Skip Navigation

Things to do in DR

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Things to do in DR

1. Posted by hummingbird500 (Budding Member 24 posts) 6w Star this if you like it!

Hello all-

My trip to Mexico went swimmingly, and I can't wait to travel again! This time, I'll be heading to the Dominican Republic in October for a wedding. The wedding is in Punta Cana, but I'd like to spend a week or so exploring Santo Domingo.

Any tips of where to stay or what to do? I haven't picked my exact dates yet, but It'll be sometime in mid-October. Any suggestions on where to go and what to do (or what to avoid) will be much appreciated!

Thanks fellow travellers,

Hummingbird

2. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Respected Member 314 posts) 5w Star this if you like it!

We stayed in a condo in the aquarium district for a week. We were on SpaceA for military and I don't know what it would cost for non-military but it was out of the main part of the city and was also not near the airport. So I have no particular suggestions for a place to stay.

We did a city tour with the condo rep Gloria and a driver. First the driver took us to the Columbus Lighthouse Monument (Faro a Colon). Disappointingly, this is not a real lighthouse, but it is a cross shaped building which projects a cross into the night sky. Gloria said it had not been lighted in some time. The fountains in the grounds were not operating. I did not realize that there were displays inside the 7 story building (built in 1992) so I took some pictures of the outside and also of the statue of Queen Isabella (Isabel La Catolica) which is across the street looking over the city. The driver accompanied me - not sure whether he was protecting me or waiting to rescue me if I fell.

Gloria did not take us to Columbus's tomb. She explained that the body interred in the tomb which was supposed to be. Columbus had been sent to Spain for DNA testing to see who it actually was. We did pass a place where there was a large generator on a barge next to the city electrical plant. She also skipped Los Tres Ojoes (which was listed on the tour brochure) and the aquarium which she said we could walk to--- very close she said (it wasn't and we couldn't). Whether by accident or on purpose we went by and into the Base Naval 27 de Febrero and the Naval Academy of DR and from there we saw a real lighthouse which was a square concrete structure with spiral yellow and black stripes. We went along the city wall into the Zona Colonial (did not stop at the Fort), and Gloria stopped where there was a movie called "The Good Shepherd" which was being filmed with Robert DeNiro and Angelina Jolie. She was hoping to get a look at the male stars. Bob got some pictures of the 50's cars lined up for the movie.

There are often vendors on tricycles peddling various items - typically coconuts or drinks. We got out on the pedestrian street though the middle of the old city which was still decorated for Xmas. Gloria bought a lottery ticket. We saw a statue of someone who looked like a native (West Indian), but it was either Don Bartolome Colon or Frey Nicolas de Ovando according to the inscription which I couldn't really read, and which Gloria couldn't translate very well. The statue of Columbus was near the cathedral in Columbus Park. Lots of pigeons, and they are building a Hard Rock on one side of the square

Gloria handed us over to a guide to look at the Cathedral Basilica Santa Maria la Menor, which Pope Paul III pronounced to be the first cathedral in the New World in 1542. I take that to mean that it was the first building designated as a Cathedral and not the first church building. I was interested to see that there was netting over the top of the entrances, probably to keep out the pigeons. She sat outside and gossiped while we did the tour.

Bob was wearing Bermuda shorts - down to his knees - and no one said anything about this, although I understand that shorts are not allowed.

The guide said that the inside was Gothic and with Romanesque arches and Baroque ornamentation. He said that the inside vaulting represented palm trees (they did look a little bit like that). In the middle of his talk, they added another family - apparently the guides are assigned by language. That threw him off a little so he finished us up and started on the next group. We slipped away and walked around the cathedral a bit looking at some of the 14 side chapels. I took a picture of a pigeon that sitting over the pulpit (apparently bypassed the netting) and a statue of a priest with a box with a slot in the top marked Seminario - I presume for people to donate money.

We went back out to Columbus Park and walked across and down to Calle Las Damas and to see the Changing of the Guard in the mausoleum. This is the National Pantheon which was originally a Jesuit church and was converted by Trujillo in 1955. It has a large bronze chandelier - a gift from Franco. I tried to take a short movie with my video camera of the changing ceremony which involved a lot of rifle maneuvers, but someone walked and stood in front of me.

We came out and saw the church next to the palace, and there was a big sundial there. I walked over to the fort walls (with cannons) and looked out over the street below and the river (Ozama?) beyond that. There was a ferry terminal there, and on the other side was a small marina with mostly power boats.

After that we went to another museum which I think was the Casa Reales. They had models of Columbus's three ships, maps of his journeys, a pharmacological section including a big cabinet with drawers labeled and painted with a picture of the plant (There was one for canabis), a stables area with saddles and sedan chairs, an exhibit on sugar cane, armor, a border marker from between Haiti and the DR, and navigation instruments on display. The guide asked for a tip at the end, which I understand he isn't supposed to do and Bob gave him $1.00.

Gloria asked us if we wanted to shop, and I said no (probably a disappointment for her), so we got back into the car and drove to a restaurant called El Conusco. She said this is where all the tours go for lunch. It is well set up for large groups of people and has a buffet of national foods for people to eat. They had spaghetti and yams and chicken plus various salads. The price was included in the tour price. Both Gloria and the driver ate a lot - more than we did. They also did a show here where they danced, including standing on top of a bottle and dancing.

There was a place labeled "La Purperia dia Pueblo" next to the entrance which had souveniers etc inside, and Gloria said it was the model of a country house. It was decorated with flowers, as was a horse buggy out front. I went to the bathroom which was pretty reasonable, except there was no toilet seat - or rather there was one on one side which had broken off the toilet.

