable, to aide in your decision making. You can rest easy knowing that any choice you make from our list is sure to please.
Santo Domingo in 1 Day
Most visitors who plan to spend most of their vacation at the beach resorts devote only 1 day for sightseeing in Santo Domingo. To make the most out of that limited time, here are some suggestions.
You can spend an entire morning exploring the Zona Colonial of the old city, a 12-block area where Spanish civilization in the New World was launched. Columbus walked these narrow, cobblestoned streets, as did Ponce de León and Cortés. Begin by taking a stroll up:
Museo de las Casas Reales
Museum of the Royal Houses takes visitors back to colonial times for a taste of the Dominican Republic's rich history. This restored 16th-century palace boasts suits of armor, tapestries, maps, and an array of artifacts stretching from pre-Columbian days to the beginning of the 19th century. The museum also features a restored colonial courtroom, a replica of the viceroy's throne room, and treasures salvaged from Spanish shipwrecks. (809-682-4202)
Museo del Hombre Dominicano
Long before Columbus set foot in the Dominican Republic, the island was home to several native tribes, most notably the Taino Indians. This museum preserves portions of that early, rich history and allows visitors to get up close and personal with tribal masks, ceremonial items, and everyday artifacts that survived European colonial expansion. (809-687-3622)
Museo Bellapart
Museo Bellapart houses Santo Domingo's largest private collection of artwork. Spanning more than a century and a half of political and cultural evolution, the collection covers four important periods of art and history in the Dominican Republic: "The Precursors," "The First Masters," "The Exiled," and the "The Vanguard." From romantic, neoclassical works to defiant masterstrokes of the 1950s and '60s, the museum's collection offers significant insight into the history of the island. (809-541-7721)
Museo de Arte Moderno
Santo Domingo's Museum of Modern Art features paintings and sculpture by national and international artists. There is, of course, a heavy focus on Dominican Republic artists, but creations by international masters are sometimes highlighted in exhibitions. Look for the works of two of the country's best-known artists, Elvis Aviles and Tony Capellan, who both enjoy worldwide recognition. (809-682-8260)
Boca Chica
Although it's approximately 20 miles outside of Santo Domingo, Boca Chica serves as the area's most popular destination for lounging in the sun and enjoying Caribbean waters. The beach is protected by a coral reef, subduing waves and currents so swimmers can have pleasant, safe dips. Picturesque white sands and blue waters are striking enough to empty a whole roll of film on, and clear water is perfect for snorkeling.
Acuario Nacional
The open, airy National Aquarium is located just a short drive out of the city and offers visitors a glimpse of the Caribbean's diverse, colorful sea life. A particular area of interest is the aquarium's Plexiglas tunnel, which lets visitors walk directly through the aquarium. The complex boasts more than 3,000 marine inhabitants. Guided tours available. (809-766-1709)
Juan Dolio
Just north of Boca Chica, the beach at Juan Dolio provides a long stretch of sand and crushed coral for sunbathing or playing volleyball or beach football. However, the underwater coral may make for an uncomfortable expedition if you're looking for more water-focused activities. Don't let this keep you away — resorts and nightlife destinations along the strand are well worth the trip and have blossomed in recent years.
La Caleta
La Caleta presents scuba divers with excellent options during vacations in Santo Domingo. Small islands off the coast, along with a coral reef, make the beach's waters less rough than in some areas, so underwater sightseeing is especially safe. Plus, two shipwrecks and the myriad of colorful fish draw divers from around the world.
Botanical Gardens
The National Botanical Gardens in Santo Domingo are considered by many to be among the world's best. They offer a variety of flora, including graceful palms and over 300 types of orchids. At 200-plus acres, the garden is the Caribbean's largest and provides an opportunity to explore a vast array of native plants. Make sure to browse the popular Japanese Garden when you visit.
Alcázar de Colón
Built in the early 16th century during the burgeoning years of the Age of Exploration, the palace of Alcázar de Colón stands as a tribute to explorers and nations who helped settle the New World. Diego Columbus, son of Christopher, was the palace's first resident and the city's first governor. After him, the structure's limestone walls and Isabelline architecture went on to greet other famous explorers: Ponce de Leon and Balboa. Today, the palace welcomes guests with an array of period artifacts and artwork from the era of Spanish Colonialism. (809-686-8657, 809-689-5946)
Don't Miss
Zona Colonial (Colonial City): Dating to 1498, this area of Santo Domingo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It houses the Americas' first cathedral, hospital and fort, as well as the palace of Diego Columbus, Christopher Columbus' son, who originally governed the Spanish colony there. You'll also find dining options that range from tiny cafes to the Hard Rock Cafe, as well as an array of shops on El Conde, the area's main retail street. It's within walking distance of the cruise port, but it's much easier (and safer) to take a shuttle or taxi.
