My visit to Dominican Republic was supported & arranged by Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism & Go Dominican Republic
Two Days in Santo Domingo & Boca Chica Itinerary
Updated March 2020, Two Days in Santo Domingo & Boca Chica Itinerary was originally written in December 2018
“Welcome to Santo Domingo, the city of firsts!”, yelled Carlos, our guide from the front seat of the van. We had started our trip from the northern city of Puerto Plata and were descending onto the capital for the last couple of days of our whirlwind trip of Dominican Republic. Before my visit, the only place I’d ever heard of in the country was the tourist hotspot of Punta Cana. For those looking for more soul and culture, but still with a beautiful beach break Santo Domingo and Boca Chica are a great alternative. Read on for the two days Santo Domingo and Boca Chica Itinerary.
Plan your Dominican Republic getaway: The 16 best things to do in Puerto Plata
A Quick History Of The Santo Domingo & Dominican Republic
Hispaniola, the island in which Dominican Republic sits is one of only two divided islands in the Caribbean, sharing the other side with Haiti. The other divided island being Saint Maarten, split between France and the Netherlands. Long before Europeans made way to the island Taino and Arawak peoples inhabited the island of Hispaniola. In December 1492 Christopher Columbus landed on the northwestern coast and by 1596 Spanish settlers founded Santo Domingo. The Spanish mainly settled in the east of the island and throughout the 1500s slaves were brought from Africa to work the plantations that had been established in Hispaniola. The 1600s saw the French settle the western 1/3 of the island which would become Haiti by 1697 under the Treaty of Ryswick. By 1844 Dominican Republic would claim its independence from Spain and over the next nearly 100 years would see several invasions by Haiti, a short period of time yet again another Spanish rule, civil war, a US occupation, and rule under dictators. This, of course, is an insanely condensed version of Dominican Republic’s history, for those wanting more detailed timeline of events head over here.
Dominican Republic Quick Info
- Currency: the Dominican Peso, abbreviated to RD$. Current exchange rate as of March 2020 is RD$54.16 to $1 USD.
- Language: Spanish
- Drives on: Right
Two Days Santo Domingo & Boca Chica Itinerary
Day One: Explore The Sights, Smells & Sounds Of Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is a city of firsts. In fact– did you know that Santo Domingo is the oldest continually inhabited European city in the Americas? I didn’t– well that is until my energetic guide Carlos let the whole group in on the history of Santo Domingo and Dominican Republic. The city definitely has more than enough to keep you busy for a few days, but is still small and walkable enough to get a good taste in a day or two.
Day One Morning
Visit the ruins of the Hospital of Saint Nicolas of Bari
The Hospital of Saint Nicolas of Bari was the first hospital in the New World, constructed between 1503-1508 under the order of Nicolas de Ovando. Named after the famed Saint Nicholas of Bari, the structure acted as a military hospital and has been attacked by pirates many times over its 350 years of operations. After suffering significant damages after the earthquake of 1911, most of the hospital was torn down and what remains today is the ruins of the existing building. Read more about the hospital here.
Wander through the quaint and colorful homes & businesses of the Ciudad Colonial
Located on the west bank of the Ozama River, the Ciudad Colonial (Colonial Zone) is the historic central neighborhood of Santo Domingo and home to the oldest European-style homes in the Americas. In 1990 the Ciudad Colonial was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Day One Afternoon
Whether you’re vegetarian or not I think everyone can agree that the food here is great and the presentation is impressive. Time offers both vegan and vegetarian options on their menu.
See the first paved street in the Americas– Calle Las Damas
Translating out to the ‘Street of the Ladies’, Calle Las Damas is lined with gorgeous 16th century architecture and is now home to museums, embassies, and Santo Domingo’s finest hotels. Named after Maria de Toledo and her ladies that would stroll the street from the Alcazar de Colón Palace.
Stroll along colorful Calle Jose Reyes
Located within the Ciudad Colonial, Calle Jose Reyes is home to countless colorful doorways to keep you snapping photos all afternoon.
Primada de America Cathedral
The oldest standing cathedral in the Americas designed by several architects and constructed from 1521-1540.
Alcazar de Colón Museum
Originally a fortified palace– in fact, the first one in the Americas. The Alcazar de Colón Palace is a part of the Ciudad Colonial and of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was here that Spanish conquistadors once met and planned expeditions. By the 1700s the palace had been abandoned and began falling into disrepair and in the 1900s restoration processes had begun. About half of the original rooms have been restored and houses a museum of medieval and renaissance art.
