My favorite Things To Do Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - Understand
The Dominican Republic punches below its weight - at a GDP of $18,800 the country is on par with some US (poorer) states and many places in Eastern Europe. However this does not manifest itself much in the capital. Santo Domingo looks more like a gentrified favela
(that is more favela than gentrified) in most parts of the city.
The very central district of Piantini turns that picture upside down and Maserati's, Ferrari and Porsche vie for attention at every corner.
Santo Domingo still has s strong Spanish colonial influence and will feel much more like Colombia than Jamaica.
The Dominican Republic is blessed with a warm Caribbean climate (that stays warm even in winter) but suffers from very high humidity. Winters are usually a few degrees cooler and the humidity drops a bit.
Santo Domingo can be great value if you avoid the ritziest areas.
My favorite Things To Do Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - Get Around
Domenicans would rather have a small-scale surgery than being outside their cars for more than five minutes. Crossing the street is done in a car and sidewalks are parking lots. Driving as a non-resident is tricky since any accidents will be automatically blamed on you (irrespective of who's fault it is) because of your assumed' richness' and better insurance.
Traffic is somewhat orderly but drivers ignore speed limits at all times and everyone just stops everywhere, all of the time.
Santo Domingo downtown is typically gridlocked during rush hours.
Uber is in town and drivers and cars are top notch.
Rides come at a slightly cheaper price than in the US but one should budget about $2-$3 per mile for an UberX.
Some parts of the city are surprisingly walkable if you do not mind the heat and aggressive drivers.
My favorite Things To Do Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - Safety
The Dominican Republic is not a safe country despite it's (relative) wealth. The general rule is to be in a car at night (locals never leave their cars anywhere) and be highly aware of your environment at all times. Once you obverse these rules and stay out of the more dangerous neighborhoods you should be fine.
My favorite Things To Do Santo Domingo., Dominican Republic - Pollution
I have never seen a car more than 10 years old - many cars are brand new in the city. This has brought down pollution a lot. Small mopeds and some old buses are still polluting the air but when you are away from the main roads pollution isn't an issue.
My favorite Things To Do Santo Domingo., Dominican Republic - Connectivity
The Dominican Republic is included in T-Mobile's Simple Choice plan and some operator even allow free (unthrottled) roaming with your plan.
WiFi is generally available in most coffee shops and connections are typically 10 Mbit or better. Strangely, I found many hotels (including the JW Marriott) offer much slower Internet speeds.
My favorite Things To Do Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - Sights
Santo Domingo isn't home to many sights that need to be seen. Scroll down to see the few worthwhile ones.
Zone Colonial is the old town center that had been abandoned and is now gentrifying (at a glacial pace). Most locals avoid the area like the plague but tourists are pouring in money to restore some of the magnificent buildings. The old cathedrals and some of the old city walls are already restored to their original splendor. Zona Colonial makes for a great few hours to stroll through the small alleys and imagine yourself during the Spanish Colonial times.
In good Spanish tradition the city has a good number of very well maintained parks. They often come completely fenced in so make sure you google the actual entrance. Many have extensive facilities and beautiful landscaping.
Parque Mirador Sur
One a ridge above the rather shaken down neighborhoods sits this 4 mile long park. The best part? - Motorized vehicles are banned from the main road through the park and it is open to runners and bikers. There is also heavy police presence so you won't get mugged on your evening run (a real worry here).
I did the seven mile run (Round Trip) several times and loved the clean air, ocean views, and the relaxing atmosphere. It is a marvelous piece of real estate and I wish every city had a park like that.
Museo de Arte Moderno
This contemporary art museum has some refreshing art on display and changes exhibitions quite frequently. The entrance is fee is also quite moderate.
My favorite Things To Do Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - Food and Drinks
Dominicans are in love with fast food and fried food. Getting healthy food or anything organic is a challenge (though it is not impossible).
El Rey de Falafel (Zone Colonial)
What a beautiful courtyard! This alone is worth coming here on a balmy night. However the Falafel and Humus dishes are delicious and a rare find in the city. El Rey de Falafel rocks!
Lulu Tasting Bar
Just across the street is LULU Tasting Bar that sits in a equally beautiful setup. It's a little more expensive and the dishes are a little less healthy but this is a still a great place.
Cafe Santo Domingo (multiple locations)
Cafe Santo Domingo is a local coffee chain that (sadly) has most outlets inside the city's malls. I liked the free standing location near Av Gomez the most (though the neighborhood is shaky at best). Surprisingly they make some seriously delicious espresso drinks using local coffee
. There is also somewhat fast WiFi and some decent desserts.
This is a solid bakery with some huge, cheap, yet delicious bakery items. DO NOT come here for atmosphere or coffee.
Para Te / Formosa
Both places specialize in Taiwanese cuisine that is definitely healthier than what else is available in the town. I liked the veggies bowls with tofu that both places offer (in somewhat different style).
/ Trattoria Pizzarelli
These are several connected, but differently themed restaurants all by the same owner. 3 Mariachi is Chipotle style 'make your own burrito' place. I found the taste and freshness just ok but you get a ton of somewhat healthy food for under $10. Pizzarelli has good pizzas just next door and is more of a sit-down atmosphere.
Casa Barista is the only 'third wave coffee shop' in town. It comes with a fantastic interior design and fast WiFi. I found the coffee and food not as good as I hoped and it is rather expensive as well.
Fresh Fresh Cafe
Fresh Fresh serves some excellent sandwiches with fresh, healthy ingredients for a fair prices. I liked that place quite a bit.