El Faro a Colon (Christopher Columbus Lighthouse and Tomb): The remains of Christopher Columbus are said to be housed about a five minutes' drive from the cruise dock. (Seville, Spain, also claims to have possession of the explorer's remains. The debate rages on.) The tomb, which is marked by an impressive monument and lighthouse, also served as the site of Pope John Paul II's visit during the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the Americas. His "Popemobile" is still on display there. Both attractions can be reached on foot by ambitious cruisers, but it's not recommended. Instead, grab a taxi or shuttle if you haven't booked a city highlights tour. There is a nominal fee to enter. (Avenida Ana, Sansouci District; open Tuesday to Sunday 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)
Los Tres Ojos (The Three Eyes): In Mirador del Este Park, you'll find Los Tres Ojos cave. Made of limestone, the cave contains three main clear pools or lakes -- the "eyes" for which the cavern is named. It's just a 15-minute drive from port, and it's very inexpensive to enter. You will, however, have to pay extra to take a trip to the cave's fourth pool, which does exist, despite the cave's name. (809-788-7056)
Local Overview Tours: You'll save money if you take a tour with a local guide like Prospero Guillermo Rodriguez ("call me Chino"), who offers private excursions in Santo Domingo and La Romana (Casa de Campo) for reasonable prices. In addition to English, he also speaks his native Spanish, as well as Italian and French. Call 809-518-1309 (p) or 809-973-0272 (c) to make arrangements. We took a tour with him and were able to book him for more than three hours and tailor the trip to the highlights we wanted to see.
The Malecon: This oceanside promenade, located along Avenida George Washington (George Washington Avenue), is a pleasant place to explore restaurants and casinos. If you catch a taxi or shuttle from port, keep an eye out for the Male Obelisk (designed to look like the wings of a pigeon, the symbol of the free world) and Female Obelisk (erected in memory of Santo Domingo) along the way. It's a great place to visit if you'd like a leisurely day ashore, but be sure to leave jewelry and unnecessary valuables in your cabin.
Boca Chica: The town of Boca Chica is about 30 minutes from your ship by taxi, and it's a nice place to spend a day shopping or getting to know the locals on the beach of the same name. You'll find both upscale restaurants and stalls selling traditional Dominican fare. You'll have to take a taxi to get there if you're not on a prearranged tour that includes a stop.
Museo Naval de las Atarazanas (Marine Museum): If you're a history lover, check out this marine museum, which houses artifacts recovered from ships that sank in the 1500's and 1600's. You can also learn all about the history of such shipwrecks, as well as the D.R.'s efforts to recover and preserve them. There is a nominal fee to enter, but children and students are free. (4 Calle Colon, Colonial Zone; open Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., closed Wednesdays)
Casa de Campo: At this tourist haven resort in La Romana, you can golf at the world-famous Teeth of the Dog course, laze on the beach, take part in one of several water sports, go horseback riding or play tennis. You'll also find a beautiful marina, as well as plenty of shops and places to grab a bite to eat. You'll need a full day in port for this one, though; the ride from the Santo Domingo cruise pier is 90 minutes each way. If you're not on a prearranged excursion, you'll have to pay an entry fee, which doesn't include activities at the resort. (Carretera La Romana, Higuey; 855-877-3643; open seven days a week)

Boca Chica: Located in the town of Boca Chica, about a 30-minute drive from Santo Domingo, this beach is great for swimming, grabbing a bite to eat and mingling with locals. There are food stalls, upscale restaurants and shaded tables for dining. Water sports equipment is available for rent. Be careful with your valuables while you're swimming, however.
Juan Dolio: About an hour's drive from Santo Domingo, Juan Dolio is a simple beach that's great if you'd like a bit more peace and quiet than what Boca Chica has to offer. Within walking distance of Juan Dolio is Playa Guayacanes, which offers a similar ambience.
Eating Out
Authentic Dominican food is generally locally grown and produced. You'll find there's an emphasis on chicken and freshly caught fish, rice and beans, and fruits like coconuts and plantains. Many residents operate stands that offer homemade items like bread and empanadas. Drinks native to the area include fresh fruit juices, Dominican coffee and hot chocolate, Kola Real soda and -- for those looking for a bit of an alcoholic kick -- Mama Juana, Presidente beer and local rum. There also seems to be a surplus of Italian fare in the DR.
Pat'e Palo: A self-described European brasserie, Pat'e Palo serves a wide range of appetizers, entrees and desserts. Start with crispy apple slices in parmesan fondue, French onion soup or a churrasco grilled salad. Follow it with yucca gnocchi, a hamburger or fresh sea bass. End with a cheese plate, tiramisu or mango sorbet. Menus are available in English. (25 Atarazana, Zona Colonial; 809-687-8089; open Sunday to Thursday noon to midnight, Friday and Saturday noon to 1 a.m.)