Day One Evening
Have a traditional Dominican dinner at Meson d’Bari
Meson d’Bari serves up traditional Dominican dishes with new twists. The restaurant is located in the Ciudad Colonial inside a gorgeous restored two-story home.
Check out the cute cafes and boutique shops in the Colonial Zone
The Colonial Zone is just as lively in the evenings as it is during the daytime. My favorite shop meets cafe with adorable interior design was Desiree Cepeda.
If you’re in Santo Domingo on a Sunday do not miss out on the weekly Grupo Bonyé concert in front of the ruins of San Francisco Monastery and dance the night away to Meringue, Salsa and Son Cubano jams from 6-10 pm.
Searching for off the beaten path destinations in the Caribbean? Check out Culebra Island, Puerto Rico
Day Two: Sun, Fun & Rum At Boca Chica
Boca Chica is a local beach hang out, just 45 minutes away from Santo Domingo. White sands, clear waters, shacks lining the palm-fringed beach selling fried fish and beers– the prefect city break awaits.
Day Two Morning
After breakfast, grab a taxi, uber or bus headed toward Boca Chica.
Enjoy a day at the beach at Boca Chica
Make sure and try red snapper, tostones, yaniqueques, and a coco loco when you’re not splashing around in the crystal clear waters. Shacks selling tasty Dominican snacks line the beach, while salesmen pushing carts loaded with coconuts traipse up and down the beach.
Day Two Afternoon
Head over to nearby Boca Chica Marina Restaurant for lunch. The restaurant serves up seafood and other classic dishes.
Soak up the sun & fun
Enjoy the remainder of the afternoon swimming in the ocean near the restaurant.
Day Two Evening
Head back to Santo Domingo for a final evening on the town.
Make your way back to Calle Las Damas for dinner at Buché Perico. Buché Perico serves up Dominican favorites with a modern twist, infusing flavors from other cultures worldwide. Once the island’s first foundry- the beautiful colonial building is decorated to perfection.
Dance the night away
Go out dancing at the local bars around the Ciudad Colonial, or Grupo Bonyé mentioned previously if it is a Sunday. Some great places to hit up for nightlife are:
- Jalao: Head here for live music every evening.
- Colmados: A small corner grocery store that transforms into a bar at night.
- Duarte Square: The square and the bars around it are where the LGBTQ+ crowd heads for nightlife in catholic and conservative Dominican Republic.
- Onno’s Bar: A local bar and restaurant popular for its vibrant dance parties.
Taking a Caribbean Cruise? Learn how to visit Trunk Bay on a St. Thomas stopover
Where To Stay In Santo Domingo
On my recent trip to Santo Domingo with Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, I stayed at the Hodelpa Nicolas de Ovando. However, if you’re looking for backpacker and budget options check out:
I know not everyone wants to explore a place on their own. Here are a few different day tour options in and around Santo Domingo:
- Santo Domingo Sightseeing Tour
- Cultural Santo Domingo By Night Tour
- Rum & Cigar Tour
- Traditional Dominican Cooking Lesson With a Local Grandmother
- Three Eyes National Park Tour
- Samana & Puerto Plata Day Trip
How To Get Around
You can easily explore Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone on foot, but taxis and uber can be easily hired if need be or if planning to squeeze in a site on the outskirts. For reaching Boca Chica taxis can be hired for around RD$3,500 return from the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo. If you have a larger group 9-passenger vans including driver can hired for about RD$13,000 for the day.
Best Time To Visit
November-March are the best months of the year to visit Santo Domingo as weather is drier and temperatures more comfortable. April-July is a great time to visit as well with many celebrations like the Meringue Festival happening, though temperatures tend to be a bit hotter. August-October is generally recommended to be avoided as it is hurricane season, so unless rains and the chance of storms don’t put a damper on your holiday then it’s best to visit outside of these months.
Going to Puerto Rico on your Caribbean adventure? Don’t miss beautiful Cabo Rojo
Just like many other cities throughout the world, the typical precautions apply. Santo Domingo does have a reputation for crime, so do try to keep valuables locked up in your room, or concealed while on you. Violent crime is not unheard of, so do be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially at night.
Have Any Questions About This Santo Domingo Itinerary?
Ask your Santo Domingo itinerary questions in the comments section below.