I noticed that cars had cardboard on the windshields and Gloria said that this was to protect from the sun. The cars parked on the street were watched by folks who put the cardboard there for you to keep the sun out. You are supposed to tip them when you come back to the car.

After we ate, we went to the National Palace where we got out to take pictures. A jeep full of men in camo came up and parked and one of them got out and went to the gate guards and was let in. I thought they might open the gates for the jeep, but they didn't. I stuck the camera through the fence for an unobstructed picture. I understand the palace is now government offices.

We did not get to see the Amber Museum or the Monasterio ruins or the homes of Columbus's sons, nor did we really see the Santo Domingo Fort.

3. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Respected Member 314 posts) 5w Star this if you like it!

(Continued)
We went back to the hotel on an expressway which went over 2 bridges, one of which is under construction and has scaffolding all over it. In the middle of the highway is a concrete barrier about 4 feet high, and there was a woman walking along on top of it. The driver and Gloria both said she was crazy. We got back to the hotel about 2:15

Bob said the experience reinforced the idea that he was not going to rent a car here. Some of the traffic lights don't work, and the ones that do are apparently disregarded as often as not. Stop signs (Pare) are ignored half the time. The only real reason that people don't speed are the many fairly aggressive speed bumps.

We also visited the aquarium on one day and on another day we walked along the shore. The last day we went to the botanical garden. Gloria was downstairs on the computer and when we told her what we planned and asked how much a cab would cost she asked if the cab should wait and I said yes (remembering the aquarium) and Bob said no. So she called and the cab driver agreed to do it for 500 pesos.

Gloria then hopped into the cab with us which she said was going right past her house. There was a lot of traffic. The cab driver put on his seat belt which was a first. He also paid no attention to the lights (or lack thereof - many of them were not lighted) and Bob said he blew through at least 8 stop signs. Usually he looked. This kind of driving spooks Bob. I'm too busy taking pictures out the windshield without getting reflections. Once, someone else made the driver back down, but that was the only time. We came down a hill and there were shacks and shanties up on the hill above a parking lot and here we were at the zoo.

I hadn't intended to go to the zoo. I didn't think we'd have time for both. Gloria had said that the zoo and the botanical garden were right next to each other, but they were not. (She also said that the red and green light poles were decorations for Xmas, but that didn't explain the green and yellow ones or the blue and pink ones.)

We refused to get out of the cab and kept saying "Garden Botanica". I took a pen out and wrote it on a piece of paper. The cab driver looked at it, and then said "Botanic?" and when we said yes, he started the cab up and we drove another 10 to 12 minutes to the gardens - arriving at 2:50. This time when the sign said pesos and dollars (40 pesos for tourists for the entrance fee and 40 pesos for the train), Bob gave them pesos. We walked in the park (again no map) and saw the big floral clock and went down to the train. The cab driver explained that the train would leave in 30 minutes (he meant on the half hour). There was a sign to that effect too. I was looking for the orchid house, but couldn't find it. We took pictures of the water lilies and the parts of the garden near the entrance. We found a snack bar, but they had no idea what we wanted (a map or some information). We stopped some ladies and one of them spoke English but she said the train wasn't running. So we walked back to the place the train was to leave from and sat and waited in the shade for about 10 minutes. I did not try the toilets here.

When we got on the train at 3:30, the guide came to us and said "English or French" (I guess thinking we might be Canadian, because I don't think we look French.) So he did the whole tour in both English and Spanish which was VERY nice. Our taxi driver hopped on the train too at the last minute and took the tour.

The guide told us about native and endemic plants. There was a palm area, a succulent area, a water plant area, and a fruit tree area. Then we went down into the tropical jungle area along the river which was also a bird and animal sanctuary. Lots of ferns, but too dark to take pictures because we were moving too fast.

Bob's camera batteries have about died because I didn't bring a battery charger for his kind of batteries figuring they'd last a week the way he takes pictures (I take 277 and he takes 11), but I'd used them for the underwater camera the day before when we went to Saona and I guess that was too much for them

The tour was to take 35 minutes, but it was longer than that. We got to the Japanese Garden at 3:52 and got out to walk around. I found walking here EXTREMELY difficult because the ground and paving was quite uneven. There was a red wooden gate and various sculpture plus bonsai trees and a water garden and a little bridge. I also found Iris pseudacoris. We got back on the train at 4:10, and the driver dropped us off at the gate. Bob was so grateful to have the tour in English that he tipped the guy $2.00

The cab driver drove us back a different way and stopped at the Governor's palace for me to take a picture, which I did because I didn't want to hurt his feelings by saying I already had some. Bob gave him $20 when we got back, which was more than we agreed to.

4. Posted by hummingbird500 (Budding Member 24 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

Thanks for this detailed response!!! I will take all this into considerations for my trip...

I have booked a flight for October 9th arrival in Santo Domingo and October 20th departure... This gives me a full 10 days to explore the DR.

I will most likely spend the 13, 14, and 15 in Punta Cana celebrating a wedding there, and I already have accomodations for this time.

Does anyone have a recommendation for the best area to find an AirBnB in Santo Domingo? I've heard the Zona Colonial is a safe bet but I'm open to less touristy areas too, as long as I will be safe as a solo female. I'm confident in my Spanish so I'm not worried about getting around.

Also, if anyone has recommendations for must-sees or must-dos in Santo Domingo, let me know!! Or, if there's anything I must avoid at all costs.

So... I will be in Santo Domingo October 9-12, 16-20 for sure (Still uncertain about the exact wedding plans). Hoping my fellow travelers can help me plan a wonderful solo trip!

Best-

Hummingbird