Adrian Tropical: At this place, you'll get amazing local fare and views of the waves, thanks to its oceanside location. We highly recommend the tostones (fried plantains), arroz con frijoles rojas (rice and red beans) and bistec con cebolla (steak with onions). For some refreshment, try sorbet in mangola (mango) or chinola (passion fruit), or order a pina colada, but be warned that the alcoholic versions can be a bit strong. Menus are in Spanish only, and your waiter might not speak English. (2 Avenida George Washington; 809-221-1764)
Vesuvio Malecon: If you're not into traditional Dominican cuisine, you'll do well at Vesuvio Malecon, which serves Italian fare. You can't go wrong with fresh oysters or prosciutto with avocado for starters. Then, try the Mediterranean-style Caribbean lobster or the risotto with shrimp and squid, and finish up with German chocolate cake for dessert. (521 Avenida George Washington; 809-221-1954; open daily noon to 1 a.m.)
El Conuco: With seven different dining rooms to fit your tastes, El Conuco offers a large menu that centers on traditional Dominican Creole fare. Try appetizers like fried codfish or yucca; soups like chickpea stew; entrees like goat with oregano and tomato sauce, or yellow rice with shrimp and Spanish sausage; and an assortment of desserts. (152 Casimiro de Mora, Gazcue; 809-686-0129)
Sol y Sombra: You'll find Sol y Sombra on the fifth floor of the Hilton Santo Domingo hotel. You don't have to book a room to enjoy dishes like shrimp Caesar salad, smoked salmon wraps, penne pesto, Cajun tempura grouper, rice and beans with fried plantains, a selection of steaks and desserts that feature ice cream and chocolate mousse. Menu items are listed in both Spanish and English. (500 Avenida George Washington; 809-685-0000; lunch served from noon to 3:30 p.m. daily)
The best buys in Santo Domingo are handcrafted native items, especially amber jewelry. Amber, petrified tree resin that has fossilized over millions of years, is the national gem. Look for pieces of amber with objects like insects or spiders trapped inside. Colors range from a bright yellow to black, but most of the gems are golden in hue. Fine-quality amber jewelry, along with lots of plastic fakes, is sold throughout the country.
A semiprecious stone of light blue (sometimes a dark-blue color), larimar is the Dominican turquoise. It often makes striking jewelry, and is sometimes mounted with wild boar's teeth.
Ever since the Dominicans presented John F. Kennedy with what became his favorite rocker, visitors have wanted to take home a rocking chair. These rockers are often sold unassembled, for easy shipping. Other good buys include Dominican rum, hand-knit articles, macramé, ceramics, and crafts in native mahogany.
You Call That a Bargain? -- Always haggle over the price of handicrafts in the Dominican Republic, particularly in the open-air markets. No stall-keeper expects you to pay the first price asked. Remember the Spanish words for too expensive: muy caro (pronounced mwee cah-row).
Best Shopping Areas
The street with the densest population of useful shops is El Conde, which is known to consumers throughout the capital as a venue that's loaded with middle-bracket, workaday stores selling basic necessities (food, clothing, cleaning supplies), electronic goods, CDs, and luxury items within a street that's peppered with fast-food joints, cafes, and bars, even an outlet for Baskin-Robbins. In the colonial section, La Atarazana is more geared for foreign visitors who aren't necessarily maintaining a private home or apartment within the capital, and have no interest in buying soaps, consumer goods, or groceries. La Atarazana has a higher concentration than El Conde of art galleries and gift and jewelry stores. Duty-free shops are found within the airport, and in the capital at the Centro de los Héroes.
Head first for the National Market, El Mercado Modelo, Avenida Mella, filled with stall after stall (about 100 independent vendors) selling crafts, spices, and produce. The market lies in a battered two-story structure near Calle Santomé, just north of the Colonial Zone, and is open daily from 9am to 6pm. The merchants will be most eager to sell, and you can easily get lost in the crush. Remember to bargain. You'll see a lot of tortoiseshell work here, but exercise caution, since many species, especially the hawksbill turtle, are on the endangered-species list and could be impounded by U.S. Customs if discovered in your luggage. Also for sale here are rockers, mahogany, sandals, baskets, hats, and clay braziers for grilling fish. That's not all. Expect to find everything from musical instruments to love potions, even voodoo objects. Warning: Pickpockets, regrettably, are rampant.
Don't overlook the upmarket hotels as shopping venues. In Santo Domingo some of the best shops, at least the highest-quality merchandise, are sold in hotel corridors and arcades. In Santo Domingo, the best shops are found at the Hilton Santo Domingo, Meliá Santo Domingo, Centenario InterContinental, and the Renaissance Jaragua Hotel & Casino.
Paintings & Sculpture
As you're going from gallery to gallery, you might keep an eye out for the works of any of the following artists. Although there are many rising artists, a few have achieved international recognition, including Guillo Pérez (famous for his paintings of oxen), Juan Bautista Gómez ("sensual landscapes"), Adriana Billini Gautreau (known for her remarkable portraits), Luis Desangles (exponent of folkloric art), and Mairano Eckert (depicts workaday Dominican life).

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