Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Old World history set to a distinctly Latin beat: this is the soul of Santo Domingo. The city is a maze of medieval palaces and boasts the first cathedral, university, and hospital in the western hemisphere. Beneath the black velvet of a signature Santo Domingo night sky, gaze upon the beauty of the Columbus Lighthouse, actually a mausoleum, as it beams a cross-shaped beacon toward the stars.

Santo Domingo is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. The city is located on the Caribbean Sea, at the mouth of the Ozama River.

The Mercado Modelo in Santo Domingo sells everything a visitor could ever want. It’s an open air public market and souvenirs include wooden masks, carvings and local paintings. Las Atarazanas is the tourist area. The boutiques, galleries, shops and restaurants in the old buildings here are quaint and offer excellent shopping opportunities for local crafts.

Santo Domingo dates back to the 1400’s, the street known as Calle de las Damas is said to be the oldest street in the new world and was used by Christopher Columbus himself.

The Alcazar of Columbus, a castle built around 1500 by Columbus’ son Diego, now houses a museum with a collection of period furniture, artwork and jewellery.

A few miles east of the city is Los Tres Ojos de Agua cave complex, containing three lagoons, fed by an underground river, stalactites and stalagmites.

Activities such as diving, snorkelling, horseback riding (at Casa de Campo) golf, city tours and fishing are also available.

Beaches are excellent here but permission must first be sought from any hotel to use their beach facilities.

The disabled cruiser visiting Santo Domingo

Where You’re Docked

You’ll be docked at the Sansouci pier, the city’s main cruise terminal. Plans are in the works to turn another terminal, Don Diego, about five minutes from Sansouci pier, into a facility that can accommodate cruise vessels, but there is no word yet on when that will be completed.

Minor amenities (bathrooms, duty-free stores and Internet access) are located inside the cruise terminal, but there is nothing of interest in the immediate vicinity outside the terminal. The closest attractions are the Colonial City and Christopher Columbus’ lighthouse tomb. They’re all within walking distance, but hoofing it isn’t recommended. Your best bet is to arrange a tour ahead of time, or hire a taxi. The latter won’t set you back more than a few pesos. Note that tour operators and taxis are required to wait outside the port gates, which are guarded by tourist police.

Good to Know

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.

Getting Around

On foot: 

By car: 

By bus:

Currency 

The official currency is the Dominican Republic Peso, but it is rarely a problem to use American dollars. ATM’s are available near the cruise terminal and throughout the city; they dispense money in pesos.

Language

Dominicans speak Spanish as their primary language. Some, particularly those who work in tourism areas, speak English. That said, communication can be a problem, so either carry a pocket dictionary or bone up on basic phrases like hola (hello), buenos dias (good day), por favor (please), gracias (thank you), cuanto cuesta? (how much does it cost?) and donde esta el bano? (where is the bathroom?).

Shopping

The Dominican Republic is known for Larimar, a cloudy, pale-blue stone that is only mined on the island of Hispaniola. It’s difficult to fake, so chances are good that you’ll be snagging the real thing, but don’t be afraid to bargain; sellers are used to it, and they often jack up prices with the expectation that haggling will occur. Amber and black coral are also popular, but they’re easier to fabricate.

If jewelry isn’t your thing, consider Dominican-made cigars and items made from coconut, and natural cocoa or chocolate, but avoid purchasing woven palm hats. They’re considered live plants, and they’ll be confiscated when you return to your ship.

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 Dominican Republic.

Points of Interest

  • Santo Domingo – a seven-

Santo Domingo Accessible Excursions

Whether your cruise ship stops in 

Santo Domingo Accessible Guided Tour

This 4 hour accessible